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Thread: Hypervigilance

  1. #1
    kimby is offline Banned
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    Hypervigilance

    I've been reading Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement and have been getting a whole new perspective. If I'm understanding correctly, officers can have problems in their personal lives because the extremely exciting hypervigilant state they experience while they're at work affects the rest of their lives.

    Apparently you guys can go from a state of very high autonomic arousal at work to an almost catatonic condition when you're off duty, and that can make you think of your time off as a low point in your lives. It sounds like when officers are off-duty all they want to do is recover and they have little energy or motivation left to take care of their personal lives. I can definitely see how that would cause social and relationship problems.

    I was wondering what everyone's thoughts are on this. Is there a ring of truth to it, or is it a lot of psychological mumbo-jumbo?

  2. #2
    Garda's Avatar
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    I find it goes from one extreme to the other. Between work and must do personal stuff theres little time so when I do have free time its spent watching TV (I attempt to work out during my lunch break) however every few weeks I get serious itchy feet and Im running around looking for things to do.

    Over here we have 'retirement classes' for guys just about too leave, with 30 years in the job most need help to get used to retirement and the instructor once told me that in every class (about 20) theres at least 5 who say their biggest regret is sacraficing so much of themselves, their lives and their families to the job. Guys that have NO friends outside the force and missed just about all their children growing up.

    Thats why now were pushed to have external friends and hobbies instead of being so close and private ignoring outsiders.
    Last edited by Garda; 01-23-06 at 03:57 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by TXCharlie
    Hey thanks Garda - I did think of you last night as I was lying in bed

  3. #3
    MountainCop Guest
    Most of us, through experience, learn to strike a balance. We have to. My spouse is very supportive, most of my friends either think I'm crazy (the non LEOs), they are supportive (and amazed how an old guy like me can do it! ), or they hate the hell out of it (my other civilian co-workers)

    I don't talk cop stuff at home outside of about 5 minutes of 'how was your day', etc. That kinda took a back seat last week - all her friends at work were asking 'Was your husband involved in that??' (no, I wasn't). Anyway, I find that just getting it out and then dropping it is best for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kimby
    I've been reading Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement and have been getting a whole new perspective. If I'm understanding correctly, officers can have problems in their personal lives because the extremely exciting hypervigilant state they experience while they're at work affects the rest of their lives.

    Apparently you guys can go from a state of very high autonomic arousal at work to an almost catatonic condition when you're off duty, and that can make you think of your time off as a low point in your lives. It sounds like when officers are off-duty all they want to do is recover and they have little energy or motivation left to take care of their personal lives. I can definitely see how that would cause social and relationship problems.

    I was wondering what everyone's thoughts are on this. Is there a ring of truth to it, or is it a lot of psychological mumbo-jumbo?
    Excellent observations. That is why it is very important to have interests & a life outside of work to keep you on an even keel..

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by MountainCop
    Most of us, through experience, learn to strike a balance. We have to. My spouse is very supportive, most of my friends either think I'm crazy (the non LEOs), they are supportive (and amazed how an old guy like me can do it! ), or they hate the hell out of it (my other civilian co-workers)

    I don't talk cop stuff at home outside of about 5 minutes of 'how was your day', etc. That kinda took a back seat last week - all her friends at work were asking 'Was your husband involved in that??' (no, I wasn't). Anyway, I find that just getting it out and then dropping it is best for me.
    Ditto. The life of a police officer is one of high stress and then times of feeling as though your bored to death. As you know we go into situations that most people are running from. So when we are there the adrenaline is pumping and just flat out going, our body is in overdrive so to speak. Then when the situation is over we bottom out, you are at a low point where the body is in shock and wondering what the hell happened. After situations that require me to be high strung and the adrenaline going I usually take a few moments before getting back in my car and relax. Trying to bring my body and mind back to a state of calm. When on the road we are constantly on a so called high alert. You will notice that a patrol car and officer very rarely stay in the same location for any length of time (unless its out of the publics view). Reason for this is a safety issue.

    Like Mountaincop I do not talk cop issues outside of how was your day then its done and over. About the only time I talk about more than that is on Friday nights because I actually bowl with another cop. We are good friends and he is always wanting to know whats going on. But even then we keep it short and sweet. If you don't you get burnt out rather quickly as well as your family and friends get tired of hearing about your adrenaline pumped day.
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  6. #6
    MountainCop Guest
    Thanks, Chris2001. Being able to handle the stress and the emotional rollercoaster comes with life experience. Young guys can handle the physical side of the job better than people my age - that comes with being young ;<), but the emotional side comes with time and knowing yourself. And for almost everybody, that comes with time.

    And yep, even I get tired of talking about my day! My wife (love her dearly) talks about her day all the time - and I mean ALL the time. I do care - but I can only absorb so much. And it works both ways.

    When I DO talk about it - I emphasize the funny parts (like the guy who said 'I thought you were the dummy!!'). She doesn't need to think about someone shooting at me.

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    Me and my fiance are both in law enforcement, but even with that being said we know what goes on at work...now if there was something that was just down right hilarious or something of major interest we talk about it, but other than that we seperate ourselves from the hussle and bussle of the work related talk
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  8. #8
    MountainCop Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Switek
    Excellent observations. That is why it is very important to have interests & a life outside of work to keep you on an even keel..
    I agree wholeheartedly. You cannot devote yourself to one thing and only that one thing. Did that years ago when I ran my own company (IT consulting). Did VERY well - and just about went nuts. Ain't worth it.

    Gotta enjoy life! If you're not, then find something you DO enjoy!

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    Aint that the truth

    Quote Originally Posted by MountainCop
    Gotta enjoy life! If you're not, then find something you DO enjoy!
    Now thats advice to take with ya! What I dont get are people that join up and then turn around and say "Sure I might go back to college in a few years, finish my degree and work in......." Hell, if thats the way your thinking already then why bother sticking around getting old?
    Quote Originally Posted by TXCharlie
    Hey thanks Garda - I did think of you last night as I was lying in bed

  10. #10
    FishTail Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Garda30055A
    What I dont get are people that join up and then turn around and say "Sure I might go back to college in a few years, finish my degree and work in......." Hell, if thats the way your thinking already then why bother sticking around getting old?
    Exactly. Do that before you join the Job (or during, like I did) and stay in the Job. If you want a part time job while you educate yourself, McDonald's are hiring.

    30 years and the nice pension for me thanks!

  11. #11
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    Damn straight

    Quote Originally Posted by LongTail
    30 years and the nice pension for me thanks!
    And not a god damn day over 30!

    Of course some of the pansy Americans only do 20 god love em!
    Quote Originally Posted by TXCharlie
    Hey thanks Garda - I did think of you last night as I was lying in bed

  12. #12
    MountainCop Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Garda30055A
    Now thats advice to take with ya! What I dont get are people that join up and then turn around and say "Sure I might go back to college in a few years, finish my degree and work in......." Hell, if thats the way your thinking already then why bother sticking around getting old?
    I may grow older, but I absolutely refuse to grow up.

    In fact, the way I want to exit this world is when I'm 90. Shot by a jealous husband. Caught in bed with his 19 year old blonde wife.

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    I don't know if i'd be considered "hypervigilant" or not, but I am always aware of my surroundings, and I watch the people around me all of the time.

    As far as retirement, I have another 2 years and I'll have 30 in, but I've pretty much got it made at work, so I'll stay until I'm burned out. That and the fact that I've got 1 daughter that will still be in college (Hopefully), and that someday I'll be paying for 2 weddings will keep me working!
    For the morning will come. Brightly will it shine on the brave and true, kindly upon all who suffer for the cause, glorious upon the tombs of heroes. Thus will shine the dawn.

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  14. #14
    Retdetsgt's Avatar
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    One of the problems I've seen over the years is when the job becomes almost the entire identity for officers. They view themselves as cops first, husbands, fathers, etc. after that. Even when they're off duty, they act like they are. Many tend to treat family problems like they were police problems too. That might explain some the divorce rate.

    I noticed while I was still working, often retired detectives would wander back to the office and try to hang out. That's really sad because the working cops don't want to talk to them for very long, we all had working cases and had little desire to reminisce over old ones or stuff that happened in the past. These were guys who got their identity from being a cop and once they retired, they didn't have much left. They'd probably alienated family a long time ago.

    I can honestly say that I have never stepped foot in any of my old police facilities since I retired. The last time was to return my pager and other personal equipment I'd been issued.

    My two best male friends are retired cops, but we've been friends for over 25 years, it has little to do with what we did for a living. I don't even attend retired cop events anymore, still guys trying to hang on to who they were.

    I never had a burning desire to be a cop, I kinda fell into it. That being said, I can't imagine having done anything else for 27 years. I had a blast and can honestly say that I never had a day when I dreaded to go to work. Not many people in other occupations can say that. But I never lost sight of who I was and that this was a job, not a life style. I didn't carry a gun everytime I left the house although I did if I knew I was going into certain parts of the the city. But it was for protection, not an extension of my work. I never bought into that 24-7 duty shit. The only time I would probably pull my gun was if someone pointed one at ME. I'll be damned if I was ever willing to get into a shootout with an armed robber who was probably only going to take the money and escape. I was not willing to die for someone else's money when I wasn't working.
    When I used to be somebody (I'm center top)

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    Quote Originally Posted by kimby
    I've been reading Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement
    We use that book as one of our texts in my Police Stress class. Our instructor has also attended a seminar held by Dr Gilmarten.
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    kimby is offline Banned
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    Thanks, everyone. I really appreciate your views. I've heard about cops having a lot of stress, marital problems, etc., but I guess I just never realized that all this could result from the phenomenon of hypervigilance. I mean it makes sense in a way, but just sounds a little simplistic. Not that I can come up with a better theory.

    I definitely do see how living entirely for your job would cause problems.

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    Sleuth is offline SS/A (Ret.)
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    I know Dr. Gilmarten, and there are some other sides to hypervigilence.
    1. The officer, close to retirement, who wants to "go out with his boots on". They tend to wander into the worst parts of town, almost like they 'want' to get into a shooting. It may be that they have no self image of themselves NOT being cops.

    2. As RetDetSgt noted, the guys who keep coming to work. My first supervisor had to be forced to retire - no family, no outside interests, no personal car (he lived in an apartment close to the office!), all he did was work. He kept coming into the office after they forced him out, wanting to talk about cases. But he no longer had a security clearance, and eventually they told him (nicely) that he had to stop coming in. He went home and shot himself. Not uncommon, a department here in AZ had a Detective shoot himself on duty 2 weeks before manditory retirement.

    3. The cops wo so enjoy the high, that they carry 2 guns off duty and go into the bad areas - looking for more action! This is tied to item #1.
    Survival is the only Victory!

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    kimby is offline Banned
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    Do any police departments have programs to help officers cope with retirement? Wouldn't it be possible for them to work part time or as reserves? It's sad that nothing can be found for these officers to do, because they could surely contribute a lot.

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    Garda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kimby
    Do any police departments have programs to help officers cope with retirement? Wouldn't it be possible for them to work part time or as reserves? It's sad that nothing can be found for these officers to do, because they could surely contribute a lot.
    Its planned or should I say hoped that our soon to be reserves will have retired officers form part of it however I dont consider that too be a good idea. The last thing you need are retired officers workign as reserves and telling the fulltimers how to do things, too many Chiefs and no indians.

    WE also run pre-retirement cources but I cant speak about tehm seeing as I have a good bit too go.
    Quote Originally Posted by TXCharlie
    Hey thanks Garda - I did think of you last night as I was lying in bed

  20. #20
    kimby is offline Banned
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garda30055A
    WE also run pre-retirement cources but I cant speak about tehm seeing as I have a good bit too go.
    Oh yes, now I remember you saying something about that earlier. Maybe that's what gave me the idea.

    It sounds like officers need more preparation even before they start the job, in order to avoid problems at retirement. But I guess rookies aren't going to be very receptive when they're told not to give too much of themselves to the job.

 

 
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