Sexual Thinking Undone

sexualityIt is typical, when examining the early sexual life of the criminal, to discover fantasies of superior sexual development and prowess as compared to their peer group. This irrational thinking is founded in the criminal’s desire to be perceived as especially adult, or more mature than others around them.

The adult criminal’s sexual behavior takes on a particularly unhealthy shape, frequently becoming defined by exploitation and conquest. The thrill of this conquest is what dominates their sexual behavior and the fantasies they form. The criminal, as a sexual partner, expects to be catered to in their every whim; the feelings and needs of the other partner are not acknowledged. Armed with the sense that they can possess and own others as sex objects, the criminal does not recognize their sexual partners as whole people.

The criminal understands sex as an act of power and control rather than of intimacy. They are more than willing to abuse others in order to build up their own self-image. In reality, however, their sexual behavior is more likely to be characterized by poor performance; the criminal’s fantasies and bragging about their sexual prowess are generally more than a little exaggerated. It is not unusual, in fact, for the criminal thinker to be fairly ignorant about sexual matters, especially in relation to the satisfaction of their partner. As such, their sexuality is in fact a lasting area of irresponsibility.

These sexual attitudes and behaviors need to be seen within the framework of other thinking errors and their corrections. Exploration of openness, sensitivity to the injuries of others, moderation of power and control impulses, elimination of ownership attitudes, and the development of interdependence with others can play their parts in finding solution to the sexual complexes exhibited by the criminal.

Also of value will be the process of challenging the double standards that define the criminal’s relationships with others; in particular, more often than not, the relationships they maintain with members of the opposite sex. The criminal thinker needs to learn that their sexual fantasies, especially those revolving around exploitation and conquest, are a form of irresponsible excitement. Learning how to interact meaningfully, on a sexual level, requires an exodus of no small proportions from the self-deception that ensnares the criminal’s perception of sex.

Visit the CriminalThinking.net website for free worksheets to help deter and correct the thinking error of sexuality and many others errors in thinking. Browse these other common thinking error articles as well:


Concrete Thinking

Concrete ThinkingHuman mental processes typically evolve from the concrete to the conceptual, whereas the criminal is often described as failing to learn from experience. This individual does not generalize the outcome of one situation to similar circumstances, a problem which is related to the fragmented thinking associated with the criminal personality.

The criminal is extremely situational in their interpretation of the world around them. Instead of defining right and wrong as the issue in their behavior, the criminal is interested in what they can do without being caught, or what they can get away with.

Failing to internalize pro-social values, the criminal’s main controls lie outside themself; for example. they will not commit a crime if the risk is too great. The criminal thinker tends to view the world around them in extremes: black and white, either/or, and with little flexibility.

In order to enact change, the criminal must learn to relate current events to similar experiences and lessons. Some of these will be related in form, though not in substance, to the situation at hand. Repetitive tardiness, for instance, could be related to a lack of consideration for others, or to a poor concept of family and a lack of concern for the role of a child, sibling, spouse or parent.

Visit the CriminalThinking.net website for free worksheets to help deter and correct the thinking error of concrete thinking and many others errors in thinking. Browse these other common thinking error articles as well:


Criminal Pride

criminal prideFalse pride consists essentially in an extremely high and unchanging evaluation of oneself. The criminal thinker uses the word respect to describing the behavior they require from others to affirm and support their false pride.

The criminal resents simplicity or mundane qualities in life, as such qualities compel them to admit that they are just average people. Some behaviors typical of false pride in the criminal are boasting, bragging, refusing to avoid conflict, refusing to admit ignorance and the display of strong nonverbal cues in movement and posture.

Irrational decisions on the part of the criminal are more easily understood in light of pretension and efforts to control others, both part of the thinking error of false pride. False pride is used by the criminal in three capacities:

  • Maintaining a false sense of power;
  • Avoiding accountability;
  • Avoiding zero state, or depression.

In order to address false pride, the criminal must adopt a self-critical attitude as a route toward realistic expectations of themselves and the world. Self-criticism will also help in developing and attaining goals, and in creating a basic humility with reference to their position in the larger scheme of things. Self-examination must also involve the review of nonverbal behavior. Gestures such as rolling one’s eyes, pushing out the chest and folding one’s arms, for example, are condescending and falsely superior.

The very concept of manhood, or womanhood, must be redefined. This essential identification should be seen as the pursuit and growth of a responsible lifestyle which includes elements such as reliability, honesty, integrity, humility, purposefulness, and value to others, among other things. It is particularly of note that the male criminal’s relationships with women should be examined for the existence of dominant behavior, which is related to false pride.

Ultimately, the correction for false pride is the development and continued use of responsible initiatives. Through this process, a self-concept based on the accomplishments of responsible living can take root. The changing criminal’s first responsible initiative is behavioral changes often seen in therapy.

Visit the CriminalThinking.net website for free worksheets to help deter and correct the thinking error of criminal pride and many others errors in thinking.


Anger Unmanaged

Anger = DangerAnger is a basic component of the criminal personality. Angry thinking and behavior is a fundamental element of the criminal’s thinking process; whether expressed outright or seen beneath the surface, the criminal is angry.

Fear, especially the fear of being put down, is the most common source of anger in the criminal. They perceive their own mistakes, or those of others, as an attack on their own identity. This type of thinking breaks down the criminal’s expectation that everything should go smoothly for them. A criminal’s reaction to such a putdown is aggression – a response intended to re-establish control. They use anger to gain control of others, whether these others are in a position of authority or submissive to the criminal. Aggressive anger often takes the form of intimidation, a method employed to gain the upper hand in a disagreement.

Anger brings out a vulnerability in the criminal to what is called the zero state, or depression. In this state, they develop inflamed irrational thinking about the unfairness of a situation, person or life in general. Part of this thinking involves getting even. A violation, or some form of irresponsible behavior, are the basic strategies by which the criminal re-asserts themself as a powerful person. This is the key, in the criminal’s thought process, to escaping the zero state.

A criminal may become angry during periods of self-restraint, as in therapy or treatment programs. Restraint by others, such as in imprisonment, can also escalate angry thinking. This anger is a result of the boredom these situations tend to produce. The criminal does not necessarily seek out confrontation with others, but this is often the result of their anger. This anger can arise from the interference of others in the criminal’s operation.

Often, the criminal attempts to define themselves as a rebel, justifying their angry behavior in this manner. Their behavior is not in fact rebellious, however, because there is a lack of concern with principles, they are a rebel without a cause. The criminal thinker is primarily concerned with getting what they want, and opposed to interference. Angry thinking can produce irresponsible decisions and violations. All this being said, anger is a serious threat to the criminal’s rehabilitation.

A criminal can alter this mode of thinking, in spite of everything. They must learn to deter angry thinking and angry behavior. This is important, because when a criminal expresses their anger, they experience an increase in the angry response itself – not a reduction in it.

The changing criminal must be aware of the irrational thinking of poor decision making processes which arise out of angry thinking. The result of angry thinking on responsible performance and positive goals must also be examined. As a criminal changes their behavioral patterns, they must be aware of self-defeating judgment toward themself and others. Eventually, they will learn to accept the imperfections that are intrinsic in their own self, other people and their environment.

A list of potential replacements for angry thinking includes:
1.    Tell yourself you cannot afford to be angry.
2.    Remind yourself of how it has gotten you into trouble in the past.
3.    Ask yourself: Am I expecting too much?
4.    Ask yourself: What did I contribute to this situation?
5.    Prepare yourself for disappointments. Remember if anything can go worng it will
6.    Ask yourself: how else can I handle the situation?
7.    Do something else. for example listen to the radio

Check out our other criminal thinking error related articles.


CT Group Tip: Facilitator Preparation

Group Facilitation PreparationCriminal Thinking group facilitators who conduct ongoing and open-ended groups may become lax in their pre-group preparation process. Presenting material that we are very familiar with over time can lead to unconscious habits of behavior and biases that may work against a more deliberate and focused approach to the group thinking change process.

Working with offenders in a group therapy setting requires presenters to be armed and ready to prevent an intellectual boxing match. I have found that working through a group readiness ritual provides me and a potential co-facilitator a clear understanding of the ultimate outcomes that we hope to achieve. It also allows us to agree on methods of handling conflict, criminal thinking tactics and other potential diversions that will eventually surface during the group process.

These steps help to make the group process conscious and deliberate:

  1. Before the group begins:
    1. Discuss the general or specific purpose of group.
    2. Describe the goals, methods and materials that will be used to to accomplish the purpose.
    3. Discuss group activities (who will present what, when and how)
    4. Determine the role of the co-facilitator:
      1. Observer – takes notes, evaluates, learns “student-role”
      2. Participant – asks questions as a group member, is involved in process “encourager-role”
      3. Facilitator – guides group process equally with other facilitator “Guiding role” – determine the level and type of confrontation which will be used by both facilitators-determine how tangent subjects or diversions by staff or clients will be directed-discuss how you will both stay consistent with each other

To be effective facilitators, group leaders must have knowledge of the group’s content and purpose and understand the method and means in facilitating the group process.

What pre-group steps do you take to facilitate conversation and change in criminal-thinking or other types of groups? Visit the CriminalThinking.net resource pages for ideas and free worksheet assignments related to all the major thinking errors.


CT Group Tip: How vs. Why

CT TipsAs a general rule in criminal thinking group settings, I stay away from asking “why” questions. “Why” questions usually lead to excuses and additional criminal thinking errors. Asking, “how” or “what” questions is a good rule of thumb.

  1. How is the thinking error we just read harmful?
  2. How have you used the thinking error in the last 24 hours?
  3. What part of the article made sense to you?
  4. How can you use this information to change?
  5. What are some good ways you can deter this thinking error?
  6. How has this thinking error been harmful in your life?
  7. What has the ripple effect of this thinking error been in your life?

Be ready for someone to say they can’t relate to the thinking error. Or they may say it doesn’t make sense or they don’t have this problem. Instead of trying to convince them that they have the error or getting into a power struggle, I would say,

“Wow, this is exactly why this group is important. Everyone has these thinking errors at one or another time in their life so if you can’t see it you are in the right place!”  

I would then ask,“Would you like to know how you have used this error in thinking?” If they say, “no,” I would point the type of error in that thinking, closed channel thinking, and use it as an example of why the group is important to the change process. On the other hand, if they say “yes, I would like to know how I have used it,” I would ask other group members to give an example of how this group member has used the error, and/or give them the assignment to figure it out for themselves by the next group session.

What have you done to help facilitate conversation in criminal-thinking type groups? Visit our website resource pages for ideas and free worksheet assignments related to all the major thinking errors: http://criminalthinking.net/CT/materials.ashx


Effort Vs. Energy

Effort vs EnergyUnderstanding lack of effort as a criminal thinking error involves first defining it in relation to activity and energy. The criminal thinker has unlimited ‘energy’ for the activities they are interested in pursuing. However, they lack effort for activities that they consider boring, unexciting or uninteresting. An effort is the use of energy to complete distasteful tasks. It can often be heard in treatment settings that if the client would spend half as much time working on their goals as they did on complaining about things, they would be well on their way to success.

The criminal thinker expends an enormous amount of energy in self-destructive ways. They will fantasize for hours about how to make their next big score or how to ‘get over’ on someone. They will run around looking for a ‘quick fix’ without regard to time, inconvenience or consequence. But, when they begin the process of changing new activities like going back to school or working a regular job is as psychologically painful as a trip to the dentist! Rationalizations, excuses and mental diversions run rampant in the mind which seeks the enjoyment of another adventure in insanity. The “I can’t” attitude is prevalent in this thinking error and repeatedly surfaces when there is an unwillingness to endure adversity.

A natural deterrent to this destructive error in thinking is to first identify the excuses as they appear and then cognitively challenge them one by one.  Group therapeutic work is valuable when peers can point out the errors in each other and at the same time relate it to themselves. During the early stages of the change process, the changing thinker will often complain of fatigue. Mental fatigue is the result of angry, power-oriented thinking and self-pity. As angry and controlling thoughts are reduced, fatigue is diminished.

Progress for the changing criminal involves assessing the consequences of their lack of effort as well. When working low-paying job results in thoughts of quitting, the videotape of life must be played through to see the eventual consequences of that action. The serenity prayer can help keep effort in proper perspective.

Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.

The changing criminal thinker needs to remember that the continued use of effort will build a responsible life. Thinking change is a building process. The more one pushes to do the difficult, the easier it will become to endure and succeed.

Access our free “Lack of Effort” worksheet on CriminalThinking.net.


2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper staff prepared a 2011 annual report for the CriminalThinking.net blog.

New Year Stats

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.

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The Power of Control

Power ThrustThe criminal thinker does not achieve satisfaction from using power responsibly. The responsible use of power is not exciting enough! In treatment programs, when an offender’s thinking or behavior is challenged, the automatic response is to attempt to exert control over the situation. This attempt to gain control and divert attention away from oneself is called a ‘power thrust.’  A power thrust is by definition an irresponsible and harmful thinking choice. Criminal thinkers will regularly fall back on this thinking tactic whether or not there is something to be gained from the situation. Manipulating others and putting oneself in a position of authority comes naturally to the criminal thinker and extends to every aspect of their lives including social, emotional, work, play, sex, crime, financial and even in their views of religion. Religious leaders are typically viewed as con men or fools by criminal thinkers and participation in religious activities is performed as a means to a financial or socially manipulative end.

Conquest predominates the criminal thinkers relationships and sexual thought. Sex is not seen as a form of intimacy but rather as another form of power, conquest, and control. Grandiose thoughts of being the boss, a king or the top dog pervade this error in thinking.  To the criminal thinker ‘leading others’ means controlling or dominating others which is why they often have difficulty in a legal work situation. A compelled need to be in control of every situation is a succinct definition of power and control thinking.

In order to begin the arduous task of replacing power and control oriented thinking with the responsible use of power, the offender must first realize the extent of his or her search for power and control. The numerous avenues that control are exerted over others, and its negative ripple effects must be painstakingly reviewed. The criminal thinker must begin to see that they do not have the right or ability to responsibly control people. In addition, leadership must begin to be seen as a form of servanthood and responsibility. Legitimate power brings with it new problems and burdens. Situations that used to be seen as opportunities to exert control should be viewed as avenues for service to others. Developing the habit of putting oneself in another’s shoes will also help to deter power and control oriented thinking which is critical to the thinking change process.

Access our free “Power Thrust” worksheet on CriminalThinking.net.


Unique and Superior

UniquenessA common perception among criminal thinkers is the idea that they are different and better than others. Even when a criminal is repeatedly arrested for a violation, their ‘uniqueness’ in thinking leads them to believe that it won’t happen to them again. Common sense would dictate that if I am arrested multiple times for the same situation I should learn from those arrests and stop violating the law. However, uniqueness dictates that I am better than the average person who gets arrested and I can still beat the system.

Instead of using the arrest as a wake-up call to lead a responsible life, criminal thinkers see it as a violation of their personal space and freedom. Even when they are caught in the act of committing a crime they focus on the feigned brutality of the police or the lack of responsibility of their victim. I have heard it said by an offender that “if she would have held on to her purse tighter it wouldn’t have been stolen. I was doing her a favor by taking it so she will be more aware of her own personal safety.” In this scenario, the victim is to blame and the offender is providing a public service! It is no surprise that repeat offenders with this type of thinking continue to fill our jails and prisons.

The language criminal thinkers use to describe situations also flows from distorted thinking. Instead of an offender saying that they did something wrong that harmed others, they will say they got “caught up.” This type of language cognitively minimizes the role they played in the situation. Criminal thinkers believe the rules of society do not pertain to them and they think they are fully justified in their irresponsible actions. Self-esteem is not something the criminal thinker lacks.

Uniqueness is also a personal belief in the offender’s superiority which dominates their thinking. They do not believe they need to work hard to attain success. Even when a criminal thinker is experiencing the dreaded, but fleeting, zero-state of thinking, i.e. a feeling of complete worthlessness, their belief that no one has felt as down or depressed as they have is another example of the uniqueness thinking error.

The changing thinker must begin to see the commonalities they share with others. When others are sharing their own thoughts and problems they must listen and relate those stories to their own life. Feelings of uniqueness must be looked at from the natural consequences that have resulted in an offenders life. The healthy opposite of uniqueness is seeing how we are similar to others and not superior. The development of humility is a natural deterrent to thoughts of uniqueness and superiority. By replacing the thinking error of uniqueness the changing person will begin to develop a sense of belonging in a responsible society.

Access our free “Uniqueness” worksheet on CriminalThinking.net.


"An approach to the treatment of offenders which emphasizes the role of altering thinking patterns in bringing about change in an offender's life."