POLICE Magazine

JUL 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

Issue link: https://policemag.epubxp.com/i/1138759

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Page 30 of 52

28 POLICE MONTH 2019 don't need to interpret what you have written, just see what it's saying to you. "Maybe your dreams are telling you to be more careful," he says. "is process is what I call 'gathering intelligence on yourself.'" e end result of this process, Dr. Tau says, should lead you to decide if you would benefit from meeting with a li- censed clinician trained in trauma therapy to discuss the potential meaning of your dreams in a safe setting. After decades of providing therapeutic help to law en- forcement members, Dr. Eisenberg has his own wish list for better emotional support for cops: mandated, required debriefings for everyone involved in a critical incident; easy and confidential access to Employee Assistance Pro- gram providers, who are already known to the agency and its members as being a trusted resource; and knowing how and why and when to take a real break from the job. is last one is all about learning how to turn off your hypervigilance, by taking your vacation and mental health days, and by be- ing able to go to a "safe place" in your head that doesn't just involve hanging out with your cop buddies and drinking beer on your days off. It's about making a real commit- ment to "rebooting the mechanism" that is your brain and getting back to a place where you feel confi- dent in your abilities and continually motivated to do your job. Dr. Tau says, "e professional guardians in our world need to have two things: robustness and resiliency. Be- ing robust means you can adapt to change; you can take a punch. Being resilient means you can adapt to adversity and get off the mat if you have been punched." "I left the PD 20 years ago, but for like five years, I was plagued with recurring dreams. ey were quite vivid too. Most frequently I dreamt I would be doing something rou- tine, like a traffic stop, taking a report, or standing at a post. I would instinctively go to rest my forearm on the butt of my gun, and discover an empty holster. My immediate response was, `Oh crap, where's my gun?' My heart would race. I would retrace my steps, drastically trying to control my inner panic. I was also concerned that I would receive an urgent call while searching for my weapon and wonder, `How would I or could I respond?' "My other frequent dream was equally as scary. I would be in a shootout (sometimes on duty, sometimes off-duty) and when I fired my weapon the bullets became rubber and fell to the ground before hitting the target. I would fire over and over again, with the same results. Sometimes the suspect would charge me, and I would fight him off, striking him with all my might, using the hard metal of my weapon to hurt him. Other times the suspect would laugh and run away. I know I'm not alone with these dreams. I'm happy to say I haven't had them in years. But understanding them would be a blessing." Steve Albrecht worked for the San Diego Police Department for 15 years. His 21 books include Albrecht on Guns; Albrecht and Farrow on Guns; Patrol Cop, Contact and Cover, and Tactical Perfection for Street Cops. He can be reached at DrSteve@DrSteveAlbrecht.com. UNDERSTANDING YOUR DREAMS I also spoke with Dr. Manny Tau, Psy.D., a licensed clin- ical and forensic psychologist based in Orange County, CA. Dr. Tau says the fears and anxieties police officers have about their equipment not working is similar to civil- ians who dream about falling from high places or their legs not working when they need to run away. "Our biggest fear as humans is annihilation, being completely destroyed, which is worse than death. We all fear loss of control, and fear of being found out that at the moment of truth, we won't be up to the task." Our dreams are emotionally charged symbolism, so for officers to dream that their guns, a power- ful symbol of their authority, aren't available or don't work, is disconcerting, to say the least. "After I retired, I had a lot of dreams where I was in the field or in the station in uniform but I didn't have my badge. I would wander around like a lost soul asking other cops if they had seen my badge. It was like once I left I felt disconnected from the job and one of the biggest symbols of my authority was missing. I had several ver- sions of the dream where I was working in pa- trol and would say to myself, `I'll just cover my uniform with my police jacket and no one will know I'm not wearing my badge.' ose were disturbing because I felt like a phony. I had worked all those years and felt like I didn't belong anymore." Dr. Tau echoes Dr. Eisenberg when he says, "Dreams are the `day's residue.' ey actually help us discharge our anx- ieties," even though it doesn't feel that way at the time. "Our good dreams tend to be soothing," he says, "which is why we don't remember them as well as the bad ones. Dreams have no timeline. Time is distorted, so what seems like it takes place over many hours in our dreams may actually only be a few minutes." While most police dreams don't end in the death of the officers, some do: "In 2000 I got rear-ended while on my police motor, which got me two surgeries on my left shoulder and memory loss. I had a recurring dream since that crash until about a year after I retired. I dreamed that I got hit and killed on my police motor. I went through a vehicle's windshield. It would switch to the funeral. I would see the motorcade and the funeral ser- vice. "On the day I retired, the tradition with the motor unit is they motorcade the officer home on his/her last day, if they want it. I was excited because it was my last day but I was also extremely nervous because of the recurring dream. It was a big relief when I arrived home without any problems. I kept hav- ing the dream for about a year after retirement. Even though that particular dream started in 2000 and ended sometime in 2015, I didn't hold back doing my job. I did the job to the best of my ability, not letting the fear the dream produced overcome me and not paralyze my decision-making process." Dr. Tau encourages officers having frustrating police dreams to use a common therapeutic tool and start a dream diary. Keep a pad and pen by your bed and once you wake up from having a police-related dream, write down what you remember. Try this for a month and then look at your results. What kind of patterns and themes do you see? You POLICE DREAMS 28 POLICE JULY 2019 I would be in a shootout and when I fired my weapon the bullets became rubber and fell to the ground.

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