2. Know Thy Self
Purposefully Looking for Trouble: A Bridge to Self-control
The major aim of our course is to help police officers learn how to remain steady under internal and external pressure particularly when they are faced with a threat of violence.
Policing like soldiering, by its very nature, is inherently dangerous, as there are unending real and anticipated threats of being harmed. This is why only a relatively small amount of people choose to work in what appears to be inordinately stressful conditions. Fortunately there are those people. like police officers, who not only avoid danger but actually seek it out.
This accounts for the fact that the mind set or culture associated with policing both in appearance and value of toughness and fearlessness. However this attitude of fearlessness when confronting real or imagined danger has its limits. Under certain conditions all humans are subject to ‘breaking down’ –losing their cool – such as when an agitated man is pointing a gun in the police officers direction threatening to shoot.
Everyone at any time can experience a shift in attitude experiencing adrenaline from wanting more of it – to total aversion. When a tough minded but unprepared police officer who in the heat of battle unexpectedly experiences fear or anxiety it may have the effect of stirring overwhelming confusion rendering him temporarily incapacitated. The typical response to the perception of real or imagined danger is an automatic release of adrenalin into the nervous system. Depending on the meaning attributed to adrenaline it may be experienced as fear, anxiety and or excitement.
Those who experience adrenaline as a threat try to avoid dangerous situations at all costs. Those who experience adrenaline as excitement typically seek danger out – looking for trouble so to speak. Those who are fearful of danger greatly outnumber those who find danger to be exciting.
Given the time tested principle that being forewarned is to be forearmed it follows that training should incorporate simulated conditions which expose all police officers to experience anxiety and fear. Police officers have to experience firsthand what anxiety /fear actually feels like so that they will be able to take steps to master it rather than be overwhelmed by it. In this connection, police officers should be encouraged on their own to identify stressors which induce fear and anxiety so that they can learn how to inoculate themselves from their negative effects.
Simply we are urging police officers to look for trouble of readily identifiable stressors which are readily available on and off the job. Among these stressors are: worrying about whether you can handle the situation, whether adequate support and back-up will be present, whether training was sufficient, whether you have adequate equipment, or what the consequences of your actions will be (sometimes called “reading tomorrow’s headlines”).
Police officers will get the most benefit from this course who identify one or more stressors – actively looking for trouble -‘pushing their buttons’ – so they actually experience adrenaline as anxiety or fear and are then able to identify their negative attitude towards them.
Once experiencing anxiety and fear they are to immediately go to lecture – how to shift your feelings from negative to positive – and repeat the exercise for as long as it takes to master the feelings instead of being overwhelmed by them.
It is with this goal in mind that we suggest all officers take our 10 minute Stress Tolerance Survey. This survey will help identify the areas that might be creating anxiety and stress.