By Bobby G. Bodenhamer, D.Min.
To foreground something is to bring it to the fore-front of our mind and to focus on it only. By the way, we can only focus on one item at a time. Now, we can “multi-task” and work on more than one project. But, we can only focus on one thing. Try it. Note that when you change focus from one thing to another thing, you have to let go focusing on the first thing in order to focus on the second thing. The second thing is usually still there but it is in the background of your mind, out of focus.
There is much confusion about the brain’s ability to focus on more than one thing. Multitasking is not what we are talking about when we speak of focusing or foregrounding something. To foreground or to focus on something means that we have brought the object of our focus close in to our eyes. We see that thing in front of us on the fore-front of our mind. Multitasking is about handling more than one item at a time such as typing a paper and switching back and forth to check email. In switching from one item to the other, focus changes. 1
In doing porn, evil thoughts such as porn locate on the fore-front of the mind with no competing images. The man only sees one thing – the object of his lust. And, in the case of porn, the thought is primarily composed of a visual image of that which he is lusting after. The person focuses entirely on the object of porn with everything else, including the image of his wife, of his family, of the Lord, retreating into the background of his mind.
I have found a few women addicted to porn but very few. It is mostly men who get addicted to porn. Why? Because men are primarily stimulated visually, internet porn has made it awful easy for a man to be stimulated by someone other than his wife. He simply focuses on the object of his addiction there on the computer monitor.
Consider these two Biblical passages and commentary by Mike Davis, Th.D.:
– “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19
“'Love' Biblically can mean to ‘prefer’ one thing over another. Thus to ‘love’ and/or prefer the darkness is to foreground the darkness (bring to the front of the mind) and to background the light” (send to the back of the mind – usually out of site).
– “For they that are after the flesh does mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” Romans 8:5
“What I choose to ‘Mind’ I choose to foreground. If I choose to mind the flesh, I foreground what is of the flesh and background what is of the Spirit. If I mind the things of the Spirit I foreground what is of the Spirit and background what is of the flesh.”
It is this primary visual mental frame that will govern, modulate and determine the entire neuro-physiological reaction (“...entire body is dark”). And, since this object of porn is experienced as being right in front of the eyes, it will act as the governing mental frame and it will initiate the animalistic nature of man to re-produce itself. The emotions activated are powerful and therefore difficult to stop for the entire system is screaming for that climatic experience of fulfillment and release.
So as the person has foregrounded the pornographic image, that image literally blocks out any other image/ thought. As such, that pornographic image has in effect taken over the entire mind-body system as it has triggered the physiological sexual drive which above all else, desires completion.
That one porn picture colors the entire system - it is now the boss of the individual. And as a result, the individual has pushed way back into the hidden parts of his mind the light of Christ. The individual is no longer in control. He is consumed by the darkness of porn.
Because the individual has pushed the Light of Christ out of consciousness, he has also pushed his/ her spouse out of conscious awareness. And with the spouse, so also will be those precious children.
Because the individual placed evil on the fore-front of his/ her mind, so dark is that darkness that he/ she will risk the very people that he/ she holds dear.
"Bob, I am desperate. If I don’t get this porn addiction fixed, I am going to lose my family. She now knows for sure that I do porn. She has suspected it for a year or two. But she now knows for sure. She caught me looking at internet porn and masturbating. It is what she said afterwards that brought me to you."
"What did she tell you?"
"She said that if I didn’t stop doing porn that she would stop being my wife. She said that she would take the children and leave. She said that I had a choice: ‘I could have my porn and not have a family or I could have my family by stopping doing the porn.’ Bob, I don’t want to lose my family. This thing has a hold on me and I want to stop it but I can’t. I need help (crying).”
This young man defeated porn and in the process of therapy he switched from foregrounding porn to foregrounding Jesus. The porn that was on the fore-front of his brain was now back-grounded so far away that he couldn’t even see it. All he could see was Jesus and Jesus blocked him from bringing in that picture of porn. He learned to say “No!” to porn sending it way, way in the background of his mind and instead he learned to say “Yes!” to having Jesus on the fore-front of his mind.
Paul stated in Phil. 3:13-14:
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind (Backgrounding), and reaching forth unto those things which are before, (Foregrounding) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Paul knew that he was called to a mission and that mission was his passion. In order to “do” his mission, Paul knew that he had to send far, far away in the background of his mind his life before meeting Jesus. As a member of the Sanhedrin and a key leader among the Pharisees, Paul saw the followers of Christ as a threat to Judaism. He fore-fronted in his mind these people and he was determined to stop this movement any way he could.
“And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.”
In giving his testimony of the Damascus Road experience to King Agrippa, Paul once more admitted the hatred that he had towards “The Way” (Acts 26:10-11):
“...and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.”
Notice in verse 11 that Paul stated that he was “exceedingly mad against them” (the Christians). In order to “do mad” in our minds, we have to have an image on the fore-front of our mind of that which we are mad at. Paul assuredly had this overwhelming image of those Christians who were a threat to the will of the Lord via Judaism as he understood it. But something happened!
On the Road to Damascus to persecute the Christian church growing there, Paul was struck by a bright light that knocked him to the ground. The Lord spoke to Paul saying, “‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me? Why do you insist on going against the grain?” (TMsg). Paul told King Agrippa that he responded, “Who art thou Lord?” I believe that in that moment when he called Jesus “Lord” that Paul became a Christian. For sure, during this entire experience on the Road to Damascus, something happened to Paul.
Listen to what the Lord said to Paul,
“But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;”
Yes, here it is. The switch has happened. Paul has sent way, way off in the background of his mind those Christians whom he was so mad at that he heavily persecuted them. He sent “mad” off, way off. And, in the place on the fore-front of his mind where Paul had the image of the Christians whom he so hated, he now had an image on the fore-front of his mind of the ministry the Lord Jesus Christ has called him to – a ministry totally opposite to what he formerly did.
In order to do porn or any other sinful behavior, we must have it fore-fronted on our brain. In order to not do it; we must send it way, way off in the background of our mind so that the sin no longer has any pull on us. And, in its place, we place Jesus or some other image that sends your thoughts to Him and the ministry he has for you. Listen, a person addicted to porn can utilize this simple model of backgrounding the image of porn way, way off and bringing in Jesus to the fore-front of His mind. For the Believer, he cannot look upon Jesus who is right in front of his face and be drawn to porn. The two just don’t mix, do they?
I have had male clients formulate an image of their wife and children and place that image on the fore-front of their minds instead of having the image of porn fore-fronted. This has been very effective. One can empower that image even further by placing Jesus in the image with your family.
Leading someone addicted to porn to background porn and foreground Jesus/ family within itself can be extremely helpful to the Christian who wishes to say "no" to the porn. Indeed, the goal of therapy in almost all cases is in the directing of the client to be able to say “no” to what they don’t want and “yes” to what they do want.
Usually, the Foreground and Backgrounding happens as the therapist works with the porn addicted client. As childhood and pre-teen unconscious memories that drive the “urge” for porn find the healing of the Lord, the gentleman will just naturally background the porn and foreground our Lord with his family. If it doesn’t happen automatically during the therapy, once you are confident that the addicted client has given all the “Bitter Roots”2 (Hebrews 12:15) behind the addiction to the Lord, walk the client through the process of “swishing” or through the process of sending the porn image way off while at the same time bringing the image of Jesus with his family into the forefront of his mind where porn “use to” dwell.
Qualities that Make a Powerful Difference
Let’s take a broader view of foregrounding and backgrounding and let us look closer at the pattern itself. In order to do anxiety, we must focus on the object of anxiety. It is the same in ‘doing porn’. The person doing the porn must foreground the object of lust which means that he is focusing on porn. It is in the forefront of his mind. For, if we stop focusing on the object of porn and look at something that is “not” enticing, we are not as likely to do porn, are we?
Gestalt psychology learned something quite remarkable several years ago. They learned that when we focus on something, there are items in the picture that we do not see. When you beginning the process of desiring porn, what is it that you focus on? In all likelihood you will call to the forefront of your mind some image of porn that you have found enticing. Or, you may call to the forefront of your mind a memory of a sexual encounter or you may imagine seeing naked that sexy looking lady that just walked by. But, what is in the background of that picture that you are not seeing?
Experiment a little. Think of the next time you will have opportunity to do porn. In all likelihood you will have a picture of the person of that lust right up close where you can see it clearly and lustfully. Check yourself out. Note where in reference to your eyes that you see the person you are lusting after. In all likelihood that picture will be right in front of you and it is all that you are looking at. To do porn and to make it really enticing, your eyes must be focused only on that object of lust. Now, what are you not seeing? What? Yes, what is in that picture that you are not seeing? You are so focused on the person of lust that you don’t see anything else. Now, mentally step back from that image. Step back far enough so that you can and see behind it, beside it, beyond it, etc. What else or Who else is out there that you are not seeing?
In order to “step back,” go into peripheral vision. When we focus on something to the exclusion of everything else, that is called “foveal” vision. Now, just step back, go into peripheral vision and see everything off to each side but do more. Not only look to each side, but look and see what is behind the picture of lust. Allow your eyes to go beyond the image of the porn. I am going to ask you to just play along with me.
What or who is back there that is out of focus as long as you are foregrounding the image of porn? Maybe you see the room that the computer is in. Do you see your wife? Do you see your children? Let's go further. Imagine yourself seeing even further in the background of your mind. See your yard; see your community; see your county; see your state, see your country; see the Western Hemisphere; see the entire world; see the universe. Now, see beyond the universe to the One who created the universe and Who created you and loves you unconditionally. Yes, the Lord is there in the background of your mind. He has always been there.
In every picture, image, and movie that we are seeing, some things are in the foreground and other things are in the background. When we foreground problems – they become bigger and more problematic. When we foreground resources – we become more skilled, competent and bold. The more we bring something into the forefront of our mind, the more we focus on that something; and, the more we focus on something, the more it grows. You know how it works. The more you focus on that porn image; the more the lust grows until the image has you.
Look at the above picture. The old woman, beautiful young lady picture – what do you see? In order to see the young girl the old woman must go into the background. In order for you to see the old woman, the young girl must go into the background. It all boils down to – whom do you want to see, the young woman or the old hag? What about that – it boils down to whom do you want to see?
Consider the person who stutters who has an unconscious image of himself as a scared little kid who froze in the presence of authority figures. When he froze, he blocked his speech. He had another image of himself as a resourceful adult that always spoke fluently. When he saw the scared little kid, guess where the adult was? The scared little kid was in the foreground and the mature fluent adult was in the background.
What resources would you like to foreground in the theater of your mind? How about your family? How about the Lord Jesus? What about bringing to the forefront of your mind an image of your family, including yourself, and the Lord Jesus being there with all of you? By having your family with the Lord Jesus in the forefront of your mind, know that the image of lust is in the background, out of site and being out of site, the image cannon pull on you. Your family with the Lord Jesus is now the "only" image that you are focusing on and the more you focus on that image, the more you realize just how important you family and your faith are to you - far more important than doing porn that is endangering your family. And, remember, the more you focus on your family and the Lord Jesus, the more your love and commitment to them grows.
In fact, all the time that you have been doing porn, your wife and your children with the Lord Jesus has been there in the background of your mind awaiting your bringing them forth to the forefront of your mind. Your love for your family; your desire to make your marriage work; your commitment to providing a godly home for your children and your determination to live in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ solidifies that image of whom you really love right there in the forefront of your mind. Jesus is Lord!
The more you hold them in the forefront of your mind, the stronger they grow and the weaker the image of porn becomes. That image of the porn just simply goes further and further away until it is no longer there.
How to Play:
This pattern is primarily written as a visual pattern. You can also do this with sounds and with feelings. You will have sounds in the foreground and other sounds in the background. You will have some feeling in the foreground and other feelings in the background. You can do it with concepts (words, self talk and voices). Some concepts will be foreground and others in the background. Some voices will be foreground and others background. For rehearsal, I prefer doing it visually but you use what works best for you.
We have the pattern below for backgrounding the “urge” to do porn. However, it will work with many unwanted thoughts such as anxiety, fear, guilt, depression, etc. The processes of running a shifting of background/ foreground in order to bring more resources to bear on your experiences runs as follows:
1) Detect the Foreground/Background Structure
2) Become aware of your own Foregrounding/ Backgrounding Patterns
What do you typically foreground
in order to do porn?
What do you regularly and
systematically background or avoid in
order to do porn?
In other words, what do you “not
see” (background) that allows you to
experience the “urge” to do porn? What is it that you must
foreground in order to do porn that
you do not foreground when
you are walking in obedience to the Lord? Look way back there; is the Lord
there? Is your family there? Look!
How much flexibility of consciousness do
you have with regard to these choices? Do they serve you well? Do they
honor the Lord?
Do they enhance your life; the life of your family; your service to the Lord?
3) Decide to Take Charge of Shifting these Images
4) Commit yourself to Foregrounding your family and the Lord Jesus
5) Swish the Background to the Foreground.
The Foreground/ Background pattern is the basis of what Richard Bandler considered the most powerful pattern he developed. He called the pattern The Swish. The Swish comes out of the brain's ability to background that which it doesn’t want and foreground that which it does want. So, in changing focus we simply send far away into the background of our mind that which we do not want and we bring in to the fore-front of our brain that which we do want. In beating porn’s hold on you, send that picture of porn way off into the distance and put in its place a picture of your wife, your family, and/or the Lord.
1An aside point: When you switch from one thing to another thing, you are not saving time. The Journal of Experimental Psychology found that it takes your brain four times longer to recognize and process each thing you are working on when you switch back and forth among tasks. Thus, time wise, it is best to focus on one project until complete and then take up the other project.
1Quoted by Carson Tate in his article “Can your read this without doing 3 other things?” in the Charlotte Observer, April 13, 2008. Charlotte, NC.
2Bodenhamer, Bobby G., D.Min. Edited by Hall, L. Michael Ph.D. “How to take a ‘Bitter Root’ to Jesus” on the www.renewingyourmind.com web site: http://www.renewingyourmind.com/Techniques/BitterRoot.htm
Bodenhamer, Bobby G. (2003). Mastering Blocking and Stuttering: A Cognitive Approach to Achieving Fluency. Wales: Crown House Publishing, LLC.
Hall, L. Michael and Bodenhamer, Bobby G. (2004) Games for Mastering Fear. Grand Junction, CO: Neuro-Semantics Publication.
©2008 Bobby G. Bodenhamer, D. Min. and Patterns for Renewing Your Mind International, Inc.