Police Psychology: Wish List
by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
When I finished my doctoral dissertation, I had mesmerized my committee with a great presentation and knew just about everything ever published on my topic: “training parents to make kids behave.” I literally knew more then anyone in the room on the topic and when I left the room, everyone was supposedly impressed as hell. Then I came back in the room, and was told that they felt I was too obsessed with the topic and I needed to learn how to live instead of just the science. See my mom had died in my first year of graduate school, and I had finished a five-year program in 3 ½ years, and my dissertation was three times the size of most of the dissertations they had seen. The committee gave me an exercise in the book The Magic of Thinking Big and said I wasn’t finished my school until I did the exercise. I was in shock, but I went home and absorbed the book before I went to sleep (I guess I did tend to obsess) and the exercise was to make a “wish list” of the things I wanted to do in my life. My list should be 100 items long and I was to think big.
I started writing and came up with 111 things including build a career, go to Paris and Italy, begin to learn to speak Italian. Then I started thinking big and came up with sing on a gondola in Venice, cook in a French restaurant in France, travel to the furtherest point in the earth, see a national championship football game again, save a life, be in a movie, etc., etc. I wanted some things that were a little out there, but surprisingly it made me feel better to dream and to take the time to think of myself and what I wanted to do. I didn’t realize the power of the “wish list” until a few years later. When I had become a police psychologist.
At the FBI National Academy, people come from all over the world to sit through classes for a couple of months and learn the most advanced ‘state of the art’ in policing. Departments generally send their rising officers to get training in the newest police techniques and tactics. I was teaching in the SMILE (Stress Management in Law Enforcement) course that was started as an answer to the most requested type of training in the academy. I would go in and talk about simplifying life in law enforcement and I did the “Wish List” exercise with the whole class. “Tell me what you would like to do in your life and think big.” I got answers like drive a race car, meet the pope, and the most frequent was skydive. The phenomenon I didn’t expect was right after someone would tell what it was they wanted, another person would say “I have a friend with a race car in Darlington South Carolina, let me give him a call.” Then, a few weeks later I would get a picture sent to me on email of the guy driving a race car in Darlington. I’d get pictures of people skydiving. I set up one guy to act in a movie I was working on and it happened to be a day where playboy playmates were on the set. He was my friend for life. I got one picture of a guy standing next to Pope John Paul, and Steven Tyler and Jaclyn Smith and Arnold Schwarznegger… a whole lot of fantasy people that someone was guarding or just happened to know. You see, it appears when you tell your dreams to other people, they become helpers for you getting your wish list fulfilled. I’ve had this experience in most of the 400 seminars I have taught around the world.
I like to use this in all kinds of therapy I am doing. Everyone has dreams at some point in their life, even the most depressed or the most anxious person. When they become a little free from the bounds of their depression or anxiety, that is when I pull out the “wish list.” Wish lists really work in marital therapy once people stop arguing. When a person tells their spouse what they dream about, you really get two people dedicated to following a dream and that always brings people together. The “wish list” is a powerful tool and in fact most reading this will be picturing their wish list. And I expect to hear from a few of you.
Well, I acted in a movie because I was consulting on it and told the director I wanted to act in a movie. I became the serial killer in a Columbia Tri-Star movie and even made a headline in the National Enquirer “Police Psychologist Becomes Serial Killer.” I sang for a day on a gondola because, after a couple of Campari’s, I told a friendly gondolier I wanted to sing on a gondola in Venice. I asked a friendly waiter in Paris how to make a dish and ended up cooking in a French restaurant, actually drinking wine in the back with a French Executive chef while I pretended to cook. I ran a conference in Italy and had to speak pigeon Italian while there. I went to Antarctica because someone who heard my dream put my name in as a psychologist to work there. I actually have done 108 of my original 111 things. I wanted to catch a giant tuna, see the Parthenon, and dine at the White House which are the only three not met. I am not likely to do the boat thing on open seas at my age and balance level, but the other two I still have hopes.
More important is learning the technique of building a “wish list” and making it happen by telling other people. It is good to dream sometimes and it is really good to write it down and let people know. The next time you do a training, or you are at a conference, or you are just talking with someone in your squad, ask them what they would really dream about doing. After the usual sexual fantasy stuff, people really do like talking about their dreams and it will make you much closer to them. Building a “wish list” is important for all of us to accomplish and it will be good for you.
Site Administrator: Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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