Concept of the Month -- November 2008

The All or Nothing Thinking of the Criminal

People who make crime a way of life think in extremes. They are either "number 1" or "nothing." Something is either "in the bag" (i.e., a certainty) or it is a "bust." There seems to be no middle ground. The criminal evaluates people in terms of whether they meet his expectations, namely the expectation that he can control them. Thus, a person who he thinks of in the most superlative terms today may be an enemy tomorrow. He makes false equations as well. For example, he will say that a person who keeps 25 cents too much change is as much a thief as a person who steals a wallet full of money. Again, no middle ground to his thought process.

A major reason that the criminal thinks in such all or nothing terms is that, believing himself omniscient, he senses no need to evaluate a situation at any length (unless he is casing out the circumstances to commit a crime). In a previous "concept of the month," I cited the fact that, for a criminal, just thinking something makes it so: "I think; therefore it is." If a person is certain of his omniscience and infallibility, he has no reason to engage in the mental processes that are necessary for making many decisions, namely suspending judgment, gathering facts, and weighing alternatives. You won't find many comparison shoppers among criminals! If they want something, they obtain it very quickly, one way or the other.

This all or nothing thinking invariably leads to the criminal constantly experiencing frustration, disappointment, and anger at a world that does not give him what he thinks he is due. Consider going through life and operating on the whim of the moment, basing what you do on the expectation that you are absolutely correct and that others will do whatever you want. Failing to take other people's needs and wishes into account, the criminal constantly encounters barriers to his plans. Doing so threatens his view that he knows all, that he is in control, and that others will accede to him. The opposite of triumph and affirmation, is loss and degradation -- no in betweens. Thus one witnesses the peaks and swamps of the emotions of such an individual. As I pointed out in yet another "concept of the month," this is not bipolar illness. It is the criminal's response to his own unrealistic view of himself and others.

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