Holding the Line
Contrast, solutions and growth
It always fascinates me how we as human beings experience change and contrast. We often see these occurrences as big, scary monsters thrusting us into the unknown. We — especially as police officers — often equate that dark abyss of change with a loss of control.
By Michelle Vincent
A sense of control in the world of policing is essential but many outside of this culture struggle to comprehend just how essential. It is our duty, as frontline officers attending to chaos, to control the situation and ensure the safety, security and integrity of our community and investigations. We are required to control our emotions as we attend highly volatile calls. We must be in control of situations that can be life-and-death experiences for others and ourselves. When contrast, as a result of change, occurs and we attempt to control it (as we are inadvertently trained to do), it can be very disconcerting — especially when we are expected to “just accept it” and move along.
That being said, contrast has its benefits: it pushes us to ponder what we truly want. Even if that process entails noticing primarily what we do not want. Imagine how we would experience sound if silence was not in our world. Or how about darkness? Without darkness we might not appreciate light. It is all in the way we choose to look at it. Contrast is an instigator that often compels us to seek solutions. In turn, that leads to learning, information-seeking, networking, support development — all aspects that develop personal growth.
Noticing change and labelling that change with an emotion can be a great way to restore the feeling of control in our thinking experience. As we practice reframing by identifying the emotion through repetition, it becomes second nature. Once the reframing of the experience of contrast takes place, solutions are much more readily available for the mind to not only access, but to also utilize, shape and mould into that “ah ha” moment.
The interesting part aboutthis concept is we deal with contrast and change consistently throughout our workday. Our frontline calls rarely — if ever — summon us because people are getting along or managing well. We are intricately woven into people’s lives and continuously challenged to come up with creative solutions so we do not have to return or have our partners return to deal with the same situation over and over again.
This is where intention comes in. Intention is like the spice in our recipe for the baked good of growth. Noticing intention in the process of contrast and change can be very effective in ensuring resistance is not blocking our pathway to the multitude of available solutions, as well as ensuring we are not distracted from our ultimate goal. Plus, approaching situations of change and contrast with intentionality (or at least a noticing of intention) also provides us with a sense of control.
An example of this process might look something like this:
I am attending a challenging domestic call where I have to make an arrest on the count that a minor assault was disclosed. I have made a good connection with the suspect in this domestic assault and I can see he/she has ended up in this place as a result of his/her lack of anger management. Intention is threefold; I want to ensure the safety and security of the victim in this incident, follow procedure and obtain resources for the family so they can be successful moving forward.
The suspect is arrested, placed on the conditions subsequent to the incident and advised that resources of anger management/psychological services will likely be made available for him/her as a result.
The contrast in this situation for the officer is: potentially feeling as though the assault is minor and perhaps just a one-off. The solution might be: reframing that thought into seeking out and providing valuable resources to both the accused and the family for a potentially happier, healthier household. The result: all experience growth.
If we can be open to jumping right in and welcoming the contrast — perhaps seeing it as a director on our life journey and embracing it as an emotional guide — we may find ourselves with more creative solutions and feelings of accomplishment.
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.