Monday, April 20, 2009

What Everybody Ought To Know About "Why Am I A Criminal?"

It's the question I get asked multiple times a week: "Why do I keep doing the same thing over and over again? There must be something wrong with me. Why do I keep coming back to prison?"

Maybe you have a genetic brain disease, maybe you had a bad childhood, maybe you chose to pass by opportunities or advantages that other people took, maybe it's pure coincidence and by random chance something happened that swung you to the wrong side of the law. Medicine doesn't have the answer, sociologists don't have the answer, philosophers and religious leaders don't have the answer.

Why do you keep doing the same thing over and over again, even if it's not good for you?

Don't ask me, I eat lots of chocolate and hang from tall rocks.

You do it because you're human, because the nature of humanity through the generations involves taking risks and random deviant chances in spite of one's better judgement. Maybe it was a stupid and risky thing to do to load up a big boat with people and cross thousands of miles of bare ocean without modern navigation equipment, but that's how our country got started. Risky or potentially dangerous behaviors can land you in prison or make you a founding father. It just depends.

The other aspect of human behavior is that we only question our repetitive habits when they result in bad outcomes. I've yet to hear anyone ask me why they keep succeeding over and over again. We take it for granted that success is the natural result of hard work and wise choices. Success is never viewed as a disease, even when it may be the result of hypomania.

The best answer I can give to the question "Why am I back in prison?" is: "I don't know, but it would help if you reported to your parole officer."


Anonymous said...

gosh, you are one angry psychiatrist at the mo.

Not that I mind that you share that.... it's reassuring to see that health care professionals are "real people"....but I hope you feel happier soon...


Anonymous said...

Well, there's a certain amount of lack of concern about other people or actual hatred of other people that goes into many crimes. For example: murder, stabbing someone, stealing things, breaking and entering, rapes. These are NOT just risk-taking behaviors; they are injuries to other people caused by hatred or lack of empathy or selfishness.

To tell a criminal that when they broke into a home and bound and gagged the resident then stole everything and left the people to be discovered days later that it is "just human" and you are a "risk taker" who in an earlier age would have discovered America is not even true.

People who violate parole probably ought not be thrown back in jail as the first step. There ought to be a program which helps released criminals become more responsible and show up when and where they are supposed to, which they are more likely to do if they are not heavily into drugs and alcohol and have a support system in place.

Dinah said...

Hmmm...I'm still thinking about this. I think criminals come in different varieties. I know a fair number of them, some have temper problems (which seems like a different phenomena then say stealing...), but most of the criminals I know are either guided by their drug addictions or misbehave in the throes of intoxication. It's really different then risk taking.

I don't get the hanging from cliffs thing.

Chocolate, over and over, I don't see any "risk" involved. Is there a black box warning on it? Why would that be likened to criminality?

I could ramble, but I'll spare you.

And you can ask "Why does she blog about In Treatment over and over.

manchester fat acceptance said...

i love your closing statement!

ClinkShrink said...

Elaine: That was irony, not anger. If I were venting I'd put a "clinkrank" tag on the post. I also have a nice picture of a screaming child I sometimes put at the top, along with a warning that a rant is about to follow.

Anon: My post addressed the broad issues of how someone gets involved breaking the law. As a whole criminals are more extroverted and risk-taking than non-criminals (see Eysenck). They also as a group have a lower IQ (about 4 points lower). Again, group differences mean little for the individual (another reason why I can't answer the 'why am I a criminal' question).

Dinah: Let me take you up a cliff. You'd enjoy it. Really. As far as In Treatment goes, that falls into the 'don't question success' category. I do like turtles, but I like guinea pigs better.

Aspie: Thank you

Sunny CA said...

They don't really want to know why they are a criminal, they want to know why they are in jail.

FooFoo5 said...

I believe there is a significant difference between being angry & (figuratively) exasperated! But what Primary Care doc doesn't spend the day chanting, "You have to [lose weight, change your diet, lower your cholesterol, stop smoking, exercise, take your meds for HTN everyday, etc.] or you will experience big time consequences," only to be summarily "ignored?" While I'm not aware of any specific correlation between "middle obesity" and, say "strongarm robbery," the frustration of trying to intervene in both cases seems about equal to me!

Sarebear said...

Interesting discussion.

I feel a slight brush with criminality in a humorous sense as we had a crash course in breaking and entering given to us by our landlord over the phone, and we grabbed a tool (normal, nothing wierd) at Walmart and I was a bit freaked at how easy it is as he was telling me and I was relaying info to hubbie (hubbie being in a rather frustrated mood by this point; he'd even tried kicking in our door, stupid doorknob).

Anyway, the lower lock had a broken tumbler. LL gave us permission to break the doorknob, so we did. I'm kinda sad no one came to check on us; it was loud to me, anyway, and I was in the car when he did it. No one came to check on us when he tried to kick it in earlier either, and I freaked; that was rather loud, too.

It's not like we're in a bad neighborhood!!!!!

Criminal lessons, eek.