Philip Hodson: Teenage antics have all the hallmarks of a cry for help


Click to follow
The Independent Online

The first thought, when someone is apprehended doing something of this fashion, is a straightforward and practical one. Is the person hard up? Sometimes people can't even admit to themselves that the bank balance is very low. Remember Occam's Razor – let's go for the simplest explanation to fit the facts.

Of course, there is quite an element of wanting to steal for fun and kicks. If you aren't able to go mountain climbing, skiing, bungee jumping or all the other adrenalin activities that being overweight and middle aged precludes you from, and you can't go on I'm A Celebrity twice, tackling Tesco is par for the course. In psychological terms it is teenage behaviour. It's what I did with Woolworths when I was 13, I'll admit. The other theory, though, is that it's very difficult for someone so competent, and so skilled, to admit that the world is slipping away from their control. They do something for which they get caught and which allows them to make the life changes they want. He is forced into a confession, rather than volunteering one.

It is also a way to ensure you seek therapy, which you might ordinarily have ridiculed. Now you can justify it. If he does seek help, it will involve straightforward cognitive behavioural therapy to look at the trigger points for impulse stealing. If you're tempted for 20 seconds, you've just got to get through those 20 seconds.

Don't steal a bottle of wine, telephone a friend instead.

Philip Hodson is a Fellow of the British association for counselling and psychotherapy