Concept of the Month -- August 2009

The Criminal and Control

A hallmark of criminal behavior is that offenders are extremely controlling. Of course, many people are controlling but they are not criminals. The issue is how one pursues and utilizes control. Many individuals in highly responsible positions exercise control over others as part of their jobs. A teacher must control her class. A police officer exercises control over a crowd. A minister has control of his congregation as he speaks from the pulpit.

The criminal, however, exercises control for the sake of control. A core part of his self-image involves keeping people under his thumb. What he desires takes precedence over all else. Some offenders are blatant in their control tactics. They may resort to intimidation or brute force to impose their will. Or they may do so through deceit and manipulation.

The criminal's view of life is that it is a chessboard, and human beings are pawns. He has a sense of ownership with respect to people and objects. The form of his control tactics may be obvious or so subtle that others do not even realize they are being controlled.

When a criminal is faced with a loss of control, it is as though his entire self-image is on the line. He takes it personally when his attempts at control fail.

Consider road rage. When a motorist passes him, makes an obscene gesture, or acts in some other way that he deems unacceptable, he asserts control. He speeds up, angrily pursues the other motorist, and jeopardizes others in the process. A threat to his attempt at controlling another person can result in a lethal response.

As is the case with all personality traits, control exists on a continuum. The criminal who injures others throughout his life, whether physically, emotionally, or financially is at the far extreme.

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