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Random Thoughts: To Provoke!

Jan 20

G’day all! Looking forward to your weekend? I wish you a rewarding one. I could have wished you a “happy” one but I’m sure you remember our recent discussion on “happiness” as a goal? I have some time on my hands between patients, so I thought I would give you something to cogitate upon over the weekend; and yes, to see if I could stimulate some discussion amongst you. (I offer the usual proviso that I do not make these comments that are about to follow as suggestions for you, or as your therapist). I know you are out there, by the numbers of you who “tune in” and have a read; and I am amazed that you don’t contribute a comment from time to time. Intimidated? Conflicted? Frightened? Riddle me this? Would you be so fearful of speaking with a UNION (e.g. MPPAC) behind you? Do you ultra-conservative anti-union types have a reason for not expressing yourselves other than fear? Nothing to say? Do you like working in conditions that are laughable to your Municipal and Provincial colleagues? That’s not what I hear from those you “coffee” with. Or are you the type who aspires to “officer-ship” and will tolerate anything (even on the backs of your brothers and sisters) to get there?

Please remember that Canada is a “free” country (even more so now that Mr. Paulson’s evil twin has been defeated at election). With regard to your employer, the Senior Executive can’t divest you of your birthday, and murder is still against the law the last time I checked! To the business at hand… may have read these thoughts previously throughout the blog in one article or another. I’ve continued to think about the issues behind the earlier comments and will try to assert them more clearly and provocatively in this brief offering:

* There are some who still believe that the RCMP can exist in its’ present form; “it just needs better management”. I will disagree. Civil (Mechanical?) engineers, the folks who build railway bridges have a trick they use to see whether a bridge needs replacing or not. They will place an added burden on an old “rickety” bridge; and in some cases the old bridge will tighten up and become operable again for a period of time. In other cases the old bridge will just “cave in”. Time for a new bridge! The RCMP has proven itself to be of the latter variety. Time for a “new look” RCMP. (Not as many “officer-ships”?) RCMP Senior Management for decades, have run the “outfit” as if it was their personal country club. They have run it into the ground with their “march-west” mentality. Some of them may have been good police persons, but all of them are “piss- poor” managers (i.e. business people). You need a combination of both to manage a successful police service.

* I’m of the opinion that emergency and military personnel believe that they have a monopoly on trauma. (Just to clarify, trauma is a potential human response to horrific or unusual life threatening or life taking events. It is not a clinical diagnosis, but a noun that can be used similarly to “stress”. You might think of it as similar to an acute, or in some cases, chronic “shock”. It does not equate to the highly controversial “PTSD”). In my practice as a psychologist I have worked with a variety of patients and problems, from police persons, addicts and criminals to “ordinary” folks with emotional issues, chronic pain, marital conflict, and with combat troops. It is my belief that human beings including Females, Indigenous Peoples, Blacks, Gays, the Disabled, the Chronically Ill, the Homeless, the Mentally Challenged, Jews, and Lesbians (and I’m sure I have missed some) are routinely violated both overtly and covertly on a regular basis; and that the psychological effects experienced by these traumatized populations can be passed down from generation to generation. (How would those of you who struggle with a threat to, or loss of life during the course of your work square your experience with someone who for example, lives with chronic and deteriorating Multiple Sclerosis on a daily basis? To many of them you are referred to as a “normie” i.e. “a normal” person). It’s time for radical trauma work! This means getting over ourselves and bringing together radical insights, seriously critiquing the field as it stands, articulating a radical and broader theory of trauma, incorporating a transgenerational view, and drawing more realistic and humane implications for treatment. Agreed?

* Are you familiar with “the adversity hypothesis”? It reminds us that people require adversity, trauma, and set backs in order to grow, find fulfillment, develop as human beings and build inner strength. This can’t be true you say? For decades, a tonne of literature has accumulated suggesting the negative effects of trauma and stress on human beings. Of course the effects of trauma may contribute to the likes of depression, anxiety, and heart disease, however more recent literature is beginning to address the hypothesis that stress and trauma can also be good for us (e.g. Haidt, 2006). These benefits are referred to in this literature variously as “benefit finding”, “posttraumatic growth”, and “stress related growth”. What was it Nietzsche (1889) said long before the present “PTSD” craze? Oh yeah, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”!! Not to belabour the issue, but the PTG (posttraumatic growth) literature seems clear on this; PTG refers to 3 consistent benefits that people report following adversity. They are: 1) finding new strength and abilities; 2) improving relationships; and 3) experiencing a positive change in priorities and philosophies. Where do you stand?

* This one came to me while on a bus ride home from the LMD. I don’t think it’s mine originally, but I can’t get it out of my head and think a lot about it. What is implicit in all of this is that “trauma symptoms” are not just the sole purview of severely traumatized people or populations. Some seem to me to be heightened awarenesses that arise out of experience; suggesting that trauma is not a “you have it or you don’t” kind of thing, but more that it exists on a continuum where we all have some and the amount can vary with time and experience. (Realize that I have strayed into the theoretical here….but why not, we are speaking of the popular theoretical ghost, “PTSD”). Most of these much discussed “PTSD” related symptoms (and they looked different in times past e.g. mutism, trembling, deafness, paralysis, blindness…….hmmm, if “shell shock” in WWI and WWII equates to “PTSD”, I wonder why this would be?) seem to be constructive ways of conducting oneself in uncharted territory; for example, the symptoms of dissociation and numbing. While they no doubt can be automatic responses, they also appear to be purposeful ways of “getting by” and with a history of success. In my mind these so-called symptoms might be better termed as “coping skills”. And what do you know, a term has been developed to describe them as such; i.e. “coping ugly”. Didn’t we expand on this term in a recent post?

*Seems I have spent more time on a topic that I recently pledged not to. However, I must admit that all the (ill-informed?) chatter in the area of traumatic responses does get my juices flowing. Please allow me ( just a moment……how the hell would you stop me?) to finish on this note. It seems that the “diagnosis de jour” (i.e. “PTSD”) is not much more than a grab bag of contextless symptoms (perhaps mitigated by secondary reinforcement……… on both sides of the desk?); anyone’s informed and careful reading of the DSM, and the “state of the art”, would arrive at this conclusion. It is my opinion (and the opinion of others more learned than I), that these contextless symptoms are unrelated to the complexities of people’s lives, the contexts in which they live, and the social structures that define them. The result is an individualizing of social problems and the pathologizing of traumatized people; to the neglect of human contexts and normal human responses. What then are we to make of the present “PTSD” craze being propagated by both mental health professionals, who should know better, and their misinformed patients who are looking for answers to explain their pain?

Well, there you have it. I admit I am trying to provoke you (do ya’ think?) into engaging with each other as this blog was meant to do. I’m hoping to sit back over the ensuing days and read your thoughts. (Do you suppose we will see this article posted on some of the other blogs related to emergency personnel; and presently obsessed with the “diagnosis de jour”?). I will leave you with a quote from one of my favourite people:


Dr. Mike Webster
Reg’d Psychologist

  1. Anonymous permalink

    I think I need to caution those that believe that MPPAC will change the RCMP. This has nothing do with being anti-union or because of my feelings about the MPPAC and how it’s affected my role within the RCMP. Why I’m speaking is because I’ve worked in a unionized environment that managed it’s employees the same way the RCMP does. Threats and intimidation are common place and having a union doesn’t change that. The RCMP won’t change with or without a union unless there is a desire to change or they are forced to change. I’m afraid many are going to be sadly disappointed when things just continue on as they do now. Bullies permeate through out the entire organization from constables through to the senior ranks. This isn’t going to change just because a union comes in. Our Public Servants are unionized and yet they still get bullied. I don’t think things will ever change until recruiting changes and employees are held accountable for their behavior. You can’t have a respectful workplace when nobody within the organization even understands what that means.

  2. Here’s a few;

    Go Back to Go Forward
    To Serve, Protect & Lie; THE NEW POLICE NORMAL
    TORONTO: Const. JAMES FORCILLO is found guilty of ‘ATTEMPTED MURDER’
    but that might be temporary.

    The problem is how we define (COPs); Community-Oriented Policing.
    Maybe we should change the name to better suite the force and the times, that would certainly be a change in the right direction, if nothing else will.

    All I can say is smile and people keep those cameras rolling.

  3. Bourque, Clarence : Attempted Murder – File: 2008-239460

    During the early morning hours of June 2, 1981, Constable Clarence Bourque, a member of the Shediac Town Police Force, was on patrol. At approximately 1:15 a.m., Cst. Bourque observed a male individual walking (stumbling) on Main Street near the high school. Cst. Bourque believed the individual was intoxicated and subsequently approached him. Upon being asked, the individual returned to the police vehicle with Cst Bourque but refused to get in and ran. Cst. Bourque gave chase and when the individual stumbled and fell, Cst Bourque attempted to handcuff him. A struggle ensued, during which the individual got a hold of Cst. Bourque’s revolver and shot him at least three times. The individual left the scene in the police vehicle which was later located semi-submerged in the waters of the Northumberland Strait at Cap Bimet, N.B.

    Should you have any information on the attempted murder of Clarence Bourque, please contact the RCMP Major Crime Unit (South) at 506-452-3491 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477).


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