April 20, 2014

Changing Mindsets in Prison

People’s mindsets in prison begin to change. That’s true about me, and of course, other prisoners who have been in the system much longer. I have seen people get upset about the littlest of things. An author that I admire is a psychiatrist Dr. Richard Carleson. He wrote, Don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s all small stuff.

As a quick aside, I learned about Dr. Carleson many years ago while visiting a friend’s house. The book really resonated with me. I read the book and read the book and read the book and continue to go back to it to keep me grounded. The book has taught me many valuable lessons. One in particular is why we get upset with another driver on the road. What if that person just found out he/she just had cancer and was coming back from the oncologist? You get my drift.

Here in prison, as people matriculate through the system they understandably pick up baggage along the way. I was on my floor waiting for count yesterday and one guy really got upset with my buddy, then got up and just left the table. I said to my friend “that XXX is a jerk. What was his problem?” My friend said, “It’s ok. You never know what type of stress the guy is under.”

After thinking about it, it made sense. The guy has been away from his family for a long time. Maybe his wife or son got sick, maybe he was going to get charged with another crime. I don’t know, but having compassion for a person that is overly upset is probably a good starting point before calling them a s–t head. It’s easier said than done, but this perspective will change the way I approach these and other situations.

My routine is strong as is the void of not being with my family. I’m trucking along as everyday that goes by, I get closer to leaving.

Andy Rothenberg


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