Responsible living to the criminal thinker is akin to solitary confinement. The perceived boredom and lack of excitement in a responsible life are worse than the possibility of jail or prison. The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that most criminals continue to re-offend after release from prison. This fact gives credence to the assertion that responsibility is an arduous pursuit. Criminal thinkers are unwilling to do anything they perceive as boring or disagreeable and responsible living is high on the boring list! The criminal thinker has a lifelong history of avoiding activities that require effort. Their aversion to delaying gratification is similar to the addictive behavior of an addict.
In treatment programs, where responsible behavior is expected and rewarded, the criminal thinker will continue their irresponsible thinking and behavior even towards responsible goals. A criminal thinker will cheat on tests while attempting to complete a GED. They will cut corners on house chores and attempt to manipulate staff even when there is no apparent reason to do so. If there is no immediate benefit for doing the right thing, positive behavior will be abandoned in favor of whatever is most expedient.
Changing the long pattern of irresponsible living is one of the most challenging aspects of recovery from criminal thinking. In order to begin living responsibly, the criminal thinker must act-as-if they want to live a responsible life. The act-as-if mode is a pattern of behavior that is required for changing several key thinking errors. Since there is no initial internal motivation to live responsibly, it is most effective to take on the attitude and behavior of someone who does want to change. The resistant offender will complain that we are suggesting that they “live a lie” with this approach. But, it is better to live a lie and do no harm than to live the truth [of criminal thinking] and return to jail!
Although the cognitive-behavioral approach to change implicitly begins with thoughts influencing behavior, behaviors can also influence thinking especially when one is not intrinsically motivated to do the right thing. By changing one’s behavior to coincide with a responsible life the benefits of change will eventually be revealed.
Access our free “Lack of Interest in Responsible Performance” worksheet on CriminalThinking.net