Professor Stanton Samenow spent much of his life interviewing criminals and trying to understand them. He says that “From very early, the oxygen of the criminal’s life is to seek excitement by doing the forbidden.” He found that his patients exhibited certain common personality traits that started when they were small children.
The criminal sees the world in chess-board terms, as if people were his pawns to manipulate at will for their own personal gain. As he walks down the street he is always scheming; thinking that no one knows what he is up to and that he can take advantage of them whenever he wants.
The criminal early in life, removes himself from the rules of society and the conventional interests of his peers.
He lacks empathy, and often experiences anger as a way of life. He wants to live a life of excitement, at whatever expense. He has no understanding of responsible decision-making, having prejudged situations.
The criminal may be able to make a lot of money legitimately, but he willingly selects illegitimate work, since he does not like being told what to do and he gets bored following established protocols that serve the function of anything other than himself.
The criminal has a decent self-concept. He has his own set of morals, for traditional ones do not significantly apply. He feels as though he is basically a decent person, despite a plethora of crimes and injustices to others he may have committed. Yet, he is inherently hypocritical as he doesn’t see other criminals in such a positive way as he sees himself. For example, a thief may view property crimes as being innocuous. However, if another thief steals from his family’s home, he feels as though that crime should be punished to a high magnitude.
Most criminals have idealist visions. They long for large cash retirements and dream of going to heaven. Many, too, are religious, and look at themselves as better people because of it. However, these visions all exist on their own terms. The path to fortune and heaven only forks where the criminal will allow it. Many of their prayers are focused upon desiring success for their next criminal venture or release from jail .
All this, with more detail can be found at: http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/crimtheory/samenow.htm.
Prof. Samenow tries to correct the “wrong thinking” of some of these criminals and has had some success with a minority of them. It’s also interesting that the criminals seek the excitement of the forbidden and look at us as chess pieces. It’s up to us not to be the chess pieces – and in my experience, a striving for truth is one way to avoid that.