In this post I want to teach all of my pedophiles some important principles about how your mind interprets the child targets that agitate you. Aside from all of the stress that comes from realizing you have pedophilia in the first place, another major source of confusion is when you notice yourself having strong and varied reactions to different kids. Suppose tween girls are your main trigger group. Why is it that girls within that same age group will sometimes cause you to feel generally stressed and agitated, while other times you find yourself feeling intensely drawn to one–perhaps even to the point that you want to start stalking her and getting to know every detail of her daily routine? Why do some children ignite a protective rage within you, to the point that you’re ready to annihilate anything or anyone who seems to threaten them? And here’s a particularly embarrassing one: why do you find yourself feeling acutely jealous over certain children developing new relationships in their lives? Perhaps you’re a man in his sixties finding yourself feeling intensely jealous whenever you see the nine-year-old girl next door having her new playmate coming over again. These are two nine-year-olds. The kinds of games they find entertaining would bore you to death, and yet there you are, seething with jealousy and assuming the worst about the new playmate who you’ve never even met. Just seeing them together or hearing them laugh makes your blood boil and your heart feel like it’s breaking. What on earth is going on here?
Realizing that you have pedophilia usually thrusts your soul and your mind into a state of war with each other. In response to your soul being hostile, condescending, critical, and invalidating, your mind becomes super secretive–intentionally keeping your soul in the dark about its biggest fears and wounds so that it can limit how much ammo the soul can use against it. Pedophilia is a psychological stress reaction. This means that unless your mind is willing to explain what it’s thinking, your soul is going to be left trying to interpret your behaviours all on its own. Whenever souls take a shot at explaining the symptoms of pedophilia, the theories they come up with are usually way off the mark–so much so that you end up with a very warped, discouraging, and hopeless view of yourself. Being stalled in spiritual despair is no way to live, and if that’s where you’re at today, you need to realize that it’s way too early to be writing yourself off as a hopeless case. Education is what’s needed here, especially regarding the way that your mind is viewing the children who are triggering these strong reactions in you. As your soul learns more about its partner element, it will come to realize that its own assessments of your behaviours are too flawed to be of any use.
Now if you’ve read any of my material on this subject, you might be familiar with the idea that the children who your mind reacts the strongest to usually represent you. This means that when your mind sees 8-year-old Ben or Rachel, it’s seeing that child as a symbol of who you were back when you were a child. But here’s where things can get rather tricky because in all cases of psychological trauma, minds end up hyperfocusing on three definitions of you. First, there is Undamaged You. This is who you were before the terrible event happened to you which essentially wrecked your life (internally speaking). Your circumstances might have been pretty nice as a child, but once you become psychologically traumatized, your mind is grappling with intense fear, pain and distress 24/7. Sometimes it tries to hide its distress as much as possible, which causes you to be consciously unaware of just how upset you really are by what happened to you. Yet your mind is very aware of precisely when it felt its world was shattered, and that is the time period it becomes obsessed with.
Now in these cases, Undamaged You is often painted in an unrealistically positive light. Your mind often sees Undamaged You as some sweet, innocent, near-perfect little thing who is brimming with potential and has a brilliant future ahead. By comparison, Damaged You is an ugly mess of pain and misery. Damaged You is post-trauma you. This is the broken you; the you that has been permanently robbed of ever becoming who you were meant to be (or at least that’s what you tell yourself). But here again, there is a lot of exaggeration involved. Damaged You is painted in an excessively dark light and a lot of unfair and untrue assumptions are being made about Damaged You’s future.
Lastly, there is You Under Attack. In real life, there wasn’t just before the trauma and after the trauma. There was also during the trauma. For pedophiles, their original traumas were usually some form of physical assault. To your mind, the details of how the assault played out are very important–so much so that it will often panic whenever you come across something that reminds you of one of those details.
So now we have our three versions of you which your mind is very focused on: Undamaged You, Damaged You, and You Under Attack. This brings us to a point which is vital for you to understand: which version of you a specific child currently symbolizes to your mind has a direct impact on how you react to that child. Now let’s dig deeper.
This is the version of you who you feel has been lost forever, and at some point this loss has to be properly acknowledged and mourned if you’re going to heal. You can’t get started with the mourning process until you can admit how badly you were affected by your trauma, and because many pedophiles are in a state of memory suppression, the necessary mourning process hasn’t had a chance to start yet. Meanwhile, when your mind comes across a child who reminds it of Undamaged You, it will typically react very strongly to that child.
Now what causes these kinds of matches is different for every pedophile. Your mind is looking for specific features in the children around you–features that it has decided are a logical summary of Undamaged You. Those features can include anything from physical qualities to personality traits to behavioural mannerisms. Every mind has its own custom list. Some lists are long, some are short. Some minds won’t react to Undamaged You until every item on their list is checked. Other minds will react when only one or two items on their list are met. The fact that different minds have different requirements is why not all pedophiles experience reactions to the Undamaged You persona. But for those of you who do, the reactions can be incredibly intense and feel like they come out of nowhere.
Now to appreciate what your mind is doing here, imagine that you have a prophetic vision that the child next door is going to wander out into the street and get hit by a car that afternoon. How would you naturally respond to having this information? You’d want to protect the child, of course. You’d want to save her from getting killed. The afternoon is only a few hours away, so you rush next door to talk to the child’s parents. When the mom opens the door, you realize that you haven’t planned out how you’re going to attempt to explain your vision without sounding delusional. But then you see the girl come into view behind the mother. Hit the pause button right here and think about all of the emotions you feel towards that girl in this moment, knowing what you know. Let’s list these things out:
- You feel dread, because you know that something terrible is about to happen to this kid.
- You feel immense responsibility, because you might have the ability to save her, if you play your cards right.
- You feel deeply grieved over the idea of her getting killed because you know how much pain her death will cause to so many people.
- You feel a desperate need to protect her, because knowing what you know puts you in a unique position to save her.
- You cherish who she is right now: carefree, unafraid, and unharmed, and you really want to her to stay that way.
- You feel a strong personal connection to her because you have this knowledge about her future that no one else has.
- You want her to trust you because all you want to do is protect her from harm.
Now read through all of the bold phrases I highlighted above. When you suddenly experience emotions like these surging in response to a specific child, that’s a good indicator that your mind is viewing that child as a symbol of Undamaged You. The metaphor I gave is of limited use because in that situation, your mind viewed that child as a stranger. In cases where your mind sees Undamaged You, you often feel like you know the child, even when you don’t. This is because your mind is seeing more similarities between that child and you than actually exist. You can be consciously aware that the child is a stranger to you, but you will also feel an intense pull towards her, and this will often lead to a desire to be around the child as much as possible. On a psychological level, your mind is really trying to find comfort through interacting with the version of you that it feels responsible for losing: Undamaged You; the you that existed before the traumatic event.
Now this kind of obsession is a normal human reaction to loss; this isn’t just some freak thing that pedophiles do. Parents who lose their own children often become intensely drawn towards other children that remind them of the children they lost. In these situations, there isn’t a sexual overtone to the relationship, but the grieving parents can start behaving inappropriately towards the children: trying to control them, getting too involved in their lives, and trying to replace their existing parents.
In cases of peer losses, similar obsessions can occur. After Tom loses his best friend Mike to a hiking accident, Tom finds himself intensely drawn towards another male peer who reminds him of Mike. Because Tom is reacting to the new peer as a symbol of someone else, Tom’s behaviour towards the new peer comes across as strange and off-putting. Tom lashes out when the peer behaves in ways that Mike never would have; and Tom rewards behaviours that match those of his dead friend. Tom is not relating to this new peer for who he actually is; instead, Tom is using him as a replacement for Mike. Tom’s mind is doing this in an attempt to manage its own grief. It’s also useful to note that in cases where moral guilt is involved (such as Tom feeling morally responsible for his friend’s accident), the soul can be the one pushing for these kinds of symbolic relationships.
Here’s a good rule of thumb to remember as a pedophile: whenever your mind starts reacting very strongly towards certain children, those children have become symbolic to your mind, and this means you’re not seeing them for who they actually are. Instead, you’re reacting to them according to who you have decided they are. Over time, it is guaranteed that your behaviour towards them will become inappropriate–not necessarily in a sexual way (although that’s possible in some situations), but definitely in an emotional way. You will be prone to being possessive, smothering, and controlling due to the fact that internally you are really trying to engage with a version of yourself.
It’s important not to minimize the devastation your mind feels over losing Undamaged You. Your mind is so fiercely devoted to you that it finds it brutally hard to “forgive and forget” when it feels like it has failed to protect you from devastating harm. Your mind is also prone to setting impossible standards for itself–it wants to be the perfect protector, not the protector who sometimes drops the ball or makes a bad choice or fails to correctly anticipate the enemy’s next move. When your mind suddenly meets a child who reminds it very much of Undamaged You, a torrent of longing can be triggered as your mind essentially tries to get a second chance at “doing it right.” This time it won’t let Undamaged You out of your sight. This time it will do a better job of anticipating danger.
Now once your mind engages in a fantasy that is interacting with Undamaged You, it will be hypersensitive to how Undamaged You responds to who you are today. In real life, Undamaged You is some random child that your mind latched onto and that you probably don’t even know. But once your mind latches on like this, it no longer sees you as interacting with a stranger. Instead, this relationship is now a case of Current You talking to Undamaged You, and given the mountains of stress and pain that exist between these two characters, things can get very intense very fast. If Undamaged You acts in a way that causes Current You to feel rejected, the pain of that can be devastating.
In real life, you simply sat down in the sandbox and offered to join in young Troy’s game of rolling trucks along the sandy terrain. But when Troy shook his head and said, “I don’t want to play with you” with typical five-year-old bluntness, it feels like someone just punched you in the gut. Why? Because your mind didn’t see this for what it was: some random kid not wanting a play partner at the moment. Your mind interpreted this as a case of Undamaged You telling Current You to step off. Remember that your mind already feels devastated for failing Undamaged You in the critical moment, and it is desperate to go back in time and fix that situation. But it can’t. All it can do is slog through every day in an ocean of pain, guilt, and fear. When it sees Undamaged You playing in the sandbox, it leaps at the chance to do a bit of time traveling and perhaps reconnect with the version of you that it failed. Your mind wants to feel accepted by Undamaged You. Feel understood. Feel loved. Maybe that would ease all of the pain and misery. In pedophilia, the sexual nature of the original assault often causes the mind to fantasize about you sexually interacting with Undamaged You. The goal of these kinds of interactions is to build a sense of intimacy with this version of yourself that has been lost. In these kinds of fantasies, you will often feel a desire to treat the child nicely, meaning you will not want to coerce them or do anything that they don’t want. Now in real life, no child wants to be sexually engaged with, but remember your mind is disconnected with real life once it goes into fantasy mode. In fantasy mode, your mind can spin a very convincing fantasy of some child actually wanting you to sexually engage with them whereas in real life, that same child would be horrified by that kind of interaction. The fantasy is just that: a fantasy, but it is being fuelled by very real pain and loss, and it is those things that need to be addressed.
It is immense unresolved pain and guilt that makes your mind to want to pursue relationships (real or imagined) with symbols of Undamaged You. When those symbolic children respond positively to you, the resulting elation can make you feel like you’re on top of the world. When they respond negatively, you can feel utterly crushed. Instead of endlessly criticizing your various reactions, you need to cultivate some respect for the logic that is driving them. Remember the guiding principle: once a child starts triggering an intense reaction in you, you are no longer seeing that child for who they actually are. Instead, the intensity of the reaction tells you that your mind has assigned some other, fictional identity to that child and it is now acting as if that false identity is real. This is why your reactions are so extreme and inappropriate to the situation.
It’s really not appropriate for 38-year-old Mark to grab hold of a 12-year-old girl he just met and lock her into an eternal embrace. But this is what Mark’s mind is suddenly pushing him to do once it starts seeing that girl as a symbol of Undamaged Mark. Remember that to your mind, thinking about Undamaged You brings up all kinds of pain, grief, and distress over seeing Undamaged You get destroyed by whatever awful thing happened to you in the past. So when your mind suddenly runs into a symbol of Undamaged You, it’s hit with an intense wave of emotions which are strongly punctuated with themes of grief and loss. Once you understand what’s happening in the background, you can make more logical sense of a sudden intense desire to get as intimate as you can as fast as you can with a child you barely know. It’s not about who they are. It’s about trying to symbolically reconnect with a version of yourself that seems lost forever.
You Under Attack
When 42-year-old Juan goes into a public restroom to use the facilities, he sees a father in the middle of changing the diaper of his infant son. The father looks grim and tense. The son is screaming at the top of his lungs and wriggling in protest. When Juan’s mind sizes up this scene, it instantly goes on red alert. Suddenly Juan is hit with a strong gut feeling that the man is doing something kinky and inappropriate with his son. Juan’s mind is shouting at him to run over, punch the guy out, snatch up the kid, and flee to safety. Instead, Juan rushes into a stall so he can close the door and block out the sight of the diaper change. But he can still hear the kid screaming, and to Juan it is obvious that the kid is desperately pleading for someone, somewhere to save him from the creep who is manhandling him. All of the excess adrenaline coursing through Juan’s veins is making him physically ill. He is paralyzed with distress, and has mentally rehearsed twenty different ways of telling the father off, when suddenly he hears the father pack up his things and leave with his crying son in tow. The opportunity has been lost, and at this point Juan doesn’t know if he did right or wrong to leave the man alone. He is nauseous, shaking, and sweating. His eyes are filling with tears. He finally leaves the stall, splashes some cold water on his face, and heads back out into the store, deciding to go do a different errand so he can avoid running into that father again.
So what’s happening with Juan? Why did he interpret a perfectly appropriate diaper change as a case of malicious sexual assault? Why did he feel such hatred towards the father and such a strong desire to protect the infant? Well, Juan developed pedophilia as a reaction to being repeatedly molested by adult male relatives when he was very young. Due to his own trauma background, whenever Juan sees babies in a partially undressed state–especially boys–his mind instantly interprets those children as being symbols of Juan Under Attack.
Bumping into a symbolic reminder of You Under Attack is immensely stressful to your mind–so much so that it can easily trigger intense anxiety and even a full blown panic attack. It often takes quite a while to recover from these kinds of experiences, and they tend to leave you feeling exhausted and irritable. Key indicators that you’re dealing with a symbol of You Under Attack is when you experience an overwhelming sense of protective rage. The rage will be aimed at someone who your mind sees as the one who is harming the symbol of You Under Attack. Adding to the stress is that your mind will often see that person as a symbol of Your Original Attacker. You can tell this is happening by the motivations your mind projects onto that person–they will be very close to the motivations you assume your own attacker had in real life. For example, when Claire was a kid, she was sexually assaulted by two boys who acted amused by what they were doing to her. Now as an adult, whenever Claire’s mind comes across a child symbol of Claire Under Attack, she automatically sees the attacking parties as feeling sadistically amused by the distress they are causing.
At the time of your original trauma, your mind locked onto specific details of that experience as being extra significant. Depending on what those details are, you can find yourself going into panic mode in a wide range of situations. For example, John’s original trauma took place in a medical setting. No one tried to sexually assault John, but from his child perspective, scary, painful things were done to his privates without his permission and for no logical reason. As an adult, John can’t hear the sounds of children in distress in a medical setting without his mind going into panic. John doesn’t even have to see the children–all he has to do is hear them and the panic starts. Last week John’s friend Gordon fell down some stairs and was worried he’d broken his ankle. Being a good friend, John drove Gordon to the hospital to get checked out. While they were sitting in the waiting room, John heard a nurse giving a child an injection. The child was screaming in terror and John was became so ill he thought he was going to lose his lunch. He rushed outside for some air and he was so upset that it took him a good twenty minutes before he could attempt to go back inside, at which point his friend had already been called in. Gordon was upset about John ditching him in the waiting room. John was too embarrassed to explain why he’d run away. The whole visit was a stressful mess, and that night John had nightmares about children in hospitals pleading for him to save them while he just walked by, feeling like a callous monster.
John’s experience demonstrates the power of unprocessed pain. Your mind must receive help with resolving what happened to you in the past before it can move forward. Otherwise, it will remain vulnerable to being thrown into a panic anytime it is suddenly reminded of your own traumatic experiences.
To help your mind recover from the kinds of trauma that cause pedophilia, you must realize who it is you’re dealing with: a fiercely loyal protector who is currently feeling unable to cope with the knowledge that it was unable to protect you when it really mattered. To get dislodged from this miserable stalling point, your mind needs help from outside of itself. Here is where your soul has a vital role to play in validating your mind and giving it permission to move on from the past.
Appreciating Your Mind’s Dilemma
Suppose you are a military general who is being forced to choose between two desperate battlefield strategies. If you choose Strategy A, you will be guaranteed to lose at least 50 good men. If you choose Strategy B, you will lose at least 200. So what do you do? Well, it’s not really much of a choice, is it? Strategy A is the obvious option, but it’s horrible, because you care deeply about all of the men in your charge. After the war is over and you sit down to talk to one of the grieving family members who lost someone due to you choosing Strategy A, what can you possibly say? “Sorry about your boy, but someone had to die”? Even though this is true, it’s not going to make anyone feel better.
In all cases of sexual assault, the victim’s mind feels like the general I just described: trapped in a position of “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” with no way to avoid casualties. In these kinds of binds, all minds try to choose Strategy A: the strategy that is estimated to result in the least amount of damage. But estimates aren’t always right, are they? Sometimes the final damage is far worse than your mind anticipated it would be. But the real horror of these situations is that there isn’t any way for your mind to fully protect you. Some degree of damage is unavoidable, and in cases of sexual assault, the damage done is always severe. There is simply no way to endure any form of sexual assault without being deeply impacted by it. So now you have a mind that is functioning like that military general who is expected to keep soldiering on no matter what, but internally he is devastated by the memory of having to knowingly send some of his men into a death trap. This is who your soul needs to help–not a pervert, not an idiot who “brought it on yourself”, and not an inexperienced newbie who made stupid choices back in the day. Your mind is an extremely intelligent creature that was specifically designed by God with the capacity to make an endless stream of brutal battlefield decisions. The sheer strength and perseverance of the human mind is utterly amazing, never mind its capacity to perform extremely complex situation analyses in the blink of an eye. When your soul responds to such a capable, loyal creature with scoffing, criticism, belittling, and accusations of immorality, how do you think your mind is going to react?
To recover from pedophilia, your soul must be willing to make major changes to the way it views and communicates with its partner element. Your mind is upset for valid reasons, and it’s freaking out over kids because those kids are essentially forcing it to keep reliving its worst memories. Anyone would be upset by having their worst memories thrust into their faces over and over again, and this is the effect certain children have on you when you have pedophilia. Once we become better informed about the psychological mechanics of pedophilia, we can see why self-compassion plays such a vital role in the recovery process, and that compassion needs to be directed at your mind, because it is the element that is suffering the most over what happened to you.