Thinking Errors, Tactics & Masks

 

It is critical for a criminal to want to change in order for the change to occur.  The first step in making this change is to understand the thought process that a person (criminal) goes through prior to acting out in a criminal manner.  Thinking Errors, Tactics & Masks are the tools (thought process) used by the criminal to support his behavior.

 

A criminal’s perception (or his cognitive awareness) of the world in which he lives, is organized using a variety of Thinking errors and Tactics.  Thinking errors and Tactics are used to describe the way in which a criminal behaves.  Masks are used to hide or alter the way a criminal presents himself to the rest of the world.  (It is the face that the criminal puts on for others to see).

 

When discussing thinking errors, tactics and masks, we are addressing the criminal’s entire belief system. A belief system is how someone makes sense of his or her world. They have functioned using this criminal belief system for many years. Criminals surround themselves with individuals who have the same belief system. They dissociate themselves from more prosocial (or functional) people.  They continue to make choices to associate with other law violators and/or substance abusers. This thinking process becomes more and more concrete and difficult to change.

 

Note: The criminal finds it extremely hard to believe that prosocial people do no think in the same terms as they do.

 

Thinking errors
 
Although there are many thinking errors, listed below are the seven most commonly used.

 

1.     Excuse making:  Excuses are a way of finding a reason to justify problem behavior.

2.     Blaming:  In blaming, criminals point a finger at someone else and say they caused whatever was happening. This takes focus off them and often allows them to build themselves up by putting others down. “You make me angry” is another blaming statement, and if we accept that we make them angry, then it is not their fault.

3.     Justifying: This is criminals’ ways of explaining the reason for things they have done and for which they do not want to take responsibility.

 

Excuse making, blaming, and justifying are all errors that closely resemble each other.

·         For example, if the client is fifteen minutes late for group, he might say the reason he was late was because he had to use the bathroom.

 

                                  i.    That would be considered an excuse.

 

·         He might say that he was late because he had to use the bathroom and that his roommate was in the bathroom too long before him.

 

                                  i.    That statement would be blaming.

 

·         He might say that was late because he had to use the bathroom, and continue by saying that we should not hold him accountable because all people have to use the bathroom at sometime.

 

                                  i.    That would be considered justifying.

 

4.     Victim playing:  Criminals acting as if they are unable to think, to solve problems, or do anything for themselves, are attempting to get pity and be excused for their behavior. They believe that if they do not get what they want, they are the victims. In almost all cases, criminals are not the victims but the victimizers.

5.     Redefining:  Redefining is used as a power play to take the focus off the person in question.

6.     I am Unique:  Rules do not apply to them as they do to others.

7.     The power thrust:  The greatest excitement (for the criminal) is in doing the forbidden and getting away with it. Their need for power, control and dominance show in all areas of their life. The occasions when criminals appear to show an interest in a responsible activity are generally opportunities for a criminal to exercise power and control.

 

 

Tactics

 

There are nine commonly used tactics.  Criminals use Tactics to defocus or to get the attention off themselves and focus attention on to others.

 

1.     Put-downs:  This tactic is used to attempt to discount or discredit the change agent (staff). A criminal using Put-downs tries to refocus the attention on to the staff person’s behavior, experience or credentials. The criminal is reminded that this has nothing to do with the treatment process.

2.     Telling what staff wants to hear:  This is a power and control issue. This tactic is easy to see since time will tell if the behavior is honest.

3.     Feeding the change agent what the criminal thinks the change agent ought to know:  Criminals have a grandiose idea that they know what is best for the change agent to know about them. The criminal will say that he cannot share certain things because they are too personal and he does not want to break down. With criminals, this is a manipulative way of getting the change agent to defocus. This is nothing more then a delay tactic.

4.     Lying is both a tactic and thinking error:  Unfortunately, Lying is what criminals do best. There are three ways in which criminals lie:

Lie by commission: To make things up as you go along.

Lie by Omission: This is probably the most common. You tell part of the truth, but intentionally leave part of the story out.

Lie by Assent: This lie is used when the criminal appears to agree with the change agent and/or approve of the actions or ideas when actually they have no intention of going along.

5.     Vagueness:  The whole idea of vagueness is to never make a commitment. Commitments should be made both verbally and in writing. The criminal thinker is unclear and nonspecific for a purpose.  This vagueness is used to avoid responsibility and accountability.

6.     Minimizing:  Minimizing makes a situation or behavior seem smaller or less significant than is actually is.  The criminal will tell you that it was “just a joke” or a prank, and that they did not mean anything by it.

7.     Selective attention and perceptions:  Criminals only hear what they want to hear and then interpret it literally when it suits them.

8.     Anger and Attack are tactics and thinking errors: Being angry and attacking are used to keep the change agent off balance and timid.  This lack of self-control is easy to see through from the perspective of the change agent.

9.     Silence:  Silence is used to defocus and avoid accountability and responsibility for their behavior. The purpose of silence is to maintain secrecy.

 

Masks

 

Like thinking errors, there are many masks that the criminal can use to project a false image to those around him.  Unfortunately, the biggest problem with criminal masks is that by constantly living and projecting a false image, persons can in time lose touch with their true selves.

 

·         Good Guy: These individuals tell you what you want to hear, have a confident attitude, are a cool breeze, but are back stabbers.

·         Nice Guy: These individuals try to please everybody and are very wishy washy, clinging persons who will not tell you like it is and will not confront people. They are heavy back stabbers.

·         Naive Ned: These individuals come off sweet innocent, and naïve and use this method to get their way. They really are vicious and cunning manipulators.

·         Illiterate Dummy: When confronted, these individuals come off like morons or dummies, and in this way try to manipulate people into excusing them. They want people to believe they are dumb, when just the opposite is true.

·         Con Man: They can use any mask, are heavy manipulators, and have no values.

·         The Pimp: These individuals are very materialistic. They use this mask for attention and recognition.

·         Tough Guy: These individuals manipulate people by intimidation, by being pushy, loud, aggressive bullies. They project hostility to keep people away.

·         The Preacher: They are concrete thinkers and use religion as a shield to justify their behaviors and keep the focus off themselves.

·         Sam Sentimental: These individuals present themselves as people who love and care. This is a criminal ploy to avoid being discovered. It also helps the individuals maintain the victims’ role as they build themselves up.

·         Sarcastic Sam: These individuals are smart alecks and loud. They seek attention and seem to be the life of the party. However, inside they are very lonely persons, resentful, and angry.

 

Thinking Errors, Tactics & Masks

 

Fill in the Blank:

 

It is critical for a criminal to __________ to change in order for the change to occur.  The first step in making this change is to understand the thought process that a person (criminal) goes through prior to acting out in a criminal manner.  This process is described using ________________, _______ & ________________.

 

 

Thinking errors
 

List the seven most commonly used Thinking Errors, and give examples of each:

 

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Tactics

List the nine most commonly used tactics used to focus attention on to others.  Give examples of each.

 

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Masks

 

List at least five masks that a criminal uses to project a false image to those around him.  Explain what the mask actually reveals about the person using it.

 

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