Building self-esteem and developing a positive view of oneself is the goal of many therapeutically sound programs. There are numerous assessment tests that measure self-worth, self-esteem and positive self-image including Rosenburg’s Self-Esteem Test, PsychTest.com, and others. Most people are taught at a young age to take pride in their accomplishments and are given praise and compliments for their successes. We begin to identify with numerous role models and are connected formally and informally to mentors who help guide our positive self-image and direction in life.
For the criminal thinker who is beginning the thinking change process, positive views of oneself is not a road to recovery. The criminal thought process is so distorted that a normally positive idea in a responsible person life is actually a distortion of reality for the criminal. A criminal thinker who is donating money to charity or bringing flowers to their mother is avoiding and contradicting the reality of the extreme harm they are causing through their other arrestable and irresponsible actions. Doing something good for someone while still maintaining active irresponsible or criminal thoughts only furthers their destructive lifestyle. For the criminal thinker, change is not about doing good things, it is about actively identifying, challenging and changing ones distorted thinking patterns.
Early in the change process offenders should focus more on the harm they have caused than on the good they have done. Creating an honest balance sheet of their lives should result in a scale that is tipped strongly towards the negative. Correcting the false view of oneself as a good person should be replaced with honest self-disgust which motivates change.
Positive self-perspective can be viewed on a continuum for the criminal thinker with self-hate on the far left and narcissism on the far right. Self-disgust is the result of an honest and balanced self-assessment developed with the help of responsible ‘others.’ The change agents role should be to consistently hold up a mirror to the offender so they see a true and undistorted vision of themselves. The offender will begin to identify the thinking patterns that have caused others harm and the replacements to those errors in thinking. As a result, they will begin developing the skills to hold up the mirror for themselves. Over time, looking into the mirror of self-disgust will motivate change and begin replacing a distorted sense of self-worth with a healthy self-perspective. The negative ripple affects of a life of crime will begin to fade and new ripples of healing and hope will become stronger.