Criminal psychologist Robert D. Hare once said: Not all psychopaths were in prison. Some of them were sitting right there in the boardroom. Hare co-authored the book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work with Industrial psychologist Paul Babiak.
While this book mainly describes criminal behavior in professional settings, we can derive an important point: how we all end up pawn or patron in the grand scheme of criminal behavior.
Hare and Babiak describe criminal behavior from people who do it on purpose and those who might not realize what they are doing is wrong because of a lack of self-awareness.
The ones who are doing it on purpose are the more dangerous out of the two groups since it is unlikely they are going to want to mend their ways as long as they can get away with it without getting caught. Some are so skilled at covering their tracks that hardly anyone realizes that they’re the problem unless they’re paying attention to the signs and suspect they could be dealing with a twisted, manipulative personality.
Whatever the reason for ending up behind bars, it’s a bitter pill to swallow when you or someone you love faces this experience. What toll does it take on a person’s emotional and mental wellbeing? What are these feelings you have? How do you make sense of it all?
You’re looking for answers. Here are some of the psychological effects that a person goes through when the impending doom of jailtime draws closer:
- Surprise and Confusion – When it’s happening to you, or even to someone close to you, you are confused and surprised that it is happening. Your mind is trying to process this and make sense of it all. If you are facing jail time, you may be going through the events to think of the missteps you made. If it’s a friend of a relative, you may be thinking ‘How can someone so nice to me do such a thing?’ or ‘No, this cannot be right. I know they are not capable of it’.
- You Question Yourself – You will find yourself questioning yourself -where did you go wrong, why didn’t you do or didn’t do something, or if something is wrong with you. You go through these mental questions because you are in denial of the reality that is ahead of you. What could you have done to change things? You question every move you make trying to find an answer or even a sense of closure.
- Anxiety and Vigilance – You become hypervigilant, sometimes paranoid about yourself and others. You can either become non-confrontational or extremely aggressive. As you are still in the process of trying to make sense of it all, you may become timid when questions come your way or become agitated and violent especially when you don’t have answers to give. This is why choosing a credible lawyer such as Jag Virk to be by your side is crucial. They can be the buffer in between you, your soon-to-be-reality, and the current situation when dealing with questions and seeking answers.
- Passive – Passiveness becomes you. You feel that whatever you do is going to lead to more problems, more arguments, hurt, and pain for yourself and the people you love. You find that the best solution is to be passive by default. This is often the case when someone is waiting for judgment day- be it the perpetrator or the family member/friend.
- Guilt and Shame – If you are close to the perpetrator, there’s a high chance you will blame yourself (parents, caregivers, spouses, guardians, or older siblings will feel this way) or feel guilty (you will feel like you didn’t do enough). If you are the perpetrator, these feelings will take up your mental space. Guilt and shame for letting down the people around you, for not doing the right thing, for being a disappointment- these are all the psychological effects you will come to feel as time goes on.
- No Eye Contact – You eventually stop looking people in the eye. You avoid eye contact and make yourself smaller to take up less space so you feel you’re less likely to be picked on or asked questions you can’t answer.
- It’s Always Walking on Eggshells – You start overthinking every step you take to ensure that you don’t do things that might lead to a problem. You are hyper-vigilante now because your regular thought process is disrupted by something as painful as you or your loved one ending up behind bars.
- Feeling of Numbness and Isolation – You become more and more isolated and numb. From reacting, you become passive and eventually you become an observer to the new reality that is happening around you. You may feel nothing at all, you may feel hopeless and damaged and not feel any emotions for a certain period.
- Needing Approval – Needing or looking for approval and justification is seen in many different ways. It can be seen as excessively accomplishing a task, being overly nice to everyone, a people pleaser, or being extremely focused on appearance. You feel like you are not enough and the way to compensate is to make yourself seem flawless and perfect so that other people will appreciate you more.
- Feeling Resentful – Resentment manifests in various ways, primarily irritability, constantly blaming yourself, frustration at not accomplishing a task perfectly, and even impatience. When you have been manipulated for a long time, it is hard to see anything but bad things in yourself.
- Judging Yourself Excessively – You may be holding yourself against very high standards as you feel like you are not good enough. You feel like giving yourself this high standard would make you feel in control. However, this often requires time and self-compassion to move from feeling in control after not being in control for a long time.
- Depressive Disorder- The constant questioning yourself, the mental and emotional trauma you’re facing as well as impending jail time can all lead a person to go through a depressive episode. It’s overwhelming.
Change comes easy for some, but for others, it takes a while to get adjusted. Facing your jail time is never easy. If you are a relative or friend of a person going to jail, it is extremely helpful to unite with the people who are on a similar path as you so you can continue to uplift and support each other. If you are the person heading to jail, some of the things you can do are to accept the verdict and seek forgiveness. It’s one step towards self-healing.