Our stereotypical view of a “hardened” criminal is that they are fearless. Criminals are portrayed in the media, and often in movies, as callous, reckless, quick tempered, ready to fight and angry. In reality, criminal thinkers have many fears. The primary fear is actually a fear of fear itself. Admitting fears would mean that the criminal would have to acknowledge they are not in control which is antithetical to their of view themselves and their way of life. Criminals have a compelled need to be in control of every situation including their emotions. In their mind, allowing fear to be present would mean they are vulnerable, weak and out of control.
In order to remove fear the automatic response in a criminal thinker is anger. Anger and bravado is a common mask for fear and the criminal thinker will go to many lengths to hide fears that are always bubbling under the surface. Fear of being put down or belittled is one of the most common observable fears in a criminal. Turning the other cheek is not an option for the fragile ego of an offender. Enduring putdowns reduces the fragile perception of themselves as all powerful and in control. Since the criminals distorted self perception is based on the illusion of being powerful and in control, being put down is an affront to their very existence.
A criminal lifestyle is filled with danger and the risk of being detected so the emotion of fear is regularly cut off or stifled. Alcohol and drugs are commonly used to reduce feelings of fear. Many rapes, robberies and assaults happen under the influence of drugs since those chemicals reduce ones natural inhibitions and fears that would normally deter the crime from happening in the first place. Cutting off and corroding fear does not mean it is not present. Cutting off fear is a distorted thinking habit that results in continued victimization of others and ongoing risky behavior. If a criminal allowed him or herself to be influenced by their fears they would find it increasingly difficult to continue committing crimes, violating others and using or selling drugs. For this reason it is critical that the criminal thinker begin altering their thinking habits and beliefs about fear.
Fear is a natural emotion that results from the logical assessment of a risky situation. Instead of cutting off or reducing feelings of fear, the changing criminal must use fear as a guide. That uneasy feeling we have just before doing something wrong is natures way of warning us to reconsider what we are about to do. When a criminals self worth begins to shift away from distorted ideas of power, control and superiority, fear will become more of an ally than an opponent.
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: Fear of Fear Worksheet
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