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Sep 2, 2022

How our bodies experience and process stress and anxiety are important considerations when examining situations like police shootings. It is also important for therapists to understand when working with clients who have experienced trauma.



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mike or like the facebook page at psych with mike now here's psych with mike
welcome into the psych with mike library this is dr michael mahon and i am here with intern michael and mr brett newcomb
what's this how you doing everybody i i you know we i did this again i did it
again i'm so used to there only being two people in the studio that when we have more i don't know what to say so
i apologize how are you gentlemen doing good somebody has to be in charge yeah as
well be one of us might as well yeah yeah so who's got gas
um i don't know i can't go [Laughter]
yeah so uh i wanted to talk about something i don't
know um how familiar that the two of you were with the
general adaptive syndrome before i sent the article did were you
guys you know to me again and especially after having read the article which i thought was fine
it's just a rehash and restatement of old thoughts under a new name
well i mean sally who who started this work i mean this was back in the 1940s so so i mean this was
a work that i don't that i think gets less
talked about and you're right people repackage it but the reason
why i wanted to talk about this today is actually twofold number one is that the
general adaptive syndrome is a very good biological explanation of how we
experience stress and or anxiety certain types of that but number two is
that we've seen so many examples of police shootings and
all of these things that are going on and one of the things that i don't hear being talked about and i want to say up
front that i am not condoning shooting an unarmed man i'm not condoning police
brutality none of these things are right and appropriate they should be investigated they should be stopped
but what i am saying is that if we look at the general adaptive syndrome there are
things biologically that are going on in the body of a human being that we can't expect to be turned off
just because something changes in three seconds and so that needs to be a
part of what we look at we need to look at the biology of the human being and
talk about how do we incorporate that into the training that we are giving
these individuals and so then the second part of it for me is
because when i worked at the eap we had the st louis police department
contract and so whenever there was a police shooting we would have to
do therapy with these gentlemen to get them back on to their job and for
therapists who are working with individuals in whatever capacity whether they're first
responders they're they're riding the ambulance whether they're going on to the you know responding to fires or
responding in police matters this is something that therapists need
to be aware of this is the biological process that's happening in the human
person and so then when you are debriefing them that needs to be something that you are cognizant of
i think there are two parts to this right one one is that in in situations
of shooting people can go through all five stages of general adaptive syndrome right you're allowed
to get to the exhaustive syndrome um where i see a lot of popularity in
culture and in academia right now is work by robert zapolsky where he's talking about human beings
not being allowed to get into that exhaustion syndrome so they do further damage to their bodies he calls it
speciocentric or speciesocentric uh stressors and this idea that only
human beings can can cognitively place themselves under such stress that it it
uh has a negative cortical response oh i think that's
interesting to consider you're absolutely right when it comes to law enforcement officers as well um that
there are uh different psychologies and different biological underlyings for those psychologies uh in high stress
situations um one idea that comes to mind just the contagious shooter syndrome
um the fact that other officers are much more likely to shoot if they're in one shot by an officer
so how do we how do we make people aware of that bias training with with law enforcement and
the criminal justice system and progress forward i think we should go with the barney fife
solution you only get one bullet
no i'm just joking so what's going on brad what are you what i'm just thinking about the things you're saying and
i have incredible sympathy for a police officer in a high-risk situation like a
high-speed chase in traffic where gunshots are fired somewhere by somebody
and you ultimately go through whatever you have to go through to get the car stopped and
the guy gets out of the car and he runs away and you're adrenalized to the max
because you've been driving high speed through traffic with potential gunshots worry about somebody that you care about
or know getting harmed or shot or killed or what have you and worry about yourself am i going home today you know
i got to do this job am i going home today and then you get somebody who is
running away or you get somebody that's giving you lip or attitude when you stop them and all of your
human impulses try to break through whatever training you've had and then i'm concerned about
small town cops in america who don't get good training or don't get any training they get a gun and a badge and they're
told okay go get them and they have whatever biases and prejudices and
ignorance they bring to the job in addition to a sense of responsibility and a need for courage it's an
impossible situation right so in some respects it sounds like us just talking into the wind about ethereal
intellectual concepts it's a real world crisis that we need to have
a way to explain so that police officers can embrace the concept
right that there's something worth obtaining right uh like debriefing therapy talking people
that that aren't on the job but expecting that those people can
understand you and respect you and might be able to help you right then the flip side of that is the guy
who's in the car running away you know what what are his uh adrenal responses what's he going
through if i'm a black man and i'm being chased by a policeman i'm thinking there's a 70 chance i'm not going to
survive right so what does that do to my body my attitude that's my response so it's a it's a really complex and you've
hit on exactly the point that i wanted to make with this whole topic and that
is that both individuals are experiencing exactly this kind of physiological
response and you know i want to say up front i believe in systemic racism i'm
not trying to say that there aren't biases on both sides of this equation what i'm trying to say
is instead of talking about oh people are bad and trying to keep other people
down let's talk about what is the biology of what's going on here how do we use that to inform us to be able to
do things differently inform us but not limit us yeah i mean like the young man that was killed last week
did all the stupid things that he could possibly do to ensure his death i mean he put on a ski mask as he broke from a
car and ran away from police and contagion effect he was shot 60
times offering no threat no immediate in the moment threat to the officers he may
have offered threat in terms of driving recklessly trying to escape driving dangerously what have you
adrenalizing them in their response how much of their response is power syndrome
yeah i'm a white man with a gun i'm in charge how dare you uh challenge that authority and the
psychology from the victim side i mean i understand that he's running from the cups because he knows he's got a 70
chance of not going home tonight yeah he probably put on the ski mask not you know because he's now trying to be a
criminal we don't know but he just got stupid whatever well because if he he's probably thinking okay i gotta you know
protect my identity from the cctv and all these cameras right and so if i so then this is a stolen car
i don't know and then they found a gun in it was it a spare drop gun or was it the gun that supposedly was fired from
the car or was there even shots fired from the car we don't know right supposedly this is so
and this is the that's exactly the point that got me thinking about this is
you know whether there were shots fired from the car or not what i believe is that the policemen
that state that they saw shots fired from the car believe that statement and
they will pass lie detector tests in their perception of reality they believed that that happened and that
contributed to their actions but i also think as a more fundamental concern
men and i don't know about women men who are drawn to
police officer work especially in the south especially in
rural communities tend to be more macho dominant and if you challenge
their machismo they want to physically beat you into submission they want to
take you and make you surrender and break you if they can my father was one
of those he was a cop after world war ii he was a very violent man at home and away from home and whenever
somebody challenged him he wanted to break them down and beat him and or shoot him or whatever
uh and i know that he i don't know but i wonder was he representative of a
group and can we do something about our selection process that hires these individuals and and go ahead you guys
i think you're there's an exhibition of a a response
mode here right you're saying that these individuals are experiencing a low feeling of control and a low feeling of
predictability so that really puts them in high stress panic absolutely so how can we
as as therapists or as psychologists as clinicians train
police officers that one right their primary job is crisis response and then
the first three steps of that of crisis response are response to itself so getting more information containment of
the situation and de-escalation of the situation so they have to be trained to de-escalate the situation they may also
have to be trained to de-escalate themselves right and yes and that's the part the the self-soothing and the kind
of every cop anywhere knows that the single most dangerous call is a domestic call
right so how do we move them we can't really change the predictability of the situation any of these situations are
going to be low predictability but maybe we can change the level of control uh
law enforcement feels over their situation so we move them out of panic and into defense mode
well another good example last week's fourth of july parade when the cops caught that guy they
asked him to please kneel on the ground and he did now he wasn't physically resisting at that point
but those guys were trained differently than what i've seen before they just blow him away then jump on top of him and punch
him and tase him and and beat him uh they didn't kneel on his neck but was that really because he was a white
girl i mean we don't know that sick uh and was it because he adopted a
submissive attitude right from the minute they stopped it yeah yeah so you know but when we talk about the idea
of solutions to me there are two uh real qualities to that that i'm not
sure we have any control over the first one is that we have to start to think in
our society about what are the things that we believe are truly important
right should you be making billions of dollars literally billions of dollars a year as a hedge fund manager when a
policeman is making thirty two thousand dollars a year and if we increase the
amount of money that we invest in those social goods do we then draw from a
larger pool of qualified individuals so in the last 15 years the federal
government as well i don't know i correlate to time frames
but one of the things that they have done is arm local police departments with military caliber weapons
tanks anti-personnel machines uh riot control machines
and you know there's the law of the hammer and you you know the law of the hammer if you give a three-year-old a hammer
everything is a nail right and so they have this equipment they want to use it and they want to they want to have a
swat team you've aldi had a swat team swat team doing respond right well
didn't show up the guy that was there only part-time that that was there and had the bead on the perpetrator was
waiting for right approval that he never got yeah and so then missed the shot right uh so you're now you're hitting on
my second point which is we have to have some kind of
realistic conversation about the proliferation
well so let me come back and finish my thought well because you know about funding yeah uh
funding individuals so paying them more money paying individuals more money yes not giving departments more money to
spend on fun toys and gadgets uh the ability to track your cell phone the ability to break the encryption all of
those kind of things cost money as well and that's where the money that we give police departments tends to be going
and to administrative level responses but in the city of st louis nine-minute
wait for an emergency call to be answered by the police department they have two separate systems one for police one for
fire which makes no sense at all so you got to call the right people and then you have to wait because they don't pay
the people answering the phone they haven't upgraded the computers they don't know what to to how to prioritize
and respond to the calls and so people are dying because they can't get an answer from a 9-1-1 call
so if you're talking about investing money or time i pay i mean what's the best use of the money pay those people
more salary more for training more for equipment it's that's what i'm saying we have to
have that conversation so your leadership is another question here why absolutely going to
they these toys are fun right these are fun toys encryption breaking tanks these
aren't toys um the very real toys with very real consequences um
what if we ran police departments like we run tech corporations where when we have an influx of money we
prioritize things that will garner responses so hang on let's let's take our break
and let's come back and pick that point up and then we'll garner a response right what helps
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it's friday it's psych with mike okay we're back so you were talking
about if we somehow created and whether it was an algorithm or not
but but some kind of checklist that graded the way in which the police were
delivering their their their services and we did that more like it was a privatized
institution would that create a different outcome well we do have a checklist of
a theoretical societal checklist requirements that we have for police officers and we and we are for police
departments and we enact that through through democratic voting vote for those people to put them into those positions
based off of a feeling of how good or bad they are performing
so i question whether or not that's an effective
method sometimes um is there a better way to do that can we
as a society hire better leaders and pay them more well how can we hire the ceo of a
criminal justice department yeah i mean larger cities do do that yeah for instance the chicago police department
does this um where they do bring in consultants from business and from industrial and organizational psychology
uh backgrounds to take a look at their police department and find where are my holes where can i
be using my funding so i i appreciate your thinking i don't know
that i agree with it and the comparative basis that i have for saying that is as a school teacher
every year my school district would hire expensive outside consultants to come in
and have faculty meetings for the district teachers all together and those
people tell us how to be better teachers how to better manage our classroom and i'm sitting out in the crowd and all the
people i'm sitting here are scoffing under their breath saying this is a complete waste of time i need to be in my room getting my bulletin boards ready
i need to be going over my student lists i need to be making lesson plans why am i listening to this bozo he's not in a
classroom in this district he doesn't know what i deal with and i think that police officers would
be similar you have been under fire you haven't been under fire my city right i don't know and then you have
within the context of the police officers in st louis you have the black police officers union the white police officers union the general police
officers union and then you have the administrative system
so and so my first point is if we had a different financial structure and we
actually invested in the things that we believed as a society were important i i'm a big advocate of that i know that
that's big that that's a heavy lift my second point is that if the police
had some way of being able to know if i see a gun that's a bad guy right
now you don't know that because the proliferation of guns is so ubiquitous
everybody gets to have a gun everybody gets to carry a gun openly and so now whenever the police show up they always
have to assume that there's a gun they always have to assume that that could be potentially used against them if we had
fewer guns if we had a real conversation about how we want guns to be seen or
used in our society we don't have a conversation the only conversation we have is you have a second amendment
right to have a gun and so we have no restrictions on it the only thing they say they say two things thoughts and prayers second amendment
um but there are some new things being done even in the st louis area
which involves sending trained mental health professionals mental
health professionals thank you on calls that
are potentially violent and having those people supported by an armed police officer but
not have an armed cop have to be the enemy to absolutely so you don't have the law of the hammer in operation as uh
efficiently uh as you historically have had yeah the other thing i love about this this new
initiative that st louis is really taking forward is the idea of involving community leaders in these calls as well
we're not only trying to send the right professional to the right call but we're also looking at church leaders or
neighborhood watch leaders or people who are in their community who know their people and who can effectively say yes
that person's a danger to themselves and others right now this is what they need they do need it they do need armed
police response or know that person is uh unhoused and mentally unwell they are
being a disturbance but they're not violent and maybe they just need a visit from a social worker absolutely and and
the police know now they're able to know where the concentration of danger is where the
concentration of gunfire shots and killings are in the community and so they know some
neighborhoods it's extremely rare and highly unlikely that that's what we're facing in other neighborhoods that's
almost exactly what we're going to be facing so if you get the right combination of public servants
who can do their jobs you have a better opportunity
but you still don't have you and i don't know that there is a universal answer but we take one step at a time and try
to so let's bring this for the time we got remaining let's let's bring this back to a
clinical discussion so when we have this particular police officer who is
involved in a shooting and he's got to be debriefed before he can be cleared to go back into service
what should the therapist be doing to address that man in that room or that
person i should say in that room first you have to evaluate the mental
state of the individual are they consenting to feedback at this point right are they okay well and that's
issues so that's a good point so if a person is in a position to not hear what
you're saying it doesn't matter what you say right well and as a clinician one of the things that you have heard
from clients is have you been through my experience were you sexually abused were you abused at all were you an alcoholic
uh have you ever been in prison then how can you advise me if you haven't had that experience you can't advise me
cops are gonna have the same reaction oh yeah oh i know because i've done it but uh uh uh you know and then people say
that all the time about substance abuse well if you've never abused a drug you haven't been raped yeah you can't you don't know and and what i say to people
is this you're correct i've never experienced what you experienced but what i know is
there are four primary human emotions that every human being has and i have those emotions i know how those emotions
get triggered i know what it feels like to be scary i hear that as an argument and i quit listening i don't want to
hear it okay i would want you to
defuse my hostility and if you rebut me that isn't defusing
me okay so how do you show empathy through that how do you how do you forward your empathy so that that
diffusion and that understanding can take place i think you use reflective listening i hear what you're saying you
think i don't know enough to be able to be helpful to you can you tell me more what would be helpful to you
if i did know enough what could i say i'm not challenging you i'm not
disagreeing with you i certainly confess that i've not been in that situation or walked in your shoes
but i want to know can you talk to me and you just get them to talk and as they do that windows open that's what
therapy is about that's how it works as those windows open i think those are your opportunities for training
absolutely we talk about um in crisis intervention and crisis response we talk about using
transactional analysis to look at different situations and and respond in different ways right can we
do open-ended questions can we um can we do minimal encouragements and
paraphrasing right absolutely all those things help and so much of it in a crisis especially is uh like blah blah
ginger it's just background noise conversation while you wait for a window to open and then when the window opens
you seize that moment for connection for tension reduction um and the
key term that i use is reflective listening if you feel like i hear you
and understand you you calm down and imagine if we
required police officers well what if we paid them more in two who required a four-year degree and part of that
four-year degree was was counseling or therapy i mean i think that that's
that's a of way to think about it but i'm not sure that i want my law
enforcement officers to be therapists i don't know that i mean because those are
two different specialties and i think there is a place for law enforcement and i think there is a place for therapy
that's why i like the idea of therapists working in conjunction with the police department because i
think those are two different things like i wouldn't want a therapist to get training as a police officer i don't
i want there to be fewer guns not more guns but uh you know that that puts me in a
certain segment of the population i even saw that a republican politician in texas the other day was suggesting we
should arm students yeah well that's a good idea how young
i quit listening if they get their heritage card i was doing some confirmation bias research and i changed
channels yeah that's uh that seems like a recipe for disaster
but you know i need to be able to hear that person's point of view and
say i respectfully disagree and here's why one hopes yeah
so uh going back to this idea of the policemen in the room
my concern always was when i was working with law enforcement is that they are
very very resistant to the idea of self-care that they hear that as
a weakness as a personal failure they should be able to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps they should be able
to be stopped but you also don't acknowledge that police spend their days dealing
with the dregs of humanity the human condition is the most negative form
and that's poisonous and so over time not just in the moment of a crisis somebody
goes into a building where the shot's been fired and bodies laying on the ground but just
ordinary everyday moments you deal with corruption you deal with hostility you
deal with viciousness victimization wounded people of all kinds of wounds
and it poisons you if you don't have a way to get rid of that or reframe that
every day that you go to work so i think when we talk about counseling for police officers uh or
training i think part of the conceptualization of a training module involves
how do we prevent them from getting poisoned by
the negativity of humanity that they experience every day and they do that through self-care
that's the only way that you can do it you have to do something else to number
one detoxify yourself but number two then replace that with positive energy
that makes you feel recharged and rejuvenated and and i just i i'm in my
own personal experience that's that's a hard sell yeah yeah and and so you know
and and i want to say up front i have no idea what police officers go through on a daily basis i've never been a police
officer and so i don't have that experience but what i would be
interested in is if there are police officers who are listening to this is
for them to inform us what would they find beneficial to hear
from someone when they are in those debrief sessions or even if they just sought therapy on their own which is
rare but could happen what do what would what would be beneficial for them to hear
in that area of self-care what's what's language that would be less
cause them to put up then less likely to cause them to put up a wall more likely to be impactful and and and language
that they could hear in that realm of self-care because i don't know what it is because
i don't know what their life is like so i do what i what i normally do and i
don't know if that's effective great question so hopefully those musings were
beneficial for somebody out there um i thought we got a little bit passionate and fired up about it so i think we had
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