Your Heart on Porn: How Pornography Affects your Heart

Warning: This post is about how pornography affects your heart. It is not your usual self-help article about healing porn addiction. Instead, it is a personal, intimate sharing about my struggle with porn and ways in which I have learned to accept, live with, and transcend it since I decided to live a heart-centered life. After reading it, you may also want to read my article, Reconnecting with Your Heart: Healing from Pornography Addiction.


I love porn. There, I said it. The problem is, it’s an unrequited kind of love. Porn does not love me back. It won’t bring me coffee in bed, keep me warm at night, and take care of me when I’m sick. It entertains and distracts me, but it doesn’t make my heart sing. And what I most long for is to sing and dance to the rhythm of my heart.

One of the first things I tell every new client at the beginning of our coaching partnership is that I am an expert at one thing: being Gabriel.

I know what works and what doesn’t work for me, what lights me up, and what turns me off. I have over 50 years of uninterrupted experience at being me. Similarly, my reader, you are only a true expert at being you. So, I’m not going to tell you what to do or believe. Instead, I will share my experience and learnings along this journey of self-discovery related to my struggle with porn after I decided to live a heart-centered life.

Growing Up with Porn

I love porn. There, I said it. The first porn I ever watched was an old Playgirl Magazine my mom had hidden in the last drawer of her vanity closet when I was seven. I don’t think I ever told her about it. It is a topic of conversation reserved for someday when I join her in heaven. In the heaven I plan to go to when I die, my mom and I can talk about porn without any feelings of guilt.

From the wrinkled Playgirl Magazine, I went on to Easy Rider Magazines, graduating to movies on Betamax and VHS tapes, to CDs to DVDs to the easily accessible internet downloads our kids are growing up with today. I’ve watched it all, gay, straight, bi, trans, bondage, interracial, leather, the now titanic list goes on and on. I even watched porn involving our four-legged friends. 

Growing up in a very conservative, Catholic home, where no one ever talked about sex, my thirst for learning and experience drove me to do many things, in many different ways, with many other people, in many different places, and many different times. Curiosity for that which we all do, but no one is talking about, has been one of the driving forces of my life.

Why did I love porn? For many years, porn was there for me whenever I needed it. It comforted me when my mom was sick with cancer, after every break-up, or when I felt the loneliest and most inadequate in my life. It was there as a teacher, a form of inspiration that temporarily calmed my thirst for intimacy, connection, and joy. 

As much as I loved porn, the problem was that it was an unrequited kind of love. Porn did not love me back. It was always very short-lived. I felt tired and drained afterward. Sooner or later, feelings of guilt, frustration, and shame would inevitably rise to the surface again. And a sense of emptiness would find its way back into my stomach and chest as I had to confront what my heart already knew, but my mind denied: porn is not real. It is a highly stimulating mental illusion that momentarily imprisons your heart.

How Pornography Affects your Heart

Why does your heart race when you’re watching porn? What happens to your heart as a result?

There’s a lot of scientific research on the effect that porn has on the human brain and how the visual overstimulation of the lower brain leads to a change in brain chemistry and the actual neurological patterning of the brain. In essence, porn changes your brain. But what about the heart? What effect does porn have on your heart?

Porn numbs your heart. Our limited and somewhat primitive minds cannot tell the difference between what is real or not. So, when we see a highly desirable and attractive body on my computer screen, our brain thinks it’s time to preserve our species and make babies. Therefore, it sends all the necessary neurological signals to the heart, adrenal, and reproductive glands. Before you know it, blood is now rushing down to your genitals, where it feels so good. But the problem is, as I said earlier, it is not real.

While our primitive brains want to mate and find pleasure, our hearts want to connect. But the fact remains that there isn’t a real person right there with whom to connect, be intimate, touch, smell, feel, and therefore, an imbalance of some form is now created. When we do this repeatedly, a new habit is formed, and our bodies have to adapt to all this hyper-stimulation. How? By becoming numb. This happens to our brains when it is overexposed to the visual stimulus of attractive and sexy mates that porn provides. And the same happens in our hearts as the brain, through the vagus nerve, begins to send neurological signals prompting the heart to ‘stop feeling’ and start numbing itself. Add to this all those feelings of frustration, disconnection, and loneliness, and you now have a fully closed heart, or what the Institute of HeartMath would call an incoherent heart with incoherent heart rhythm waves that can be easily observed in a monitor.

Our hearts crave human connection. Mine always has. After moving through one of the most sexually promiscuous periods of my life while living in LA, I can now conclude that I was confusing being ‘horny’ with being’ lonely.’ What I most longed for and craved during those lonely years of my life was connecting with another human being at a much deeper and more intimate level. Porn would provide hours and hours of distraction and excitement, but as the character Emma tells Dexter in the movie ‘One Day’ when talking about meaningless sex, it “won’t take care of you when you’re old.” For me, porn, no matter how gonzo it can get, won’t bring me coffee in bed, keep me warm at night, and take care of me when I’m sick.

The Heart-Centered Solution

As a coach and seminar leader, my primary intention is to help people discover, open, and live from their hearts. I call this living a heart-centered life, one where I live each day deliberately from the depth of my own heart. This means living from the awareness of what is real at any given moment while being present to my feelings and what my heart is longing for. It also means loving myself fully and completely, including that part of me that craves porn.

Since I began this journey, I’ve experienced levels of intimacy and connection with friends, clients, workshop participants, and even strangers in the street that surpass any experience I ever had. I was even celibate for seven years, choosing not to engage in sexual activity with another person other than me. Yet, much to my surprise, I’ve never felt so connected to others, alive, real, present in the unfolding of my own life. The heart-centered practices I began to apply each day taught me to embrace and transcend my loneliness, disconnection, and pain. And most importantly, they made me aware of many of the behavior and habits I engaged in to disconnect from my disconnect.

Some Useful Tips

If you’re anything like me and can relate to what I’m sharing in this article, here are some tips or ideas that I’ve found very helpful. Perhaps they might help you too, not just with porn, but also with anything you might be engaging in that keeps your heart numb (for example, Facebook, Twitter, Video Games, Fantasizing, Junk-food, etc.) Because our human hearts are beating before, during, and after watching porn, my tips are broken down accordingly.

Before Watching Porn

Apply “The Golden Rule of Triggers”: whatever you feel compelled to do, don’t. Whenever you feel driven to watch porn, instead, take a deep breath into your heart, counting to four on the inhale as well as the exhale. Feel your feet to ground yourself, feel your heart pounding, and touch your heart. Do this for at least one minute. This action will decrease your physiological arousal and return you to a relaxed state. Then ask yourself any one – or all – of these questions:

  • What is my heart longing for right now?
  • Am I horny, or am I lonely?
  • What am I avoiding or not wanting to deal with?
  • What would be the most loving thing I could do for myself right now?

Be sure to listen to the answers that come from your heart, and not the ones from your primitive brain that all it wants is to spread your seed all over the world via your computer’s screen!

While Watching Porn

Watch porn consciously. If you’re going to watch porn, you may as well do so while you’re fully awake. Start by becoming aware of your breath and the beating of your heart. Observe your thoughts, physical sensations, and the feelings arising in you moment by moment. Connect with that part of you that is aware that you are aware. Witness the whole experience of watching porn as if there was a camera in the room capturing every detail of the experience. Find appreciation for the actors who are performing so that you can experience your physical pleasure. Bless them. Recognize that they too are humans just like you who long to feel connected to others, love, and feel loved. The worst thing that could happen is that you’ll be a little turned off. The best thing that could happen is to ask yourself the four questions in Tip #1.

After Watching Porn

Be Grateful for the Experience. Take a moment to appreciate and thank your body for its ability to feel pleasure and joy. Notice what thoughts or feelings arise within you after all the excitement is gone. Are you feeling guilty? Shame? Frustrated? Calm? Chilled? Notice it all. Repeat affirmations such as, “I love and accept my sexuality” and “Even though I’m feeling guilty for watching porn, I choose to love myself anyway.” It will probably feel weird at first but do it anyway. If you notice any feelings of guilt and shame, forgive yourself. One way you can do this is by standing in front of the mirror and saying to yourself, “I forgive myself for judging myself for watching porn. I honor, I appreciate, and I commit to myself to….” (make a commitment or agreement with yourself to do what you want instead – perhaps follow the Golden Rule of Triggers in Tip #1?)

The Ultimate Truth about Porn

I’d be a hypocrite and out of integrity if I claimed that porn is wrong, evil, or even a sin. I believe porn has a place in our society. In many cases, it can bring a tremendous amount of healing, especially in a society where sexuality has been demonized and systematically repressed. God knows that if it weren’t for porn, I probably would have engaged in very unhealthy behavior that could have been very destructive to my health. My experiences with porn allowed me to connect with, embrace, express, and even love those aspects of myself I grew up feeling so ashamed of. 

The problem is when I use porn as a substitute for real life. When I numb myself, my mind and brain with it, and stop living a creative, connected, and meaningful life. When I use it to disconnect from my disconnect and others and escape the crude and raw aspects of life that seem unbearable at times. When I use it as an escape, while my heart craves for love and intimacy that no porn, social media, or virtual reality game can ever provide.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, there is no substitute for real connection and intimacy between two human beings. There is no substitute for the experience of seeing and being seen, touching and being touched, feeling and being felt, and letting another person in so they can see those vulnerable and imperfect parts of me. There’s no substitute for being in the presence of another human being who loves me unconditionally and deeply understands and knows that they are a mirror to me. Porn, no matter how hard I tried, could never replace the human connection my heart seeks. 

What about you? What is your ultimate truth? What is your heart most longing for?

From my heart to yours,

Heart on Porn

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, you might also want to read my other article, Reconnecting with Your Heart: Healing from Pornography Addiction, where I share additional tips on how to heal from pornography addiction.

Filed under Personal Mastery

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