Concept of the Month -- September 2006

The Concept of "Nonarrestable" Criminality

Unfortunately, all of us at one time or another have known the following sort of individual. He may be a work colleague, family member, or neighbor. This is a person who betrays trust, tries to control other people, builds himself up by tearing others down, and generally regards himself as the center of the universe around whom everything must revolve. Showing considerable arrogance and lacking empathy, this individual may be forgiven for his flaws because he is brilliant, talented, and accomplished. He may not cross the line into committing arrestable acts. Or, perhaps, he has committed crimes but has been clever enough so far not to get caught. Although not an adjudicated "criminal," he leaves a trail of injury behind -- invariably emotional injury, perhaps financial injury. From the standpoint of the harm that he inflicts on others, his conduct is criminal. He victimizes others but refuses to take responsibility for what he has done. If held accountable, he offers innumerable justifications and rationalizations. In the nomenclature of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, he might be considered to have a "narcissistic personality disorder." Getting this person to look in the mirror to recognize that he has flaws is a formidable task for any psychotherapist or counselor.

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