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Blue line contrast: The powerful positive reminder

May 5, 2022  By Michelle Vincent

When we contemplate ‘contrast’, some of us might cringe. When considering contrast, what comes to mind is conflict, opposition and a multitude of negative experiences. Contrast on the job, for example, may look like big changes made by our Command, such as a removed freedom once appreciated or perhaps the visual of the patch on our uniform.

As I was out for a run one day, it came to my attention the power that contrast has in so many aspects of our world. Let’s consider the most obvious pieces, such as darkness and light. Without darkness, we would never see the beauty of the stars in the sky during our night shifts, or the effect darkness has on quieting the mind for sleep. For us on shift, those stars can mean navigation in a field with no cell reception.

Let’s explore contrasting experiences such as sadness and happiness; a really good cry or emotional release in contrast to a laugh so hard it makes your stomach muscles hurt. Emotional contrast is obvious and yet a perceived utopia would likely be rather mundane. Don’t get me wrong, a greater balance of happiness and peace over sadness and anger might feel nicer and even be the intention we seek as we wander on the path called life.

How about abundance and scarcity, or hunger and satiation? Would you want to eat all your meals in one sitting? Would we really appreciate a mouth-watering meal if we didn’t experience hunger? How about feeling parched after a long workout and drinking a cool, refreshing glass of water? I remember those special Sunday morning platoon breakfasts and celebratory meals we shared, but I can also tell you through experience how empowering a juice cleanse feels. These are contrasting in a positive, mind-clearing way.


Let’s explore boredom and busyness. We never use the ‘Q’ word when on shift because the moment it is spoken, all mayhem breaks loose. Still, without those “peaceful” moments, we would not appreciate the call-to-call action. Or how about when we go, go, go between our shift work, family and friends. When we finally have a moment to stop and smell those roses, feeling that sense of “ahhh” in picking up a good book to read on our stay-cation, we experience contrast. Exhaustion and energy? The difference between the feeling we may have at the start of a night shift with an operational detail we are excited to execute, and our cozy bed or chair while watching tv after a long, arduous shift at work. The only negative connotation in contrast is that which we choose to infer.

We also have sound and the contrast of silence. Imagine music without the quiet moments; there would be no appreciation for those rich notes and crescendos. When you’re listening to your favourite tune, take the time to notice where there is silence between notes, beats and sound. We can understand how irritating a conversation would be with never-ending sounds and words being spoken. One radio call transmission linked into another would make it so we were constantly interrupting. Silence can be golden, especially if we need to be with our thoughts after a challenging call.

As leaders in policing organizations, awareness in contrast and the opportunity to present it in a positive way may support buy-in from members.

We have a Sunday morning sauna at our place. The sweltering heat of the sauna that is so hot, that you’re best to remove any jewelry, lest it burn your skin. Then, fifteen minutes later, a plunge into icy water. Nothing more cleansing, I might add, and highly contrasting. Perhaps consider exercise and a break: getting that healthy adrenalin pumping and the relief when resting. Perhaps managing contrast, especially in the world of policing—whether sworn or civilian—is key and may help us find clarity in the positive experience of contrast.

Entertainment and time spent with others is in direct contrast with being alone or having alone time. Enjoying the company, laughter, mind-stimulating energy of others and then the peaceful, mindful time of our own company. Both are rich in experience on so many levels and yet certainly contrasting.

Life and death may be a more sensitive contrasting topic, and still very much a part of our lived experience, especially in policing. Most of us have experienced death both in our personal lives and on the job. Perhaps even on a metaphorical level we experience the birth of something and the end of something else.

Policing is filled with contrasting moments. From a call that was big and serious, to a call that seemed like nothing but was much more serious, to the call that comes across as horrific but turned out to be simple. All are adrenalin-producing and contrasting.

Contrast, by choice, is likely to be more welcomed than imposed. As leaders in policing organizations, awareness in contrast and the opportunity to present it in a positive way may support buy-in from members. This may also be our opportunity to exercise the mind in finding what may be positive or appreciated in a contrasting moment. Having a greater understanding of contrast and, if experienced negatively, how it may be worked through with mindfulness can be very empowering. In fact, contrast and mindfulness may go hand in hand as one can notice and focus on contrast through the breath, a body scan or mindful eating. Contrast may be as simple as noticing. Contrast is not in itself a negative experience; it may be how we choose to perceive that contrasting moment that determines our experiential outcome.

How exciting that contrast may help us to appreciate and experience the beauty in every situation. The next time you notice contrast in your life, perhaps take a moment to explore the benefits and awesomeness that it brings to you and welcome it.

Michelle Vincent PhD/MACP is a retired York Regional Police officer and the founder of The Haven, Ontario’s first non-profit, inpatient treatment centre exclusive to first responders and uniform personnel. Contact her at

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