Police Psychology: Anger!! Part 2 “Seeing Red”

Posted: July 20, 2017 in Mastering Emotions
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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.

Teaching the turtle, is teaching the child to slow down, take a few breaths and then you can start to teach them problems solving skills or things like cognitive therapy such as the outcome is not awful, or terrible.  We teach them sentences like “I don’t have any control over this situation,” “I can’t control what another person might do,” you got the idea.  Sort of the same stuff that we teach adults, except we don’t give them the metaphor like the turtle because they can walk away, and talk to themselves to reduce the anger.  Maybe the turtle should be used with adults too?  

Well, adults are a little more verbal, and the verbal part sometimes overrides the action of covering one’s head.  So, the curing process for adults is a little more verbal.  We use catch phrases, programming devices (like in Anger Part 1) and different techniques that keep a person from reacting.  Unfortunately, they don’t work as quickly with adults as covering up the head with the hands works in children.

Adults learn by:

1) analyzing a situation after it happens;

2) stopping it while it is going on;

3) Then by preventing it from happening at all.

Unfortunately, people give up on it before they work it all the way through all three steps because they don’t give it time to move through the stages.  It’s like wanting to stop the bleeding without putting pressures on the wound, forming a scab, and having any redness in the skin.  Nature doesn’t work that way.

One way is to use catch phrases.  Now some of you can create the catch phrases on your own, but often it takes someone from outside your body to determine what causes you to “see red” and thus what it is you are likely to get upset at.  For some people, it is stupidity makes them see red; for some it is selfishness.  Some people feel it is when people can’t see things in front of their eyes, for others it is when people choose to remain ignorant.  All these people have a problem understanding the motivations of others, and thus want to control what others are doing. 

Now their catch phrase may be “if people want to be ignorant they can,” or “I can only control what is within my world, not theirs.”  One of my favorite is “half the world is below average” when someone does something that is just plain dumb.  A true statement by definition, but being below average is not the world I live in so I have to be patient.  My other favorite is “it is better to get your way than make a point” which teaches me to think first before acting.  I know they sound like “aphorisms” or “maxims” or any of the ten or so synonyms used for a saying that brings you to point, but we deal with these sayings everyday in different ways.  Some companies used them to sell things, or to get us motivated.  Some use them to point out a truth.  Psychology uses them to make someone think before they act, or in some cases not think instead of acting.  It works in all occasions.

So come up with some catch phrases for your angry moments.  You have to do this when you are not raging mad.  And repeat it to yourself a few times.  That will help you to think of it after the incident, during the incident and before the incident.  Give yourself time to work through the stages and you are on your way to a life with less anger.


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

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