Being Forewarned Is To Be Forearmed
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.
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 is in the appearance 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.
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 first hand, what anxiety and fear actually feels like so 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 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, and what the consequences of your actions will be (sometimes called “reading tomorrow’s headlines”).
Additional stressors are:
• Threats to officers’ health and safety
• Boredom, alternating with the need for sudden alertness and
• Responsibility for protecting the lives of others.
• Continual exposure to people in pain or distress.
• The need to control emotions even when provoked.
.• The presence of a gun, even during off-duty hours.
• The fragmented nature of police work, with only rare opportunities
to follow cases to conclusion or even to obtain feedback or follow-up information.
Police officers will get the most benefit from this course are those who continually practice identifying one or more stressors. Officers should actively look for trouble. Purposely get their buttons pushed 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 number eleven – Learning How To Tolerate Anxiety and Stress – and, repeat the exercise for as long as it takes to master the feelings, instead of being overwhelmed by them.
Note: Mastery of anxiety and fear require work and practice. The more work and practice mastering anxiety and fear, the more confidence will accrue that in crisis situations, a given police officer will know, in advance, that he can remain steady under the threat of internal or external pressure.