Sociology

The Recipe of a Criminal



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How someone becomes a criminal is not as simple as learned behavior, peer pressure, or a product of one's surroundings or upbringing; it is a multi-layered, multi-faceted culmination of choices, values, and thoughts about one's desire to exist and interact within their own world. A criminal just doesn't wake up one day and say "I think I will be a criminal today" or " Everyone else is doing it so why not". Instead it's a life long accumulation of experiences, thoughts, and acquired values and beliefs.

For many criminals their thinking and belief systems are distorted, often beginning in early childhood influenced by negative experiences that were followed by thoughts or rules that they created to protect themselves from the negative emotions that were elicited by those experiences. For example; the fear that was instilled in a child who witnessed his father abusing his mother over and over again until she finally succumbed to the abuse, may have created a rule that he will never allow anyone to hurt him or those close to him again or that he will never again allow himself to feel vulnerable or fearful. For other criminals the development of criminal behavior is also partially the result of internal feelings of vulnerability, weakness, or inadequacy that may not have been favorable or congruent with what was acceptable in their life circle or environment, either as a young adult or a child. And yet still for other criminals the way in which they evaluate themselves, or their self schema, are grossly distorted and overly compensated.

Many criminals view themselves, or at least present themselves, as better than, more powerful than, or more entitled than others, even those they claim loyalty to, in fact for many, loyalty is viewed as "tis for tat" than as a true allegiance to someone. Once the percieved reciprocal nature of the realtionship is broken; the criminal gets nothing in return; the loyalty is broken. Criminals often create facades of themselves that they present to the world that are contradictory to what they actually feel internally. Just in the same way that we might hide our nervousness during a speech by pretending everyone else is in their underwear, criminals also pretend to be something which they are not, something they believe is more acceptable or respected, or something or someone that will protect their vulnerabilities. And for most criminals there is the presence of all of these factors at the same time, at many different levels and intensity. The list of characteristics, traits, behaviors and combinations are never ending.

The choice to commit crimes and lead a criminal lifestyle is supported in the criminal's mind and difficult to fully understand. The aforementioned list of contributions to the development of a criminal is not to invalidate the contributions to criminal behavior by the environment, upbringing, or friends as these all play a part in the development of not just the criminal's personality and life course, but their own as well. However it is important to consider for a moment the following questions: What are the self talk messages that you tell yourself when you feel angry, sad, embarrassed, or victimized; either now or in the past, and how do these messages, combined with the totality of your life experiences, guide how you now handle those very emotions or similar experiences in your life today. Does how you view yourself and your world influence how you then interact in it? Do you honestly interact in your world in a manner that is consistent to how you interact within yourself?

So while there is no one formula or recipe that determines who becomes a criminal and who does not, there is some truth to the saying: you are who you think you are, and you can be whoever you want to be.

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More about this author: Stephanie Eichenberg

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