How can we change our thinking and behaviour?
It is important to learn to recognise and challenge the content of your own mental images. Everyone can practise recognising what kind of emotions, thoughts and behavioural stimuli their own mental images contain.
What are mental images?
A mental image refers to an image in your mind about something. It can be, for example, a fantasy about what a dog or a good-looking person is like.
The way we experience things or situations has a lot to do with mental images. People have different mental images about the same thing. For example, a dog can be large and dangerous in the imagination of one person, but small and sweet in the imagination of another.
Mental images influence the way we interpret things, as well as thoughts, feelings and behaviour. One is likely to avoid a dog if they are under the impression that it is large and dangerous.
How do mental images emerge?
Mental images are individual. They can involve different senses of sight, hearing, touch and smell.
Images are created through experiences, upbringing and the media, among other factors. The emergence of mental images is also influenced by the values and principles of the person.
Often the more significant a matter is, the more you tend to think about it. As a result, your mind is more prone to making observations about the matter. A person will pay more attention to things that reinforce an already existing mental image.
Confirmation bias and sexual mental images
Mental images related to children can be dominant for a person who is sexually attracted to children. If these images are highly sexual, the person will more often also interpret their observations to be sexual. It is as if the person sees and interprets things through sexually tinted glasses.
For example, they may interpret as sexual the behaviour of child, even if the child just wants to sit on their lap. Similarly, they may interpret messages or conversations they receive on social media as sexual, even if the child is just being polite.
Identifying your own mental images is important
Identifying sexual mental images, thoughts and emotions related to children is the first step towards controlling your own actions. If the mental images of children are sexual, it is important to learn to change them.
The next section includes exercises that enable you to learn how your mental images affect your thinking, emotions and behaviour.
Examining one's own sexual interest in children and related images can be distressing. Nonetheless, it is worth it because awareness is the first step towards managing one's own actions and changing behaviour.