David, a retired military fighter pilot came to coaching for symptoms related to his PTSD. As he explained his experiences, he introduced me to the term “Left of Bang” to describe being prepared for air combat. The more we spoke, the more inspired I became by the usefulness of this concept in the fight for sexual integrity.
In the Military, the event, crash, or incident is called “bang”. There is always a chain of events that leads up to bang. On a military timeline, time is viewed as moving from left to right. The further left you go from Bang, the earlier you can act or intervene. When you are just left of bang, on the timeline, the problems have become so severe they cannot be corrected before the crash. Momentum has taken over and time is moving faster, so there is less chance of intervention. When the worst happens, when the intervention is too late, when momentum overwhelms actions and reasoning, Bang could lead to death. So the focus must be on thinking and intervening as far left of bang as possible. It is critical that we are aware, active, and prepared.
There are many factors that affect the momentum of the timeline and our ability to react. Three of these factors are emotional reaction patterns, Brain chemistry and shame.
Negative emotions (sometimes positive emotions) and how we have patterned ourselves to deal with them also affects our reactions and may cause us to repeatedly hit Bang.
Since Childhood we have used sexual behavior to soothe and medicate the emotional swirl of our lives. Like Pavlov’s dogs we have conditioned ourselves to react without thinking with these progressively hardwired behavioral habits. Feelings have become so wrapped around the axle of sexual acting out that we loose awareness of what we feel and react with sexual arousal. Its like a shell game, emotions are triggered but we respond with sexual behavior. We become disconnected from ourselves, our feelings and how we feel them in our bodies. Those reflexive behavior patterns are old outdated survival techniques that propel us towards destruction.
Brain Chemistry, more specifically Dopamine, affects clear thinking and reaction time. It would be disastrous for a pilot to get drunk before he had a sortie to fly. Masturbation, Sexual fantasy, Porn, illicit sexual activity and Affairs all flood the brain with excessive levels of dopamine which leads to intoxication. The more toxic our brain is the less likely we are going to be able to make a corrective choice. Bang is inevitable because this lack of mental clarity impairs our ability to take evasive action.
Guilt is a reaction of remorse and pain for our behaviors. It leads us towards repairing and restoring wrong actions and damaged relationships. It draws us back into connection. In contrast, Shame says there is something defective, something inherently wrong about me as a person. Shame makes us want to isolate, “put on the fig leaves” and hide. Life’s difficulties, wounds, and relationships can trigger feelings of shame. Shame launches the fight, flight, or freeze response. Consequently, Defensiveness, anger and passivity only increase hopelessness and disconnection. Like the feeling swirl, sexual behavior mitigates the pain of shame, but only temporarily. The shame rebound effect creates a new shame state that must be alleviated. Unfortunately, like the directions on the shampoo bottle “rinse and repeat” we become trapped in an increasingly compulsive cycle.
After Military pilots fly they often assess the the strengths and weakness of their mission. They practice “failing” so they know how to react in a crisis situation. They analyzize, Identify and rehearse so response time shortens, situational awareness increases and their new reactions move from being conscious to unconscious. Living left of bang is finding that optimal exit point between stimulus and response. A secondary benefit of living left of bang is that the same stimulus that sent us towards bang can now become the stimulus for choosing healthy behavior. Over time the initiating event becomes the signal for life giving choice. Eventually, the new behavior responses become new body memory. The concept of left of bang leads to proactive self care that intevenes at of before triggers in the addictive cycle. This early intervention increases the likelyhood of intervention before the momentem of compulsion takes over. Living Left of Bang creates new options that shift from those that are destructive to those that are healthy, connected and free.