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:
Early in my career, I was invited to the FBI Academy to give a 20-minute presentation on some topic to do with police families. They had invited the top 50 or so police psychologists and had one big 3-day conference for us. I didn’t know anyone, after all it was very early in my career. I was presenting at the end of the conference about simplifying life as a police officer, a really new idea at the time. Part of my presentation was quoting great philosophers, ancient intellects and authors about simplicity, like Dante, Einstein and Mark Twain. So, I listened to some presentations and it hit me to start taking notes. When I got up, the crowd was exhausted from 3-days of listening or pretend listening (psychologists are the best at pretend listening), I started quoting some of the greats, then I said “now for some of the current superstars in the world” – and I started quoting the people around the room who had spoken and made one sentence or more about simplicity. Everyone was listening for their name, I had the crowd by the ….well, let’s just say I had their attention. That one speech spun me into years of working for the FBI and leading in the field of police psychology. It was a greatest hit.
In 2008, I had been married two years and we had tried to have a child. I read about Russian adoption of children and found out that Russian female children living in an orphanage usually either ended up dead, in sexual slavery or the military, and I decided we would go through the arduous process of adoption from Russia that usually took two to three years. Well three months after we entered an application, we got the call to adopt a little girl went to Russia and found our beautiful forever child. She had a special friend when in Rostov Russia, an elderly man who ran the orphanage. The people in the orphanage were wonderful, but the elderly man who ran the place had a sadness about him. He said his mother was buried in San Francisco and his niece lived there but he couldn’t get a visa to come to the US even though he tried many times over thirty years. He said he didn’t have any mark against him, but it was the ways things were in his country at the time. At 70, he had given up on ever seeing his mother’s grave. I told him I would try and he gave me a sad smile as if doubting my intentions. He sad others had tried and it wasn’t much use. When I returned, I had a letter from a US congressman friendly to police asking for him to be granted a visa, and we had made arrangements for his flight. I even went to Moscow with him and led him through the American consulate, smooth as silk. He was speechless and couldn’t stop crying when he spoke to me. And, he came to the US and saw his mother’s grave and his niece (who became our friend). A “Greatest Hit” if ever there was one.
Hundreds of Stories
My cop friends have 100’s of stories, but for some reason you have to pull the stories out of them. Like in Gary Travers video, cops are storage places for human interest stories. Why don’t we choose to feel good about the stories of our lives, and rather focus on the day-to-day drudgery and the failures in our past. As Roy said, we all have a “12 Greatest Hits,” in fact, there are probably many Greatest Hits Albums in each of us for different eras of our lives. Is it living in the past? Nah, it is using the past to give yourself self recognition of who you are today and motivation to add another greatest hit to your list. Is it bragging to tell your greatest hits? Could be, but if you don’t self-promote to some extent, very few people will step up to promote you.
I have one more for you. My niece was getting married and her and her husband wanted to have two people on each side do something. I was asked to do something but warned I needed to include my nephew and it had to be good. My nephew was not real distinguished in much of anything yet except freestyle rapping. So, I re-worked an Andrea Bocelli song with his rap style and my opera singing. It was a huge hit at the wedding, so afterwards we did a recording of my favorite Christmas song for our family and friends recorded on a home computer. I offer that to you here. Listen and it will make you smile this morning.
Write your “12 Greatest Hits” and then if you can spare the time send me one of yours to make my day better. And always remember you are the collection of the good things you have done and the good people you have met, not the failures and the bad things that have happened in your life. Even better, make it a holiday tradition to have everyone around the table tell their greatest hit for the year. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah again.
Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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