WELLBEING: For every solution there’s a problem.


Ladies and Gentlemen I invite you to watch the following clip which is very funny and  acutely observed. The clip is courtesy of Monty Python.

So while that bizarre argument; or contradiction, is still fresh in our minds lets have a look at the difference between argument and contradiction

contradiction: noun

a combination of statements, ideas, or features which are opposed to one another.

a situation in which inconsistent elements are present.

the statement of a position opposite to one already made.

synonyms: denial, refutation, rebuttal, countering, counterstatement, opposite;

argument: noun

an exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one.
synonyms: quarrel, disagreement, squabble, fight, difference of opinion, dispute, wrangle, clash, altercation, feud, dissension, war of words, contretemps, exchange of views;

a reason or set of reasons given in support of an idea, action or theory.
synonyms: reasoning, line of reasoning, logic, case;

There is at the moment on Social media a pervasive air of negativity regarding austerity and in particular those cuts that are affecting the emergency services, most notably the Police Service. To challenge those views attracts some quite nasty attacks both in general terms and personal.  There are deep engrained views and a resistance to change. Now none of us like change.  It usually means that we have to give up something which makes our lives a little less comfortable usually. Why would we exchange better for worse?

Most of the time I suspect,  change is enforced on us; either through a political system that does not allow democracy or through necessity. One mans terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter as long as the ideal is true and does not change along the way.

Social media may or may not reflect the views of police officers across the country.  There are accusations that official police accounts are fluffy, corporate and allow no freedom of expression. At the other end of the scale are the anonymous police accounts that some spew constant negativity on an almost 24 hour basis.  I suspect the real story lies somewhere between the two.  So do these accounts reflect the views of serving officers across the country.  Of course they do, but are they vignettes of a far more general point of view?

Either way, there is a general aversion to change which I can only assume is prevalent in the police service of this country perhaps reflected in social media.

So what makes us resistant to change and in particular in the police service?  Some will take the view that is was way better back then.  This may be true to a point but we tend to remember the good times never the bad.  I once told my grandma that I would have loved to have lived in the forties; only for her to tell me the hardships her family had to endure during the war, literally living day to day waiting for the bombs to drop.

As I mentioned earlier, change usually means sacrifice.  None of use like that and whilst no man is meant to be an island, how quickly do we become one so when our own circumstances are threatened; adopting a “not on my doorstep attitude.”  It is understandable to point, as those of us with families have to put them first.

But there is another aversion to change and I call it their “comfort blanket.”  There are case’s in World War Two where prisoners of war have been released from captivity by their liberators only to remain in their cell.  Those four walls that had kept them incarcerated for all those years had become their sanctuary.  And so, we take up a position of opposition to the point where it becomes our guiding mantra.

Never seeing an alternative view, never been able to adapt to the ebb and flow of life in the present.  That old phrase “Living in the past.”  In fact, it becomes a purpose to complain about what ever, whether you agree or not. That is contradiction. The negativity of individuals is infectious and can affect the performance of others in both their work and home life.

Well, whether you agree with change, and through history I suspect no one ever has; it is here.  Whether you agree with it is academic.  The important thing is how we deal with change.  We can become bogged down with how unfair it is, why we shouldn’t change but that doesn’t change the fact that we are now in change.

And so I come back to the argument or contradiction depending on where you sit about change.  By all means argue why we should not change, it may get you no where or it may just get some concessions.  But to purely contradict is a lesson in futility. I’m not saying we should lie down and take it but to block purely because it is a contrary position regardless is like a snake eating its own tail.

I have also maintained the position regarding our police service is to let the good work that we do speak for itself. No one can take that away from us.  And if in the coming years we find ourselves struggling to complete the task that the public rightly expects we complete, then whilst it would be only be fair for us to inform them of our difficulties, it will be for them to decide change through the democratic process.

So if you you prefer contradiction to argument then the final paragraph may be for you.

A father left 17 camels as an asset for his three sons. When the father passed away, his sons opened up the will. The Will of the father stated that the eldest son should get half of 17 camels while the middle son should be given a 1/3rd. The youngest son should be given a 1/9th of the 17 camels. As it is not possible to divide 17 into half or 17 by 3 or 17 by 9, three sons started to fight with each other.

So, the three sons decided to go to a wise man. The wise man listened patiently about the Will.

The wise man, after giving this thought, brought one camel of his own and added the same to 17. That increased the total to 18 camels.

Now, he started reading the deceased father’s will.
Half of 18 = 9. So he gave the eldest son 9 camels
1/3rd of 18 = 6. So he gave the middle son 6 camels
1/9th of 18 = 2. So he gave the youngest son 2 camels.

Now add this up: 9 plus 6 plus 2 is 17 and this leaves one camel, which the wise man took back.

Moral: The attitude of negotiation and problem solving is to find the 18th camel i.e. the common ground. Once a person is able to find the common ground, the issue is resolved. It is difficult at times. However, to reach a solution, the first step is to believe that there is a solution. If we think that there is no solution, we won’t be able to reach any !!

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WELLBEING: Umbrella’s


Umbrella

When the weather gets bad, most of us have an umbrella.  Usually it resides in the porch, on the back seat of the car or hanging up in the utility room with the rest of the damp clothing.

We use our umbrella’s when the weather gets bad. Heavy rain or snow.  Such a simple idea yet such a complicated design.  We instinctively put up our brollies when the heavens open above us to keep us dry.

But not all of us do that. Some of us walk around all day, with our umbrella’s open, held over head all day, every day. In the expectation that bad weather is about to fall.

That modern day umbrella is most probably very light. But your carrying it everyday. Its gonna get heavy at some point. So what is my point?

The very thing that is designed to keep you dry, can if you let it, weigh you down to sink.

I do of course refer to worry and stress. I have covered these topics previously but every now and again you get a blinding analogy that makes you want to share your thoughts.

The analogy tonight is the Umbrella. A device designed to keep you dry. But what if that device is trapping the weather, constantly keeping you wet and cold when outside their are blue skies?

You see, some of us place burdens upon ourselves when in reality where is no need to do so. Those moments peak when we change roles, go for promotion or placing ourselves outside our comfort zones. I have been very vocal in the wellbeing of police officers to my senior management team and they have in turn been very receptive.  My constant gripe is to see more white shirts on the front line ever so occasionally. A member of the SMT replied informing me that a few members of their team were equally feeling the stress to the point of failure.

Stress is not rank specific. To be honest that was something I had not thought about before.  And so, turning back to the thrust of this post, I thought about the two types of stress.  That which we have to deal with and that which we place upon ourselves.

The day to day stress that comes with the job I suspect is fairly easy to deal with.  The stress we put ourselves under is inevitably impossible to deal with. Because we ourselves become our own judges on our own performances and as you know, we will never satisfy ourselves.

Whatever rank you are, you are first and foremost a human being.  A humble foot soldier has every bit of authority and responsibility as the chief constable at a scene.

The ability to stop worrying is never from reading wise words but from the years and years of wondering what might be, only to discover that as you get older that those worries never came to fruition. What a release it would be to trust those older folk who told you not to worry in your younger years.

So what ever rank you are, put your umbrella down, stop worrying about what you cannot control, stop worrying about your future.  It will work itself out. When you close that umbrella you just might find a blue sky above. Unless you do, you will never see whats over your head.

 

 

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WELLBEING: Normality


“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

Today we talk about what is normal. What a ridiculous question and the answer more so. What is normal in your life maybe not normal in mine. Shared realities but a Universe apart for us all. A might Oak “breathes” Carbon Dioxide and expels Oxygen, perfectly normal for a tree but completely alien to us as sentient beings.

So how do we gauge what is normal in our own lives without a bench mark. Quite simply what is normal?

The only thing that immediately comes to mind that is normal is love. We all experience it. It is not self seeking, it does not destroy, it is not selfish, it has no hidden agenda, it is given with the promise of no return nor expected, it supports life and not death. There are only positives with no negatives.

So one could argue that anything that does not support love is not normal. Actions taken that hurts ourselves or others, poverty, genocide, torture are not normal. Experiencing such emotions as a result of are also not normal. Police Officers deal with events that are not normal. A victim assaulted, a suicide, a driver decapitated, a child literally sharing his cot with dog shit. You know the list, it it endless. Not only endless it is relentless.

So what you have to deal with on a daily basis, that becomes a yearly basis is not normal. And so for you it becomes the norm. That is a whole world apart from what you expereicne being normal.

It becomes the norm so you can process logically something that you shouldn’t be witnessing. It becomes the norm so you can function on a daily basis. For everyone else it has also become the norm. Indeed it has become the norm for your supervisor and there supervisor.

So when it simply gets too much. When your head is quite happy to tell you this is normal, but your heart is getting blacker and blacker something has to give. If fact it does not give it snaps. And the irony is that because your supervisors see it as the norm, when you do snap you are actually viewed as abnormal. That inner voice telling you that it isn’t right, that you shouldn’t be feeling the way you do is treated as a weakness. And so the stigma of mental illness is perpetuated.

Whether you put the caps on the tops of aerosol tins on a mundane production line whilst wishing your life away as slowly as the clouds that blow eastward across your head; or a police officer trying to comfort a mother trapped in a car by her legs in a road traffic collision whilst you hold onto her young child as he slowly dies in your arms, remind yourself that this is not normal.

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WELL BEING. When were you born?


Of course in the general sense you will know exactly to the time, day and date when you were born. When you arrived into this world.  Do you remember it? Of course not, yet as soon as you are born your mind is a sponge, taking in every sense and emotion.

There is an old saying. “Give me the boy until he is seven and I will give you the man.”

So I ask at what point, that singularity when you became self aware? For most of us the moment is at best hazy.  There are moments I remember from my very early childhood but it wasn’t a “my history starts here” moment.  Thinking about it logically, the brief moments I do remember early on I suspect are connected with a strong emotion that I felt, yet going so far back I can’t even remember the emotion but merely the moment. That being said there are single moments of early childhood that I recall with clarity but only as a snap shot.  I don’t recall the lead up to it, nor do I recall the aftermath.  Isn’t the mind strange, that I can remember a single moment but not the prologue or epilogue.

I suspect and this is purely my own opinion that emotion and how it makes us feel is a constant.  Only life experience as we get older teaches us how to deal with those emotions. Love, joy and unfortunately tragedy feels the same whether you are seven or seventy. That is the human condition because also in my own opinion, we have a heart, a soul.  It operates, survives on emotion (and by the way that word really doesn’t cover it), and reason plays no part in its operation.

Only as we get older, as we constantly learn to deal with those “feelings” that sit deep within our chest do we start to make sense of why we feel the way we do.  Some feelings are irrational, some are not. As we become mature adults then only then do we differentiate between them.

Yet some adults never grow up and have difficulty in separating the rational from the irrational. We often refer to people as to their mental age.  Some would argue their is also an emotional age. Again in my opinion I would profer to disagree. Emotion in its purest form is emotion.  Its that connection between the head and the heart guided by life experience that teaches us how to react to that emotion.

A quick analogy for you.  Having never done any exercise before you run around a running track as fast as you can.  Your heart is beating as fast as it can, you feel dizzy, sick and about to give up. Compare that with lets say Mo Farrer.  He will run the same track.  The only difference is that he will do it in a world record time. Everything else is the same, he feels just as sick.

And so, whether you are experienced or inexperienced in feeling your emotions, that feeling is just the same.

Here’s another interesting thing I have discovered.  When I was at primary school I had a crush on a girl called Angela Walton.  She was gorgeous. Many years later I bumped into her, both of us obviously older.  As soon as I saw her that feeling that I had until that moment carried with me disappeared. Not because she was unattractive but it wasn’t the memory I had carried around with me.  It was like hitting the reset button. Now don’t get me wrong.  I carry a residual memory of Angela and to this day still do but she was not the girl I remembered and carried in my heart.

The important thing being that “my system reset” and I never felt the same way again about her again.

Here’s another interesting thing.  When I was a young boy we played cowboys and indians or cops and robbers in the school playground.  We would spend several very detailed minutes before hand deciding on who would be the good guy and who would be not.  We even discussed the scenario and the outcome.  The good guy always won. There were no surprises and it was what we would describe today as a “safe learning environment.” Life gave us time to experience our emotions and then deal with them.  That is how we grew up into the adults we are today.

Unfortunately compare that with how our children grow up today.  Still the same emotions but making sense of them through the X box and a prisoner in their own bedroom.  That is where the problems start. No real interaction with other human beings and ultimately as adults they are inexperienced in dealing with the same emotions you, I and everyone else throughout the ages have had to deal with.

Remember I said earlier about how I hit the reset button?  I was able to do that because I met the person she was now and not the person I remembered her as.

Yet many of our memories in which we attach very strong emotions to will never be resolved.  And so, in essence this is where this blog is going.

There are many that have never hit that reset button; many that have not had the time and experience  to comprehend their emotions from the time that they remember them; and for some are still living into their middle age with the outlook of that boy or girl in the playground.

I am approaching 48 years of age.  I am still that cheeky 15 year old I always was, in my heart.  In my head, having experienced what I have had, I am probably closer to 65.

Hitting that reset button without a interpersonal prompt takes courage, bravery and wisdom.  But more than that it takes faith in oneself.

So whether we are dealing with our own demons or deal with people dealing with their demons just remember, whether they are able bodied or confined to a wheel chair with 24 hour care; demented through mental illness or simply not having the luxury of our own upbringing; minds may be at a different place but our hearts share the same place. They always have done and they always will.

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WELLBEING: TIME GENTLEMEN PLEASE…….


Ironically, its been a while since my last blog. The one overriding reason why this is so is because of time.  Too busy at work, too busy at home, too busy to post a blog.  In fact, sometimes you get so busy that there is no time to do anything at all.  No time to do anything?  So what have I been doing with my time, concerning myself with things that ultimately mean I have produced absolutely nothing!  Sounds absurd doesn’t it?  What could be so important, so demanding that has taken my precious time to labour nothing whatsoever.

The answer is I’m not so sure.  Only by keeping a diary would I know the answer to that and I certainly don’t have the time for that as well!  As you can see a vicious circle without a doubt.  The late MP Tony Benn was a prolific diary writer and he did it with one single reason in mind.  To squeeze every single minute out of the day, to use the time available in that day to its maximum.  Paradoxically that took time but the time he took in doing so freed up the rest of his day to be productive.

And so the subject of wellbeing rears it head once again.  Wellbeing takes time and it takes effort.  Effort eats time and the wait for results takes time. Time, every police officer doesn’t have because of optional commitments. Coming into work, a trayful of jobs outstanding, yet being turned out straight away to deal with yet another incident. Like the Dead Sea, water flowing in but not being able to escape, jobs fester just as the waters within that land locked lake.

I am going on my advanced driving refresher tomorrow.  A police driving test to check competencies. In the system of car control there are five stages: Information, position, speed, gear, acceleration.  The information stage continually runs through the other four stages. Taking, using and giving information is crucial to avoid a collision and that takes time. Taking time to assess the road conditions and whats up ahead to the limit point of what we see to be clear.  Drive too fast, reducing our time to assess and we could miss that information.  The inevitable conclusion is a crash.

So, we need to make time.  What an odd turn of phrase.   You can’t make time anymore than you can jump out of your own skin. Perhaps what we mean to say is to use our available time more efficiently. And by the way I am shortly to turn that phrase on its head as well.  Because my time is not your time and though you will read this blog in its entirety I am at the point at this very moment where I have not yet written the explanation and therefore at this very moment, my moment not yours, you do not have the answer. Kinda make sense? So where is this all going?

Well a bit of a scientific background to lay the foundations to what will hopefully be the conclusion.

Einstein laboured to produce his general theory of relativity, part of that being that time was a fourth dimension.  What has been proved is that time is affected by speed.  Basically and it is basic because I am not a scientist.  Atomic clocks have been synchronised, one being kept on earth, the other sent into orbit around the earth. Over time ( that constant again) it was shown that the clock in space ran slightly slower than the one on earth.  Speed affected time.

There are a growing number of scientists coming to the conclusion that time indeed does not exist at all except at the very moment in which we exist and even then it is our time within that moment and not yours or mine.

There is also a growing philosophy called “Mindfulness” or living in the moment. Taking some of its roots from Buddhism, a religion or following much older than Einstein!

Essentially it is the moment you live in now. While you think about that, that moment has now gone. It never existed. Where is the evidence of that except in your own memory. Your memory is merely a record of that moment.  And the future, well that hasn’t happen yet so that definitely doesn’t exist; just a prediction or expectation.

And so to your wellbeing where does that leave you and me?

Your wellbeing is now, not one second ago and not one second in the future. Because if you take on board the last few paragraphs they cease to exist. Why do we shackle ourselves with “what if’s” and “what could have been?”

And so your future wellbeing that has not yet come into existence depends wholly on what you do NOW.

Grab this moment that is available to you, it will never come by again.

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WELL BEING: Every journey starts with a first step.


That is how the Chinese proverb goes.  Another saying is “The first step is the hardest.”   Especially so when getting out of bed for that early morning run!

This blog is dedicated to all those who have decided upon that monumental decision to take counselling.  I was prompted to write this after talking to a fellow brother on twitter this evening who is about to embark on HIS journey of discovery because ultimately that is what it is.  AND IT AIN’T EASY!

Anyone expecting a miracle cure is going to be disappointed.  Happiness, contentment, peace of mind, whatever you want to call it takes times and bloody hard work.  Indeed those that have come out of the other side comment on the fact.  You get nothing for nothing in this life.  To get something out of counselling you have to put something in.  In essence you have to give to live.

What brings an individual to the point where they say to themselves, “Well, I’m not sure I can do this on my own anymore.”  When I was younger I used to fly small aircraft and there is an old saying in aviation. “Always tell the pilot the state of his craft, unless there is nothing they can do about it.”  Well, as human beings there is always something we can do to change things for the better, ALWAYS.

My own personal experience was the passing of my mum in 2013. I under estimated my own grief despite thinking what I thought I was doing was correct by grieving in advance of the inevitable. For others, it is an incident at work, a point of singularity.  In some ways that is easier to pin point but no less less easy to cure.  I suspect for many, like me it was a slow drip, drip of stressful situations that we deal with as police officers.  One day, we discover, despite ignoring the warning signs, that the emotional barriers we tried so hard to uphold simply get too heavy.  For me, I slowly slowed down, swimming through treacle to the point where I was treading water.

I cannot stress this enough, excuse the pun!  If you have decided to go to counselling, even reluctantly you have have taken the hardest step of all.  Stick with it and hold your nerve because things do get better.  Perhaps not to your timetable but ultimately they do.  Things really do work out in the end and if it’s not right then its not the end.

Having made the decision that perhaps you cannot deal with what is going on in your life you will inevitably go through feelings of guilt, failure and weakness before your first session.  The rational mind, what ever that is will tell you, you are making a mistake, its not as bad as you first thought, making a fuss over nothing.  All very common feelings that your brain will use to convince you that nothing is wrong.  You get doubly confused for feeling these emotions.  More often than not the case of these emotions is pride; an emotion used correctly can change the world but used incorrectly can destroy your own.

So what can you expect from counselling sessions?  Do you expect to be instantly cured?  Do you expect to be given words of wisdom that will rock your world?  In reality is this what your are hoping for because you are simply too emotionally tired to carry your own burdens?

Well let me tell you this.  You get given nothing. Absolutely nothing!

The hardest thing in the world is standing in front of the mirror with the honestly filter turned on.  You may find, as I did that the few first few sessions were awkward.  You will spend the next few sessions talking bollocks, then just when you think that it is going no where something will come out of your mouth, something out of your sub conscious that will stop you dead in your tracks, so blindingly soaked in truth that it will spear your very soul.  Some call it an ephinany, that road to Damascus moment.  It happened to me and when it did, I cried and cried.  Even now, the thought of it causes tears to flow.

From then on it got easier but still I needed to work hard.  Its easy to give up after that moment. Like a course of anti biotic’s, you still complete the course after the symptoms have gone.  Even this week, I took a drink driver to the hospital where my mum stayed.  The reminder made me cry.  Only this time it lasted a brief moment, it didn’t consume me.

And so, to anyone that is about to start counselling.  You are amazing!  You have recognised a problem in yourself by yourself.  That is the hardest thing in the world to do.  Don’t be discouraged by your own feelings or indeed by the comments of others.  You are the bravest of the brave.

Perhaps in weeks, months or indeed years to come those detractors will also suffer the fate as yourself and perhaps they will come to you for advise.  You will feel a certain sense of satisfaction as they did not support you in your time of need but it will be quickly washed away with compassion.  Because you have been in that dark place also and the proof that you came out the other side is your willingness to help.

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LEADERSHIP: Bridge to engine room.


SLAs human beings we all have a life line, something we cling onto, indeed grasp onto with all our life, in order to survive. And so I have several questions for you. Which end of that rope are you holding onto to? Where is the other end tied to? And is that rope you are attached to in your hands or around your neck?

We are creatures of habit. None of us like change and those that embrace it are usually the one’s that ultimately lead us. Because we all get lazy, can’t be bothered figuring things out for ourselves and trust to more or less a degree those above us to make the right decisions.

So what are you clinging onto right now?

This life line, the security you hold on to. Have you asked yourself where the other end is attached to? If it was tied to an anchor would you not instantly let go? Unless of course you hadn’t bothered to check before it drags you down below the waves!. Equally as dangerous, is your life line actually attached to anything at all, only to be swept away with no point of focus? Have you checked? Finally, is this life line you hold so tightly onto in a place where you could actually let go if you wanted to. Like a hangman’s noose, this life line around your neck is just as likely to kill you. Essentially where are your foundations right now?

This is equally applicable to what ever you do, whether you are a coal face worker or a leader. Perhaps all the more scary though should a leader have based their foundations on something less than solid. For if they fall, without the right sort of life line in our own lives then do we not also follow?

B3GdSZDCMAA8Eb2It is a well documented fact that long term prisoners on their release are reluctant to leave their prison cells especially so with prisoners of war.  The very thing that took away their freedom provided them with security and safety.  Absurdly, their prison became their sanctuary!

So using this as an analogy I see this on a day to day basis. Leaders of all status entombed in their own four walls of an office with the door closed.  If the door is open, it is ajar ever so slightly.  Is this an indication of mindset?

And just where is that life line?

 

In the Royal Navy, the captain of the ship’s most important asset is not their first officer or their weapons officer.  No it is the ship’s engineer.  It is probably the person they speak most to on a personal level. They don’t go through a chain of command because they are too important to the survival of the ship.  Without the engineer the ship become’s a sitting duck in the water.  And so, just as the coal face workers are the engine then their immediate supervisors are the engineer’s.  Moving parts until they don’t.

A road policing officer will check their vehicle daily for defects, fluid levels and general wear and tear.  Once a week the vehicle is fully checked for this is their office and command post.  Essentially checking on the well being of the vehicle.

Imagine that the vehicle is your staff.  When was the last time you checked for wear and tear?  When was the last time you personally spoke with your engineer?

 

 

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