Workplace conflict, cut backs, and requirements for officers to do more with less are adding to stress that the job inherently brings. It’s important now, more than ever that officers learn to be aware of their own psychology and the actions and non-actions they are taking.
As a trooper I can remember thinking and filtering thoughts that the burnout and all conflicts experienced were my department’s fault and responsibility.
The daily routine of driving up and down the highway began to feel robotic. The constant daily ego battling within the administration seemed like I was working at WWF with the ring announcer at roll call saying “let’s get ready to rumble”. I can remember saying in complete frustration “I can’t wait to retire.”
As I began to ask myself deeper questions I came upon a realization; I did not like who I had become, what I was feeling and how frustration was permeating all areas of my life.
As I examined myself closer I saw that the words “I can’t wait to retire” also were evolving into:
- “If my supervisor kicks back one more report, I’m going to *****”
- “If my department comes up with one more ridiculous and stupid police hat procedure for me to follow, I’m going to ******”
- “If my wingman at coffee break talks again about how he spent an hour shining his boots and he sleeps with his guns, I’m going to put my boot up his *****”
- “If one more person knocks on my cruiser window for directions when I am trying to do my paperwork, I’m going to lock them up for creating my disturbance”
- “If my spouse complains one more time that I did not cook dinner, I am going to *****” etc.
I think you get the picture…
The deeper I examined myself, the more I discovered that these filtering thoughts were having a negative impact on many levels of my perception and productivity in life.
It wasn’t until I was able to develop my psychology muscle that I was able to connect to myself, my family, my job and the community I served.
By exercising my psychology muscle through the power of the words “I CAN”, my world changed, my body responded and life was fun again.
“I CAN” was one of the many turning tools I used to exercise my inward psychology muscle which impacted me professionally and personally.
I realized if I wanted to be happy and thinking that this would arrive when I reached retirement was an illusion.
If attempting to create the future by looking through the rear view mirror of “I can’t”, you’re going to crash. In order to experience being happy at retirement, you need to strengthen the psychology muscle now and sense, feel and know happiness TODAY.
So with this understanding, I observed my thought life closely. As my thoughts began to loop me into the same negativity, I exercised my psychology muscle by asking myself in the moment these few but powerful words:
“Can I look at this another way?”
This allowed another stream of thoughts to filter in which would keep me open and not allow me to feel stuck, frustrated, or closed off. This practice kept me open to learning, growing and self-investigating all areas of life.
The more I became aware of my thought life, the more life began to mirror something different. Because my thought life was now aligning differently, I was noticing a decrease in the experiences of frustration, short temper or anxiety within myself and with those around me.
The result of using the psychology muscle via “Can I look at this another way?”
- I learned new ways to write my reports. I grew stronger at report writing. I was then asked to assist with more complex cases. More department opportunities began to open for me.
- I dealt appropriately with the department’s daily implementations of new policy and procedures which I recognized was out of my control. My power and control resided in my reactions.
- When meeting with my wing man/woman I was able to recognize when they were walking around on empty. They were holding on to illusions that would assist them in masking inner pain. Coffee time became an opportunity for more – accepting troubled co-workers as they were so that they’d have a safe space to talk. I became a very good listener- not feeding or responding to any negativity.
- I met a nice writer who assisted world famous forensic pathologist Dr. Henry Lee in writing one of his books. I was sitting in my cruiser doing paperwork when this writer asked for directions. Through keeping myself open, I would have lengthy conversations with those who stopped by the cruiser. I knew that each and every one had something to share. I found value and satisfaction in these connections.
- When my spouse fussed about dinner, I was able to see that what he was really saying was that it was during this time that he wanted me to interact with him. The issue was not what I had cooked. It was the 30 minute dinner time when he felt he that he could connect with me.
My motto shifted from “I can’t wait” to one of “I live it NOW!”
Debbie Gutierrez is the Founder and President of The Investigation of self LLC. She is a retired state trooper, licensed practical nurse, writer, keynote speaker and certified law enforcement coach. She was recognized throughout her career in patrol, academy staff instructor, agency recruiter and forensic lab. She also worked specialized investigations with the FBI. She was recognized by the State Of Connecticut General Assembly with an official citation congratulating her in becoming Connecticut’s first Latin female state trooper. She also received several department awards which include outstanding service award and medal for Life Saving award. Debbie specializes in law enforcement stress training, keynote speaking and coaching services. To learn more about Debbie and her work visit here: www.theinvestigationofself.com
For a FREE copy of her recent released eBook- Workplace Conflict 101- 7 strategic steps to reduce workplace stress, visit www.theinvestigationofself.com