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:

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Criminal Pride

criminal prideFalse pride consists essentially in an extremely high and unchanging evaluation of oneself. The criminal thinker uses the word respect to describe 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 themself 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.

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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 themself 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 an 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

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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. 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 they begin the process of change new activities like going back to school or working a regular job are 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 a low-paying job results in thoughts of quitting, the video-tape 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 sue 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.

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