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.


Misguided Sentiments

sentimentalityA criminal will, from time to time, express themselves emotionally offering tears of sadness for a friend or joyful praise for a responsible accomplishment. This expression, however, is an inconsistent feature of their personality; it is often contradicted by victimizing behavior. A criminal may, for example, help an old lady across the street in the afternoon, only to rob a convenience store in the evening.

In a fleeting sense, a criminal also expresses sentimentality toward family members, the helpless, plants, pets, religion, and so on. These expressions are isolated from the rest of their personality, though, and are often a means of maintaining a self-image as a good person. They can also be used as a balance, set up as an excuse for self-destructive behavior. One manifestation of criminal sentimentality can be found in criminal art.

In order to confront the thinking error of sentimentality, the criminal must recognize it as a consistent pattern in their personality. Acting immediately on one’s feelings, among other selfish behaviors, leads to irresponsibility. These irresponsible actions defeat sustained caring and real concern for others. Good deeds are discontinued in favor of excitement.

Another way to address a criminal’s sentimentality is in having them think or even write about the injury they have caused others. At the same time, the criminal must realize that a good deed does not make up for wrongdoing. Additionally, the creation of daily and long-term goals and priorities can be used in overcoming self-defeating sentimental behavior. For example, the criminal could make a detailed morning list of what they need to complete on that day. This could help them avoid becoming irresponsible on the spur of a moment.

A criminal must acknowledge that some of their sentimentality is expressed in the giving away of money and material things. They must realize that in order to develop a responsible sense of value, they cannot afford to give away money or possessions.

Finally, the criminal must recognize their spiritual self. When a criminal becomes involved with religion, their new religious beliefs must support responsible habits, values and concern for others. This approach would keep the criminal from abusing religion in an effort to avoid accountability for their misdeeds.


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.


Fear Factor

Fear FactorOur 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 of 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 one’s 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 the 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.

Access our free “Fear of Fear” 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."