Saturday, December 15, 2007

Reality and Denial

Teaching cops is different than teaching civilians.  One of the big differences is that in a regular martial arts class, your students want to be there.  When you  are teaching officers, that's not always true.  Sometimes they are ordered to be there.  Sometimes because they desperately need the training, sometimes because it is 'that time of year'... annual training.

Some of the students that are ordered to the training are extremely resistant to it, and that really puzzles and bothers me.  I don't teach fluff classes.  My classes fall solidly into the Survival Skills (Defensive Tactics, Confrontational Simulations); violence prevention (Advanced Communication, Crisis Communication with the Mentally Ill) or not getting sued (Use of Force) categories.  This is important stuff.  A failure in any of these areas could cost you your life, your job your income... it's potentially bad.

This isn't a safe job.  Things have gotten better, but when they tasked me to design the program, 10% of our officers were being hospitalized each year.  Yet in every group of people who don't want to attend training, at least one will say that they don't want to attend training because they don't need it.  They don't fight.  They've been doing this too long and that kind of stuff doesn't happen to experienced officers...

I've visited officers in the hospital who said stuff like that.  You don't get to pick whether you get attacked.  You don't get to pick whether you will have a bad day or not.  We see this all around us.  Good officers get taken hostage too.  Good officer get clocked (far more rarely than bad officers, but it still happens).  We see this, we see this all the time, and still a very small group says, "But not to me."

Watching them, they would get hurt a lot more if not for alert supervisors who assign them to safe places.  Why does stupidity about risk so often go hand-in-hand with the kind of blindness and complacency that makes one such a perfect victim?  The question answers itself.

Changing tires in the rain, the guy couldn't figure out how to use the rod to lower his spare tire from the undercarriage.  I crawled under (why was everyone else hesitant to lie on the wet ground?) and felt for the attachment point.  The square end of the rod he slid in was exactly the same size as the attachment. "You have to use the other end," I said, "this is too small to fit over the crank."

"Nope," he replied, "That can't be right.  The handle fits on this end.  That doesn't make sense."
So let's get this straight:  I'm right there.  I'm telling him why it's not working and what we need to make it work... and he rejects it because it doesn't make sense from his (completely separated) point of view.

He actually refused, twice, to turn the rod around.  After those two failures he acquiesced to try it my way (the way of the guy who was actually there) and in a few seconds, his spare tire was free.

Maybe that would make a good name for a style, translated into Japanese: The Way of the Guy Who is Actually There.  Actually there guy-do.  Kevin?


Kai Jones said...

Denial lets people who have inadequate courage (or are afraid they have inadequate courage) get through life.

I think some denial is also lack of imagination (some of mine is, anyway).

The guy with the rod...that's empirical evidence thinking. He has to have it proven. Some people don't seem to be able to learn by others' experiences. Some can't even learn from *their* *own* experiences. I've been that attached to my idea of how things work over how they really work. We're pattern-seeking animals, but there's enough chaos in life that we learn to defend the patterns we make up that seem to be working.

The intermittent reward of a pattern occasionally working reinforces it even more than a pattern that is always rewarded.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure it is denial? Secondary gain is an alternative explanation.

What do I mean by secondary gain? Well, as they said in the movie, "Follow the money."

For example, if an officer gets hurt at work, during an incident that does not involve firearms or motor vehicles, the chances of it being a fatal or truly crippling injury are not especially high. However, the chances of the officer getting a few weeks off work with time-loss paid by workers' comp are pretty good. If you've used up all your sick leave and vacation time, that's not a bad gig.

It's an easy process, too; mostly, it involves finding the right doctor. And, if the officer has done his research (and many have, I'd guess, because the cons and the guards often have the same workers' comp docs), then the officer can be off work for years, and then, at the end of the whole thing, either: a) get paid tens of thousands of dollars in permanent partial disability (post-traumatic stress disorder is a favorite, as it requires no objective findings), and put into a job that doesn't involve touching people, or b) get a pension.

There is an additional bonus in this scenario: the officer can tell everyone (including him/herself) that s/he would still be working if that rascal, years ago, hadn't whacked him/her.

Dan Gambiera said...

Today's Girl Genius comic is a little bit to the point...

Anonymous said...

Great post. The Way of the Guy Who Is Actually There - beautiful.

The Moody Minstrel said...

The Way of the Guy who is Actually There?

Well, let's see...if I were to follow the usual trend of using only a kanji compound for the name, it might come out as:


(It would translate as "the way of one who is really present".)

Does that work, sir?