Hermes' Web Illustrates the Roots
of Sex Offense
Click here to review the psychological concepts upon which
Hermes' Web is based. The concepts, in relation to sex
offense, are discussed below.
The Two Levels
Sex offenders are people
who have ignored their
responsibilities and willfully
violated societal standards.
They are totally out of touch
with their own inner
An offender is like the Titanic, setting sail with a sense of
arrogance and surety that does not respect the powers of
nature. But as those people discovered on the maiden
voyage, what you ignore and refuse to see does hurt you
and can be very dangerous.
Offenders, like most other people, operate on two levels — the ego and the core. The congruency or
connection between these two levels is the primary concern. Offenders may appear mature and
responsible on the ego level, but this is not where the offense originates. The offense originates in
the neglected core, kept completely separate from the ego by the barrier.
The neglected core typically has a psychological age and maturity level far below that of the ego
identity. When the offender is under stress, it is the primitive maturity level of the core that reveals
itself. Most offenders are 1 – 4 years old in their core, and because of that, many seek immediate
gratification, are highly defensive, and do not yet recognize the effects of their own wants on others.
In a sex offender, the core is a mess. It is often obsessed with anger and the need for recognition
and power. It has become criminalized and toxic, through years of neglect and abuse, and is willing
to do whatever it takes to get its needs met, regardless of the cost to others. Because of the barrier,
the core is essentially "cut off" from the morality and social conscience embedded into the ego. In
other words, morality and values do not exist in the core, nor do they matter.
Lack of Mirroring and the Hidden World
In order to survive and flourish, humans need to be noticed, desired, praised, and recognized. We
need positive mirroring. Whether we deserve it or whether it's realistic doesn't matter. We just need
it, period. If we don't get enough positive mirroring early in life or later, in our marriage, at work, or at
school, we get hungry. The less we've gotten along the way, the more desperate we are down in our
Positive and negative mirroring have an extraordinary effect on a person's feelings of self-love or self-
hate — a plus or minus sign in the core. Those people who have not had adequate positive
mirroring or who have had an overabundance of negative mirroring are left with a fundamental self-
loathing. The intense need for mirroring fuels the anger and resentment in the core, and it grows
more and more desperate, constructing a hidden world in which feed.
Many offenders have strong mirroring needs and express them in a very primitive manner. They will do anything to get their needs met
and think nothing of the consequences of their actions. In essence, necessity knows no law. Mirroring needs can get met through acts
of violence. A man who feels completely inferior in his core can, through terrorizing a victim, be mirrored as a powerful person,
momentarily compensating his sense of inadequacy. The victim's body and face become his mirror as they reflect his power and
control. The effect is momentary, and the kind of mirroring obtained via offending has no lasting effect. It is just a "hit" that will have to be
An offender needs to recognize the parts of himself festering in the hidden world that can overpower or override the morality in his ego
and allow him to choose to violate his own standards. Those parts must be changed and the needs associated with them must be
dealt with. We all need mirroring, but we are not all so desperate that we're willing to violate others and our own morality to get that
People who commit sexual offenses and other violent acts, overt or covert, usually have a need to
hate, which was created as a result of growing up in a dysfunctional family or environment.
The clinical term is derepression. Derepression represents a psychological state in which
someone has been acted upon negatively but was not allowed to respond appropriately. For
example, a tyrannic father constantly berates his children and does not allow them to "talk back."
This father dumps all the garbage from his own core into his children's cores, which do not yet have
the sophisticated defense systems adults mount on the barrier. Eventually, those children store up
many responses, most of them negative, and they grow up only to carry all that anger, hatred, and
vengeance around with them.
When the ego refuses to acknowledge certain essential facts about the psyche as a whole, it sets
itself up for the flip — an action that is the crux of a sex offense or any act of violence or rebellion.
Eventually, all the garbage an offender has ignored and shoved down into the core begins to fuse,
take on a life of its own, and rebel. Rebellions are usually bloody, violent, messy, horrible, sudden,
unexpected, and infiltrating — they begin in the dead of the night. They build slowly over years and
years of fuming, silent protest, and growing hatred that is never voiced and never heard.
Once the rebellion begins, the unmet needs and intense hunger in the core rule, if only for a few
seconds or minutes. The ego identity flips under, and what was under flips up. Because morality
typically exists only in the ego (and can't trickle down into the core because of the barrier), the parts
that flip up do exactly what they want. The sense of right and wrong feels like it's in another room, like a voice in the distance. All the
fused anger, sexuality, revenge, mirroring needs, and derepression are the energies that propel this revolution.
People who flip don't feel like themselves, because they don't know their under-selves. They don't believe there is a part of them with no
morals or values. They don't believe the flip is possible. The same is true for the family and friends of offenders. Because offenses
originate in the core and are committed as part of the offender's hidden world, family and friends are completely unaware of, or refuse
to see, what brews underneath. The spouse or partner who has known the offender for 25 years will back him to the hilt, because he or
she never saw any evidence of trouble.
Once the revolution is through, and the offense is over, the unconscious flips back over and the old
moral ego is back in place. The ego is usually horrified, but if no one has seen, it pretends the flip
never happened. The ego pounds more nails in the basement door and pours more concrete over
the core to make sure the monster doesn't get out again. But sooner or later, if nothing is done to
deal with the reality of the core, the core will come to life again and do more damage.
The greater the disconnection between the ego and the core, the more likely a flip will occur and
the less likely its consequences will be acknowledged.
If an offender gets caught during or after the offense, the ego will deny, justify, blame, and attack
character — anything but take responsibility. When the flip is seen by others, one of the parts of the
unconscious — the ignored realm of the personality below the barrier, where the offense originated
— "sticks up." Now, this part of the offender's personality is no longer safe in the hidden world. It is
very difficult for the offender, and for the people who know the offender, to associate the ego identity
with this ugly, horrible part. They just don't match up. So, if the offender gets a good lawyer, the part
goes away and sneaks back under the barrier. If not, the corrections system steps in and draws a
line between the "rogue" part and the ego and holds the offender accountable for his actions.
Goals and Issues That Structure the Treatment Process
The vast majority of sex offender treatment programs utilize a series of goals that must be passed and completed in order for the
offender to finish treatment. Setting up a goal-oriented program allows that offender to see if he is making steady progress and holds
him accountable for a roster of vital, specific issues related to offending, some of which are described below.
The First Obstacle: Admitting the Offense
In the very beginning of treatment, it should be clearly established that there are no ongoing illegal or abusive sexual behaviors.
Offenders must report any ongoing urges or fantasies regarding the offense. They also must admit to others that they committed the
offense, even if they still omit some important details. Treatment does not work for offenders who are in complete denial of the offense.
These clients are more difficult initially because of their intense resistance and high defense mechanisms — in other words, the
sophistication level of their barrier. If these offenders fail to establish a working attitude toward the offense within a given time period,
they are remanded back to the judicial system and usually end up serving out their sentence.
Before looking into any underlying issues, an offender must go back into his offense in a very specific way and present the story and
details of the offense to others, both in the therapy group and with the people brought in from his life outside. This recounting must be
done with such authenticity, that those listening are convinced it happened as told. If an offender does this autopsy-like work
thoroughly, he is able to begin to identify the issues behind the offense. Here also, his sponsor and/or family will get a different picture
of the offender and his problems. Up to this point, the family has gotten a whitewashed version of the offense — a version that makes
the offense seem more accidental, less serious, and less intentional.
Until the offender performs this autopsy, he thinks he can just decide to not commit another offense, which means he continues to
ignore the deep and resistant roots of the problem. The autopsy helps him to acknowledge and recognize that he actually chose to
offend, that the offense involved a decision-making process that could have been stopped at any point along the way. A sex offense is
not an accident.
Identifying the Arms of Hermes' Web
At this point, the offender must begin working on his underlying issues — the unconscious,
illustrated by the arms of the Web below the barrier. These issues typically include shame, guilt, a
sense of worthlessness, and inferiority rooted in family history and his own victimization, among
other factors. The offender must determine whether or not he has resolved the effects of his own
victimization. He must also determine how he misused sexuality in his offense, by using sexuality to
get other psychological needs met.
Sexuality is often a "carrot on a stick" for sex offenders. Many obsess about it and use their fantasies
and intended behaviors to keep them going. Down in the core, they are in great despair and turmoil,
but rather than seek help and take direct responsibility for their condition, the offender's ego seeks
an alternative through which the offender will not lose face.
Exploring the Hidden World and the Reality of the Two Levels
All in all, the main body of treatment involves fully exploring the hidden world that the offense represents. The fact that the offense was
committed proves the offender's sense of morality cannot stand up to pressure. The morality of many sex offenders is achieved
primarily through repression or suppression and under pressure, it evaporates, leaving their core in charge. Regardless of how
accomplished he may be on the surface — on the ego level — the core remains intact and very dangerous. Treatment has to aim at the
core directly, allowing it to evolve and mature, in addition to providing education, accountability, and supervision.
Most treatment groups are open-ended, meaning there are old and new members in the same group. Offenders close to graduation
can provide leadership and confront new clients with more authenticity. Peer group culture is essential to change, and it is essential in
exploring the hidden world. Sex offender treatment cannot be successfully completed alone or in one-to-one therapy. The hidden world
must be brought into contact with other people and made accountable to the community, both inside and outside of treatment. The
offender must create open communication, both internally and externally, and no longer hide from himself.
Assessment and Testing
Polygraph, plethysmograph, and psychological tests are essentially an effective way to see into an offender's core. Regardless of the
appearance and cooperative behavior of the ego or the resistant, defensive nature of the barrier, therapists can use these tests to
uncover the truth and get at the heart of the issues below the barrier.
Why Core-Level Change Is So Important For Sex Offenders
Not all offenders have the personal strength and/or outside support system to make all the necessary changes. Some will simply try to
rearrange their ego level and believe that is enough, or they will learn the right things to say and try to bluff their way through treatment.
Others will need the constant threat of consequences to stay on the right road. Some offenders will always require monitoring,
because reminders are simply not enough to make fundamental, internalized changes that move their life in a positive direction.
Insight is never enough. Insight simply means an offender is able to look out from his normal ego identity and recognize that he has
problems and that those problems are serious. This is an important part of the process, but it is no guarantor of change. Change
involves examining the offense from top to bottom, inside and out, and making a multitude of changes based on issues discovered in
the core. The sex offense was a choice that could be made again unless there is a fundamental change in the offender's psychological
system. A bridge must be built between the morals on the ego level and the rampant needs of the core. Without that bridge, nothing
and Sex Offense