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Four Ways To Make Yourself Miserable

Feb 23

I do hope you aren’t tiring of me writing these little pieces. On the bright side I have confirmed that I enjoy retreating to my office, when not engaged in some semi-domestic, but simple, chore assigned by Moira. I’m not really skilled enough to take on a “real” domestic task – she learned that early in our (48 yr.) marriage.

As has been my habit, of late, I am writing this little piece “with tongue in cheek”; and I feel the need to let you know this, as I couldn’t live with myself if I offended you. What do they say? “Time heals all wounds” is how I think it goes? And it might be true however, we don’t need to let that interfere with our abuse of it. We can, if we wish, turn the past into a reliable and ongoing source of misery. To my knowledge humans have engaged in four reliable methods over the course of history to achieve this; and presented below is my bastardized version of them (the original idea belongs to one of my psychologist heroes, Dr. P. Watzlawick, who used to be a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University in California). What follows is my “twist” on them.

1. The Rose Coloured Glasses Technique
Even with a minimal amount of talent, a “greenhorn”, such as yourself can manage to view the past through filters that screen out all the painful stuff from the past and leave only the positive and the pleasant. It would take a true underachiever to look back and realistically view the past, including his career in the Force, as anything else but a period of largely happiness and reward; and be content to leave it there.

To speak of our younger days is only one angle on this technique. Another could be the pain you experienced around the break-up of a relationship; or your dissatisfaction, and anger, at the way you are treated by your employer. With both, and to obtain maximum effect, you must do your best to resist reason. When your loved one attempts to remind you how miserable you were before leaving; and how you longed for revenge and even freedom, do your best not to listen; and to convince yourself they are mistaken, or simply don’t understand these complicated private matters. Instead, do your best to persuade yourself that you “didn’t try hard enough”; “this time will be different”; this time will be “the new beginning”, and it will succeed where other attempts have failed. Convince yourself that this logic is composed of both internal and external consistency: “If losing/being mistreated by a partner/or an employer has caused me so much pain, then my misery can only be cured by having that partner/employer back in my life”. Proceed, then, to isolate yourself from others, become a “shut-in”, wander the house aimlessly, armed with your cell phone, just in case the magical call should come. Another option, should the waiting for the “outfit” to suddenly come to the realization of just how indispensable you really were, would be to “back off” on your dissatisfaction with the way you were treated, call them, and accept whatever crumb they have in mind for you. And most important, pay no attention to the alarms that are set off within you, each time you consider calling O.H.S., the office, your supervisor, or the DSRR!

2. Over the Shoulder
You may have noticed that the single greatest advantage of being obsessed with the past is it leaves very little room for focussing on what’s right under your nose, at present, or what may come in the future. By relentlessly obsessing about the past, you’ll be sure to avoid those spontaneous, logical adjustments of your view of the past. You certainly don’t want to be bothered by the notion that the present while, of course, holding some potential for continuing unhappiness, also holds a possibility for happiness, and the not often considered option of something completely novel! All of this to say nothing of the damage this “looking under your nose” strategy might do to the credibility of the “over the shoulder” strategy.

At this point, you can look back at that member you worked with who died young of a heart attack, you remember him/her, right? He was always looking back; couldn’t stop bitching. The next thing you heard was he went home one night after his shift was done and had a “major jammer”, that killed him. In fairness to him he probably thought he was doing something productive when he bitched, at least more productive than he felt at work; but in the end he was unable to produce, all ‘round (past or present!).

3. Who’s Responsible Anyway?
Throughout history, and often seen in great literature, there have been many examples of this question being asked either explicitly or implicitly. For example: in the Bible, we find Eve and that “little bite of apple”; in entertainment is the movie, “The Fatal Glass of Beer”; and in psychology/psychiatry best represented, in this case, by the more psycho-dynamic approach is Freud’s school of Psychoanalysis. This concept of determinism holds certain advantages. Not a lot has been said about them over the years amongst all the criticism; it may be time to pay attention. It seems there are certain irreparable and irreversible consequences to early (traumatic?) experience. If this early experience did not cause, or at least excuse our present behaviour, it most certainly should be regarded as determining its persistence in the present. I suppose another way of saying this would be: “OK, you’re right; I’m wrong; I stand here guilty as charged; I should have known better; but it’s far too late. Back there (pointing to the past), I was victimized, made a crucial error and now I am paying the price”.

You’re right, this argument has flaws, but maybe you can improve upon it. What if you hold no responsibility for what happened to you (the responsibility lays solely in the lap of your employer). No one can hold you responsible. Right? You are the purest “victim”, there has ever been. Right? Under these conditions, no one has a right to question your “victim status” or suggest, you take some responsibility; even if it’s only for putting yourself in the situation in the first place; or for “stopping the music”, “changing the tune”, and making yourself well? If anyone were to suggest such a thing (i.e. personal responsibility), that person is ignorant of what God, the world, fate, nature, chromosomes, hormones, society, employer, parents, other members, doctors, siblings, supervisors, support staff, and even friends can make you do. That person adds “insult to injury” and is guilty of being unscientific. Remember Dr. Freud? Anyone knows that our personalities are determined by past events; and the earlier they occurred in our development, the better. Moreover, everyone understands that, “what was once done, can never be undone”. (This last sentence, by the way, constitutes the underpinnings of what is often considered competent psychological treatment – refer to Mr. Hartl’s description of my therapeutic orientation in his complaint to the College of Psychologists).

On occasion, people spontaneously begin to feel better (so it seems, to them), most often in response to changes in their lives. However, if you are a real expert “misery-maker” you will remain undeterred. You might have your own “take” on this, as those are many; but the most common one is this: “It’s too late, I don’t want it any more”. This position will allow you to remain bound up in your hurt and anger at what has been perpetrated upon you, by your employer, and to prevent your wounds from healing; because Senior Management knows you won’t stop licking them.

And finally, the ultimate perfection of this technique lays in holding your past responsible for the “good stuff” in your life today and at the same time blaming the “good stuff” for your present misery. Get it?

4. More of the Same
I’m sure you have heard this one before? I think I may have even used it in a couple of pieces on your blog? A bloke is on his hands and knees crawling about under a street light looking for his keys. (He is in a drunken stupor). His neighbour happens by and he co-opts him into assisting with the search. After awhile with no success, the neighbour asks, “Did you lose your keys here under the light?”. “No” says the drunk, “…over there in the dark, but it’s too dark to see over there”. Is that thinking not somewhat “off the mark?” The search will obviously come up with nothing, if they continue where the keys aren’t.

The idea the drunk found appealing, resulted in the “more of the same” strategy. That is, if you “keep on doin’ what your doin’, you’ll keep on gettin’ what you’re gettin’,” which in this case is no keys and lots of frustration. This deceptively simple formula (i.e. “more of the same”) turns out to be one of the more effective recipes for disaster that has ever existed on the face of this planet. Over the span of our history it has become a reliable recipe for disaster. It has contributed to the extinction of entire species. In psychological jargon it is what is known as an “attribution error”, in this case to forces beyond one’s control; it consists of doggedly hanging onto adaptations and solutions that at one point may have met with some success, but things have changed over time and no longer are effective. And while we can’t react to the challenges presented by our environment in a random fashion, it is best if we have adequate adaptation, and we incorporate specific patterns of behaviour to ensure successful and (mostly) painless survival. Humans and animals, for some not yet well developed reason, come to regard these patterns as fixed and final – valid forever. |This rigid belief prevents us from recognizing that the patterns are bound to become more and more outdated with the passing of time, and all that holds. It also prevents us from perceiving other solutions (maybe better?) that could exist. And, moreover, they may have always been there! This process has a double effect; 1) it causes the chosen solution to become increasingly ineffective and the overall situation to become more and more hopeless and; 2) the increasing misery, in tandem with the belief in only one solution – leaves only one conclusion i.e. we must continue doing “more of the same”. And, of course, you continue to get “more of the same” result. The excellence of this illogic should be obvious – even a novice with little training should be able to pull it off. It is such a popular go to strategy, that folks like me have made a living dealing with its’ “fall out”, since the time of good Sigmund F. himself! However, most of us have preferred the terms “neurosis”, depression, or “anxiety”. The name however, is not important. All you need to produce (reliably) the misery you are looking for is to follow two more simple rules; 1) there is only one reasonable, logical solution to every problem, and if yours hasn’t yet worked, continue it its application; and, 2) under no circumstances doubt the assumption that there exists only one solution, and all you need to do is question its application and if in need of improvement “refine it”. There it is dear member, please accept the following “bon mot” below for having the patience to read it.

“The race is long – to finish first, you must first finish”.

Dr. Mike Webster, R. Psych.

PS – anyone heard from Mr. Paulson to arrange (see previous article) a “chain match”? I haven’t! Has he interpreted my invitation as a threat? Should I be ready to greet the NSIS at my door? Or maybe he’s (shall I say it…?) afraid of “Iron Mike”?


From → Other

  1. Anonymous permalink

    NSES or INSET which ever you prefer to call them now. Who knows with the new anti-terrorism bill what they are calling anything these days. Off now to do some shopping at WEM … laughable just laughable.

  2. In response to your well thought out questions in the last paragraph, perhaps all can be answered in the affirmative !

  3. Thomas Magnum permalink

    Excellent article! I will use the “rose color gasses” technique as I sit here and read the newspaper and notice all the tax increases, rent increase, etc. Yet our pay stays the same, and actually is decreasing due to higher pension contribution ratio, dental benefit reduction, etc.

    I look forward to retiring from this organization which I used to refer to as “the Walmart of the policing universe” and now refer to as “The Value Village of the policing universe”

    What a joke.

  4. EFAMIA permalink

    Here are three more reasons the Senior Executive Committee of the RCMP makes the lives of it’s members miserable and then wonders why morale is so low;

    1) Stifling and silencing debate with Gag Orders. Obstructing members from exercising Freedom of Association after the Supreme Court of Canada on Jan 16th, 2015 recognized that each and every member has the right to exercise. Isn’t Labour Relations Official RCMP business ? You will also note that there isn’t any representation from the grunts on any of these committee’s. Interesting since the decisions made in the next few months will have the most impact on those same grunts but they aren’t invited to the table. See recent email below from the RCMP CHRO;

    Labour Relations in the RCMP

    On January 16, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) rendered its decision in Mounted Police Association of Ontario v. Attorney General of Canada, declaring that the current labour relations regime in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is unconstitutional.

    An interdepartmental project group has been established to review this decision that includes Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Public Safety Canada and the RCMP.

    The SCC suspended its declaration for a period of 12 months. As a result, the Staff Relations Representative Program will remain in effect during the suspension period.

    Many interest groups are advocating specific positions as a result of this ruling and we anticipate this will continue in the days and months ahead. The RCMP has recently received requests to use our resources to distribute information pertaining to the ruling. I draw your attention to the RCMP Administration Manual, ch III. 2.1.1 (, “RCMP communications networks or systems will only be used for official business, which includes email and radio systems.” As such, these systems shall not be used to promote and/or advocate for or against a particular labour relations model or a particular association, or to disseminate information on the subject. Should employees wish to participate in these activities, they must do so on their own time and using their own resources, facilities and equipment.

    We are committed to keeping all employees informed as this project moves forward.

    Chief Human Resources Officer

    2) Denial of complicity, responsibility, accountability for their own incompetence and mistakes allowing leave banks to exceed limits. Failure to look after the well being of it’s members. Failing to acknowledge how short detachments have been over the years. Members not being able to take leave because of vacancies, work load, ODS, training, mandated leave restrictions and extra policing requests like the Olympics, Francophone Summits, APEC, G8’s and G20’s Failure to recognize they have taken on too many roles without the proper repourcing. How many times have you heard we must do more with less. See recent email below from the RCMP CHRO;

    Excess Annual Leave Banks NCOs/CMs

    During the January 19th Senior Executive Committee (SEC) meeting, it was determined that immediate, decisive action is necessary to reduce excess annual leave banks to appropriate levels. As defined in the Annual Leave policy (, non-commissioned officers and civilian members can only carry over a maximum of 400 hours of annual leave into a new fiscal year.

    It is SECs expectation that annual leave banks will be below the allowable level within two years. Consequently, members must make every effort to use his/her annual leave in the year in which they earn it, and enter all annual leave requests into HRMIS.

    The RCMP is cognizant that large-scale special events and unforeseen operational situations can result in members accumulating excess leave, however, when such events are over, members must then use their earned leave.

    Your role as a manager

    Managers are responsible for ensuring that the members they oversee are well and fit for duty. Accordingly, this requires consulting with members — every April — to develop a leave schedule that accommodates the members preferences and meets the operational needs of the organization. The following Administration Manual (AM) policy refers:

    * AM – The delegated level to whom the member directly reports, in consultation with the member, will make every reasonable effort to grant the member’s annual leave requests before the end of the current leave year to eliminate the additional carry-over.

    * AM – If an agreement cannot be reached, the delegated level to whom the member directly reports will schedule the member’s excess annual leave before the end of the current leave year.

    As previously stated by the Commissioner, leave does not create frontline gaps; ineffective organizational management of it does.

    We all benefit

    Annual leave is an earned entitlement that you work hard for; use it. Its purpose is to provide you with time away from work to do the things you enjoy, and prepare for future work-related challenges.

    Taking sufficient rest periods is essential to a healthy member/work environment, and ensures that we remain operationally ready to protect public safety.

    Chief Human Resources Officer


    Response from the SRR program;

    Excess Annual Leave Banks Constables, Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs), Civilian Members and Special Constables

    The Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) sent out a broadcast yesterday with regard to excess annual leave banks for regular and civilian members below the rank of Inspector, including Special Constables. As you may recall, the National Executive of the Staff Relations Representative (SRR) Program wrote to Pay Council in August 2012 requesting that this issue be researched. The resulting report is currently in the hands of the Commissioner.

    SRRs object to the CHROs communique with regard to excess annual leave. We are not advocating that members continue to build up their annual leave banks and we encourage members to take the leave that they earn. However, this situation cannot be corrected in a two year period with no impact to operations.

    Following are key messages that we asked the CHRO to consider prior to his communique:

    We all agree that members need to be able to take leave for their well-being. However, this is a resourcing problem, not the fault of members. The top three reasons for not taking leave are vacancies within the unit, detachment size and type of duties. With the resourcing shortfalls that the entire organization is experiencing, this is not a time when managers will be able to order members to take leave;

    Members with pensionable service may choose to resign immediately in order to cash out, if leave is imposed, creating more resourcing challenges on the unit;

    Special events such as the 2010 Olympics and G8/G20 compounded the problem because of leave restrictions. Members continue to respond to extraordinary events;

    Treasury Board authority for payout to regular and civilian members below the rank of Inspector and Special Constables has been suggested as one option to help to resolve the issue. Should authority be granted, a period of three to four years with payout options for members should be provided to bring leave banks in line; and

    This issue has been a problem for years and will not be addressed by management in two years time. Managers must have an open dialogue with members and be flexible in addressing the issue before imposing leave on a member.
    We would like to remind members that annual leave is an earned entitlement and cannot be taken away. When meeting with managers to discuss your leave banks, please be aware of the following policy:

    Administration Manual The delegated level to whom the member directly reports, in consultation with the member, will make every reasonable effort to grant the member’s annual leave requests before the end of the current leave year to eliminate the additional carry-over;

    Administration Manual – Allows for management to impose leave on a member which is not a desirable outcome given leave has been growing for years.

    Given that the increase in leave banks occurred over several years, we would expect managers to work with members in developing a leave plan that is reasonable and flexible without having to resort to imposing leave. We do not believe that forcing members to use their excess annual leave within a two year time frame is an effective solution.

    SRR Pay and Benefits Committee
    Pay Council Member

    3) Hiring Ret’d C/Supt. Brad Hartl to conduct a review of the Heath Services Regime at “E” Div. HQ’s. You will recall he was the Senior Officer who filed the complaint against Dr. Webster with the BC Psychology Board.

  5. That is so very true EFAMIA.

    1) So Brad Hartl, the guy responsible for abusing members’ health services files is hired back by the force in the same Division to review it??? No conflict of interest there. Unbelievable!!

    2) Now the CHRO is going to make our NCOs tell us when we are to take our earned leave. How many of us have wanted to take time off, but have been denied because we are running too short. Do you think the SEC has any trouble taking their time off?

    3) Maclean’s just put out a huge article on the crisis in the RCMP. All members should read it. Cate Galliford and Dr. Passey tell it like it is. SEC member Craig MacMillan responds how great the RCMP is and that we should have trust in the organization for resolving conflict. Google Craig MacMillan RCMP. Is this guy the best that the force could produce to tell members to trust management??

    4) How many of us have watched Tim Shields climb the ranks because he’s good in front of a camera, but fail when the rubber meets the road? Protected because he’s a commissioned officer.

    These guys are all just looking out for themselves and their careers. Like Paulson, they like to march in parades and give medals to each other while the rest of us just try to get through the shift.

  6. Thanks Mike for your concerns been there more than I’d like to say.
    It’s not easy to relive this stuff and it’s not easy to lock it up inside either.
    I’ve tried to deal with it both ways and you are right in believing it has its moments.
    Isn’t it the price you got to pay when you’ve been victimized for years and there’s just no one listening? Thanks again for reaching out.

    Wow!….. Why are we still recruiting and adding to the ranks and files of the RCMP when the force is still in such a mess? Doesn’t it seems illogical to all of you to be expanding or adding new recruits to a police force while putting those new green horn recruits in danger of being victimized as well, before a proper or permanent solution is found?

    Just my little opinion here but until we have a department with power and not like the departments we have right now with no bits to make sure these kinds of things don’t go undetected or acted upon it most certainly will continue and there’s nothing that you or I can do about it. For the most part your silence and loyalty to the force when it comes to the general public across Canada and your cover ups are a stench to our nostrils.

    If you all think the biggest crisis in the RCMP is found against the members of the force itself then you are still daydreaming out there in left field. Focusing internally on how you can fix things for yourselves and not externally to help others is telling me you still believe in entitlements rather than integrity.

    What part of To Serve & Protect isn’t clear anymore?
    Fight for the little guy and the rest will fix itself.

    What’s the worst that can happen to you?
    Those dirty shirts can have you shot to get you out of the way or you can face judgment someday for your silence? It’s not what they want you to do that important here and what you will be judged for it’s what you did or didn’t do that’s the issue here. Believe it or not it’s totally up to you, you’ve been reminded and now it’s totally up to you.

    Former Shediac Town Police Officer
    Who still lives with the effects of June 2, 1981


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