Recovery work is painful. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. It is no wonder that I spent two decades avoiding it. Deep down in my unconscious where the memories were stored, I had determined that the pain of the emotional memories was far worse than spending my life defending against them. And my overactive cortex was happy to oblige. I could come up with almost anything to justify my feelings or an image that may have flashed in my head. On the bad days, I could keep myself so insanely busy that there was no time to examine anything. My head would run in circles all day long, only stopping for sleep. It was exhausting. Some days, I felt like I had run a marathon from the anxiety and intensity of getting through the day. But it still seemed better than facing the pain.

After seven years of recovery, I can vouch that the emotional and physical pain of recovery is hard, but it is not as bad as the constant defending. Honestly, and a bit morbidly, it is unlikely that I would have survived much longer if I had continued down that old path of denial. I was getting physically sicker and sicker. There is no doubt in my mind that my life would have been cut short.

While my story has turned positive, there’s a lot of defending against the unconscious that is happening in our world today. And it isn’t just the victims of trauma. It is the perpetrators … maybe more so. The pain of being a victim is hard to feel. For me, the misplaced shame is the worst. It sits in the pit of my stomach and makes me feel like I am going to throw up. I hate it. I always know when the shame is ready to be processed. And I always want to avoid it. But the shame is worse for the perpetrators. They took their own victim shame and tried to place it with someone else. They unconsciously thought that would be easier than feeling it. But the shame multiplied. And now the pain is worse.

And so they continue to act on their shame. They somehow believe that a certain number of victims will make the pain go away. But with more victims comes more shame. And with more shame comes more defending. In Trauma and Recovery, Dr. Judith Herman discusses the pain of committing evil acts. “The violation of human connection, and consequently the risk of the post-traumatic stress disorder, is highest of all when the survivor has not been merely a passive witness but also an active participant in violent death or atrocity.”

It is the ultimate pain. I know because I have felt it. When I was in middle school, my stepfather forced me to sexually abuse a younger family member. He stood in the corner of the room in the dark telling me what to do. He did this because he had a plan. It was a strategic step in my abuse. I had been talking about escaping the life that my family was living. I had been telling him that I would never do the horrible things he was doing. He wanted to prove me wrong. He told me that I must do these things or he would kick us out of the house. I believed him. I was a kid. Unfortunately, this abusive event marred me further in shame. And my stepfather knew that would happen.

Even with the clear understanding that I was still the victim in this situation, the pain was horrific. It was far worse than the pain of being a rape victim. And so I extrapolate. I imagine the shame of a pedophile. I imagine the intense physical pain that must stay with the pedophile every day. I imagine the defending against the unconscious that must feel like “life or death”.

So when I read about or listen to pedophiles discuss their “disease” and I hear them say they were “born this way” or “there is nothing they can do to change it”, I know why they say it. They would rather be reviled by society for the rest of their lives than face the pain of recovery. And honestly, I think society would rather revile them than help them, so conveniently, it works out for everyone … except the victims … and the overall unconscious health of the human race.

It is amazing how the truth, and the pain that comes with it, can be so scary. It is amazing how an individual would rather accept a life as a societal outcast than face whatever happened in their life that built their shame to such an astronomical level, a level that would generate such an intense need to place their shame anywhere else. It is amazing how jail can seem better than freedom, the kind of freedom that only comes from truth.

If even a small percentage of pedophiles were willing to do the work it took to recover (and could find the support to do it), our collective consciousness would shift so dramatically that we would not recognize our own planet. We would begin to take the human race to a completely new level. Call me an optimist, but I believe it is possible … if we make another choice.