Concept of the Month -- August-September 2013

Anger: The Metastasizing of a Cancer

The criminal is perpetually dissatisfied because life does not give him what he thinks he is due. He sees himself as similar to the hub of a wheel, and everyone and everything must revolve around him. He has unrealistic expectations of himself and of other people. The world does not cater to his whims, desires, and expectations. Any detail of life that is not in line with his expectations, he takes very personally. He feels threatened and diminished when others react in ways that he finds disagreeable. Because his self-image is very precarious and rests more on pretensions than on accomplishments, he has a very thin skin.

Criminals are constantly angry although, to an observer, this often is not obvious. In fact, they may appear serene and composed. Underneath, they are simmering with anger. Anyone or any event, even something very minor, may disturb what seems to be a tranquil disposition. Sometimes a criminal will fly into a rage, and it will be difficult to discern what triggered the outburst. It could have been something as minor as the way someone looked at him or the particular choice of a word that was used in conversation.

The anger is like a cancer. It may appear isolated but it is widespread. All it takes is what the criminal interprets as "the one thing too much" to trigger a rage reaction. That might be a motorist making an obscene gesture. It might be a reprimand from his boss at work. It may be a refusal by his girl friend to reciprocate his "romantic" mood.

"Anger management" programs will not work with this sort of mentality. The scope of the task extends far beyond simply "managing" anger. The criminal must be helped first to recognize thinking errors that give rise to anger. Then he must see the damage he has inflicted on others, including those about whom he professes to care and those who care about him. Then he must learn and implement correctives to those thinking errors. If his expectations of himself and others become realistic, there is far less anger to "manage" and contend with.

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