Law Enforcement

The Police Officer’s Paradox

"To function effectively in our job, you must annihilate, smother, and suppress normal emotions like fear, anger, revulsion, and even compassion.  To do otherwise is to invite overwhelming doubt or hesitancy when decisive action is required.  The penalty for your achieved competence is a mindset that might as well be a foreign language to your social contemporaries.  We are…..victims of our own success.  When these same normal and appropriate emotions…..surface in personal relationships, we automatically shut down and wonder why, over time, that the people we care about the most complain that we are aloof, cold, and uncommunicative."

Lt. Al Benner, Ph.D.
March 18, 1942 - July 22, 2009
San Francisco Police

Job related stress impacts the family and in truth, it is the family that represents a, if not the greatest, stabilizing force in the officer’s life.  An example of this can be found in the statistic that Police officers going through a divorce are 5 times more likely to commit suicide than an officer in a stable marriage! Since relationship problems, are highly related to job stress it is easy to see how these two can either feed each other in a positive way or negative manner leading to a crisis. Studies have called police work a "high-risk lifestyle". Not high risk in terms of the physical dangers of the job, but high risk in terms of developing behavioral problems, attitudinal problems, and intimacy and relationship problems.

For this reason, officers need to guard their familial relationships and recognize the necessity of investing time and energy into the family.  This requires more than just spending time playing sports or “doing things together” but requires the “heart work” of understanding the needs of each family member and fostering an ongoing dialogue of intimacy.  As a professional, I find that it is in this component of family life that things get turned around for the better or worst in an officer's life.

Greenberg & Associates offers individual, family and marital counseling to emergency services personnel and their families.