The Police Psychologist and the BFD
Those in police psychology must learn about the BFD. The cops used to use that acronym regularly. Bad F—ing Day. I am not sure what the “F” means in the acronym, but I don’t think it is too nice. (Let’s not have a bunch of you writing in to tell me). Everyone has bad days. Some bad days are considerably worse than others and you can pinpoint exactly what happened that made you feel this way. Some days may just feel strange or off, but you’re not necessarily sure why. Perhaps you had a bad dream that is just too far down in your subconscious that you cannot remember it; or maybe you slept in a strange position that made your back or neck cramp. Maybe you got into an argument before bed and even though you made up, you’re still upset about it. Or it could be as simple as you’re too hot, or too cold, or too hungry, or there’s a bad smell in your house that you can’t really identify. The possibilities are endless—unfortunately. And the BFD can cause a lot of undue police stress.
Or, if you make it through the morning wake-up feeling good, random events can turn a good day into a bad day. You’ll say the gods are conspiring against you, or you are the proverbial cat to kick because the boss is frustrated about something. Like mosquitoes after a sudden downpour on a sunny day, they can strike silently and unexpectedly. No one is safe, whether you’re a student, a businessman, a parent, or working in police psychology. We all know that feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach. But we all need to face the world at some point regardless of what it brings to us, and if we face the world with a negative attitude, with the bad mood that accompanies us throughout the day, we will have a much harder time working efficiently. This bad mood may not just affect our work performance; if we are rude and grumpy throughout the day, you can bet your co-workers, clients, friends, and even family will want very little to do with you.
The main problem with waking up in a bad mood is it tends to follow you throughout the day, like an obnoxious gnat swarming around your head, or a shadow that refuses to get lost. And, if waking up in a bad mood has an impact on the rest of our day, then the trick is to shake off those negative feelings as soon as possible. In other words, the best thing to do when you wake up in a bad mood is to change your mood. I know, I know…that’s easier said then done. When you feel like there’s a black cloud floating on top of you, it can seem very difficult, maybe even impossible, to snap your fingers and make the sun shine.
I remember a story told to us in graduate school as a lead in for rational emotive therapy. It starts in an elevator that goes up 30 flights. You rush to get the elevator and are the last person in. You are crammed in, face on the opening, and can’t turn or see in any direction. The elevator is broken and it “dings” at each floor but the doors do not open. You can’t reach the buttons to get out. You are stuck. The elevator goes up to the second floor, and you hear the ding. Then you get about a two inch round, cylindrical object hit you right in middle of the back. You don’t think anything of it. Next floor get the ding, a round object clips you right in the middle of the back. You squirm to get out. Same thing happens for ten floors. You are angry. You reach for the controls but can’t get to them. You yell but the music and the crowd negates your sound. Eleventh floor same ding, same poke in the back. Twelfth floor – ding, poke. By twenty five floors you are fuming. You can’t wait to get out and rip someone’s head off. You got a black and blue mark expanding from the one inch to the entire back. You are raging. Finally the moment comes. Thirtieth floor. The door open, you have a combination of rage and happiness cause you are getting to fulfill your destiny. People start piling out of the elevator. You have your attack planned. Then you see a little old blind lady in the back of the elevator trying to search for the door being open with her cane. She almost falls forward as she reaches. She creeps forward. Are you still enraged? Her cane falls between the gap of the elevator and the floor. Are you still wanting to beat her up or has your emotion changed instantaneously?
We need to implement our own techniques and strategies to banish the bad mood, and they can happen in an instant. Bad moods can disappear as quickly and as unsuspecting as they appear with just a little cognitive work. And it’s a good thing I’m here to tell you about some of the tricks I use in police psychology. Try the techniques below to help banish your bad mood.
- Beat Yourself Up with Positive. Bombard yourself with positive information. Read Norman Vincent Peale, or Dale Carnegie, or Gary Aumiller (ohhh, that’s me). Focus all your attention and energy on the positive information into your system. YouTube is great for that. Get yourself positive. Throw compliments around like confetti at a ticker tape parade. Reduce the negative in everyday things. Brushing your teeth isn’t so bad, eating breakfast isn’t so bad, working on this article for your boss or teacher isn’t so bad. Look at every moment as a self-contained event or activity, and focus all your effort on making yourself smile. When talking to someone, make extra eye contact with them, devote your full attention to what they are saying, and compliment them. When walking down the street, enjoy the breeze outside, the sunshine on your face. Don’t let yourself get distracted by past events.
- Find Something that Brings Good Memories. Everyone has some smells that transport him or her back to a certain moment in time, like freshly baked cookies at your grandmother’s house, or a perfume that you wore on a really fun date. Use those scents to bring up good memories. Listen to a song that makes you happy, treat yourself to a snack or lunch that you know you enjoy, focus on the simple things that make you happy. If you find these simple things that bring up good memories for you to savor, there won’t be any room in your mind for the bad thoughts to intrude.
- Plan Something in the Future. If you’re in a bad mood or experiencing a lot of stress (police stress or otherwise), one way to get out of that slump is to plan something exciting to do in the future. Plan a trip, a date, an adventure, or even a walk to your favorite spot, and hold onto that excitement and expectation throughout the day. If you do something spontaneous you enjoy it for the amount of time you did it, if you plan it in the future you enjoy it for the planning, the waiting, and the event. This goal-oriented attitude, can do wonders to banishing your bad mood.
Using these steps, you can begin to change the bad mood you woke up with into a good mood. A BFD into a GFD. This will help you perform better and more efficiently at work or school, help you have a much better day, and help you smile.
Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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