All too often, we hear an account of someone who pays with his life in a dispute over a jacket, a costume piece of jewelry, or some other material item. Or a lethal assault occurs during an exchange of name-calling and challenges. The reason that such arguments result in tragedy is that for at least one of the parties involved, his entire self-image is on the line. People with a criminal personality have many fears. They don’t talk about the fears because they want to avoid appearing “lame,” “sissy,” or “weak.” Among their fears is the possibility of getting caught, convicted, or confined for a crime they commit. There also are fears of injury or death in high risk offenses. Criminals are able to shut off all of these fears long enough to engage in the act they are contemplating.
The greatest fear of all is being “putdown” or diminished. The criminal has a glass jaw. He will dish out incredible abuse, but he may react explosively to the slightest threat to the image he is trying to maintain to himself and convey to others. Consequently, a conflict over something that appears minor invariably escalates if a person believes his entire self-image is on the line.