Varsha N., JD
ROAR Training & Consulting, LLC
Chief of Police, Yavapai College
Jamie comes home exhausted from her day at work, enters her apartment puts her keys on the table, kicks off her shoes and puts her feet on the coffee table. Her partner walks in behind her and starts yelling at the top of his lungs and flailing his arms, “Why did you put your feet on the freakin' table?! I just cleaned it and you are making a mess."
We have all probably experienced a situation where a neighbor was ranting or a colleague expressed hurt feelings by yelling, but there is a line that is crossed when anger expressed through repeated yelling, belittling, threats and insults is verbal abuse. For the record, it’s not okay to yell at someone just because a person is upset and they ‘felt like it’.
Working in the field of gender-based violence can be very stressful. Professionals who respond to victims of gender-based violence see and hear things most people would find hard to believe. It is common for responders to not want to talk about what they have seen or heard which means they often don’t have anyone they can debrief with. As a result, the responder may hold everything inside only for it to reveal itself in outbursts of anger. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Taking time to decompress after work could be as simple as taking some deep breaths while traveling home. Giving a partner space when they first get home could also be a strategy to allow time to decompress. Another strategy could be to simply agree not to overwhelm each other with “small talk” as soon as one or the other comes through the door. Instead, there could be an agreement allowing each other time to relax and get comfortable before determining a time to talk that would be much more welcomed and engaging. This is certainly true for those of us who work in environments or jobs where we spend most of our day talking or interacting with others. Coming home to some quiet time and providing a space to relax without having to say anything can be very rewarding, but an agreement must be reached so that it’s not interpreted by others as being angry, upset or that “something is wrong."
Mindfulness training is a growing trend across the United States and it has been found to be beneficial for law enforcement officers, as well. “The practice of pausing, coming into awareness, breathing, and gently responding can dramatically alter the way we respond to stress and anger,” says Aaron L. Bergman, coauthor of a new study on resiliency training (Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley). Discovering and practicing stress relieving techniques can help prevent the cycle of getting stressed, becoming angry and lashing out at others. Sylvia Moir, El Cerrito’s chief of police, sees the benefits of relaxation techniques and has organized meditation workshops for her officers. “We as a profession cannot be tactically sound, operationally savvy, guard people, and put our life on the line for people we may not ever meet, if we can’t see or handle the tragedy and heartache that’s part of our every day job” (Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley).
Resiliency training can help create a process centered
around mindfulness which may lead to increased understanding, reduction of the escalation in conflict, and potentially peaceful outcomes amongst colleagues, teammates, and partners. According to the Behavioral Science’s and the Law Journal, 22 million people have a history of impulsive angry behavior, but we don’t often talk about ways to address anger and when unaddressed, anger may lead to increased aggression and violence. It’s the little things we can do to help relieve stress and anxiety. Okay, so maybe yoga, tai chi, or reiki, is not your thing, even if it worked well for a little guy, known as master Yoda, who helped outdo the Dark side. Determining which stress relieving techniques work for you can take some time, but in the long run, the benefits may be worth the effort.