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Articles are invited on all RCMP related topics. Opinion? Personal experience? Suggestion? Let's hear from you! Relevent comments are welcome and will be moderated.

Resilience: Chapter IV (A Paradigm Shift)

G’day all! It seems as if it hasn’t been that long since I wished you the last “g’day”? Just a handful of days? As this is your blog, I thought you should know the numbers (of readers)have fallen off considerably. It seems you prefer beating up on old “Bobbles” over reading the “straight goods” on this posttraumatic stress issue? Please remember I am not offering you therapy nor am I presenting my own opinions. I am reporting the “state of the art” in the area of resilience, trauma, and “PTSD”. What I am offering is the most objective perspective we have at the moment of a very contemporary psychological concern.

Up to date literature reviews done in the area are careful to point out that in terms of “PTSD”……… vulnerability, and resilience are opposite sides of the same coin. There are easily identifiable vulnerability factors involved in “PTSD”; including genetics, individual risk factors (e.g. parenting), personality adjustment (e.g. ego defenses employed, introversion vs. extroversion), cognitive style, and information processing. These findings are recognized as not directly addressing resiliency when confronted with a traumatic exposure; rather, they are thought of as an interrelated complex of psycho-biological processes that influence a number of other factors. The latter include: a genetic predisposition to trauma; likely protective factors developed through childhood; the mechanics and moderating functions of personality processes, and; the nature and cause of prolonged stress response patterns in the central nervous system (e.g. traumatic memories).

Another review of research in the area, concerned more with a broad range of contexts e.g. combat, natural and technological disasters, torture, the Holocaust, and duty-related trauma was reduced to seven factors associated with resilience (the other side of the coin). The researchers discovered that there were similar groups of variables across various studies that could be used to predict positive mental health and resilience in these survivor populations. They included: locus of control; self disclosure; a sense of belonging to a group; the perception of personal and social resources; pro-social behaviour; the ability to find meaning in the traumatic exposure; and, a connection with other survivors. It was suggested that it was the interaction of these factors that created resilience. The resulting combination was a conglomerate of internal factors (e.g. locus of control, cognitive attributions related to personal strength, and a sense of self as a survivor), coping skills (e.g. belief in one’s personal and social resources, and the capacity to find meaning), and behaviour in the recovery environment (e.g. self disclosure, altruism, pro-social behaviour, and bonding with other survivors) that stimulated resilience.

Putting it all together we could look at your situation and perhaps say something like this: effected members who have an internal locus of control (i.e. a sense of self efficacy) and who have found meaning in the traumatic experience might be able to start a set of processes that would allow them to create a self picture by bonding with similar others who are in turn seen as resources for coping with emotional, social, and cognitive needs. Moreover, within this group of survivors our members’ attachments might facilitate self disclosure and the opportunity to behave pro-socially and create positive emotional states as part of getting out of one’s own head and into a meaningful life. These pro-social behaviours have the potential to reinforce one’s personal systems of meaning (refer here to Dr. Viktor Frankl and his “Man’s Search for Meaning”) including the strengths and benefits of survivorship. (Several years ago I approached your employer to support such a therapy group but was denied, due to my refusal to “go along to get along”).

One last point before we shut it down for this go ’round. One’s symptom profile following a traumatic exposure could be the result of personal vulnerability or a type of pre-traumatic vulnerability (e.g. previous traumatic exposures or pre-existing psychological disorders). In some of us a series of traumatic exposures may increase our resilience; in others it could weaken our resilience. These processes have been referred to consecutively as the “steeling effect” and “prior vulnerability”, in relation to the avoidance or development of a chronic stress response.

So there it is, for this time. Are you beginning to get the picture? This posttraumatic stress response is not a “one size fits all” kind of thing. Just because you are, for example, exposed to the fire of Fort McMurray doesn’t mean that you are going to develop a chronic stress response and everyone’s symptom picture will be exactly the same. And if you do exhibit an acute stress response……maybe you should be…….you’re human aren’t you? How much experience have you had with raging infernos devouring your community? And what do you suppose will happen if you tell yourself you are “sick” and start fighting against your human response, rather than accepting it and gradually assuming more and more of your daily activities? Of course, it will fight back! And now who’s responsible for the problem? Moreover, we can never forget our hero “Freddy” Nietzsche’s take on things……..”IF IT DOESN’T KILL ME, IT WILL ONLY MAKE ME STRONGER”. We’ll talk again.

Dr. Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist
#0655

Resilience: Chapter III (Appraisal)

Good day to you all! Especially to those who have been “liking” Re-sergeance. I encourage you to submit your opinion or something on a related topic. It matters not whether you are a member of the police community. The perspective of those served is welcome. As promised in the last submission, a brief look at “the appraisal process” is presented here. I would like you to be exposed to what seems, without a lot of argument, the key to much of human behaviour. The process is most certainly at the centre of, and can moderate, your response to stressors of all types including traumatic.

To begin it is not news that our perception and appraisal processes can act as moderating factors with “PTSD” and other comorbid (occurring with) psychological conditions. There is a vast literature on coping that supports the idea that “problem centred” versus “emotional” coping is more effective in dealing with traumatic stress. That means that an event will be more stressful if a person believes that the stress of the situation exceeds his/her coping capabilities. The perception of an overwhelming stressor can lead to self perceptions of inadequacy, and to a poor outcome.

Looking back at the literature on resilience in children, the data suggests several things; i) effective parenting can increase self efficacy; ii) self esteem and self confidence seem to work as moderators of traumatic exposure and serve as shields; iii) self efficacy grows stronger as more and more stressful situations are mastered; iv) healthy attachment results in an increase in potential for mastering stressful experiences and increasing autonomy; v) intelligent, socially adept children tend to be more resilient and able to pick up danger cues more quickly than those intellectually challenged; as they pick up danger cues more quickly, assistance from others is sought which may serve to block the onset of the acute stress disorder phenomenon.

The literature is clear that “internal locus of control” (akin to independence) is related to effective coping when it comes to posttraumatic stress (and psychopathology in general). Those of us with an internal locus of control seem to manifest less posttraumatic stress and to have a healthier overall adjustment than those of us with an “external locus of control” (akin to dependence).

So there it is……it seems that the father of stress research, Hans Selye, was correct when he said, “Adopting the right attitude can turn a negative stress into a positive one”. However being able to adopt the right attitude seems related to a number of variables; including, self esteem, self confidence, intelligence, experience with traumatic events, healthy attachments and good parenting.

Next time I’d like to take a look at the study of resilience post-1980 when “PTSD” was recognized (under military pressure) as a diagnostic entity by the American Psychiatric Association. This should be of interest to us as this is when the research focus began to shift from the study of traditional social-psychological and developmental variables of trauma survivors to pre and post trauma areas of adaptive competence; across a variety of trauma populations, including those who do and do not develop “PTSD”.

Here is something for you to cogitate upon until we meet again……….”MOST HUMAN MISERY IS A RESULT OF PEOPLE REFUSING TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN LIVES.”

Dr. Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist
#0655

Resilience: Chapter II

G’day all! I am recently returned from the Lower Mainland. Good to be back on Vancouver Island. I read where the idea of “PTSD” has been introduced in the Ft. McMurray context. Riddle me this? How do you think a person SHOULD respond after being exposed to the big fire; if they have not had experience dealing with such a natural disaster on such a personal level? If they become symptomatic would that be a “normal” response or an “abnormal” one? And if someone tells them they are suffering a “disorder”, how do you suppose they would respond? And if the “patient” begins to struggle against those symptoms, what path do you suppose those symptoms will follow? (Do you practice a martial art? What does your opponent do if you push against him?) And if the government offers the residents compensation for being “sick”, rather than treating them as if they were having a normal human response to a highly unusual circumstance, what do you suppose the near universal, and human, response will be?

On with our review of the literature. As several authors have documented, following the Viet Nam war, the US Military (and Veterans’ Associations) began to lobby the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to craft a diagnosis that would recognize the “long term” psychological effects incurred in combat; and would pave the way for therapeutic services. The group proposed the diagnostic category of Catastrophic Stress Disorder (CSD). The key aspect of CSD was the precipitating (or causal) factor. The deliberating psychiatrists were uncomfortable having an external causal factor included. (Less need for prescription drugs to ameliorate the problem?) The compromise solution was the introduction of the new disease “PTSD” into the DSM III (1980). The criteria specified for the new diagnosis included an initial stressor (e.g. exposure to the horrors of battle) that would evoke stress in nearly anyone, a time frame, and a list of symptoms.

Prior to the start of the systematic investigation of “PTSD” (1980), the research tended to focus on children exposed to brutal developmental experiences and how they coped psychologically (i.e. resilience vs. psychopathology) during their formative and adult years. Evidence derived from research suggests that competent coping is related to psycho-social resources. It, of course, makes sense that these resources would be less available to children growing up in adversity. Some of these psycho-social resources include: effective parenting, IQ (as a predictor of social competence and intellectual functioning), adequate economic well being, a good self image, and the ability to solve problems.

On the other side of the coin, the literature offered a wide range of stressors that put children “at risk” for maladaptive behaviours including “PTSD”. These included: early psychological trauma, abuse, mentally ill parents, physical disability, life threatening birth defects, personal injuries, asylum seeking, refugee status, war, disasters, life threatening illness, poor maternal nutrition, and domestic violence.

I would like to conclude this offering by referring to a classic study. This was a Hawaiian study where fully one third of the sample chosen from a population at risk due to chronic poverty, low maternal education, and moderate to severe peri- (during) natal stress did not develop problems and were psychologically healthy at ages 10, 18, and 30. They were considered “resilient” and when compared with children considered “less resilient” (i.e. high risk) it was discovered that as infants they received more attention, were more active and socially responsive. These children were characterized by their mothers as “active, affectionate, cuddly, good natured, and easy to deal with”.

Next time I would like to introduce research in the area of the appraisal process, (remember…..”Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”?) Well, it just might be that stress is in the eye of the beholder as well. Could “appraisal” act as a moderating factor in the development of posttraumatic stess and other psychological concerns?

I’ve noticed that our numbers dropped off after we stopped beating up on “Bobbles” and began to discuss the “diagnosis du jour”………”PTSD”. I encourage you to be open minded and read what is offered. You are always entitled to your own opinion. And don’t be afraid to send in arguments or questions. (I am in no way suggesting that current treatment you are taking is in error. I am not your therapist. I would like you to be informed.) The blog is at its’ best when you engage each other. Here is something to ponder until we meet again……….”TAKING PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY IS A BEAUTIFUL THING, BECAUSE IT GIVES US COMPLETE CONTROL OF OUR DESTINIES”

Dr. Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist
#0655

Resilience: It All Began Here.

G’day all! I hope you are well no matter what part of the country you are in. If you don’t subscribe to the common wisdom that, “things can always be worse”, take a look at Ft. McMurray. It sort of puts it all in perspective doesn’t it? As promised, I would like to begin this little jaunt through the recent literature on trauma, “PTSD”, and resilience, with a look at the latter; as that’s where it all began.

In forging an understanding of the nature of resilience, we first must gain conceptual and definitional clarity of the phenomenon. What is it, and what makes up resilient behaviour? This is not as simple a question as it seems. It turns out that resilience is a somewhat complex psychological and behavioural process. There are at least five different ways we can define human resilience:

1) It can refer to a complex repetoire of behavioural tendencies.

2) It can be linked to a group of personality traits including extraversion (an outgoing style), high self esteem, assertiveness, hardiness, internal locus of control (self reliance), and cognitive feedback (coaching oneself).

3) It can be tied to ego resilience that is composed of flexibility, energy, assertiveness, humour, transcendent detachment (being able to observe oneself in action), and a capacity for affect regulation (able to control one’s emotions).

4) It can be a type of behavioural adaptation to situational stress and a style of personality functioning.

5) It can be a response to trauma including “bouncing back” from an initial period of disequilibrium, through optimal states of functioning to an immunity to psychopathology (psychological illness).

Based upon the preceding it seems a model of resilience needs to be a “person x situation” interactional model. This leads to questions like: What are the characteristics of the “resilient” that makes them different than the “less resilient”? What does resilient behaviour look like in the face of different traumas, different degrees of stress, adversity, or the complexity of the problem to be solved?

To facilitate our brief (informal) review we need to operationally define the concept of resilience. The most conceptually advantageous definition seems to be: “…a complex repetoire of behavioural tendencies that may be evoked or activated by environmental demands.” This definition suggests that resilience is a style of behaviour with its’ own thinking patterns, perceiving, and decision making processes, that can be applied across a variety of stressors. But even this definition is incomplete , and raises questions. For example, is resilience a stable dimension of personality or does it interact with different situational demands? Is the study of resilience, with regard to trauma, applicable to all forms of resilience? Finally, are those who are resilient in the face of trauma the “gold standard” by which to study all forms of resilience?

The bottom line seems to be that resiliency encompasses the ability to adapt, and cope successfully in the face of challenging or threatening situations; a good outcome regardless of high demands, costs, stress, or risk; sustained competence in dealing with demands that deplete coping resources; and finally a healthy recovery from extreme stress and trauma. Looking back the emphasis on resilience came into vogue when the paradigm shifted, from looking at those factors that put someone at risk for psychosocial problems, to identifying their strengths.

There was a strong focus on how children who had been subjected to demanding developmental and formative experiences could survive and develop into psychologically healthy individuals. OK, enough, let’s leave it there for now. I’m off to the LMD again. If you wish to contribute by questioning or sharing an experience please do so, I’ll get to your stuff when I return on the weekend.

Here’s something to meditate upon until we meet again, ONLY UNDER EXTREME DURESS IS YOUR TRUE CHARACTER REVEALED.

Dr. Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist
#0655

Traumatic Stress: A Brief Literature Review

G’day all! Bright sunshine, cool temperatures, and brisk ocean breezes out here on (Northern) Vancouver Island. I can see it’s time to cease with the constructive criticism of your esteemed leader; viewership is beginning to diminish. (Or have you been intimidated?) Don’t worry he’ll provide another opportunity before to long! I’ll use this as an opportunity to begin a review of the literature on one of our favourite topics; posttraumatic stress. Hold on, I saw that roll of the eyes! If you are diagnosed with “PTSD”, or off work as a result of some stress related issue, you are the first one who should be reading this brief series (maybe 5 or 6 entries). There is a lot of misinformation in this area; as you know if you are a regular reader of Re-sergeance. And never forget, I am not offering you therapy here. I am presenting you with information that I don’t think you get in other places, or in other things you read.

I’ll use this post as an introduction to the focus I’ll bring to the subject area. As you have gathered by now one of my major clinical interests is posttraumatic stress; due to my work as a military and para-military (police) psychologist. It is essential that I remain abreast of the latest in the area. I seem to have run dry on other topics, so I figured you might like to ramble through the latest thinking in the area with me. Who knows we both may learn something?

The literature seems to hang together in a framework through which we can examine the development of resilience to trauma (don’t forget the notion of “PTSD” didn’t arrive on the clinical scene until 1980, at the insistence of the US military); including central issues surrounding the concept itself; studies of resilient children growing in challenging developmental contexts; the area of trauma and resilient coping “peri” (during) and “post” (after) exposure to life threatening stimuli; and the need to develop a generic model of posttraumatic resilience.

Existing theories in the area of traumatic stress and the literature on “PTSD” have established that there is a large variety of methods of coping with a traumatic exposure (I will not include a reference section with each installment. If you require references please get a hold of me and I will provide one for you.) The different models of traumatic stress, and the various ways that people cope provide a good place for us to begin examining the phenomenon of “resilience”. For example, “How do we bounce back from psychological trauma?” “What are the psychological mechanisms involved in resilience?” “What psychological factors are related to effective coping?”

Let’s leave it there for now. You are invited to come along for the ride. I think it will be informative for all. In the next installment we’ll see if we can pin down a definition of “resilience” (remember, that’s what this area was all about until the US military had to come up with a way to recognize returning Viet Nam veterans, and pressured the American Psychiatric Association to embrace “Combat Stress Disorder”(CSD), the precursor to “PTSD”).

I’ll leave you with this……

“SHOULD YOU SHIELD A CANYON FROM THE WIND, YOU WOULD NEVER SEE THE TRUE BEAUTY OF ITS’ CARVINGS.”

— Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Dr. Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist
#0655

Me again “Bobbles”

G’day “Bobbles”. It’s early here on the West Coast. I couldn’t sleep just thinking about your situation. More of your appearance in front of the Senate Committee was forwarded to me by a concerned Canadian. Honestly, I don’t go looking for your mis-steps but one can’t help but trip over them these days; they are everywhere. You are truly in over your head! It seems that what I am about to address was part of your last session in the “principal’s” office. I have to say that the first thought I had when reading more of your “gobbledy-gook” was, who the hell do you consult on this crap before you drag your sorry ass up the hill? You should really consider a change of consultants! The approach you are taking fell out of favour with Attila The Hun and really only exists today with Kim Jong Un (sorry…….. he’s the dictator in charge in North Korea). Even a quick peruse of Dale Carnegie’s old book on Winning Friends and Influencing People would be of some assistance on these occasions when you are called “on the carpet”.

Once again in the spirit of giving you, and the rest of the “polit bureau” you work with there in the “puzzled palace”, a fair hearing, I’ll put this in the form of a question. You can answer at anytime (remember my manager and I are waiting for word on the “match of the century” anyway?). Did you really state that the credibility of the RCMP was being ruined by people in the Force (the victims?) speaking out too soon about harassment allegations? I’m sure that even you can see that such mindless “lip flapping” begs the question, “when would the ideal time be?”

A quick investigation (Oh shit!! Hang on. “To inquire into, to examine, to make a systematic inquiry”. Get it?) of Title VII of Canada’s Civil Rights Act (1964) and most Provincial Human Rights Codes you’ll find these kinds of general guidelines with regard to reporting: i) confront the harasser, ii) tell someone you can trust, iii) contact a Human Rights Legal Support Centre, and, iv) DO SO AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE TO AVOID MEMORY ISSUES.

By the way, who gave you this unbelievable “goody-two shoes” throw away line, “I don’t even like talking about what happened there [the CPC fiasco?] it’s so shocking!” You gotta’ be kidding right? How many years of service do you have? And this shocks you? This kind of feigned naivete doesn’t instill confidence “Bobbles” and makes you sound like a “back peddling no mind”. The victims are looking for a genuinely empathic Commissioner with some backbone who will talk about this shit until it’s eradicated (sorry…..that means eliminated).

And to wrap up, where in the hell did this come from (with reference to sexual harassment)? Did you suggest that speaking out “too soon” leads to unfair accusations? Think about that for a moment you putz! An accusation when first made has no valence; fair or unfair, until investigated. It is only after an accusation is made can we determine whether it was fair or not by investigating it (Jeez, do I have to go through this again?).

So “Bobbles” are you familiar with the term “psyching out”? I know you read my ramblings. Remember, I know people who know people. One of them might be sitting beside you right now? OOOPS!! (Again I suggest, never show your anger for when you do you have revealed a weakness to be exploited.) Every time you open your mouth in public I’m right there aren’t I? You can’t get me out of your head can you? The more you try, the more I’m there aren’t I? You even dream about me don’t you? “Bobbles” I made a living getting into people’s heads even when they had helmets on! I have become, if not your worst nightmare, a very bad dream haven’t I?

The only way to rid yourself of me now sport, is to take me up on my offer of, you can take your pick: a “strap” (I have an exprienced one), “cage”, “over the top rope”, “brass knuckles” (I got ’em), “tag team”, “last man standing” (you can invite the “polit bureau”!), or even a regular one on one, for charity. We could defray the legal costs that the women in the sexual harassment suit against the RCMP are facing; or maybe the group who had the confidentiality of their medical records compromised? I promise you I’ll be able to rehabilitate (shit!!….that means restore) your image from the most inept Commissioner in RCMP history to something more appealing to those overseas employers you’re courting. The membership and the Canadian public will have renewed respect for you after you “thrash” this self absorbed, disrespectful, brash (look it up!), and obnoxious “heel”.

Something for your meditation my wayward friend……”WHEN WE ARE NO LONGER ABLE TO CHANGE A SITUATION, WE ARE CHALLENGED TO CHANGE OURSELVES”

— Viktor Frankl

Dr. Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist
#0655

Mr. Paulson: A Note From A Friend

Me again “Bobbles”. I couldn’t resist. ( Oh yes, and think of the following as a PR interview prior to our big “Indian Strap Match”; apologies to our Aboriginal Brothers and Sisters). I feel so bad for you I thought I should undertake an “intervention” of sorts. So let me get this straight? The Senate National Security Committee accused you of “destroying” Canadians’ faith in their national police service (i.e. the RCMP); and your response was:

“There’s a couple of things destroying the faith that Canadians have and one of those is the irresponsible representation of the facts from within the organization without a definitive, proper hearing to establish that.”

Oh yeah, and one more before we get into our session. You were questioned as to why you would assign an investigator to the CPC fiasco who had his own history of being the subject of harassment complaints. And again I want to ensure I have this right (so I’m giving you the opportunity of a “proper hearing”) your response was: “Who among us is blemish free?”

“Bibbles” as I have previously suggested, re-read your Peel. You are placing “professional loyalty” above your “duty to community”. Over the course of your tenure as Commissioner of the RCMP you have engaged in a litany of attempts to demonstrate to the membership that you are “a members’ Commissioner”; and it has resulted in nothing more than you turning yourself into a “shit magnet” and every other member across the country into a “heat score”. You’re dangerous man, get the f–k out of there before you ruin the institution of the RCMP forever!!

Do you remember another note I sent to you where I was trying to explain to you that the ideal police administrator should be a combination of a business person and an experienced investigator? Sadly amigo, the longer you stay where you are, the clearer it becomes that you are neither. Now, most Canadians just think you are stupid, however I understand that what you are doing is well meaning but entirely out of step with the times. Your responsibility actually lays with the community and this will indirectly result in gaining the members’ respect.

“Bad Boy Bobby” I know you are unable to see yourself at these times, but when you feel that “deer in the headlights” thing coming on…..it’s time to shut your yap. As a psychologist I can tell you exactly what you suffer from, it’s referred to as a “verbal-cranial dis-junction”. In layman’s terms it seems you have an overwhelming tendency to open your “gob-hole” before your brain is in gear.

“Bobby Boy” unfortunately (for you) you have become the gift that keeps on giving. And just think, if YOU hadn’t alienated me I could have been your number one “consiglieri” in these matters; instead, I have become just another “stone in your shoe”. But, and for no charge, and because no one else will, I will bring to your attention just what a “dink” you have become. No one wants to “hang” with you man! Like I said you’ve become a “shit magnet”. For example, who asked you out to lunch today because, for no other reason than, that person genuinely wanted Bob Paulson’s company?

C’mon “Bibbles” my agent is waiting. When will you step into the “square circle” with “Iron Mike”? (I could make you look good, and heaven knows you need it!) I have some “Big Shows” overseas on hold waiting for you to get your bony ass in gear! To say nothing of the anticipation running through the membership across this great nation. (Take a lesson, this is how you work “the stick”! It puts bums in seats, in contrast to that “duh, no I didn’t, yes I did, it was just a joke, I’m outta’ here” stuff!)

For you “Bobbles”, at no extra charge: “THREE THINGS CANNOT LONG BE HIDDEN, THE SUN, THE MOON, AND THE TRUTH”——The Buddha

Dr Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist
#0655

New RCMP Motto: Preservons La Fantasie?

G’day all!! I should explain, before getting into this piece, that I spend those mornings when I am not on the road or with a patient, at a local coffee shop down on the beach overlooking a mostly choppy Straight of Georgia; usually whipped by some chilly winds out of the North West. This is where some aforementioned (a blog or three ago?) loggers and fishermen when out of “the woods” or “off the deck” will hang out and pontificate about current news items around a blazing outdoor fire pit. A topic of some discussion the other morning was the Senator Mike Duffy case; and not as one would expect the general worthlessness of the Senate, or various Senators’ alleged misbehaviour, but your employer’s role in the aforementioned Duffy case. I always give pause to writing something critical of the “outfit” as I know that so many of you still have your identities tied up there. I would like to offer a short opinion piece on the national disgrace that the RCMP represents today, and will ask you to consider that I am not referring to those members who remain well motivated and devoted to the communities they serve (or did serve); but more to the “bureaucrats in uniform” sitting in their National and Divisional HQ’s across the country.

Several hard working individuals who meet at the coffee shop were struck recently by the comments made by one of the aforementioned “carpet cops” in regard to the Duffy investigation. It was the impression of one of these fine “timbermen” that it was A/Comm. Gilles Michaud who said to his NHQ investigators, “Regardless of outcome, I want to take the opportunity to thank those of you who have worked on this very significant file…I encourage you to maintain this high level of performance.” So far so good; a supervisor (of sorts) offers “atta boys” all ’round. Good for morale, no?

Until we discover that Mr. Duffy was acquitted on all 31 criminal charges. Enter Justice Charles Vaillancourt, who reminded my logger friend that, “The political, covert, relentless unfolding of events is mind-boggling and shocking”. He went on, “….the plotting that’s revealed in the emails can only be described as unacceptable.” Along with Justice Vaillancourt one must ask (to focus on only one glaring anomaly) how is it possible to charge only Mr. Duffy with bribery after he accepted (without guidance) a cheque for $90,000 from Nigel Wright (Mr. Harper’s former Chief of Staff). The answer may lay in Mr. Michaud’s comment at a “newser” on 14/07/14 when he announced that 31 charges were to be brought against Mr. Duffy as a “….result of a careful examination of the facts.” Now while Mr. Michaud’s comments could be excused due to his inability to recognize a “fact” if he tripped over it while “padding” about his office; this should not be so for the likes of Cst. D. Drissell, or more recently Cst. Liam MacNeil.

Cst. Drissell it seems, in the investigation (mid-late 1990’s?) of one Jason Dix, is to have demonstrated a certain lack of investigative skills (and character) in his pursuit of the previously mentioned Mr. Dix. This investigation was riddled with poor investigative skills, witness tampering, and prosecutorial misconduct. More recently (July, 2010?) Cst. Liam McNeil compromised the McCann crime scene by failing to secure it. This resulted in him being levied a “5 days without pay” penalty; and the prime suspect launching a 1 million dollar lawsuit against the RCMP, Crown Prosecutors, four dozen RCMP members, and a “gaggle” of jail guards for “wrongful prosecution”. It is worthy to note that another RCMP disciplinary board described Cst. McNeil’s “…initial investigative steps [as] adequate.”

All of this (and more, not referenced here) has been enough to gain the attention of retired RCMP investigator William (Bill) Pitt, now a respected Criminologist. Mr. Pitt has likened his former employer to the “Keystone Cops”. He has gone on record as saying that he is embarrassed by a series of RCMP investigative blunders. (I ask the following?) The egregious lack of skill, and at times moral fibre, shown by some members of the RCMP, surely must have something to do with either its’ unwieldy size and/or its’ lower hiring standards?

To conclude, it is interesting to note the comments of “E” Division’s chief “bureaucrat in uniform”. He has said that he, “….will continue to use all authorities available to [him] as Commanding Officer of the RCMP in British Columbia to hold accountable the few who fail to meet our standards of conduct and behaviour.” So in response to this, “Tiny”, my politically astute logger friend, while stoking the fire, asked “Does this mean the naked sadomasochist guy who was stomping on the woman with his riding boots?”

I want to leave you with something to meditate upon as you think of our once respected national police service:

“TO EXPECT RESPECT WITHOUT GIVING UP BROKEN PROCESSES AND ANACHRONISTIC LEADERS, IS LIKE HOLDING YOUR HAND IN A FIRE AND HOPING NOT TO BE BURNED”.

Dr. Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist
#0655

This Must Be A Nightmare: Someone Wake Me!

G’day all! I hope you are well and enjoying the changing weather? Summer is on its’ way here in the Northern Hemisphere giving us longer days to pack with meaningful and rewarding activity. Please forgive me for making my usual greeting to you brief; I am anxious to address the “intellectual giant” that sits atop your organization.

So, “Bobby Boy”, it’s me again. (Just view what is about to follow as a promotional TV interview prior to our big match, and designed to get me some “heat”. Then when you make your big “comeback” in the ring, the entire nation will go wild as you take your pound of flesh from “Iron Mike” who, for all these many months, has belittled and disrespected such a revered public figure as yourself (Ok, Ok, I might have this “angle” backwards…..but stay with me for a bit).

It seems that in one of those “Gender Based” assessments, or action plans, of 2012 or 2013, you wrote what follows in your introduction in an attempt to “….reassure and demonstrate to Canadians that purposeful and deliberate systems have been deployed to change the inner workings – the guts of the organization as [you] like to call it – in order to foster the culture change we are all seeking.”

You then went on to caution that culture change is slow; “…..cultural change doesn’t happen overnight, over a year, or even five years. Culture change occurs over a generation.” (“Bobby”, who have you been consulting on this? Likely a Conservative government munge belonging to the Flat Earth Society? No?) You see my dear boy, transformational change is such, as it is in a sense overnight, spontaneous, something different than what the troops have been used to! I was puzzled by your misinformation as I am aware of other more transformative leaders, than yourself, who have instituted cultural change (of course in contexts nowhere near as “complex” as yours) with no mention of the variable of “time”; for example, Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas K. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, The Dalai Llama, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abraham (yeah that’s right, the guy from the Bible), Homer Simpson (no shit!), Lee Iaccoca, and Vince Lombardi to name just a few.

And while we’re at it allow me to point out a couple of things that might explain why your “Culture change happens over a generation”. Giving yourself more power under the “Enhancing RCMP Accountability Act” is not likely going to speed any kind of change, let alone transformational, as it is somewhat akin to assuming a Putin-like dictatorship. And that whole “two disciplinary streams” thing, you know the “meeting” where you and the rest of the gang get together for snacks and to deal with less complex issues(?); and we, the public can eventually see the process after a lengthy access to information request? Then there’s that “conduct board” thingy, get together, or whatever, that “dinged” Calandrini for 15 days pay (ouch, you execs can really be nasty!!). Strangely, we the public you serve have no access to this one? I’m confused “Bobbo”; I find it curious that even though he was initially accused of nudity at work and other unacceptable behaviours, a second and more serious complaint was not considered misconduct egregious (look it up) enough for dismissal.

Let me ask this question of those who read this blog, and don’t work for the RCMP, could you wander about naked and grope co-workers at your place of work and not be fired, or worse?? (Now “Bobby-Boy”, keep in mind your statement about culture change taking a generation to occur). We have a problem here, your new act does not define “more serious” forms of misconduct. This is left to Senior RCMP Executives (the afore mentioned “gang” doing the snacking) to determine; and moreover, whether a case goes to a meeting (hearing?) or a “conduct board”. This might be one of the reasons why culture change under your command could take “a generation.”

“Bobbo-Baby” can you not see the conundrum (oh sorry, it means sort of like a “problem”)? Can you not see the conflict of interest (bias?) in the police investigating and judging themselves? I’m gonna’ go slow here but try to follow; in an athletic contest why do you suppose we don’t ask each athlete to weigh, measure, score, time, judge, etc. her/his own results; why don’t we have electoral candidates count their own ballots; or, why doesn’t the testee score her/his own test without some check mechanism? Yes, that’s it!! You have it!! Human subjectivity!! In the best of lights, it isn’t even cheating, but moreso the human tendency to preserve one’s ego or self image. And I assure you “Bad Boy Bobby” if the community comes to believe that its’ police aren’t playing by the rules, that belief can lead to an atmosphere of distrust and disrespect. The community will then be predisposed to push back, a la the black communities south of the border!!

Allow me to digress somewhat, do you remember Sir Robert Peel? If not, read one of the immediately preceding blogs to refresh yourself. I’ll suggest, that you attempting to retain any part of policing yourself, flies in the face of Peel and puts “professional loyalty” above your “sense of obligation” to the public.

Do you recall where above (I know, I know, it was a few paragraphs ago and you are beginning to get that “deer in the headlights” look) I was critical of Calandrini’s 15 days without pay? Well check this out…….it seems in South Carolina there was (recently) a “school resource officer” who is now affectionately known as “Officer Slam”. This individual picked up, out of her desk for no apparent reason, a female elementary school student and slammed her to the floor. His Chief of Police advised the concerned community that the policeman lost his job for “improper technique”. Really!!?? This senior police executive’s response was entirely wrongheaded and insufficient; and highly illustrative of what happens when the police, police themselves.

This incident was nothing less than a reckless use of force, and not a demonstration of “improper technique”; and it was worthy of more than dismissal. Moreover, this is not just an American example of something that could not happen North of the border; let’s not forget elderly and infirmed women being thrown to the ground; or deluded old men in hospital beds and confused immigrants wandering about the airport being Tasered by your members and…….ON YOUR WATCH!!

The South Carolina example is a good one in that it begs for a stronger sanction than dismissal. Was such a sanction forthcoming from the police, policing themselves? Apparently not!! I firmly believe that the vast majority of RCMP members are well motivated; however due to numbers and inadequate selection criteria (check out the requirements for large municipal departments e.g. Vancouver) a small number are not only deficient but constitute a public menace.

The current debate on the effectiveness of the RCMP as a national police service has reached a critical juncture, and you “Bobby Boy” have fallen on the wrong side of the argument. You may not have been wandering about NHQ in the nude, but when you suggest that the RCMP can police itself, on any level, you have violated the public trust. I look forward to engaging you in the “square circle” and we’ll see who the real “baby-face” is! (Calm yourself “Bobbo”, remember this is all “shtick” to sell tickets to the Match of the Century!!)

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”

–Winston Churchill

Dr. Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist
#0655

You’re Your Own Worst Enemy: Could It Be?

G’day all! Once again I have returned from my journey to the LMD; I am pleased to report that all is well in the world; things could be worse (yes, even in your life!) I apologize to those who had to wait to have comments posted or messages answered. Interestingly, on this journey I was contacted by several of you who had in common that you were in conflict with your employer in one way or another. The common concern among this group was the ability to control their emotions when in front of some board of review, disciplinary hearing, or the like. As there appeared to be a common theme running through these members’ experience, I thought I might offer you the following. Once again, and before I begin, I assert that I am not offering you therapy, or being critical of your therapist whatever stripe that person may be of. I am simply providing something for you to think about.

As you may have already gathered through your reading of this blog, I pay little attention to the direct attempt to reduce symptoms. I base this perspective upon the belief that vigorous attempts to rid oneself of a symptom actually triggers the disorder in question in the first place! Think about it for a moment, as soon as your uncomfortable emotional experience was labelled as the “symptom” of a “disorder”, did you not immediately begin to struggle with it in an attempt to rid yourself of some “pathology”? And was it not this struggle and the newly applied “diagnosis” that then created the “disease”? Think further (especially if you are a martial artist), what does your opponent do if you vigorously push against that person? Of course, that opponent will push back!

Consider this! There is a school of thought that asserts that human language is the culprit that creates suffering for us all. The way this works is it sets us up for a struggle with our own thoughts and feelings. (The process even has a name…..”experiential avoidance”).

It is well accepted that the single biggest evolutionary benefit of human language is to anticipate and solve problems. If you think about it for a moment, this advantage has not only contributed to the development of human society, but also allowed us to travel beyond our society and beyond this planet. The simple approach of defining a problem and then solving it has proven to work well in the practical world e.g. we use shelter to protect us from the elements; or we can increase the odds of survival by living in communities rather than by ourselves. So as these problem solving strategies seemed to work well in the “outside” world, we naturally think they will work well in the “inside” or psychological world of thoughts and feelings. Tragically however when we try to rid ourselves of these inner experiences, we end up magnifying them. Likely one of the better examples of this process is to be found in the creation of addictive behaviour. It is arguable that nearly every addictive behaviour known to us began as an attempt to rid ourselves of unwanted thoughts or feelings. The addictive behaviour then becomes self reinforcing as it provides an effective way of ridding us of cravings or the symptoms of withdrawal.

Now turn your attention to yourself or those I noted at the beginning of this piece. Think of how anxious you become in anticipation of whatever type of board, hearing, or trial (all “performances”) you are about to face. Riddle me this, the more time you spend wrestling with unwanted (illogical?) thoughts and their emotional consequences, the more you suffer psychologically, don’t you? The handful of you that I spoke to were dealing with anxiety; more accurately termed “performance anxiety”. To be consistent with what was presented above, it’s not the presence of anxiety that is the essence of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a normal human emotion; the problem lays in your preoccupation with trying to avoid or rid yourself of anxiety. The “performance anxiety” you experience provides us a perfect example. The more you tell yourself you “can’t/shouldn’t feel” what you are feeling because it will detract from your performance (and cause you embarrassment) the more anxious you will become. You now reach the point where you are “feeling anxious about feeling anxious”. This is the vicious cycle found at the heart of any anxiety disorder.

There exists a ponderous body of research data suggesting that higher “experiential avoidance” is associated with anxiety disorders, depression, poor work performance, chronic substance abuse, poor life quality, high risk sexual behaviour, Bipolar Personality Disorder, severe posttraumatic stress, long term disability, and alexithymia (remember this one?).

So there it is! It seems that all your “emotional control” strategies (used to defeat your anxiety, anger, depression etc.) could quite likely have become costly, life-distorting, or harmful. There are alternatives to “experiential avoidance” to be found in a variety of therapeutic interventions. But enough for now. Next time I will introduce you to some of those interventions. Until then keep this in mind…….

“There is no need to push the river, for it flows by itself”

Dr. Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist
#0655