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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LEADERSHIP: Russian Dolls.


RD

In my exploration of leadership and well being I have tripped over several management terms and speaks along the way which to you and me mean very little. Yet their blue sky thinking does at times adequately describe a situation that many coal face workers find themselves in at the moment. Throughout this series of leadership and well being the term “silo thinking” persistently and naggingly kept cropping up. I hadn’t a clue what this meant other than it was another word for “Bunker.” After researching the matter it turns out that “Bunker” was entirely an appropriate term to describe what I am about to elude on.

The Silo Mentality as defined by the Business Dictionary is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company copy

So that was it. Departments not talking to each other, indeed going out of their way not to. In the police organisation the coal face worker is at the sharp end of the javelin. Behind the point, there are numerous departments and on top of that a management structure. There are several clandestine departments behind the point that must remain so in order to effectively carry out their work. At some point, forgive the pun, their work culminates in the coal face worker acting on the months of their hard work in bringing about an arrest and ultimately a conviction. Operationally they cannot share what they do and therefore very perfectly sit within the ‘silo thinking.” Now this thinking goes even further.

Silo is a business term that has been passed around and discussed at many board room tables over the last 30 years copy

So in this silo system thinking business where each department shares little to the other, protecting their own interest by doing so and in all likelihood be less than willing to throw a life line to a struggling department if it meant their own unit growing larger I ask this question. Are silo’s departments or individuals?

Undoubtably both and certainly individually because individuals make up departments. I don’t know what happens at the top but I can guess. I don’t know what happens within the management teams in the divisions but I can guess. Indeed I don’t know what happens within my own divisional management team but I can guess.

The reason I can guess is because I see ‘Silo system thinking” on a day to day basis. Not only within my own response team but that of other teams. Not only have teams become insular together with their supervision but also between individual officers. Silo’s within Silo’s, have become Russian dolls?

Is this a product of the police service, a product of insecurity due to the ongoing public sector cuts where we automatically draw our borders close to us or simply a product of the human condition?

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So what is the antidote to “Silo thinking?” The answer is Synergy. The RAF pay a lot of attention to synergy. Where the pilot and navigator work together producing more than their sum. The sum total of 2 + 2 = 5. Whether you are a senior manager or a coal face worker, ask yourself honestly; Are you in synergy with your colleague today?

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2014 …….. a time for reflection.


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It is a little known fact that when a road policing officer stands in front of a mirror, they do not see their reflection. That being said as 2014 draws to a close we all inevitably start to reflect on events that have transpired in the year nearly gone and in doing so we ultimately examine ourselves. We consider ourselves as police officers and think about that curse or gift, depending on which side of the emotional fence you sit; that is the ability or lack of it to walk on by, to not do nothing, to step in when most others walk on by whether on duty or off. It is this trait that you are either born with or your not. Those that aren’t wish they were and those that are, at times wish they weren’t.

It is fair to say that this year has seen some notable events regarding police pay and conditions and to be honest it is going to get a lot, lot worse; much worse! But more than that is the way policing in England and Wales will undoubtable change. With that, ultimately, in my opinion the whole fabric of society will change. For years the internet and social media have slowly become more important not only in our private lives but our corporate one’s. Up until now the old fashioned way of doing things has been a fall back. I predict that within the next couple of years, that fall back will disappear and with it traditional values and the sense of society. You only have to go back 20 years or so when a family got together at these times and played board games, positively interacting with each other. Now, kids stay in their rooms, emotional connected to their X Boxes yet in reality experiencing no true emotion at all. It is a problem we are storing up for ourselves and we are already starting to see the fruits of that rotten tree.

Indeed the more savvy police leaders also see a storm brewing. As experienced cops retire to be replaced by the next generation of police officers, perhaps starved of human contact I speak of above. The less savvy, with blinkers on, may not I think, be able to cope with the changing times and neither will the officers they employ. Not all but in my opinion a significant number.

And so as 2015 fast approaches perhaps it is more important than ever for us all, in whatever we do to ground ourselves in the reality of the moment. For most that means our family and friends. As many of you will know I love my bike. Cycling stopped me from falling into a deep black hole as a young teenager. And so, it is only right along with every other British cyclist we admire Bradley Wiggins, a man who has suffered his own demons along the way. In a candid interview on the radio, Brad describes how he had to ride at near 100% of his capability every single day but he also knew that he was not going to win every race. I thought that was pretty close to our day to day lives as serving police officers. The interviewer asked how did he deal with that pressure. His answer was simple yet profound. His Kids!. On each thumb Brad has tattooed the initials of his kids. Sat on his bike, time trialling, that is what he see’s. And when all said and done. Olympic champion, tour de France winner he grounds himself when his kids ask “What are we doing tomorrow Dad?”

Empires have fallen and civilisations have come and gone. Whilst your average Egyptian 4000 years ago may not have had an iPhone 6 they felt the very same emotions we all feel today. For you see with the ever changing world both now and in the past the one constant is the human being. We haven’t changed, we will never change.

2015 is nearly upon us. You don’t need the stroke of the minute hand past midnight to make a change. All it takes is a decision and that takes a split second.

Below is Bob Welsh, an retired state trooper. He sums it up for me, why I am a police officer.

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