Holding the Line
Big problems can lead to big solutions
How often does life deal us a real challenge and we think: How will I ever get through this? I am just not sure I can.
By Michelle Vincent
Maybe it’s a work-related challenge, such as an upcoming court case, a personality conflict with a colleague, or some trouble we inadvertently got ourselves into while on shift. And, let’s face it — there is always something going on when it comes to the home front. Perhaps we are dealing with relationship issues, difficult teens and/or crying babies on little to no sleep. We may have ailing parents we are caring for, family members with mental health issues, financial challenges, etc. Regardless of the specifics, it always feels big.
We commonly deal with big problems in a panic, anticipating the worst. And when we are engaged in the occupational world of policing, our perception of these big problems can be scary. When stressed, the average person tends to shut down, which makes new thoughts and ideas inaccessible. Imagine what we as police officers construe with the thoughts we have!
If we were to look at times when we experienced a significant challenge and followed it through to the point of an outcome, I wonder what it would look like? We often imagine the outcome to be much worse than it ever ends up being. There are always exceptions to that rule, of course, but generally speaking the end result often ends up working out in the end. Sometimes the hardest part of navigating a big challenge is having faith in the end result.
When we explore what resilience truly is, I believe it encompasses an understanding and faith (often blind) in seeing the challenging experience is present to guide us in a direction we had not intended. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could experience a challenging moment and recognize it as a growth spurt? How much more effective would we be in finding the solution?
Resilience is conceptualized as a state of mind or an ability to work through what would be considered challenging times. There are a variety of outstanding resources available to support resilience: reading material and programming developed to prevent and educate on operational stress injury (OSI), post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI), anxiety, depression, etc. Developing a healthy, unique outlook on an experience is another form of resilience and I will suggest it is one of the most powerful.
Post-traumatic growth is a term I came across recently. Yes, it is another “trendy-at-the-time” term for what is now called resilience — except this term’s development is deemed to be from the traumatic experiences we incur in life (and not necessarily derived from personality).
I decided to do some research on this term and found a fantastic 2016 article by Brian Chopko, Patrick Palmieri and Richard Adams. It explains what they believe to be the relationship with post-traumatic growth and traumatic exposure. There is a distinct relationship between post-traumatic growth and post-traumatic distress, however the reverse is not true.
The amount of post-traumatic growth experienced by the police officer does not reduce the amount of post-traumatic distress experienced. Perhaps exploring this connection might provide a missing piece in treating mental health issues such as PTSI, OSI, depression and anxiety in our members. Perhaps big problems equal big solutions after all.
Engaging in mindfulness as we go through the journey called life may provide us with an opportunity to reflect on how some of our most challenging experiences are what made us the amazing person we are today — if we hadn’t had that big problem to begin with, we might never have been challenged to be available to receive big solutions.
Michelle Vincent is a 15-year York Regional Police officer with a Masters Degree in Arts in Counselling Psychology and a background in equine assisted therapy, workplace reintegration and teaching. Her counselling practice is supervised by a psychologist with a specialty in addictions and trauma. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.