G’day Cobbers! Oh yes, and something special for you know who…..’Oy mate, the word is the “cook’s” not happy with the “bonzer” of a “blue” you pulled! And now to business. I’m going to attempt to accomplish two objectives at once in this post. First, the present model of delivering mental health services is neither efficient nor likely to survive. One patient sitting in the office with one therapist is just not the most efficient way of delivering mental health services. (How long were you told you would have to wait before you could get an appointment with a psychiatrist or psychologist in your area?) I am going to attempt to provide an argument for a more efficient model of delivering mental health services.
The second objective, to demonstrate this model, will be accomplished by using someone I am presently consulting with, who bears a striking resemblance to most (police) psychotherapy patients, including you. All you will learn about her identity is that she is, as you have gathered, female and a police woman. I am about to introduce a psycho-educational model to you by addressing her case in an extremely general fashion. The details of her situation and the prescriptions I make could really fit most of you.
Before we begin, allow me to offer the same proviso that I usually do when I address therapeutic issues. I am not prescribing what I write about for you. I am not your therapist. I simply want to present information. However, what I write about may give you some insight into a different way of addressing painful emotional issues.
And as for you my Tigress, do you remember when I told you to stabilize your attention in the present moment; and that when you were able to stop struggling you would become free, confident, and at ease? What is about to follow is the “how it works” part. Remember how the tiger walks with confidence? She never questions her stripes! She has relaxed into the confidence that she is exquisitely equipped to exist and survive on this planet. She doesn’t need to win the lottery of life!!!! Only to survive!!!!!!!!!
OK here we go, buckle up, it’s gonna’ be one helluva’ ride. My Tigress, can you imagine a psychotherapy that does not have as its’ central objective the reduction or elimination of symptoms, yet achieves this very thing as a by-product? I want to present you with an overview of such a psychotherapy in this article. A psychotherapy that has been very rigorously researched (see Hayes, S.C, 1996; 1999; 2001; 2002; 2003; 2004) and comfortably targets values, forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, living in the moment, and learning how to access an often confusing facet of self (transcendence).
Acceptance and Commitment Theory (and Therapy) is a practical application of mindfulness based treatment that flies in the face of most Western Psychological theory. My Tigress, you are already aware that when working with a trained ACT therapist you will at times use such things as mindfulness, paradox, metaphor, and many other experiential exercises; at times even the use of exercises to identify and surface your personal value system.
The objective of our work together my Tigress, is to assist you in the cobbling of a meaningful life while accepting the fact that pain will be an inevitable part of that product. This approach to psychotherapy is based upon assisting you to take effective action guided by your deepest values in which you are fully present and engaged. This is difficult for some to accept and understand, however it is only through mindful action that human beings can create meaningful lives. And in the creation of such a life, you will inevitably meet challenges, not in the form as those facing our jungle cat, but certainly painful emotion, ugly thoughts, bad memories, and a plethora of other uncomfortable private experiences. It is the objective of this approach, to give you a set of mindfulness skills that have been proven effective and powerful to apply to the inevitable challenges of being human.
Are you still there my Tigress? I think it is time for a brief explanation of mindfulness. Think of your awareness as the beam of light thrown off by a spotlight used to light the sky at major events held at night. The more that beam of light shrinks in diameter, approaching that of a pen-light, the less stuff it can have in its’ beam, the more refined and pointed the area lit up becomes. It is the same with your awareness , or attention. Mindfulness is living in the moment, engaging in the “now”, or to use our example, there is less in your awareness to distract you; fewer thoughts, fewer feelings, fewer memories, etc. When you even begin to do this you are starting to let your thoughts and feelings come and go, to be as they are, in opposition to trying to control them. When you just observe your “inner world” openly, receptively, and most importantly objectively, even the most painful memories, thoughts, feelings, and sensations can seem less important and hurtful. Practicing mindfulness can alter your relationship with those angry thoughts and painful feelings (related to how you have been treated) in a way that makes them less important and less influential over your life in the present.
While we are on the topic of mindfulness, I’ll add that there are more ways to develop it than just formal meditation; and before we are done I’ll introduce you to all of them. They range all the way from traditional meditation to something called “cognitive defusion”.
To many, what I am about to say is confusing; the approach we are taking, unlike traditional Western Psychology does not target symptom reduction or elimination as a desired goal or a sign of success. The research on this method has demonstrated convincingly that it is the consistent fight to eliminate symptoms that created the disorder (e.g. depression, anxiety) in the first place; that’s right, the battle to be well is a major contributor to the origin and maintenance of the disease in the first place. Do you recall the set of symptoms that you manifested following the treatment you received at work? Well, as soon as you or a mental health professional labelled your response as “symptomatic” you likely entered into a campaign to rid yourself of them, as something called a symptom is by definition “pathological”; something to be rid of as soon as possible. One of our major thrusts (if you decide to accept this assignment) will be to reframe your relationship with what you previously identified as symptomatic, into a relationship with transient psychological events that can be uncomfortable at times , but really quite harmless in the long run. (And guess what? In most cases symptom reduction comes about as a by-product; they seem to bother you less as you are no fun….you won’t respond.)
Still there Tigress? Unlike more traditional Western approaches, our method doesn’t subscribe to the assumption of a “healthy normality”. You and I take the perspective that psychological pain is not abnormal in the human condition and that most psychological disorders do not spring from unusual or pathological processes. Actually if you have a read of current statistics in this area you will see that in any year approximately 30% of the adult population will struggle with a psychiatric disorder. The World Health Organization has recently estimated that depression is among the top 3 largest, most costly, and debilitating diseases in the modern world. It seems that in any week of the year at least one tenth of the world’s population is suffering clinical levels of depression, and one in three will suffer from it at some point in their lives. Moreover, one in four adults at some time during their life span will battle a serious addiction to drugs or alcohol. There are now around 30 million alcoholics in the US alone. Nearly one in two people will consider suicide at some point in their lives. Finally consider the many adjustment problems that don’t really qualify as mental illness e.g. meaninglessness, loneliness, the anxiety associated with sexism, racism, bullying, domestic violence, and divorce. It is well supported that even though we enjoy a higher standard of living than at any other time in the past, psychological suffering is all around us.
Now my Tigress reach down deep and hang on tight for I am about to tell you something that you and many others always knew but were hesitant to agree with; that is, the psychological processes of the human mind are often destructive and can be a significant source of human misery. Moreover, you and I can see that the source of this misery is human language. It is readily apparent that our ability to communicate (e.g. words, images, sounds, facial expressions) can be utilized in two domains; the public and the private. Quite simply, you can speak and/or write (public) and you can think and/or visualize (private). The psychological term for the private use of language is “cognition”. Think of how you have used both, especially the “private” to compound a normal human response into pathology.
As the human mind doesn’t appear to be a thing we can grasp, that is an organ like a kidney or a heart, but more like a set of complex cognitive processes including planning, visualizing, analyzing and evaluating that all rely on language, the word “mind” could serve as a metaphor for human language itself.
While human language has been key to the development of the human race allowing us to learn, plan, predict, imagine, create, communicate and thrive as a community, it has a dark side. We also use it to incite hatred, plan violence, deliver injustice, act with prejudice; to fabricate weapons of mass destruction; to lie and manipulate; to slander and libel; to depress ourselves; and to make ourselves anxious by attempting to predict the future.
The result of this is the assumption that it is human language that is at the root of all human suffering. Are you listening my Tigress? Recall that last assignment I gave you? Fully 97% of it was compounding verbiage designed to make it all go away. I ask you……did it work or did it serve to make you feel more hopeless? Has it ever worked? Quite simply it is our ability to anticipate and solve problems reflected in the process of “experiential avoidance” that has provided us with what could be viewed as our single greatest evolutionary advantage. The heart of this problem solving skill is the dual ability to identify problems and to figure out how to defeat them. For example my Tigress, in your work you set your sights on an area of policing that was of great interest to you. You recognized that you lacked training and experience (the problem). You extended yourself and got the finest training available, and then put it to work to gain a wealth of experience working in the area, and to become an expert in the field (the solution). As this problem solving approach works so well in the external world, it is only natural that you would try it in your internal world; your world of thoughts, feelings, urges, and memories. Tragically, like the rest of us, when you tried to rid yourself of the feeling of being mistreated……when you tried so hard to “fill that hole in [your] soul”, you began to create extra suffering for your self.
It seems almost counter-intuitive that the more effort you exert in an attempt to rid yourself of the painful emotion you experience, the more you are likely to create it. The broken heart you experience is a good example. (Dear Tigress, I know you think you are just plain angry–but from my perspective, the anger simply covers a broken heart; a heart broken by a job and an organization that you loved.) It isn’t really the presence of sadness that has fueled the depression you have experienced for years. Think about it!! Sadness is something we all experience when we lose something we value. At the heart of your depression is the obsession with avoiding or getting rid of it. Paradoxically, the more you make of shaking the depression (I know, I know, sometimes it only sounds like getting your employer to admit they mistreated you, but really this is just another strategy to escape feeling so sad) the more emphasis you place on not being sad and the sadder you become at your inability to “get happy”. You, my magnificent Tigress, are caught in a vicious circle that lives at the centre of all emotional disorders. (What is suicide, if it is not feeling extremely sad, and hopeless, about being so sad?).
The approach we are using focuses on an alternative to “experiential avoidance” through the use of a handful of therapeutic interventions. You my magnificent Tigress, like all of your wounded soul-mates want to rid your self of your depression, your anxiety, your grief, your anger, your traumatic memories etc., etc. You may have noticed as they have, that when you work with me, there is no effort made to avoid, eliminate, reduce, change, control, or suppress these internal experiences. Rather, we attempt to mitigate these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings through the effective use of mindfulness as I have earlier explained it. I want you to learn how to stop fighting your internal experiences…..rather, to open yourself to them. I want you to learn that the more you push against your “private hell”, the more it will push back. In other words, you compound and make permanent some thing that naturally would come and go on its’ own.
When you embrace the well founded approach that I am putting forward, you devote yourself to a couple of main tenets: 1) You accept that unwanted, painful experiences are out of your control (think about it, how successful have you been so far) and, 2) you commit yourself toward actively living a valued life. (And what do you think happens to those painful symptoms, just because you pay them no mind?).
Would you like to take a look at some of the core interventions that may occur in a therapy session? In outlining them here, I am suggesting (recall the idea of psycho-education?) that you can learn to monitor your own experience. After all you are no less synchronized with the greater uncontrolled universe than any other organism in it. You don’t stand apart seeking control. You are an expression of it all and have command now of your little piece……something that the Tigress seems to know intuitively.
My exquisitely equipped Tigress, I am sure you are at least somewhat familiar with the “motivational interview”? If so, you will recognize that when your interviewee behaves as you did in your response to me by outlining those times when you were “…….truly devastated, dejected, and wounded…” as a result of the way you were treated by your employer. You were beginning to go down a path of attempted “emotional control” that had not worked previously and most likely would go on this time with no productive outcome. Riddle me this my lovely Tigress, when your garden is continually dry and arid, is it best to continually complain about it? Water it, if you have the resources? Or maybe move to another location? When you hear yourself attempting to avoid or rid yourself of painful internal experiences (and sounding like a broken record by replaying failed strategies, you can gently and respectfully disrupt this wasted motion by asking yourself, “Has this constant complaining reduced my symptoms over time?” ; “What has this wasted motion strategy cost me in terms of time, health, vitality, energy, productivity, relationships, self esteem, reputation?” ; or, “Has this strategy brought me closer to the life I want for my cub and I?”
If you really devote yourself to something different you will discover that none of your strategies have worked across time. No real reduction in sadness, anger, anxiety, or bitterness; just huge costs levied against you and your cub, in terms of your collective health and happiness. So here is the place where most would list all the other emotional control strategies they have used, measure their long term effectiveness and costs to their lives. I’m guessing that you really have no other strategies except “experiential avoidance” and the costs associated with this strategy far outweigh the benefits, and even you see that it is time to “do something different”.
So now that you have unmasked your misguided strategy, what’s next? May I suggest that you might want to increase your awareness that emotional strategies are the real enemy! The key to your “enlightenment” is to recognize that the more you use your emotional control strategies to manage how you feel, you just trap yourself in a cyclone of ever increasing suffering. Some of the metaphors coined by colleagues much more astute than I include; “quicksand”, and “the struggle switch”. My own offerings are the notions of “pure discomfort” and “dirty discomfort”. I’m sure dear Tigress you can see the wisdom in this madness; how many times have we witnessed someone fall into the quicksand? We all know by now what struggle will produce. The more she struggles the faster she will go under! The idea of the “struggle switch” is clearly illustrated. The lesson is clear, don’t compound your initial emotional response with a secondary emotion; when caught in quicksand, turn off the “struggle switch”, know things could be worse and that, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass, but about learning to dance in the rain”. When you accept the normalcy of any primary emotion (e.g. anger, depression, anxiety) and refuse to fight it, it is now free to rise and fall to fit the demands of context. This is the “pure pain” we spoke of earlier. You can’t avoid it, life is full of “pure pain”. If you have neglected to turn off the “struggle switch”, now you will create “dirty pain” and a world of hurt for yourself. Now comes the ineffective attempts at emotional control including the abuse of sex, food, alcohol, drugs, smoking, gambling; and of course beating up on yourself, endlessly ruminating, blaming others, and so on, and so on.
When you reach an understanding of what has gone before, my magnificent Tigress, you have at least begun to question your previous agenda of “emotional control”. Next in line are the basic principles. I shall save them for a future article.
“Don’t push the river, it flows by itself”.
Dr. Mike Webster
Reg’d Psych (#0655)
I wish you all the peace and goodwill of this day. Here is something to remember from a man who should know:
“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win”
With apologies to one of my heroes, Martin Luther King Jr., I wish to “piggy-back” on his historical speech, and offer a message to you. I’m sure you will recall (that is, those of you who are old enough, or studied his life in school) his call for an end to racism in the USA, in August of 1963? I was a sophmore at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend Indiana and I recall from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the “March on Washington” he created the defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement. I’m sure most of you are too young to remember however, he referred to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and noted with emotion that “one hundred years later the Negro is still not free”. I recall it was Mahalia Jackson, the soulful gospel singer, who cried out from the throng of 250,000 or more people, “Tell them about the dream Martin!!” It was at this point that Reverend King departed from his prepared text and looked directly into the eyes of each member of the gathered throng and described to them his “dream” of freedom and equality arising from slavery and hatred.
With this single phrase Martin Luther King Jr. joined the likes of Jefferson, Lincoln, and the like who shaped a struggle that goes on today in modern America. Without lessening or misrepresenting the struggle for civil rights that goes on today in the USA, I want to impress upon you how critical your fight for recognition is. I’m sure that knowing you, in a very general sense as I do, based upon decades of working with you in a variety of roles from therapist to crisis management consultant has provided for me a certain “corporate knowledge” that many of my colleagues are in the process of gaining.
You may be aware that, based upon my belief that the “chief” psychologist in RCMP Health Services should be (or have been) a regular member, I engaged with the Force in the early 1980’s. I will admit I was promised nothing by the recruiting member other than a “we’ll see”. I was willing to gamble that if I showed them that a 42 year old psychologist could survive “basic training”, that he would have at least a “smidge” more experience and understanding than the average civilian who was occupying the position at present. Needless to say I was wrong!! I was posted to Red Deer Alberta (a lovely place I am sure) upon graduation, however, very soon after matriculating I returned to “E” Division and began lobbying for my original proposition. I soon learned that this would never happen, so I left the Force and returned to my private practice. ( I should mention that the RCMP ended up paying me more than twice what they would have paid me as a regular member “psychologist”).
Anyhoooo, what I am leading up to is that I have the same dream at the same time of the year ( the time when I decided to leave); and this is the time of the year. I began this year’s go-round in late May, and have had the dream almost nightly since that time. This is a benign topic, Mr. Paulson cannot rob you of your birthdate, nor can he kill you, one is impossible and the other unlawful. He is very busy at present dealing with his own problems, I have heard, and would have little time or moral leverage to come after you. So, I invite you to weigh in and help me. According to your “esteemed leader”, I need it!! (I’ll show you the A-TIPs I have accumulated sometime).
So the dream goes like this……in a kingdom far, far, away there lived a very powerful king who owed much of his ferocity and wisdom to his chief advisor an aging monk-like warrior. This highly valued sage was not only wise but respected for his thoughtful decisions and emotional balance. He had assisted the king in retaining his kingdom and had done so with minimal loss of life.
No matter all of this, there was a group of “Young Turks” who were impatient to have the mantle of advisor to the king, placed upon the shoulders of one of their much younger confreres. These young impulsive warriors saw themselves as more daring, courageous, and adventurous than the old advisor. They believed that the king could be more powerful and feared by his enemies than he was; and that the kingdom could be larger and richer, if the king would only attack and conquer his neighbours. They were impatient and believed that the old sage/warrior had lost his “edge”, and worse was holding back the progress of the Empire.
The “Young Turks” met and devised a plan; a plan designed to discredit the king’s aging and trusted advisor. They decided that they would arrange a feast day to celebrate the king’s wisdom and success; they would invite everyone in the kingdom to attend. And at this great gathering they would have a way of embarrassing the king’s long time advisor and cause the king to question his friend’s competence.
The “Young Turks” finalized a strategy that would demonstrate to all in attendance that the aging warrior has lost his “edge”. It was agreed that the one who is most likely to succeed the old sage, would approach him with a small mouse in hand, and behind his back. He will ask the wise advisor, “I am holding a mouse behind my back. You are believed to be wise. Can you tell me, if in this moment it in fact lives, or has it died?” The group of knights, in waiting, believed that they were now able to trap the King’s long-time advisor in a game he couldn’t win; for if he said “it lives” the animal could easily and quietly be crushed, if he said “it’s dead” the mouse could easily be placed upon the floor to “scramble” away.
On the day the “Young Turks” obtained a small mouse, and attended the long-planned celebration. At some point during the day the instigator stepped forward and approached the old warrior. A strained quiet fell over the crowd. They listened as the younger man approached the older, and asked “Sir, I have a mouse in my hand and behind my back. Since you are thought to be so wise, I wonder if you can tell me if it lives or if it has expired? The entire gathered throng fell silent as they realized the gravity of the challenge. They recognized that if the old warrior/sage failed to answer correctly he would have confirmed what the “Young Turks” were saying about him.
Everyone present, absent any breathing, waited for the old warrior to answer. Deliberately and with a smile spreading across his face, he approached the young challenger. He gazed warmly at the younger man, as if to take his measure for a prolonged moment. Others in the crowd, sensing the gravity of the situation, became restless, and wondered if at last the wise old warrior had met his match? The crowd fell silent as the old man found the youth of his voice and enquired, “Why would you ask me such a question young man…..THE ANSWER IS IN YOUR HANDS?
So? What do you think? Please don’t let anyone rob you of your right to think! What does this dream mean to you? Who are these people? Which one is you? Is one of them me? Which character is representing your “esteemed leader”? Who are the “”Young Turks”? Both in the dream and in real life? Who does the mouse represent? What does the mouse represent? Remember you cannot be wrong. It is YOUR interpretation. There is little to no science behind the interpretation of dreams. You have a free hand and it is all within the realm of consideration.
Most importantly don’t allow yourself to be “cowed” into silence!
“If a prisoner wants to free his companions, he must first break free of his own chains”
Dr. Mike Webster
I. The Question
G’day, everyone! Boutcha?” That’s to make your esteemed leader feel at home. Please forgive me for my absence. I had computer issues and was called out on a matter of some concern. However, I have returned and have a little something for you to read and ponder. I may have mentioned to you at some time in the past that my father Commander Charles “Charlie” Webster was an Officer in the Royal Canadian Navy. He skippered R.C.N. Corvettes (P.T. Boats) in the North Atlantic during WWII. When I was old enough to understand and appreciate what he was saying he would regale me with “war stories” and political opinion. I recall sitting in our kitchen, of an evening, for hours on end listening to his sagas and opinions regarding Hitler and Mussolini’s politics (and teasing my Italian mother about the latter).
I’ve thought about this topic for awhile and want to run it past you. It may be a bit of a stretch, but I’d like you to throw in with the Commander and me; I’m keen to hear what you think? (Just to keep everything in perspective whenever I mention Mussolini keep his Canadian equivalent in mind). And if I mention the police, remember there were two principle organizations; the tradition conscious Federal Carabinieri (with its’ roots in the military) and the Pubblica Sicurezza (kind of like a Provincial Police). Not unlike Canada’s setup.
So to begin, it is widely believed that Benito Mussolini was the first leader of a successful terrorist organization. There is some controversy around his “march” on Rome but much agreement that he came to power as a result of his use of illegal political violence to frighten his ideological opponents into submission (e.g. Seton-Watson, 1967).
Since it is the police, in most societies that would have first responsibility to defend against a “terrorist” type attack (e.g. recall the police response to Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo), we could assume that they would have the responsibility to investigate and arrest those involved.
And in the recent case of Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau it might be considered that the government had, if not a “hidden” agenda, at the very least an “obscure” one. Moreover, it seemed as if our National Police Service and its’ assistants, the “internal security forces”, on the hill, reacted with varying levels of efficiency. Recall the very detailed video of Mr. Zehaf-Bebeau’s comings and goings and yet little response from security forces; and what about the terrified mother (wheeling her infant in a carriage) who had much of the evidence at her finger-tips almost immediately but wasn’t interviewed until many weeks later?
Please remember I say what is to follow with some trepidation, however I believe it must be said. Historically it has been alleged that some of Britain’s large police services have at times been slow to move against “terrorist” groups due to being sympathetic with the “cause” or having ulterior motives (e.g. Beloff, 1985). It may be that in some cases the police are reticent to arrest a member of a terrorist group as they are either in favour of the cause or could use the incident to further their own ends. There has been discussion of several hypotheses including; the police holding racist sympathies with the policies of the terrorist group or perhaps sharing private opposition to, for example, equality of the sexes within their own profession, or the act of abortion (Hern, 1984).
Moreover, if a group that has engaged in “terrorist” activities portrays itself as patriotic and supporting “national” ideals, law enforcement may show some reluctance to act against them. There have been examples, south of the border where some hardline white supremist groups have openly acquired weapons, engaged in paramilitary training, and predicted a time when defending “freedom” with (armed) violence may become necessary. Such groups seem to operate basking in the benevolent gaze of local law enforcement; whereas, the militant black groups of the late 50’s and early 60’s were brutally crushed by the FBI and other “internal security organizations” (don’t forget the new powers bequeathed upon C.S.I.S. Canada’s equivalent to the U.S’s Federal Bureau of Investigation).
OK, the stage is set, here is where we tend to tread softly and read between the lines. Mussolini’s fascist movement (do we not have what appears to be a similar entity?) seems to fit best in the murky area of semi-legal (therefore semi-tolerated) “terrorist” movements and the reaction of the Italian Police (read the Canadian equivalent here) to the challenge of fascism was neither strong nor successful. In his “power grab” Il Duce and his cronies kept a high profile, and weren’t shy to push a law enforcement agenda with increased powers (yet a decreased budget) for law enforcement, and decreased freedoms for the citizens. Il Duce’s colleagues were always in the public eye and while some of them were occasionally arrested there was no well organized effort to put the ministers of this revolutionary “terrorist” group behind bars. (The Canadian Senate Scandal?).
It would be overly simplistic to suggest that Mr. Harper is following in Il Duce’s footsteps while surrendering our liberal democracy to the principles of fascism. There must be something else going on? How and why has our once proud National Police Service allowed itself to be seduced by what appears to be nothing more nor less than fascism.
II. An Answer
Using the Italian example, it seems clear that the Italian police could have stopped the fascist movement at any time prior to Mussolini’s march on Rome. They didn’t!
One major criticism involved the organizational defects in the law enforcement structure, that had been long suspect but never addressed. Canada, not unlike Italy, at the time has police services that are over-stretched and have difficulty cooperating with one and other. Disliking and mistrusting each other, as is often the case with the RCMP and it’s Provincial and Municipal counterparts( this opinion is based upon personal observation after working for over 40 years in Canadian law enforcement) may lead to competition in an attempt to gain favour with a government hurtling toward fascism, rather than combining to oppose what may prove to be a common enemy. As occurred in Italy, one police organization in Canada (the RCMP) motivated by the belief that it is the best, can do the best, and is ‘Canada’s Police Force’, may accept promises from the ‘hurtling’ government, mentioned previously, that could come true and incur a debt; or not come true and find themselves replaced by something resembling Mussolini’s ‘Black-Shirts’ militia ( recall a couple of articles ago something on the growing power of ‘private police’ in North America ).
Once again, as in Italy , the Federal Police ( RCMP ) have been badly treated by the government (e.g. constantly be asked to do more with less). This of course presents no incentive to demonstrate loyalty to a more democratic government within the parliamentary system. This type of mistreatment, as in the Italian example, is largely economic, and economic issues are of importance to a National Police Service that is embarrassingly unpaid.
Moreover, general duty police persons learned that they couldn’t rely on their own senior executive, let alone their political masters, to support them when they executed distasteful orders. (Recall how RCMP senior executives abandoned the YVR four, when the former realized they had been duped by Taser International). It is not uncommon for politicians or senior police executives to give ‘wishy-washy’ orders to the ‘grunts’ and then criticize or ‘can’ them if there were negative consequences. (Remember the ‘Surrey Six fiasco). If police investigators come to view themselves as pieces on some righteous chessboard being used in an endless series of political manoeuvres or worse yet abandoned by their political masters; anything can happen.
At the heart of it all, these once well motivated police persons become alienated from the public they once served. So now being shunned by both the public and their senior executive and having developed a mistrust of their own political masters…..a sense of abandonment develops. In the Italian example, Il Duce and his ‘consiglieri’ became adept at manipulating this sense of isolation; offering favours to those who cooperated and punishment to those who didn’t (Bill C-51).
In this article I am not suggesting that Canada is following in lock-step with pre-WWII Italy; only that there are some important things to keep in mind from the Italian experience, for example:
1) The RCMP must never be allowed to become isolated from the community that it serves. Each RCMP member must be assisted in retaining pride in what he does and that she is an integral part of the society that he polices. A fair and competitive salary is an important part of self respect. Police salaries have always been an easy target for budget cuts. However it could backfire if the government impoverishes the RCMP just when they are needed to protect the country against a threat.
2) The RCMP’s mandate must be to enforce the law equitably. This mandate will be in question as long as the RCMP Commissioner holds the position of a Deputy Minister in the government of the day. In essence the possibility exists for the RCMP to be used as the Prime Minister’s private police service (remember the Italian experience). The RCMP must never be put in a position where it even has the appearance of being a pawn in government business. The equitable enforcement of the law must never take a back seat to government ‘wheeling and dealing’ that may not be understood by the rank and file.
3) It appears that throughout history terrorist movements tend to start small. Moreover, there seems to be unanimity of agreement that domestic police services meet with more success in the early stages of combatting a terrorist threat than either combat troops or specialized (e.g. ERT) units (Wardlaw, 1982). As the police will likely always be the first line of defense of an open society’s response to a terrorist threat, it may be of some advantage to generate a body of empirical research on this point.
As prefaced in the title of this piece, one of the best methods of keeping the members of a bargaining unit strong, united, autonomous, healthy, free from vulnerabilities, and thinking straight is a union or association. There is a very good chance that history could have been written differently if many combatants in many wars had been represented by strong bargaining units. That’s right this is another plug for MPPAC!! Like I told you last time we spoke, YOU ARE EITHER PART OF THE SOLUTION OR YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM!!! I’ll add something this time, GET ON BOARD OR GET OUT OF THE WAY, IT’S COMIN’!!!!!
Beloff, Max, and Peele, Gillian. The Government of the U.K: Political Authority in a Changing Society. 2nd Edition. London: Norton, 1985.
Hern, Warren. The Anti-Abortion Vigilantes. The New York Times, 21 December, 1984:35.
Seton-Watson, C. Italy from Liberalism to Fascism. London: Methuen,1967.
Wardlaw, Grant. Political Terrorism: Theory, Tactics, and Counter-Measures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1982.
“NO COURAGE, NO DELIGHT”
Dr. Mike Webster
Of all human qualities leadership has to be one of the oldest and most critical. Think about it, when we were dragging our knuckles around and living in small groups to increase safety and survival, someone had to come forward to organize and maximize these efforts. Sometimes the odds, and human nature, would suggest that this person was well motivated and concerned about the welfare of others, and sometimes not. Whatever tactics and motivation were employed, this person became ensconced as a leader as his/her abilities more often than not lead to the fulfillment of the group’s common objectives or that his/her place as leader could not be contested. Moreover, these individuals seemed to recognize that while reasoning with the masses was preferable to the use of force, that violence had its’ advantages; it was quicker and in most cases more effective——especially when the leader’s goals were somewhat selfish in nature.
Strong leadership is most always a variable in the survival of not only societies and nations but also organizations within them (like the RCMP). I think it is accurate to say that all of us are born with, or develop, the characteristics to be leaders, however not all of us have the same potential to become a competent leader, only to lead to the best of our ability. That moment can come for any of us whether we want it or not. I think we can say that Rosa Parks didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to change the world today”. It is more likely, as history bears out, that she was pressed into service by necessity and she didn’t decline the “call”. It was her character that lead her to make that decision, and in that moment that she refused to give up her seat on the bus, and to give into and perpetuate the existing rules of segregation and racism in the US. I think it would be safe to say that Ms. Parks did not view herself as a leader, in the same sense that Dr. Martin Luther King was. She was just very determined at a critical moment to set an example for every oppressed person on the globe.
Ms. Parks also did something that seems to be lacking in our leaders of today (e.g. Mr. Paulson). She showed leadership at its’ fundamental best. She demonstrated that leadership is more about “how” we do it than “what” we say as leaders. (Does this contrast of “how” and “what” sound familiar?)
The likes of Ms. Parks should be an example for all who think of themselves as leaders (how do you match up Bobby-boy?) from the Prime Minister through the Commissioner of the RCMP to your section supervisor. Please remember this, if you have the opportunity to lead others: Anyone can take over, be elected, or be appointed to a position that leads others. And it would be easy for that person to assume the mantle of authority hiding behind someone else’s back, especially if there is a stated or implied threat if we don’t “play along” (Bill C-52?). It is much easier to play the role of leader when you carry a frightening “hammer”. It takes a person with genuine character to be a true leader; a person with the confidence and humility that is more powerful than fear.
Included in those little aphorisms that I often include at the end of an article you have likely read one or two from “Crazy Horse”, moreover you may recall that my trike is called “Crazy Horse”. He is a personal hero and role model of mine. He was a ferocious warrior, respected Chief, and mythical figure in Lakota Sioux culture. One of the values that defined him as a “human being”, and as a leader, was his compassion for those less fortunate than himself; he was concerned about the weak and the powerless. It was this quality above all others that drew others to him; like iron filings to a magnet. As the story is told, when he was a young adolescent hunter he would share the bounty of his hunting with those families that had no one to hunt for them; the elderly and the ill. He didn’t speak a word of this to anyone and soon the other young hunters were doing the same thing. (Sound like the style of your “esteemed leader” at NHQ?).
Don’t get the wrong idea, while it is true that we expect our leaders to act dynamically and heroically, this is only a small part of their skill set as exemplary leaders. Their leadership should go beyond the battlefield and permeate the routine of ordinary life. If we examine Crazy Horse’s brief time on this earth we will see that his acts of leadership range from quiet acts of compassion to those of battle that have become the “stuff of legend”. (Again I ask you, is this the way your “esteemed leader” is referred to?)
We must do our best to look at the “big picture” when it comes to Crazy Horse’s leadership style, and not limit it to those acts of heroism that are most often associated with victory and battle. He was also a leader in the day-to-day issues that he encountered in the context of “real life”.
Part of Crazy Horse’s appeal is the contrast between the warrior facet of his personality and his extreme humility. ( I continue to work on this in myself). He always viewed himself as nothing more than just another “human being”; just another member of the group, no better, no worse than any other. He saw his position as one of responsibility, not one of privilege. (Sound like Mr. Paulson and his Senior Executive?) He didn’t covet authority, special privilege, or more human comforts than any other member of the group. He lived his day-to-day life just like any other member of the society. The only place he set himself apart from others was on the battlefield. He was a courageous, steady, and fierce warrior in battle. He didn’t lead by belittling anyone. He didn’t command the finest horse or the tallest lodge. To the contrary, his herd of ponies was often the smallest as he was prone to giving mounts to those who were without.
Crazy Horse was innately balanced as a leader. He knew his own battle skills and was careful not to exceed them especially when it might put the safety and welfare of others at risk. Yet on the other hand, he instinctively knew that the same safety and welfare of his people often made it necessary to push himself and them beyond their limits on occasion.
With regard to his War Council (Senior Executive in your terms) he was particular. He knew each of them like the back of his own hand; he knew their strengths, weaknesses and skills or lack of same in both their capacities as warriors and politicians. He knew who he could count on for what. He recognized that to ask someone to perform beyond his capabilities was to court disaster; most importantly he recognized his own failings (when is the last time you heard a “white shirt do this?). In addition, he studied his enemies free from any bias, based solely upon their skills as warriors.
The quality that truly placed him in a league of his own much before his time was his appreciation of a litany of intangibles that he considered each of which to be an enemy. They didn’t shoot arrows, throw spears, or strike with tomahawks, but arrogance, jealousy, selfishness, loneliness, apathy, hunger, duplicity, etc. were considered to be allies of the enemy when within his warriors and his allies when within his opposition. As a prime example, he sensed that confusion, reticence, and uncertainty could be his enemy when within his warriors; so he made it his habit to set an example, he made it his habit to lead every charge and take “first blood”.
Due to his devotion to his duty, his humility, and self-effacing manner he drew a huge following. (Just like your esteemed leader, no?) The Lakota “human beings” respected him as both a politician and a military leader. He was sensitive to the needs of all the people whether they loved him or not. He applied the values that he learned from his Mother (and her family) to his daily life. As previously noted he was dedicated, persistent, and selfless in all that he did…..and he did it all with the humility of a monk!! He placed his needs and himself second to the same of those he lead. We should expect nothing less from ourselves when the opportunity to lead arises, or from the leaders we follow today. With your esteemed leader in mind what are your thoughts? Those of you who are retired, what are your thoughts? Has the RCMP ever seen the likes of a Crazy Horse?
Dr. Mike Webster
I wish to begin this piece by offering my sincere condolences to you Claire; and to yours’ and Daniel’s two young sons. I apologize for not being able to call them by their first names. I looked everywhere for them but was unable to locate them. In writing this article I wanted to address you first, as what I am about to suggest could be misinterpreted by you and will be misinterpreted by some. As usual following a tragic death such as Daniel’s we would expect a great outpouring of emotion from the citizenry (who I believe are showing genuine sorrow and appreciation), teary politicians, and a saddened Police Chief. While the first of the three is understandable, the latter two are really not helpful. I’m thinking that if one of those young lads of yours’ and Daniel’s (and the possibility is there) wants to follow in his Dad’s footsteps and become a policeman, we should learn something from what happened to his Dad so he won’t suffer the same fate.
There seems to be a lot of confusion around whether law enforcement is a dangerous occupation or not. On one hand it is high risk (a wee bit different than dangerous). By that I mean, in terms of dangerously life threatening it barely makes it into the top 15 of these types of jobs. It is forced to line up behind jobs like fishers, loggers, pilots, flight engineers, farmers, ranchers, miners, roofers, garbage collectors, truck drivers, and those folks who install and repair the highly electrified overhead power lines. While it is true that none of the jobs I listed are at risk of on-the-job homicide, taxi drivers have a risk of dying by homicide that is twice that of a police person. All of this to say, that there is much confusion even in law enforcement as to the real dangers involved in policing; that, as we shall see leads to complacency.
If we look at research in this area, we will see that even in the USA to the south of us, it is safer to be a police person today than it was for Sheriff Andy of Mayberry. In Canada we have very little good research in this area however some interesting data suggests we have a comparatively low rate of homicide for police persons compared to other countries like the US. Statistics Canada shows that between 1961 and 2009 there were 133 police persons murdered in the line of duty including 8 double homicides, 1 triple homicide, and 1 quadruple homicide; most of these deaths occurred in the early half of this time period between 1961 and 1984. All this to say, that much has been done with training and equipment over the past several years to make things safer for police persons; for example policies regarding high speed chases and, the universal use of body armour. However to my chagrin police persons have become complacent and training in the area of effectively managing interactions involving the “mentally disturbed” i.e. those suffering from a loss of mental balance has not kept pace.
I want to emphasize here that I am not pointing a finger at Daniel or his mates. I am pointing directly at those responsible for supervising them and those responsible for training them. And to those who will be critical of my position, I am well aware that statistical aggregation isn’t the same thing as moment to moment reality. I want to say to them that just because a police person is less likely to be killed on the job today than at any other time in the last Century, it doesn’t mean that today isn’t the day.
I want to refer to a concept that I wrote about in the article just before this one: “It is not WHAT you do, but HOW you do it that matters”. This is a concept that in my training of special weapons and tactics personnel I have borrowed from sport psychology. Typically in law enforcement training there is an emphasis on “what” we are going to do e.g. tactical training programs, weapons training, hand to hand combat, etc. These issues are regularly debated at the expense of “how” we are going to get the job done. Sound confusing and esoteric? Hang in there.
There are plenty of examples of “what” law enforcement focused on at this call; and I am not suggesting that they shouldn’t have, only that they appeared to me to have over looked the “how”. They attended the call in numbers (8?), they wore body armour and used a “battering ram”. All good, but where is the “how” are we going to get this man out of his house with as little damage to him and us as possible? The “how” is the purview of those who trained the “worker bees” (Daniel and his mates), and those who supervise them. Successful athletes (and police persons) rely heavily on setting and achieving goals i.e. setting little daily targets in (at the very least) their work lives that will provide them with focus and motivation in the “big game”. The cumulative effect of this process can be monumental and can lead to success at the highest level. (High performance police people must be taught how to do this! I know people like Daniel and his mates; show them how to mentally prepare and they will do it). What I am alluding to here is what I expanded on in the previous post: The difference between “Making it happen” and “Letting it happen”. When you “Make it happen” in training (day to day), you have the luxury of “Letting it happen” in the game. When you “Let it happen” in training (developing sub-standard skills and poor habits), you’ll never “Make it happen” under game conditions.
What I am suggesting is that, contrary to the TV reporter who described this call as a “routine arrest”–there is no such thing as a routine arrest! And this one was much less routine than (apparently) the police were aware. Why didn’t the attending EPS supervisors have the information the neighbours had (now we begin to approach the “How”)? The neighbours described Mr. Radatz as a “bully”, “scary”, “threatening”, an “extreme case”, “introverted”, “odd”, “reclusive”, and “very aggressive”. Why didn’t the EPS supervisors have this information, or if they did why didn’t they use it? I’ll take the liberty of supplying my own answer….because they had been taught to focus on the “What” to the detriment of the “How”. Even 91 year old neighbour Paul Noble got the picture as he put his “How” into words, “I just had that feeling that I wanted to keep a distance from him”.
Please don’t think that I am suggesting that we all go away and leave Mr. Radatz alone. I am, however suggesting that if Daniel’s trainers and supervisors were “switched on” he might be alive today. It could be that we had other options in our tool kit than approaching the front door of a man who we find out is rumoured to have been associated with the “Freemen”. (Anyone do their homework on this group? I was involved with the FBI in a stand off with the “Freemen on the Land” at Jordan Montana……check’em out!). I’ll tell you that to approach an individual who (even in his own mind) sees himself as a Patriot (and a “Freeman”) and has abandoned the rule of law will require a lot of “How” and a little “What”. The “How” in this case could have involved (for example) sitting on the house until he had to emerge (separated from his weapons) and taking him down in a safer area for all concerned, or perhaps calling him on the telephone and having a trained crisis negotiator engage him in a rapport building conversation. The EPS used to be known for the quality of its’ crisis negotiators (Chris, Stew, where are you?)
Back to you and the boys Claire. If I have offended, I apologize profusely. I just wanted you to know that “It’s not what we do, but how we do it that matters”. And Daniel and his mates were only following someone else’s orders! They shouldn’t end up wearing this!!
Dr. Mike Webster
Reg’d Psych (#0655)
G’day all!! How are you? I am back from my travels with much to tell you of far off places. We must sit down together and over a beer (or two) come to know each other on an entirely different level. I must tell you that the last post I put up regarding the ten things Mr. Paulson could share with his successor was one of the more popular pieces we have had in several months. As it was based in Sport Psychology (and I do have a passing interest in the area due to my own history), I thought I might see how you responded to yet another from the same genre. I am assuming that we are in agreement that there is a mental aspect to policing; not just to high risk units but also to the back bone of the job……. General Duty policing. Have you ever considered GD policing as the equivalent of a high performance sport? Are you in the habit of showing up for your shift with no mental preparation (and I mean the too frequently heard “oh shit here I go again”).
Allow me to paint a little picture for you. A football team begins to gather in their locker room. Even at practice the world of a football player can be a high pressure environment that few athlete’s will experience and even fewer will survive.
To continue with the picture, an alumnus of the team, who happens to be one of it’s all time greatest, enters the locker room prior to a big game. The team falls silent. This visitor now plays professionally and is highly thought of by his alma mater’s coaching staff. He speaks to the young players about pride; he addresses the meaning of team spirit; and he explains to the young players the meanings of commitment and attitude. With great passion in his voice he speaks of the history of the school with regard to winning National Championships. He begins to get misty-eyed as he recites the names of the great alumni who had gone before.
This is a common perception of those who have not performed at a high level of motivation; that is, that it will be an emotion packed speech from the coach or a former player that will “light the fire” and cause the team to flood onto the field and victory.
Effective motivation is not a “one-off” emotion grabbing speech, not even the promise of substantial reward; and definitely not a temporary single explosion of feeling.
Motivation even for the General Duty police person is more like a lifestyle. This involves you living a lifestyle where you are motivated to achieve. During your work day each challenge, task, and activity becomes an opportunity to set a personal goal, to proceed incrementally toward better performance and new and greater levels of achievement.
I played for a (Defensive) Coach at Notre Dame who was interested in developing us as young men as well as outstanding football players. He was unique in that he related to us as both a coach and a father-figure. For example, he would give us tasks to do that seemed to have nothing to do with winning football games for Notre Dame. Yet we knew that they must be (at least) indirectly related to our improvement whether at football or in life.
Routinely, he would gather us by position (on different days) in his office before practice and ask us to, for example, copy a drawing of the frame of a building that was in perspective. He would tell us we had only so many seconds, set us loose, and observe us. As you would expect, we all had our own way of reproducing the drawing. Some would copy it exactly as it appeared, others would do it accurately but add small variations, and others would attempt to innovate and make the design more advanced.
Although he never explained to us the object of the exercise in detail, we figured out that he was looking for innovation and innovators. He appeared to be looking for those whose attitude was, “How can I do this well and maybe even surpass his expectations?” rather than those who were asking themselves, “Can I do this?” or “How can I do this?”
Mid-way through Spring practice and following several of these exercises, we arrived at the stadium one afternoon to find a small motivational phrase taped to our (Defensive Team) locker doors. The phrase read “The Way You Do Anything, Is The Way You Do Everything”.
So you ask how does all of this have anything to do with a General Duty police person about to undertake (yet another!) GD shift? Think of the exercise outlined above as a “training activity” your supervisor organizes before your shift goes out on the road. He/she might organize an exercise focused on a certain technique e.g. “speed cuffing”. The supervisor might demonstrate the skill, discuss the objective of the skill and the practice, repeat the demonstration, ask for questions and then have the “shift” give it a shot. The supervisor can observe the range of styles and competencies that shift members have adopted. Of course with any group there will be a variety of styles including correct, correct with added speed, incorrect, and maybe correct but with added speed and increased power and accuracy.
A challenge appears at this point for the supervisor. Only a couple failed to perform the skill; but some challenged themselves to perform the skill to a higher standard than was required. For some reason the latter group was not content with performing to standard. They preferred to challenge themselves and to perform the skill to a higher standard than was required. These members were not satisfied with performing the skill to the minimum standard of acceptability. They fixed a more challenging goal and then set out to achieve it. Some members were involved in the exercise while others were committed to it!
Remaining in the police universe, how would the supervisor turn involvement into commitment? Most police persons are successful as they can set challenging goals and manage the process necessary to get there. It is encouraging that goal setting and attainment are simple concepts to learn as that is the most common way we work each day and in most things we do.
It is a natural part of our cognitive process to set goals and make plans designed to achieve them. Goal setting is a natural and logical process and we humans by nature are very goal oriented. The challenge here for a police supervisor (coach, athlete) is to set goals and to achieve them through well planned incremental practices and attitudes.
I’m sure those of you who have had experience in sport are familiar with the term “the will to win”? A closer look reveals that the “will to win” is not sufficient without the daily commitment to do what it takes to prepare to win. Realistically, anyone can have the will to win but how many athletes have the drive to support the will to win with focus, determination, and concentration in everything they do?
Most of you are aware that I had the great good fortune to play NCAA football at the University of Notre Dame in the US. At the time I was there, there was a motivational sign above the team showers. The sign read, “Not Just On Saturday”. These four simple but powerful words were to remind each player that excellence comes from the every day practice of skills; and that winning on Saturday was built on the mastery of basic skills through the rest of the week. In this way the small successes had in practice, in the weight room, and out on the run would accumulate.
Training as a team is limited by individual differences. Inevitably any individual training session will be easy for some and difficult for others. No matter the sport or the job, training activities can’t be set precisely for each athlete or worker. Most often the training activity is set at an “average” level. In this way the task is not too difficult for the less talented and not too easy for the more proficient. What the coach, or supervisor is looking for is not what is done but how the individual approaches the task.
The variable of “what” is done is regularly the topic of discussion with regard to training programs; both in the sport and business worlds. Variations in volume, intensity, percentage of training done in various training zones and types of exercise to do are critical. However, it has been proven over and over that it is “how they do what they do” that is of most importance; as much in the world of policing as in the world of business. (Just this morning in the news was an item explaining how an Edmonton “hate crimes” investigator was killed in the line of duty. Of course the loss of this young man’s life is tragic, and based upon what we know about police members being killed on duty we are likely to find that he became complacent. In other words, he became more concerned with “what” he was doing than “how” he was doing it.
Successful police persons (like athletes)become that way by focusing on the little things that they do every day in training, their attitude toward mental preparation, awareness, and their commitment to mindfulness. The athlete or police person who begins to “dial in” at game time is missing the cumulative effect of setting and achieving small daily goals (that when employed can result in an effort to achieve loftier goals and success at the highest levels).
I will suggest an example from police training; the drill instructor in a self defense class may demonstrate and assign a “leg sweep” takedown to the group. The members of the class are likely to interpret the instructions idiosyncratically. One student could interpret the instruction as simply to accomplish a “take down”. Another could interpret the instruction as “perform the technique perfectly”, while a third may have thought to “perform the technique correctly and as quickly as possible with out any errors”. Each student sets a goal and then sets out to attain it based upon his/her interpretation, level of ability, confidence, past successes and failures, and a host of other factors.
Those of you who have a history in sport understand what I mean when I use the term “butterflies”. Many of you have suffered a case of “butterflies” on game day. You were in the grip of “performance anxiety”. Much of this anxiety comes from not doing “stuff” when it should have been done. Most often this is a result of a lack of direction in training; that results in completing training at a standard far below expected performance levels, and generally fumbling through with a minimum effort that results in a sub-par product.
The key difference here is that elite athletes “make it happen” in training. They develop a repertoire of success that comes from a training attitude that serves them well on game day; where they can now “let it happen”. Whereas athletes who are less successful just “let it happen” in training; they don’t push themselves, they accept sub-standard skill execution in practice and develop bad habits. Then when faced with competition, they try to “make it happen” and discover they don’t have what it takes to produce a winning effort.
The heart of the matter seems to be that if a police person (athlete) commits to excellence in everything done from training to competition an environment of excellence is created. Another motivational sign hanging in Notre Dame’s locker room during my era went like this, “Attitudes are contagious, is yours worth catching?”
In closing this brief outline of where true motivation comes from, I wish to emphasize that if it was up to me, what you have read here should be part of your daily life around the Detachment. Just as it makes no sense for the quarterback to begin to learn his receivers’ pass routes on game day, it makes no sense for you to begin practicing “officer survival” skills just before your shift begins.
The same can be said for mental skills. They require continual attention and practice. By establishing both physical and mental goals constantly in practice, athletes (and police persons) develop the confidence that anything is possible in competition. (“on the job”).
I’m sure you’ve heard those authoritative statements regarding mental preparation; that its’ role in high performance endeavours ranges anywhere from 75-99%. No matter which figure is quoted, I assure you that overlooking daily training in this area puts you at a terrible disadvantage. Given that the elite competitors in any sport are reasonably equal physically, then we could say that success is a choice. We could say that it will be the choices you make in every training and competitive situation that will result in your successes and failures.
“The Secret Is, There Is No Secret”
Dr. Mike Webster
Once again I will precede my comments with the admission that they are not based in empiricism as much as personal experience. I draw them from a long history of high level participation in a sport and as a military\paramilitary (police) psychologist.
Whether we speak of the Military, the National Police, a Provincial police, or a Municipal Police Service, not unlike a sports team, success brings advantages that make it easier to continue succeeding. The study of sustainable success (i.e. winning) is most often the purview of Sport Psychology. Generally speaking there are a handful of advantages that come from winning. Coaches are familiar with, and can cultivate and build upon these variables in order to increase the chances of creating a “winning team”.
I would like to transpose this experience into the case of a well known and undeniably failing institution; the RCMP. This piece will smack of “if I was the Commissioner” ; even though I realize that something like that could never happen. Those in power simply have too much to lose (personally) to try something “different”. OK here we go, ten solid variables that keep winners winning and build dynasties (and they can be transposed from sport to a police organization):
1) Elevated Mood: Most of us feel good in response to a “win”; while most are disappointed with a “loss”. Remember that stuff you read about the relationship between emotions (body chemistry) and performance? I’ll remind you. It is a fact that emotions can effect performance. Positive moods are correlated with performance; they seem to stimulate increased energy and the resilience (that you read about on this blog) that assists in “bending but not breaking” under stress. Those on a losing streak are more likely to “fold” under pressure, while “winners” have the ability to “play through the pain” (of even a physical injury) and seem to be operating on a “winner’s high”. Organizations are no different than the winners and losers mentioned in this paragraph.
2) Rewarding Context: Whether it’s hockey Moms and Dads or the employees of all levels at RCMP NHQ in Ottawa, those who feel like they are losing leave for home early, regularly using a litany of excuses. Those who feel rewarded by their environment tend to be attracted to it, and find it difficult to leave. Those who feel punished by the job (or more accurately, their supervisors) tend to “bail out” early or find reasons to report in sick and go O.D.S. Consistently the data supports the impression that there is less O.D.S. in those organizations that are known for creating environments that foster success. Moreover, there is more team cohesiveness as people spend more time in cooperation; with the result being increased optimism. The more team-time, the more talk, and increased solidarity, the more success.
3) Awareness: When an organization is branded a “loser” (this is my term, and the brand would more likely be “dysfunctional”) like the RCMP, the membership of that organization will eventually tire of its’ failings being continually brought to the attention of the public. They will become “feedback adverse”. An organization that is regarded more as a “winner” is likely to be populated by those who are more interested in negative feedback and ways to do things better. They seem to have the confidence to recognize that feedback is the beginning of the process that leads to improvement. Due to their belief in this process, they are more likely to see change of routine and practice as the route to improvement and winning. In their minds winning can be found in the mastery of detail.
4) Mindfulness: Most successful athletes understand, no matter which is their sport, that being able to focus intensely on their movement in the moment, is the key to improved performance. Those who are able to master this skill have fewer cognitive distractions (e.g. the “what ifs”) in their “self talk” and can focus more easily. There exists a litany of athletes who were highly successful until they hit a “rough patch”, usually of their own making. This patch and its’ etiology now becomes front and centre in their minds and contributes to a losing streak. The great golfer Tiger Woods could be used as a contemporary example.
5) The Blame Game: In most organizations, being successful makes it more likely that the members of that organization will treat each other with respect. If they are successful the assumption can be made that everyone is good at what he\she is doing. The members of the organization share continuing high expectations of each other’s expected performance going forward. An organization under scrutiny for its’ less than average performance (e.g. the RCMP) has a tendency to “eat its’ own” in a culture of finger pointing and infighting.
6) Public (fan) Support: Most successful organizations have an army of supporters behind them e.g. customers, employees and their families, neighbours, etc. When an organization continues to win, it continues to increase its’ foundation of support. Organizational losers (RCMP?) continue to erode their own support. How else can we explain the exodus of junior members?
7) The Press: Check out who occupies most of the press’ attention? Is it a police service who has more in the winning column than the losing one (e.g. Vancouver P.D?). Or is it “E” Division RCMP, who are unable to win for losing? And note, it is not just today’s news that separates these two, it’s the long view that incorporates history and future expectations. Losing continually, with no real desire or effort to change stimulates the media and other observers to “dig” for past evidence that can result in a rewriting of the organization’s past history so that it suggests continued failure into the future.
8) Awards: This one is like the debutante’s dream of getting invited to the best parties. What is suggested is that if the RCMP was recognized by their peers for excellence they would be invited to the best parties. They may still be invited to the best conferences and exhibitions but they are less likely today to be given the choicest topics, the headliner position, or the best spot to set up their booth. This sort of adulation is likely to maintain a “winner’s” momentum. Who awards “losers”?
9) Autonomy: Successful organizations have more control over their own destinies. Winners are often left alone, as they instill confidence in others. Losers draw attention like a magnet draws metal. Unsuccessful organizations are constantly being offered assistance in the form of reviews, audits, special investigations and committees (in the case of the RCMP, the federal government allows the “outfit” to offer itself these various forms of assistance). Unsuccessful organizations are often caught in a downward “success spiral” as a result of not changing, not updating training and suffering a decline in performance.
10) Organizational losers are constantly dealing with ” rolling heads”. Other than Norm Inkster and Phil Murray can you think of an RCMP Commissioner of the modern era who was at least somewhat respected? This strategy of “it’s harder to hit a moving target” is time consuming. More time is spent orienting the new “coach” than transforming the old game plan and implementing it. It’s difficult to turn an organization around before it stabilizes. A winning organization, on the other hand, has the time and the stability to implement a long term strategy geared toward continuing excellence.
From experience I will tell you that all winning streaks, even dynasties come to and end. Winning is “heady stuff” and makes it easier to become over confident, arrogant, and complacent. However a transformational leader (Mr. Paulson?) will prepare for these inevitable “slumps” by knowing they exist, educating his organization, encouraging mutual respect, and establishing support systems that will increase resilience and the likelihood of a comeback.
The bottom line to all of this is beginning to become “humdrum”!! How can you increase the chances of getting such a leader and\or a return to the halcyon days of the RCMP? Get off your “duff” and take an interest in the organization, yours, and your family’s future, by becoming a member of The Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada!!!!!! You are either part of the problem or part of the solution……THERE IS NO MIDDLE GROUND!!!!!
Dr. Mike Webster
Reg’d Psych. (#0655)
G’day all!! I hope you had a pleasant weekend? I’ll be gone on a foreign consult for a few days and I wanted to leave you with something fresh to “kick start” that cognitive stimulation. Maybe something a little different, yet related? In my clinical practice I am fond of doing dream work, when the opportunity presents itself. There are two major approaches to dream work; one is reflective of the common perception of dream work that involves the interpretation of dream elements by the therapist e.g. the therapist might interpret a dream that is washed in the colour red as being reflective of the patient’s all consuming anger. The other approach is more integrative viewing the dream as an “existential message” and not “wish fulfillment” as in the interpretive approach. In integrative dream work the dream is regarded as a message revealing how the patient views his\her life at the time. It will be used (i.e. the product of the dream work) to increase the patient’s awareness of self and how to regain agency. In lieu of interpretation, the therapist uses the method to act as the patient’s guide and assists the patient in acting out (safely) the various parts of the dream. Each part of the dream (e.g. people, animals, inanimate objects, locations, etc.) is considered a projection of the patient; so each person, prop, animal, etc., is regarded as a part of the patient; as an alienated part of the whole individual.
So whereas a more psycho-dynamically oriented therapist (e.g. a Freudian), in response to a patient describing a dream about sharks might “interpret” that as the patient’s vicious, bloodthirsty, “take no prisoners” nature; a more integrative therapist might have the patient play the role of the shark, and enter into a dialogue in an attempt to have the patient integrate (and eventually accept) that competitive and aggressive aspect of his nature. Perhaps even coming to realize the part played by aggression can contribute to balance.
OK so there it is; an introduction to dream work, an outline of the two major approaches, and a couple of sample responses, based upon the same fictitious “shark dream”. Would you like to have some fun? I will dub you as the psychologist; it isn’t important whether you are more comfortable with an interpretive style (more Freudian) or with a more integrative style (more Perlsian). Whatever you are most comfortable with will be fine. Your patient is the Commissioner of a large (to be left unnamed) National Police Service. The Commissioner’s complaint is that he suffers from a chronic depressive mood and a recurring nightmare. You decide to begin your work by having a session of dream work with your patient. Now, in this session you will hear a lot of reference to “walls”, “guns”, “honour”, “codes”, “loyalty”, “the blanket of freedom”, etc. It is not important whether you interpret this dream (a la Freud) or you work to integrate these dream fragments (a la Perls) into his personality. And remember the “depression” is bound to be related to some kind of “loss”.
The Commissioner begins to relate his dream as if he is an observer in a court room like this (you may recognize this dialogue from another context, involving a military court proceeding):
Colonel J: “You want answers?”
Kaffee: ” I think I’m entitled”.
Colonel J: “You want answers?” (He asks again with incredulity)
Kaffee: “I want the truth”.
Colonel J: “You can’t handle the truth…….Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna’ do it? You? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago (a Marine who was beaten to death by his own) and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury of not knowing what I know; that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honour, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the very blanket of freedom I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just say thank you and went on your way. Otherwise I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to………..”
Well, what do think? All the provisos are in place. Yes, you’d like more information (watch the movie). Putting all that aside, what is going on with your patient? What is your diagnosis? Don’t worry about fancy psychological words…..in layman’s terms what is your patient struggling with? Why does the dream recur? Remember the mood disorder (the depression)? What has your patient lost?
If you want to interpret the dream (a la Freud)……do it! If you feel more comfortable integrating all these projected parts back into a complete personality……do it! The latter would entail you allowing the rest of us to watch you in session as you got your patient to “role play” e.g. “the wall”, or “Santiago”. OK, that’s enough, you’re getting too much out of me!
Remember, you should be pretty good at this, as you are exploring, in the Colonel, a personality type not entirely unfamiliar to you. In your case possibly a minor league mixture of dogmatism, conservatism, authoritarianism, a wee bit of rigidity, a tendency toward unforgiving, high expectations of others and…..OK, now don’t go getting all “pissy” on me! How is it you think I know you so well?
So remember your posts may not appear until I return; unless I can get to the blog from where I’m going? This should be not only fun but illuminating as well. See you soon! And don’t forget this……..
“What is, is!”……..and………”One thing follows another”.
Dr. Mike Webster
You’ve likely noticed the increase in CCTV (closed circuit television) cameras in your community. Moreover, the government engages in some type of surveillance of our emails, telephone calls, text messages, and our activity on the “web”. Recently, Toronto PD announced that a number of its’ members would be “on duty” carrying CCTV cameras as part of a “research” project. Is it unusual that so many of us feel that there is so little private space in our lives anymore? Have you ever wondered whether the increase in surveillance actually makes you more safe? Is the loss of privacy actually rewarded with an increase in safety? How do we balance the two?
Closed circuit television has two objectives; deterrence and detection. The cameras record activity in a particular location to gather evidence that may be used by police investigators should a crime be committed. The deterrent effect has more to do with preventing crime. The thinking being, why would anyone commit a crime if he\she knew it would be captured on CCTV. The very attractive notion that CCTV is an effective deterrent of crime is not well established in the literature. (Didn’t we just watch, on the evening news, a woman stuffing racquet ball racquets down her pants while staring directly into a CCTV camera?) Dissenters suggest that bright street lights are equally effective; but isn’t that just another way of increasing visibility, and similar to CCTV.
Think about it for a moment. You likely have committed “crimes” because you thought you could get away with it. They might not have been the equivalent of a “Brinks Job”, but haven’t you parked in a “disabled zone” or used an “access road” on the highway as a short cut to get yourself turned around? If there was a police person standing in the handicapped spot would you still have parked there? Probably not. However police services don’t have enough money in their budgets to put a member in every parking spot and at every access road; and as soon as there is no member there, guess what? However, just the thought that there might be a police presence in the area is enough to deter most motorists. The bottom line is fascinating!! The possible presence of a police person is, at the very least, as good a deterrent, and in some cases even better, than the actual presence of a police member. This makes sense, as if there is always a police presence at the scene and on one occasion there isn’t, it will have no deterrent effect. A “money-strapped” city hall might use a “beat-cop” to act as a deterrent in several spots as the police person doesn’t have to be seen at any one of the locations to still have an effect. Catch this!! The work of philosopher Jeremy Bentham is absolutely fascinating. Have you ever heard of the “panopticon”? It’s a prison designed as a circle, with all the cells facing inward toward a central observation point. The guards sit in the centre of the panopticon with a view of the interior of each cell facing them (through a one way glass); and the inmates are unable to see if there are any staff in the observation tower. Bentham’s thinking was that the inmates could never be sure whether they were being observed or not, so would always be on their best behaviour; just in case! The take away being the effect of a potential guard can be as powerful as if there was a real guard present.
I’ve never forgotten Bentham’s words in describing the panopticon as a way of “obtaining mind over mind”. Now don’t get the wrong idea about J.B; he was not likely to be a supporter of our Conservatives. He was more like a 1700’s version of a Tom Mulcair supporter. He was all about individualism, freedom of expression, abolition of slavery and the death penalty, the right to divorce, and the decriminalization of homosexuality……light years ahead of our Steve, no? He simply viewed his panopticon as a tool for “grinding rogues honest”. The structure was an early form of behaviour modification (therapy?).
So the question begs to be asked (in regard to “esteemed leader” and his evil twin), can you grind a rogue honest? Think about it, the rogues incarcerated in the panopticon might behave better, but is it “real change”? Could it be that they know they are under scrutiny and fear being punished if observed misbehaving? This isn’t really as much about changing morals as it is commanding obedience. Yes I know there are some who would argue that if a person always does the right thing, that behaviour becomes the new norm; it becomes rooted and automatic.
I suppose if you were content with a nation of robotic law abiding citizens this sort of automatic behaviour would make you happy. But in contrast to obeying the law, just because it is the law, what about the merits of wanting to obey the law; the idea of wanting to be a good and moral person.
Thoughtless moral obedience does not make a moral person. Nor does thoughtless compliant behaviour (under the gaze of CCTV) make a moral RCMP member. It might be that constant unthinking obedience and fear of consequences could be a bad thing? It could stunt your moral growth; you could become “morally flabby” as you miss the opportunity to exercise your own judgement, reflect on your own behaviour, challenge your own actions, and the norms of the community you live in. There are limited ways for you to do this in a legal and safe fashion. This is one of the places of the labour union. Here’s where the MPPAC could actually play a role in your moral development.
Do you remember the name Edward Snowden? OK, OK, breathe deeply you’ll be alright. In and around 2013 he revealed wide range government surveillance of ordinary people in places like the USA, the UK, and Israel. His revelations snowballed and reached unprecedented levels that soon included his own country (US) spying on major world political figures from the Pope to the German Chancellor.
The case of Edward Snowden brought a long simmering issue to a boil. In the business of increased surveillance, who holds the trump cards, privacy or security? On the security side, for example, the present day Canadian Government, who seems to enjoy the ever increasing observation of us, argues that if we have nothing to hide we should have no objection to being observed. On the other side of the of the issue, those who object to being observed assert their right to privacy.
So can increased surveillance be justified; even the increase of RCMP members on “the hill” and Toronto’s roll out of CCTV cameras? There is always going to be the worry of the security and accuracy of the information as the data accumulates from these sources. Logic would suggest that the more there is of it, the more susceptible it will be to misuse. It seems that our Prime Minister and his various agencies hold all the cards. But is that true? Are we not still a democracy? Doesn’t the Prime Minister, his Chief of Police, and all elected officials, serve at the pleasure of the public? Don’t the authorities still have to retain our trust to remain in power? Yet another place for a police association.
When “the people” examine the government’s push for more and more powers of surveillance, they will question who is being protected. The people will tolerate more surveillance only if they believe it is for their own protection. Did you hear this from Mr. Harper and his minions around Bill C-42? Were we not all of a sudden surrounded by “Jihadists”? The citizens of the USA and the UK also gave up increased individual freedoms (which they are now questioning) believing that their investment in increased levels of security would profit the general public. Did you ever fantasize a wee bit and consider all these increases in power and security were really intended to protect the government? I know, I know it’s way out there…..but I’m just saying? Now you’re going to think I’m a complete “whack job”…..or, to protect certain individuals in the government?
Have you ever wondered when or if that time comes, what you would do? Will you object to the invasion of your privacy then? Will it be too late? How far are you willing to go? Where will you draw the line between benefit and the loss of privacy?
In this brief piece, we haven’t even looked at the interface between security and the role of technology in the surveillance of private communications. Have you ever attended a “private security” trade show? If you have, did it ever cross your mind how the line between private “police” and professional (government) police has become blurred? Have you ever taken the time to inform yourself on the speed with which private policing is overtaking professional policing in Europe and the US? Can Canada be far behind?
I hope this brief and inadequate offering has served to stimulate questions. Even more so, to cause you to see yet another way that the MPPAC could serve you and the public you protect. I may be a dreamer but there was a time (I grew up on the East Side of Vancouver) when a particular VPD member impressed me as being able to care more about my future than his own……in part, because the latter was secured by a union). Later on in life we met again. He was refereeing the wrestling matches that “Iron Mike” was using to pay for a Doctorate in Psychology. I made it R.M., thanks for the chance, R.I.P. buddy!
“The Secret Is, There Is No Secret!”
Dr. Mike Webster