Hopefully your department has kept up with supplying you current state of the art law enforcement equipment, and provided you with the training you need to effectively utilize the same. Departments, depending on budgets, are generally pretty good at that. Unfortunately, they are usually very poor in training officers how to condition and train their minds related to enhancing essential law enforcement and personal skills.
Most people will acknowledge the strong connection between their minds and bodies. But exactly what is the mind and how does it work? The two main parts of the mind are the conscious and the subconscious. Both parts take in the same information, but each processes that information in completely different ways. The conscious mind is rational and analytical. Will power comes from the conscious mind. Short term memory is stored in this part of the mind. However, the conscious mind can only process and store a limited amount of information at any one time.
The real boss of the mind is the subconscious part. The subconscious mind communicates through feelings, emotions and experiences. It is also responsible for long term memory. Have you ever been on a call and had a gut instinct that something isn't right? That intuition comes from your subconscious mind. The subconscious is the part of the mind that relates to self preservation; it serves as an alert system to protect us from real or imagined threats. Training the conscious part of the mind is considerably easier than training the subconscious part. Few officers have learned how to program their subconscious mind for success in the field, or personally. Guided imagery has been suggested as one of the most powerful tools available to help officers and departments in this regard.
Officers have used visualization training to enhance their skills for years. You put yourself into visualized scenarios and play out what you would do in different situations, such as, in a confrontation with a mentally ill subject holding a grenade, with a group of hostile rioters armed with bats, a career criminal who managed to take your gun, etc. You process your reactions, the outcomes, and may decide to replay the scenario using different techniques of intervention, force, communication, etc. These types of exercises allow you to create a mental movie of yourself or team in a variety of situations in which a worse case scenario is resolved with a successful outcome.
This type of training utilizes only visualization. For effective subconscious mind training you need to use more; specifically you need to use your imagination. Some individuals may not be able to close their eyes and visualize a situation, but everyone has the ability to image, and to invoke all of their senses with the appropriate guidance.
Guided imagery can help enhance an officer's skills in numerous ways. It can give the officer the ability to continue to engage even if injured, to stay calm and in control in stressful situations, and enhance his/her tactical and firearm skills. There are additional benefits to guided imagery. It has been proven successful in treating a number of medical or psychological problems. It can relieve pain, lower blood pressure, speed healing, decrease anxiety and improve mood. Guided imagery is also a tool for accomplishing any goal; professional or personal (such as losing weight or quitting smoking).
Virtually everyone can successfully use imagery, but it requires patience and persistence. A trained professional in guided imagery is ideal, but may not be practical. Tapes can be purchased, but may not meet your goals or needs. There are certainly ways to train your subconscious, through imagery, yourself. The following steps are offered as a starter course. It is paramount for you to always end with a positive outcome, whether you are imaging a crime scenario, an athletic competition, a job interview, or taking a relaxing hike in the mountains or a romantic encounter on the beach. Remember, you always win.
Here are some situations you can tackle with your subconscious.
- For law enforcement scenario training put yourself at a scene. You are at a warehouse, an armed, third stiker suspect is reportedly holed up inside. He is a suspect in a triple homicide.
- You have decided you want to be a sergeant, you are about to take the test. The promotion is something you have dreamed about for seven years. You have a history of performing poorly on written tests, especially when you are under pressure.
- You are at maximum stress capacity. You have worked 10 days in a row, the kids have the flu, your wife has been laid off, your in-laws are coming for a week, and your beat partner switched watches. You just need to relax and to get into a better place, even just for awhile.
- Things are actually going exceeding well professionally, personally, and interpersonally, and you want to keep them going that way.
Slowly embrace the situation, using all of your senses to determine where you are, what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. Feel in tune with your surroundings. Focus on the goal for this exercise; to enhance your skills and performance; or to promote a feeling of relaxation and well-being. Using your imagination walk your way through the scenario, from approaching a warehouse to lying on a sandy beach. You can stay in the scenario as long as you want. When you are done, and your goal has been accomplished, count down from ten to one, telling yourself that at one you will feel relaxed and alert. When you get up take another mental note related to how relaxation and confidence really feels. You will be able to recall that feeling later, in your conscience state, when you need it most.
You should allow 10-20 minutes to complete relaxation techniques and guided imagery. Prepare a script and read it out loud before you begin. The script should be complete, with a beginning and ending, and should utilize all five of your senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell). Tape the script and then play it back to yourself, or have someone read it to you until you know the script by heart. Guided imagery works with groups as well.
Remove distractions; turn off the phone, television, radio, etc. Get comfortable; sit on a chair that has a back, or lie on a bed or a mat. Remove binding clothing, shoes, eyeglasses, etc. Do not cross your arms or legs. You may want to close your eyes.
Use deep diaphragmic breathing (lowering your diaphragm allows the lungs to expand further); breathe in deeply through your nose, hold your breath, and blow out through pursed lips, repeat, repeat, etc. Next, work on relaxing your entire body by using progressive muscle relaxation techniques. Start with your head and work your way down, focusing on large muscle groups. For example, raise your eyebrows up toward the top of your skull, hold, and then slowly relax your face. Push your shoulders together in front of and behind you, hold, and slowly relax your arms. Do similar exercises for your entire body: jaw, neck, upper and lower arms, upper and lower legs, abdomen, hands/fingers, and feet/toes. Take a mental note of the difference between tension and relaxation states of the muscles. If any of your muscles remain tense, rework that area. Take several more deep diaphragmic breaths. Count down from ten to one, telling yourself that with each number you will feel even more relaxed.
When you are completely relaxed go through your script. Again, it is imperative that you always have a successful outcome. The criminal surrenders, with or without force, and you sustain no injuries. You ace the test, and feel confident in your leadership skills. You feel as relaxed as you would after a full day at the beach.
When you have completed your script and your goal for the session has been accomplished you can return to the here and now. Count down from ten to one, telling yourself that at ONE you will feel relaxed and alert. When you get up take another mental note related to how success, confidence and relaxation make you feel. You will be able to recall that feeling later, in your conscience state, when you need it most. If you were not very successful on your first try, try and try again.
The next time you have one of those gut instincts, where you can feel the hair standing up on the back of your neck, listen; your subconscious is giving you a genuine heads up. Additionally, if you plan on making any New Year's Resolutions this year, consider using guided imagery to help you reach your goals. Never underestimate the power of your mind.