Blue Line

The perceptual lens

July 4, 2016  By Michelle Vincent

704 words – MR

The perceptual lens

by Michelle Vincent

When you look at something, do you see the good? The bad? The ugly? We all have a way of perceiving what we claim is reality.

If the way we perceive our world serves us in our workplace and relationships, then there is no need to read any further! If there is room for improvement in your world view, you may want to continue reading.

Police officers come across challenging experiences. Some can be hard to digest at the end of the day. The interesting aspect of this is how the experience is perceived. Each person brings a different set of life experiences and biology to the interpretation.

I mention biology because there many biological factors can affect our interpretive experience, from irritability caused by allergies to shift work and lack of sleep. A domestic situation can bring back challenging memories of childhood or an understanding of what supports a family might need after a domestic assault.

Regardless of what we bring to the table, we have the opportunity to work on our perceptual lens and incorporate a positive influence that might help when attending calls but also assist in relationships. If our home and work life is amazing, then our perception of a challenging experience is likely to be more positive.

To improve or clarify our perceptual lens, we can find things in our world that feel good. A motorcycle ride on a beautiful, sunny spring day; watching your child sleep; having a great work out and feeling at the top of our game. When we take as little as 60 seconds and focus on aspects that feel good, it leads to the production of serotonin, a feel good, peaceful chemical in our body. This thought, when fleshed out, perpetuates further connections to other great thoughts! It becomes contagious.

Working on this aspect of thought is much like working on various muscle groups. It takes some time and dedication to the process to experience success, however the convenient part is that this “mental work out” does not require anything other than you and your thoughts!

Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University, and communications expert Mark Robert Waldman wrote about a similar process in their book They explain that when we use words filled with positivity, we strengthen areas in our frontal lobe, propelling motivational centres into action.

“A single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress,” they write.

This confirms and supports the process of thinking thoughts that feel good and their effects on our perceptual lens. Holding positive and optimistic words in our thoughts for longer periods creates positive change in various parts of the brain. As we practice this type of exercise, we strengthen our ability to effectively see the good in many situations which we may have previously viewed in a different light.

An exercise I find highly effective is finding three positive aspects in an experience which caused a client to have a negative thought. Initially this can be challenging and, like working any new muscle, requires support and proper technique. Practice it regularly though and it becomes much easier to see the positive.

For example, suppose I recalled how a colleague cut me off in the middle of an arrest. Faced with thinking of three good things he does when attending calls, I might come up with:

1) He is good back up.
2) Quick to attend calls I am on.
3) Effective at de-escalating situations.

We always find what we are looking for in any experience. If we look for the good, we find it, but we also find the negative if that’s what we look for. Working on the perceptual lens through which we experience life can be an effective way of bringing the positive into our work life and relationships!


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 and workplace reintegration and teaching. Her counselling practice is supervised by a psychologist with a specialty in addictions and trauma. Contact:

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