Pedophilia is a symptom of psychological trauma. Trauma is caused by the mind trying to cope with beliefs that it finds unbearable to live with. There are certain essential beliefs which all humans must have in order to feel calm and comfortable in their own skins.
Here are some examples of essential beliefs:
- “I am worthy of respect.”
- “I have hope for a positive future.”
- “I have a reasonable amount of control over what happens to my body.”
Here are examples of traumatic beliefs:
- “I am worthless.”
- “My future is hopeless.”
- “I have no way of stopping people from hurting me.”
Traumatic beliefs are unbearable to live with, so when you feel forced to live with them, your mind must try to function in a state of constant stress. Depending on how many traumatic beliefs you are currently hanging onto, your stress level can range from very uncomfortable to extremely severe.
The Coping Methods
Your mind cannot function well in a state of intense stress. To protect itself, it looks for ways to vent its stress. For pedophiles, watching child porn and/or molesting live children can feel like stress relieving activities. The more stressed a pedophile becomes, the more desperate his mind is to gain relief. Highly stressed pedophiles often feel they have no choice but to engage in stress relieving activities.
If a moral man becomes desperately hungry, he will no longer be able to stop himself from stealing food that is readily available. While one part of him will feel ashamed of his own behavior, the desperate part of him will take over and make him do behaviors that he would normally despise. The same is true for pedophiles. They often do not understand why they feel so compelled to watch child porn or why they feel a such a strong urge to sexually engage with a child. The internal compulsion to engage in these behaviors overwhelms them in the moment as their minds demand help with relieving stress.
The Response to Children
Despite what many believe, pedophiles are not sexually attracted to kids. Instead, what they experience is a fear-based arousal around certain groups of children. Their automatic arousal is actually a stress response. Humans exhibit a wide range of physical stress responses. Some tap their fingers nervously, some get headaches, some get backaches, some get knots in their stomachs, some get sweaty palms. Sexual arousal can also be a normal stress response and pedophiles are not the only people to exhibit this symptom. Feeling automatically aroused by a threatening situation or person is also common among victims of sexual assault, rapists, partners in BDSM games, some self-harmers and some kinds of torturers.
For pedophiles, children are symbolic reminders of terrible experiences that the pedophiles themselves have gone through in the past. When they are around children with specific kinds of traits, the minds of pedophiles say, “Oh no! Look out! Danger is near! I have to get ready to defend myself! I have to find a way to resolve the horrible thing I went through in the past!”
The logic driving pedophilia is very normal and common to all humans. A young boy who gets attacked by a dog quickly develops a fear of all dogs. Why? Because to his mind, dogs have become symbolic reminders of being viciously attacked. By panicking at the sight of any dog, the boy’s mind is trying to protect itself from future harm.
When a boy is 4 years old, he gets molested by his father. His mind is terrified by this experience. It searches for a way to logically explain why the assault happened. Perhaps one of the conclusions his mind comes up with is “I was attacked because I was just a little kid.” In other words, the mind focuses on the boy’s age as an important element in the attack. When the boy grows up, he develops pedophilia, and notices that he feels very uncomfortable around 4 year old boys. Because those boys are reminding the man’s mind of his own experience of sexual assault, the man’s body responds with a stress-driven sexual arousal. Essentially, the man’s mind and body are both flashing back to the terrible assault that the man experienced as a boy. In trying to make sense out of why his father attacked him and what that attack means about his own future, the man’s mind formed the following beliefs:
- “I have no way of protecting myself from harm.”
- “All men are dangerous and likely to attack me.”
- “I am worthless trash–I have no intrinsic value.”
No human can feel comfortable carrying around these traumatic beliefs. They are too negative and defeating. The man who believes these things feels stressed out all of the time. Whenever he sees young boys, his stress spikes, and he feels desperate to get some kind of mental relief.
There are many kinds of early life experiences that can trigger pedophilia. Being sexually assaulted as a child is a common cause, but other situations can cause the same symptoms, including some kinds of medical procedures. The key point to understand is that pedophilia is an indication that a mind is feeling overwhelmed with distress over a past experience. To resolve this issue, the pedophile first needs help identifying the life experiences that caused his mind to become traumatized. He then needs help to form new, positive beliefs that can replace his terrifying traumatic beliefs.
When the root causes of pedophilia are correctly diagnosed and treated, the negative sexual response to children will automatically go away.
When you recover from a cold, you don’t have to strain to make all of your symptoms vanish. Your cough, runny nose, and fever symptoms all vanish by themselves once your body has a chance to deal with the germ that is causing the problem. In the same way, pedophiles will naturally revert back to normal sexual desires and appetites once their traumatic beliefs are sufficiently addressed.
Because pedophilia is a symptom of mental distress, it grows worse when the pedophile’s life circumstances become more stressful. Being thrown into prison is an extremely stressful experience, especially given the fact that pedophiles are often bullied by their fellow inmates. While it can be necessary to incarcerate a man who is unable to stop himself from harming others, it is also critical to use effective treatment methods as soon as possible. Until the root causes are addressed, the very stressful experience of being incarcerated is likely to make the pedophile’s condition worse, thus increasing his chances of repeating offenses. Stress worsens the mental health of all traumatized people, and many prisoners are in a state of mental trauma.
The good news about trauma is that it is fixable, and effective treatment methods are not expensive, nor do they require a bunch of manpower or materials. Gentle methods that emphasize self-compassion and self-respect work best. Learning more about your own internal mechanics is an essential part of treating pedophilia, because the more sense a man makes to himself, the calmer he will feel, and the more hopeful he will be about recovery.
In my book, Recovering from Pedophilia, I walk pedophiles through a step-by-step process to correctly diagnose the root causes of their pedophilia. I explain many mind mechanics, and I help them develop the self-compassion and self-respect that are critical to gaining hope. The book is divided into chapters or “sessions”, with each session providing education, and then application exercises. The exercises are mainly list making activities which build on each other to help the pedophile see connections between his past experiences and current struggles. After helping pedophiles pinpoint the specific traumatic beliefs that are keeping their minds in a state of distress, I show them how to form action plans to begin countering those beliefs. The formation of practical action plans is the stage in which other counselors could be especially helpful.