D. The Closed Channel
The essence of criminal thinking is the closed channel. Criminal thinkers are closed off from being receptive, are closed to any interest in being self-critical and also shut down from disclosing the truth about their destructive behavior. Any one of these components will lead to a closed thinking channel which must be corrected for meaningful change and growth to occur. These three components of criminal thinking must be replaced with their natural corollaries, i.e. receptivity, self-criticism and self disclosure.
Receptivity is being open and responsive to ideas, impressions and suggestions. When a responsible person makes a suggestion about changing a bad habit or doing something that is positive, the recovering person must listen intently to what is being suggested. They should practice active listening skills which have deteriorated with their destructive thinking patterns. Active listening is listening to the message without interruption, clarifying content of the message, restating what the person said to ensure you understand the message and being aware of your feelings and the senders feelings. Changing criminals and even addicts must realize that they do not have the solution to their problems and must rely on responsible others for guidance, correction and advice.
Receiving a positive message means allowing yourself to hear it. Listening is more important than speaking for someone interested in learning and change. If you feel like closing the door on someone who is speaking the truth or running away from the responsible voice of a friend, it is at those times we must be the most open. When the message hurts and challenges our fundamental beliefs we can engage in active listening and challenge ourselves to see what is true about our selves in the message. If our first instinct is to quickly respond and contradict the message we are receiving, we should do the opposite and discover how the message is true in our lives. If it is too emotional a task at the moment to respond with kindness and humility, assume the posture of openness and thank the person for their feedback and tell them honestly that you will look into it. The feedback we most despise is often the very key to fundamental change and growth.
Self-criticism is pointing out the faults in your own behavior and thinking. Criminal thinkers are skilled at pointing out the faults of others, but continually fail to see the harm in their own behavior. An excellent exercise to promote positive change is to look at the role you play in every negative situation that has happened during the week. What could you have done differently or thought differently to prevent the negative outcome. Even in situations where the criminal thinker is truly victimized, they should focus on the lifestyle of crime, drugs or victimization that has allowed them to be victimized themselves. There are always people who have experienced more harsh conditions and life problems than ours, and still made positive choices that didn’t involve drugs, crime or abusing others.
Self reflection and criticism is a key component of change for the criminal thinker. The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers nine different definitions for the word “reflection” and several of them provide insight for persons seeking a positive change in their lives. One of the first definitions of the word is “the production of an image by or as if by a mirror.” This is an excellent definition of the role of change agents in the lives of offenders. Many cognitive-behavioral counselors and therapists see their purpose as holding up a mirror to the victimizer that enters treatment. Their job is to help abusers see the truth and consequences of their actions. They succeed when they are able to build a sense of self-disgust in the client. Criminal thinkers must develop a healthy sense of self-disgust for what they have done and what they have become. Self pity is self defeating, but self-disgust motivates positive change. Unless the criminal thinker can view themselves honestly in the mirror and experience the disgust that goes along with acknowledging the harm they have caused, they are bound to continue repeating patterns of violence and abuse while minimizing, blaming and distorting the truth of their actions.
The second relevant definition of the word “reflection” for the changing criminal is: a thought, idea, or opinion formed or a remark made as a result of meditation. The most common meditation criminal thinkers perform is the premeditated actions of planning and committing crimes and manipulations. Meditation on the ripple effect of those offenses is far from their thinking. In order for change to occur the changing criminal must constantly check their motivations and thinking. They must reflect on the decisions they made each day and identify all the times they used harmful thinking tactics which have become a habit in their lives. Thinking tactics such as manipulation, controlling others, belittling, minimizing, distorting the truth and divert attention away from themselves must be identified and replaced with their natural opposites. Instead of minimizing the harm that their actions caused, they should maximize it. Instead of diverting attention away from themselves when held accountable, they should keep the focus on themselves to experience full accountability for their actions.
Self-disclosure is another area of extremes for the criminal thinker. Criminal thinkers relate minimal information about themselves and only do so when they can use that self-disclosure to take advantage of someone. They gather information about others but don’t talk about themselves.
For true change to occur the changing criminal must begin to share their distorted thinking with people who can help correct their distortions and thinking tactics. They are wise to take the advice of the 4th Step of AA which suggests that addicts “take a searching and fearless moral inventory” but they cannot do this by themselves. Their distorted thinking will no doubt make the search superficial and less than fearful!
The module is based on a cognitive-behavioral approach to therapy and utilizes the theory and principles developed by Stanton Samenow and Samuel Yochelson.
Related Assignment: Closed Thinking Worksheet
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