Archive for the ‘Mastering Emotions’ Category

Police Psychology:  Anger!! Part 2  Seeing Red

by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D.  ABPP


There are many that believe the expression of “seeing red” comes from when a Matador wants a bull to charge, he waves a red cape at him.  The theory is the bull “sees red” and gets really angry and charges.  Humans that “see red” get very angry and lose control.  In reality, bulls are red-green color blind and don’t see the color red.  A bull’s vision is like: (see below)

A Man Sees

A Bull Sees

As you can see there is a lack of color in the picture of what the bulls sees.  Bulls charge at movement, not color.  But we still use the expression anyway.

When you are working with children on anger control, one exercise you often us is to use the metaphor of the turtle.  The turtle hides in his shell when things go awry, and he collects himself until he feels it is safe again.  You teach the child that the turtle is a smart animal because he hides away from the things that can damage him, and sometimes emotions can damage you, so you have to “hide away” from them until you get yourself collected.  Everything stops inside the shell.  We work with kids on putting their hands up over their head when they are upset, making an imaginary shell.  We even tend to give the turtle a “T” name like, Tucker the Turtle.  Tucker tucks away when upset or angry.  And so forth and so on.

Teaching the turtle, is teaching the child to slow down, take a few breaths and then you can start to teach them problems solving skills or things like cognitive therapy such as the outcome is not awful, or terrible.  We teach them sentences like “I don’t have any control over this situation,” “I can’t control what another person might do,” you got the idea.  Sort of the same stuff that we teach adults, except we don’t give them the metaphor like the turtle because they can walk away, and talk to themselves to reduce the anger.  Maybe the turtle should be used with adults too?  

Well, adults are a little more verbal, and the verbal part sometimes overrides the action of covering one’s head.  So, the curing process for adults is a little more verbal.  We use catch phrases, programming devices (like in Anger Part 1) and different techniques that keep a person from reacting.  Unfortunately, they don’t work as quickly with adults as covering up the head with the hands works in children.

Adults learn by:

1) analyzing a situation after it happens;

2) stopping it while it is going on;

3) Then by preventing it from happening at all.

Unfortunately, people give up on it before they work it all the way through all three steps because they don’t give it time to move through the stages.  It’s like wanting to stop the bleeding without putting pressures on the wound, forming a scab, and having any redness in the skin.  Nature doesn’t work that way.

One way is to use catch phrases.  Now some of you can create the catch phrases on your own, but often it takes someone from outside your body to determine what causes you to “see red” and thus what it is you are likely to get upset at.  For some people, it is stupidity makes them see red; for some it is selfishness.  Some people feel it is when people can’t see things in front of their eyes, for others it is when people choose to remain ignorant.  All these people have a problem understanding the motivations of others, and thus want to control what others are doing. 

Now their catch phrase may be “if people want to be ignorant they can,” or “I can only control what is within my world, not theirs.”  One of my favorite is “half the world is below average” when someone does something that is just plain dumb.  A true statement by definition, but being below average is not the world I live in so I have to be patient.  My other favorite is “it is better to get your way than make a point” which teaches me to think first before acting.  I know they sound like “aphorisms” or “maxims” or any of the ten or so synonyms used for a saying that brings you to point, but we deal with these sayings everyday in different ways.  Some companies used them to sell things, or to get us motivated.  Some use them to point out a truth.  Psychology uses them to make someone think before they act, or in some cases not think instead of acting.  It works in all occasions.

So come up with some catch phrases for your angry moments.  You have to do this when you are not raging mad.  And repeat it to yourself a few times.  That will help you to think of it after the incident, during the incident and before the incident.  Give yourself time to work through the stages and you are on your way to a life with less anger.


Site Administrator:  Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

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Police Psychology:  Anger!! Part 1

by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

Police Psychology is always dealing with how to keep officers less emotionally Police psychology: frustrated couplereactive, in particular, not reacting out of anger.   We all experience moments of frustration—moments where we just feel like lashing out at everyone and everything around us because things aren’t working out for us in the ways we wanted.  Frustration is the emotion we feel when we are being opposed, blocked from reaching a goal we want, or barred from doing something we want to do. Frustration is very common, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Frustration can also range from mild to severe, depending on the circumstance. For instance, if you wanted to make it through a green light before it turned red, but by the time you got there it was too late, you’d probably experience minor frustration.  On the other hand, if Notre Dame football has another defensive lineman injured on a jet sweep from a stupid cut block and the referee refuses to call it because he hates the Irish when they have a supposedly inferior opponent… wait I am losing it again.  I need to find a wall to punch.

Cycling Your Frustration

A typical response to frustration is anger—anger at your boss for making you redo your work, anger at your teacher for giving you a bad grade on a paper you spent hours doing, anger at the guy in the car next to you for cutting you off.  When the anger comes from re-living the same incident over and Police psychology: frustrated girlover, I call this “Cycling”—spinning the frustration into anger, saying the same thing over and over until anger builds from your frustration, and then frustration from your anger.  Cycling is a never-ending mess which can have some dangerous consequences, especially if it leads you to say something you know you will regret later.  It is not uncommon for this cycling to turn into something psychologists call the frustration-aggression-displacement syndrome (everything is a syndrome in psychology).  Frustration-aggression-displacement is when you are frustrated at something or someone, but you know you can’t do anything about it. For instance, it is not going to be helpful to yell back at your boss or teacher when they do something that frustrates you, because they have a higher authority than you do, and getting angry with them won’t help assuage your frustration.  So, what do you do? You go home and yell at your wife, or your children, or you kick your dog, or yell at a waiter, or go into a road rage by driving like an idiot—you lash out at people who can’t or won’t fight back.  In doing so, you are alleviating your frustration through aggression directed at people who are not responsible for your frustration.  This is not only unhealthy for you and the people around you, it is also dangerous, and can lead to a downward spiral of increasingly harmful behavior.  And research shows it can lead to heart attacks, cancer, rashes, organ dysfunction, etc.  Yes, the open expression of anger and frustration has been shown in statistical research to be worse than holding it in.  Sort of the opposite of what shrinks have told us in the past. (more…)

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Police Psychology | “Inside the Mind” of an Anarchist

by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

There are the guys seen dressed in all black with black masks that are crashing chairs through windows and ripping up cars alongside of the road at the recent demonstrations.  They are destruction-oriented and do not tend to favor either party, although they sit with the extreme left now and most often do.  They look for a peaceful demonstrations and turn it into a riot.   They call themselves anarchists, and they are not so much of a group as an instant mob, just add water.  One thing is for sure, they make a demonstration uncomfortable, not only for police, but for the demonstrators themselves.

A true anarchist does not want any government at all.  They fight all forms of authority and even fight the idea that a society should be organized.  That is why they look for demonstrations and try to create chaos.  They don’t like authority so they destroy anything built by a company, such as a building.  The cars they just throw in for free as they represent the hierarchy of life.  They wear black for a reason, and it is not to look thin.  Black is the absence of color, the absence of light.   This is homegrown terrorism and the actors are known as domestic terrorists.  But there is more than meets the eye in this terrorist movement.  Let’s get inside “THE MIND OF AN ANARCHIST.” (more…)

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Police Psychology | If I Can Just Get Through This Month

by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D.  ABPP

“…and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter’s…” fight!  Perhaps if Clement Clarke Moore would have written his poem in 2016 instead of 1822, this may have been the line in “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”  Many don’t find a serene “nap” on their schedule, in fact many “just want to get through it.”  Get through the holidays is the major sentiment that a psychologist sees in his office from mothers, and fathers, and cops and most people out there.  They often don’t let each other know in social relationships, but they sure do say it a lot in to a psychologist, even when we don’t ask.  I just want to get through this damn holiday season without “going broke,” “without ringing someone’s neck,” “without getting a divorce,” “without killing my kids…” “Maybe I’ll just work Christmas and Christmas Eve.”  The joys of the holidays!!

Holidays are a time when many people are happy, and quite a few are miserable or just powering through it.  If you have an overly controlling person(s) in the family, you have obnoxiously opinionated people in the family (you should have heard some of the stories after Thanksgiving this year, less than a month after the election), you have someone in the family who has a personality disorder, or you even have kids who missed the discretion and manners line on the way out of heaven, you could be in for a rough holiday.  Or if you have a family from Mars and you’re from Sheboygan, watch out, the Grinch lives in each of us and “his heart hasn’t grown 3 sizes that day” yet.  Well, Doc, can’t I just keep a positive attitude and get through it?  Bring a video camera, I want to see that solely for entertainment purposes.  Can’t I just avoid everyone this Christmas?  Do me a favor and make sure the battery on that camera is charged and please don’t throw it against the wall smashing it into a thousand pieces before I see. (more…)

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Police Psychology | 12 Greatest Hits

by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D.  ABPP

My brother contacted me a few months back and said he was writing his “Greatest Hits.”  I said, “Roy, the problem is you don’t have any major hits, in fact you stopped playing guitar in college.”  Roy was a country crooner with a great style and a dream in high school, but he gave it up and entered the real world.  So, Roy responded back, “Everyone has a ‘Greatest Hits’ in them, they just might not be songs on a record” (I didn’t bother to tell him that records were a thing of the past.  After all, he is my older brother by three years).  “I am writing the greatest things I ever did, the times I was spot on and just hit it.”  So, I asked him if this was a Maslow self-actualization thing you do at the end of life.  He said “nah, I just wanted to know I had done some things right.  You should try it.”

Everything is Negative

Not that I want to admit that my retired drug salesman brother gave me a great psychological technique I use with people all the time, but we do live in a very negative world.  I mean, I wake up in the mornings and read the news in New York and feel like Armageddon is upon us.  Writing your “12 Greatest Hits” does lift your spirits and does make you think about the good you have done in the world, and you don’t have to be a psychologist to suggest it to someone.  You can be a boss or a supervisor or even a spouse.  Write about family, work, social life, something you’ve done for someone, just sort of spread the good cheer all around.  It is great idea for the holidays, but even more for you personally to feel good for a change.  Let me give you a couple of mine as example: (more…)

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