Concept of the Month -- March 2004

The Criminal's Shutting off Conscience

There are those who contend that the criminal lacks a conscience. That is actually not the case. He has elements of conscience. Put another way -- it is a tattered, threadbare conscience. He has the capacity to shut off from consideration aspects of conscience long enough to do what he wants to at the moment. The criminal can experience remorse. One man broke into an elderly person's home, ransacked it, and made off with cherished heirlooms. When he learned she was suffering from a terminal illness, he was so conscience stricken that he arranged to have all her property returned. However, this did not stop him from subsequently breaking into the homes of others. The fact that the criminal experiences pangs of conscience (remorse) contributes to his view of himself as essentially a good person.

Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D.

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