Concept of the Month -- July 2005

"Love" -- The Criminal's Experience is Extremely Limited

This column is not the place to discuss the myriad definitions or aspects of love. Perhaps most people would concur that there are features basic to love
relationships (I am not including here fleeting infatuations or momentary sexual attractions) whether such relationships exist between husband and wife, parents and children, or between friends. Among those features are the following:

*A give and take relationship (reciprocity), often giving more than receiving;
*Putting oneself in the place of the other person;
*Being trustworthy and trusting;

If one agrees with the above (limited though it may be),, then one must conclude that the criminal has no idea of what a love relationship is.

The criminal seldom uses the word "love" and when he/she does, it is to refer either to sex or to sentiment toward another person. Many an offender has told me how much he loves his mother -- the person who has always been there for him no matter what he has done. Yet when this beloved individual opposes him, attempts to restrict him, or stands up to him, she becomes a target of his rage. She is to behave in line with his objectives. Otherwise, he will turn on her and she can become his victim. This is not love!

The criminal is self-centered. He does not put himself in the place of others. Therefore, he does not think about what his partner, parent, child, or friend is going through. Because of his secrecy, his one-sided view of situations, and his personal narcissicism, he is inherently untrustworthy. He is a taker, not a giver. He "loves" someone as long as that person is his personal pawn, subject to his control.

Criminals do act in what appear to be very loving ways at time. But they can turn from maudlin sentiment to harsh brutality in a moment. A young man helps an
elderly woman with her grocery packages, but an hour later burglarizes an elderly lady's home.

The individual who counsels offenders needs to understand that many thinking patterns must change for a criminal to engage in what is truly a love relationship.

Stanton E. Samenow

Return to Dr. Samenow's Homepage