Archive for the ‘Mastering Emotions’ Category

Police Psychology:  Why Protests Occur?

by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D.  ABPP


The past few days there was rioting in St. Louis.  It may have started as a protest but moved quickly to a riot.  Riot [RAHY uh t} – a violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd.  The subject was a judge’s decision of not-guilty for a cop that shot the driver of a car who led the cop on a high-speed chase.  “He killed him because he was black!”  “The gun in the back seat of the car wasn’t his.”  A $900,000 settlement was made with the family by the city prior to the trial.  The officer had said we’re going to “kill this motherfucker” on the car cam prior to the stop.  The driver had all the marking of being a heroin dealer and had some drugs in the car.  The judge just didn’t see evidence beyond a reasonable doubt for the cop being called a murderer.

At Georgia Tech University, a campus cop shot and killed a student who was wielding a knife and refused to drop it.  Cops say she went closer and closer to the officers yelling “kill me.” The cop eventually shot her.  This was after a 9-1-1 call when someone complained about an intoxicated person with a weapon.  The female student was non-binary (identifying with neither sex) and had attempted suicide earlier.  Protests are under way at this writing.

Nancy Pelosi, a democrat who has always been identified with the plight of the immigrant in America, decided to have a press conference and let people know what deals were being worked out on DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) bill.  She couldn’t get her words out before a group of protesters started screaming at her that she was a liar and she was negotiating with the president to deport them.  She was completely flustered, as they would accuse her she would say, but you don’t even know what happened, don’t even know what we are negotiating for.

During the Vietnam days people protested the war and sent a message to government to stop the fighting.  It was centered on one topic and issue related.  The current protests do not seem to be either.  They are all about many different things and about nothing.  And they didn’t start with Trump.  They have been around quite a few years before Trump took presidency.  Remember Black Lives Matter in 2014 and 2015 and the Occupy Movement in 2011.  This has just been a continuation and sort of a normal increased in intensity as the protests grow.  Why is this happening now?

Social psychological science says that protests begin when people’s relative poverty seems to be increasing.  As foreclosures got to an all-out high starting in 2009 and 2010, the relative poverty level of most people got to a point that it is setting records for a low.  The society has become two levels (rich and poor) more than any other time in my lifetime and that is a sure sign that protests are going to increase.  I think the change we saw in the November elections last year is part of the people protesting that the quality of life has gone down and the cost of living has gone up, and they wanted something different.  It has become a Petri dish for protestors to grow. 

Social psychologists also points out that social media has allowed crowds to appear that seem to have no face, no leaders.  There are people that stand out front, but announcing a rally in “x” on Facebook, Twitter or any one of the other social media platforms allow protestors to just seem to spring up seeming out of nowhere and quickly for that matter.  I remember a conference in police psychology where a psychologist (and great friend of mine) was presenting on how flash mobs were forming and will cause a problem with terrorism in the future.  That was somewhere around 2008-2009.   Maybe I need to write my friend in Singapore and get some lottery ticket numbers from him.

The French social psychologist Gustav Le Bon more than a century ago wrote an eye-opening book on crowd behavior.  He said members of an anonymous crowd cannot think rationally, logically and become hysterical.  Of course, since that time there are many reports about the “wisdom of the crowd effect” which suggests crowds come to more correct answers than individuals.  However, in order to say the crowd has better answers you have to look at the specifics of the crowd and the answer used in research.  For example, when crowd are given all the information, they are more effective.  With the media today they are not given all the information for sure, at least not accurate information.  When crowds are diverse they are more likely to come to a correct answer.  Certainly, the crowds demonstrating are not diverse in opinions, rather they are so similar it is ridiculous.  When there is a correct answer, the crowd is better than when it is opinion.  Again, people are not protesting about the name of the 50 presidents or the prime ministers of England.  They are protesting about opinion.  So, any of the benefits of crowd averages, don’t make a lot of sense in this argument, and really “wisdom of the crowd effect” is not relevant.  Yet, we continue to publicize the crowd are making noise with protests, and they continue to fight for what they believe to be right given the limited information they have, or even listen to.

And you can take all this social science research and throw it out the window because half the people are there just not to miss something and they want to have a social event.  They want to be part of a protest regardless of what it says.  Don’t believe me?  Go here or here  to see some of the more ridiculous protests.  It’s fun to be part of something.

We are a country built on rebellion from the British Empire over religious freedom and taxation without representation, so it is not likely we will ever get that out of us.  So, if we want to stop the protests, we have to turn the world into rainbows and unicorns.  A place where everybody earns enough money and for each person living it is a lot more fun.  That’s not going to happen too quickly probably.  So, maybe if we can just have a little understanding for people who are hysterical or driven by hate.  Both sides need to stop making quick judgements.  And all of us need to stop stop saying stupid things about killing someone or other types of intolerant talk driven by emotion instead of logic.  The majority of people are not that bad and tolerance with no stupidity should win in the long run, at least make it better while we get on track with unemployment , jobs and our quality of life.  Then maybe we won’t protest


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

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Police Psychology | Is Technology Turning Us Into Time Zombies?!

Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

This is a small excerpt from my new Keeping It Simple with Anxiety: A Guide for the Road and Home video course which will be out soon.  We are waiting on approval for POST credits.  Look for it!


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

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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. (more…)

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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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