A Criminal History of Mankind
1983 Colin Wilson
In 1961, two psychiatrists, Samuel Yochelson and Stanton Samenow, began to study the mentality of criminals at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in New York. Their initial premise was that men become criminals because of 'deep seated psychologic problems'. They became popular with their patients because their attitude was permissive and compassionate. They believed that most criminals are the product of poor social conditions or problems in early childhood (the typical liberal diagnosis--ed.), and that with enough insight and understanding they could be 'cured'.
Gradually, they became disillusioned. They noticed that no matter how much 'insight' they achieved into the behavior of a murderer, rapist, or child molester, it made no difference to his actual conduct; as soon as he left the doctor's office, he went straight back to his previous criminal pattern. He didn't want to change.
Yochelson and Samenow also became increasingly skeptical about the stories told by criminals to justify themselves. They found them amazingly skillful in self-justification--suppressing any material that might lose them sympathy--but the real problem lay in the criminal character. They lied as automatically as breathing. They had a strong desire to make an impression on other people ... and a great deal of their criminal activity sprang from this desire to show off, to 'look big'.
They were also skillful in lying to themselves. Particularly striking is Yochelson's observation that most criminals ... have developed a psychological 'shut-off mechanism', an ability to push inconvenient thoughts out of consciousness --even to forget that they had made certain damaging admissions about themselves at a previous meeting. 'This,' Yochelson observes, 'meant that responsibility, too, could be shut off'.
In short, the central traits of the criminal personality were weakness, immaturity, and self-deception.
Another striking insight relates to sexuality. 'Almost without exception, the participants in our study were either involved in sexual activity very early or (indulged in) a great deal of sexual thinking ...' The criminal 'peeks through cracks in doors and peers through keyholes to catch glimpses of mother, sister or a friend's mother or sister as she dresses, bathes or uses the toilet'. One habitual criminal began engaging in sex games at the age of four, with the daughter of a neighbor that took him to school. Later, he was part of a gang who used to grab girls in alleyways and commit rape--although if the girls showed no objection, they were allowed to go; it was essential that they should cry and struggle.
Most children experience curiosity about sex; in the criminal, it seems to be an obsession that narrows down the focus of his consciousness to the idea of exploring the forbidden, of committing stealthy violations of privacy. His sexuality becomes tinged with violence, and his criminality with sex.
One of the most puzzling things about many cases of rape is the damage inflicted on the victim, even when she makes no resistance. This is because, in the criminal mind, sex is a form of crime, and crime a form of sex. What Yochelson's observation shows is that there is a sexual component in all crime; the criminal is committing indecent assault on society.
This, then, brings us close to the essence of criminality:
It is a combination of egoism, infantilism, and sex.