Concept of the Month -- July-August 2014

A Tactic: The Vagueness of the Criminal

I had been interviewing Tony, a defendant in jail who expressed a heart felt desire to change. Tony said that he had harmed too many people, let down his family, and spent too much time confined. Facing another charge for drug dealing and violating probation, Tony knew that he was looking at receiving more time. As I interviewed him, he became increasinlgy interested in the concept of "thinking errors" that gave rise of his criminal conduct. He started to write down his thoughts at times he was frustrated, angry, or disappointed. He began to identify specific thinking errors.

Tony asked me if there was something he could read about thinking errors. I recommended volume 1 in the series that I wrote with Dr. Yochelson titled "The Criminal Personality." His mother arranged to have the book sent to him. He assured me that he had delved into it and was finding it extremely interesting and applicable to him.

During an interview, I asked Tony what chapter he was reading. He replied, 'I'm drawing a blank." I asked if he had learned anything new. He replied, "The main theme is a lot of denial, and making excuses. It's about changing behavior." I told Tony that I think he knew about this before he ever received the book as he had been attending counseling on his unit in jail. I pressed him as to the theme of the chapter he was reading. He said, "I can't draw a theme out. It's embarrassing." Then he added, "It's a little dense. Sometimes my mind is elsewhere. I get anxiety and distracted. It makes me think about my case." I told him that if this had been a test (which it wasn't), he would receive a "F." He then commented, "I need to take notes" and remarked that he has an "inability to retain information."

We then got down to the facts. Tony's prevarication and circumlocution were typical. He had defaulted on something he said he wanted to do. Rather than come out and admit that he had not done the reading, he filled the room with the fog of vagueness. We established from what had transpired regarding his failure to read some of the book the following to be life-long patterns:
* If Tony was not truly interested in something, he would procrastinate.
* If something took effort and it wasn't his idea to begin with, he would default.
*After the fact, he could come up with numerous reasons why he did not do something even if it was something he said he would do and that he realized was in his own best interest.
*Tony also did not like to admit ignorance. He acknowledged, "I'm a know it all." He was the kind of student who would not ask a teacher for help because to appear to not know something was, in his estimation, a put down.

At the next meeting, Tony had read part of the book and came to the interview with notes he had made about what applied to his life.

The above indicates how criminals obfuscate when they want to appear omniscient. It demonstrates that to acknowledge that they have not done something that they said they will do is extremely difficult -- a putdown. Rather than acknowledge the obvious, they will react to a teacher, counselor, or other person who is questioning them with vagueness -- a tactic that they have used throughout their lives with anyone who asks them to be accountable.

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