Concept of the Month -- October 2004

Thinking in Extremes

The criminal does not know what moderation is! In his thinking and behavior, he more frequently than not goes to extremes. It is critical to understand this aspect of his psychological makeup. Failure to do so can endanger a person who interviews, attempts to counsel, or in other ways interacts with a criminal.

In his mind, the criminal must be number one or else he counts for nothing -- an intolerable situation.. You can see this even when he is a child. If others don't play by his rules, he refuses to play at all. If he is not recognized as tops in any undertaking that matters to him -- e.g., sports, academics -- then it isn't worth doing. Even in a menial task in prison such as buffing a floor, it must shine. If someone steps on it before he is through, he becomes furious. He is indiscriminant in this view that everything he does must be tops. Everything has the same importance. This is not part of a quest for excellence but a result of his own pretensions.

The criminal demands that others recognize him as "number one" when it comes to work. If he walks into a restaurant for a job, he believes that he should be the manager, not a "lackey" who has to undertake tasks that he regards as beneath him.

In even the smallest interactions, the criminal is determined to prevail. Thus, he does not know what a discussion involves. He is insistent on proving his point, not exchanging views. Only what he thinks and says matters. Others disagreeing with him is threatening, even on a trivial point.

People are either for him or against him. There are no in betweens. If you don't go along with what he wants, support his position, agree with what he is saying, he will ignore you, try to verbally beat you down or, at worst, attack you physically.

Clearly, this black and white view of the world leads to a criminal's expectations being constantly thwarted. Constantly, he is perceiving that he has been putdown or diminished by others even when no offense is intended. This is a factor in the constant anger that the criminal experiences because he frequently does not receive the response from others that he desires and believes he is due.

Stanton E. Samenow

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