Police Psychology | 30 Dates in 30 Days
This is an area where few police psychologist have ever gone. In fact, only two that I know.
When we started the book, Red Flags! How to Know When You’re Dating a Loser we, Dan Goldfarb and I just wanted to give some advice to girls who were looking for a mate. We designed the book around letting our female clients know when they are dating a loser by the third date. But it had to sell. So we came up with the idea that since we were police psychologists, we were teaching profiling of relationship criminals to women. When phrased that way, people got real interested as 22 of 25 agents on first mailing wanted to be the one to represent it. Usually you send it out to hundreds of agents and get tons of rejection letters before you find one that might take it. (Steven King even wallpapered a room in his house with rejections from his first book, Carrie, a huge best-seller and movie. Guess he got the last laugh.)
So, now Dan and I had to write it and we needed some research beyond our patients. Well, I was breaking up at the time with a five-year on-and-off relationship and some of the cops came in and said I needed “30 dates in 30 days.” It was what I told cops to do in the same situation (sort of a Next in cop language) modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous’ “30 meetings in 30 days.” So I thought 30 dinners in 30 days, I could probably get away with this for $1500 or so. I could write it off as research, and meet thirty women, why not?
Red Flag…Yellow Flag: Carnivore Meets Vegetarian
So, how do your package a forty-two year old, plump shrink to be attractive enough so thirty women will want to date him in a month. Well, I write well, so I went on one the dating sites at the time and wrote my heart out, and a number of women came running, well mildly walking at least. In those thirty days, I was speaking four times around the country at FBI field offices and I told them I was doing some research and would want a date with a single girl that night if they could find somebody. Hint: never tell an FBI agent (particularly a female FBI agent) you need a date. I had volumes of pictures sent to me, full with descriptions and dating rap sheets. And then some of the girls in the earlier dates actually set me up with friends. I would talk to each on the phone about an hour before the date, tell them it was a one-time thing and I wouldn’t be seeing any of them until after I dated the thirty. Oh, and I told them it was research for a book (guess you should know that because I don’t want to sound like too much of a sleaze).
Well, I had the time of my life and it seemed most of the girls did too, except one that I know. There was no pressure on the girls to be something they were not and no pressure on me. On most of the dates, we laughed so hard we were almost crying as they told me intimate loser stories about themselves and others. It was definitely too much of a good thing as toward the middle I started getting real tired. And I never really dated any of them again, but I became friends with a few. I went on 30 dates in 42 days. Close enough!
So what does this have to do with police psychology you may ask? At the end of each date I asked the girls did I show any red flags or yellow flags. A red flag means you wouldn’t go out with me again, and a yellow flag means you’d be real cautious. One girl said I had a red flag because I ate meat and she was a vegetarian. In fact, she was pissed the entire time because I ate meat in front of her (even though she never told me she was a veggie-girl). You get those kind of dates in life. She was going to be single a while! Seven girls said I had a yellow flag. I was shocked so I asked why. Turns out all were physically abused in a previous relationship, and they said I was too nice. I did what I normally do. I am from the south and had a father who was a marine, so you learn at a young age to help a girl on with her coat, you open doors for them, you hand them their purse, help them in the car, etc. That made these girls flashback to their husband or boyfriends who were super nice, in-between bouts of being abusive. The “roses or the thorns” is the modus operandi of the abusive man.
Little Albert Revisited
I hearkened back to studies of fear when an infant boy played with a furry white rat while a loud bell was clanging behind his head. It instilled a fear in him that he later generalized to a Santa Claus mask of all things. It was a first human experiment of conditioned fear response, classical conditioning and stimulus generalization. These women had a conditioned fear response to nice behavior from their abusive relationships and it made them so uneasy they generalized to a date years later for some of them. They essentially were always going to be uncomfortable around anyone that treated them like a lady. I felt so bad for these poor girls. And that’s made me think and there is always a raging metaphor coming when I start thinking.
How many police officers that I see have a conditioned response to me, a psychologist trying to help them? For most, their first contact with a shrink is pre-employment, a nervous situation where they are interviewing for the job. Then, they come across the psychologist when they or one of the guys/girls in their squad gets sent for a fitness-for-duty exam. When they need help, they may be a little nervous going to a psychologist because they may have made the emotional differentiation from the title of psychologist, to the person who is now going to help them. “I am really nervous while I was sitting in your office, Doc, I almost left and went home instead of waiting in the waiting room.” The fear of a psychologist gets to some of my patients on first meeting. I wonder also how many officers don’t recognize that the people they are helping on the streets or in their homes, may not have the differentiation from the title “policeman,” to the person in front of them who is going to help them. They see the police officer as a generator of nervousness? “Police officers scare me,” I often hear from non-police personnel who come in for help. The Police Psychologist and the Police Officer have a lot in common.
Familiarity, Concern, First Impression
How do you overcome this feeling of nervousness? For the psychologist it is rapport. Talk about something else, form the relationship off a football score or a talk about the job. Get to know the person and they get to know you a little. I have a huge sign over my door that says “Shrink Like a Champion Today” hearkening back to the Notre Dame football theme “Play Like a Champion Today.” (my Alma Mater). I would say 80 percent of men see the sign and recognize it almost immediately and relax. They know something about me from the sign and they relax. For the psychologist, it is easier to breakdown the classical conditioning effect as long as you recognize it exists. But what about the officer.
A police officer has to uphold his position in an interaction. When he puts that uniform on he has to represent his department and the profession. But, the first word out of his mouth can be kind in many situations. I had one officer, a highway cop, who said his first words out of his mouth on a traffic stop were always “Are you alright? I got really worried about you that’s why I pulled you over.” He said it disarms the person that he stopped and often he gets admission that they knew they were speeding. He said he has the highest rate of people taking the breathalyzer test of any of the cops on highway and he attributes that to a good first impression. Another cop said when she goes to a domestic she says “my husband and I don’t get along either sometimes.” She says it calm people down almost immediately and then she can talk to them.
A sign, a statement, a personal disclosure is not going to work for everyone or in every situation, but we have to know that there is a generalization to us because of the job we have. Some action to break generalization down will go a long way to helping us do our job better whether you are a shrink, or a cop, or a detective, or a boss.
Know When to Fold ‘Em
So, we finished our book and the editor wanted me to meet with her and a couple of people from her office, all twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings females. I thought we were talking marketing strategies but we went to lunch and I was asked questions like are “black leather pants on a second date the wrong message, what does it mean when he said he likes raw sushi, and he says he has a gay friend that means he is alright, right?” I was a relationship shrink to them and they had questions about their lives. Hell, I didn’t know any answers, I just wrote a book on profiling, but I gave free advice and answered a question with a question as a good shrink is expected to do. Sometimes in life you differentiate yourself, sometimes you just fit in with their generalizations. The secret is to know the timing of each situation.
Blog Administrator: Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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