Inside the Criminal Mind

Understanding the dark side of human conduct

The Myth of the Out of Character Crime: Part 3

The secret controllers

People who commit serious crimes live their daily lives trying to control others.  Their self-esteem depends upon it.  Some are obvious in that they bully and threaten.  Others are more clandestine, insinuating themselves into the lives of others, maneuvering, casing out vulnerabilities, then preying upon them.  Such individuals conceal their motives and do not announce their intentions.

In their unceasing pursuit of control, these people fortify an insatiable psychological need.  They may attain positions of considerable power which they utilize to further inflate their sense of self-importance. They treat others as they would pawns on a chessboard.  Because they are admired, their faults are overlooked, sometimes not even recognized. Colleagues and peers endure their exploitative and abusive conduct which only serves to reinforce their sense of invulnerability.

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I call these individuals “secret controllers” because they are not perceived as controlling. They are successful in attaining what they want.  Rarely do others challenge them.  These people may not be seen accurately for who they really are until they have done irreparable damage.  When a secret controller encounters a major threat to his ego, his response may be cataclysmic, appearing completely out of character.

In contrast, responsible people do not abuse their authority.  They are more focused on serving others rather than insisting that others cater to them.  Those whom I term secret controllers misuse authority entrusted to them and exploit their position for their own self-aggrandizement.

Time and again, an analysis of people whose crimes appear out of character will reveal their unrelenting determination to control others to fortify their self-esteem.  This thinking error looms as a major driver of  their criminal conduct.

Stanton Samenow, Ph.D.,is a clinical psychologist practicing in Alexandria, Virginia and author of Inside the Criminal Mind.

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