Forging Courage and Leadership in the Face of Adversity

Developing and maintaining the strength, courage and leadership to overcome adversity is a journey that is different for each person based on their application of life’s lessons.  Resilience, the ability to overcome adversity, has a number of dimensions including behavioral (social interactions), cognitive (restructuring thoughts), and emotional (self-esteem) skills/characteristics.  The skills and character traits outlined in this handout may serve as a guide in your quest to strengthen resilience and thus your ability to serve the families and fellow law enforcement officers of our fallen heroes.

 

Attitude: Ability to Roll with the Punches

  • Develop attitude of this is a life to be lived and live it.
  • Future oriented rather than looking to the past “What now”
  • There is little use in dwelling on what might have been
  • Make a sustained effort to return to everyday life
  • Defining life as a series of obstacles that are overcome
  • Not quitting, the ball is thrown, it is your life what are you going to do with it
  • Forcing self to move forward to improve your life and the lives around you
  • A choice and a recommitment to feel alive and vital
  • Maintain flexibility

Keeping Things in Perspective

  • Accept reality that change is part of life
  • Develop longer-term time perspective
  • Spiritual perspective-God
  • Broader perspective
  • Realize that others are having the same kind of feelings you’re having
  • Remember people have good days and bad days after a tragedy

Positive Reappraisal: Seeking Meaning in Adversity

  •  Seizing opportunity for learning and growth
  • Seek meaning in what you do and how you are living
  • Quality and meaning of life are found in the small things of life, in the touching of others lives in many small ways

Positive Relationships

  • Talk with others
  • Just knowing someone is around who cares, helps
  • Continually nurturing and updating relationships
  • Let others know if you need assistance
  • Maintain motivation for living by focusing on those that need us
  • We create benefit when we have helped others and allowed others to help us
  • Stay in touch with family and friends.  Allow them to help and comfort you
  • Seek out caring, reassuring and encouraging relationships – COPS
  • Unite with others who are healthy in facing adversity
  • Rely on both yourself and others
  • Limiting destructive relationships
  • Avoid withdrawl and isolation
  • Avoid belief that we can only be understood by those with similar experiences
  • Low support is strongly associated with problems

Dealing with Feelings – Anger

  • The ability to express feelings is a character strength, not a weakness
  • Feelings are normal, accept them rather than feeling guilty for being angry
  • Deal directly with anger
  • Accept that at times we cannot fully discharge emotion or impulses
  • Use tension and anger to bolster your resolve
  • Thoughts of revenge are normal, but too much can slow our recovery
  • Forgiveness is a powerful and undervalued virtue
  • Express reactions through physical activity, music, writing, or art
  • Acceptance of evolving nature life and emotions

 

  • Death makes us angry as a result of being forced to change and be alone
  • Death reminds us of how little control we have
  • Recognize destructive thoughts “In time everyone gets back in routine except us”
  • Accept reality that pain comes back just not as frequently

Dealing with Feelings – Fear

  • Fight fear by facing it head on not by denying it
  • Seeing what we fear in the light of day almost always shrinks the monster
  • Discuss your feelings, what frightens you with a trusted relative or friend
  • Distraction helps to ease pain
  • Recall that if we feel fear, we do not have to react to it.

High Optimism     Hope     Self-Confidence

  • Believe in yourself
  • Establish a belief that you can generally control what happens to you
  • Establish hope
  • Review past success to bolster confidence
  • Defeat fatalism
  • Use skills you’ve developed that have helped you in other times of crisis
  • Identify ways in which your situation is improving
  • Reinforce yourself
  • Do the things you do well, in order to experience a sense of mastery and control
  • Look for situations that you can change
  • Self confidence facilitates a sense of autonomy which enhances self-esteem

Tolerance & Patience

  • Avoid demanding and believing life will be the same as before
  • Be patient with self
  • Giving yourself permission to take a break
  • Recognize that each person is unique
  • Don’t compare yourself to others
  • Give yourself time to heal
  • Not your job to control others in your personal life, but rather to provide information

Effective Problem Solving

  • Remember that crisis situations are generally evolving
  • Increase your sense of control by being more vigilant
  • Accurately identify the problems you face
  • Seek information from competent authorities
  • Learn all you can about the reactions you are having
  • Evaluating the relevance of information to your individual circumstances
  • Set realistic expectations and goals for yourself and others
  • Break goals down into small steps towards goal
  • Prioritize goals and problems to address
  • Plan how one can get through the next twenty-four hours
  • Learn what your community agencies have to offer
  • Establish a plan to deal with your future
  • Take appropriate action on a plan
  • Take positive action even if it is a small accomplishment
  • Take decisive action on urgent issues and avoid wishful thinking
  • Put off making important social & business decisions
  • Frequently reevaluating old and new information
  • Avoid excessive control, which produces more anxiety
  • Use humor as a way to cope
  • Avoid generalizing information and blaming individuals beyond the appropriate context
  • Maintain flexibility in problem solving

Maintaining High Self-Esteem

  • Develop clear sense of identity and values
  • Multifaceted sense of self that conveys competency in a variety of different areas
  • Maximize positives
  • Evaluate values and priorities
  • Internalize value system
  • Life is a cooperative venture
  • Definition of success e.g. hard work
  • Hope for the future
  • Sense of autonomy
  • Empathizing with each other and your families
  • Engaging in altruistic acts
  • Utilize characteristics outlined in High Optimism Section

Anger Management Skills

  • Restructuring thoughts of unfairness, irresponsibility and lack of caring
  • Identify triggers, precursors and vulnerabilities
  • Adopt a longer time perspective
  • Review consequence of acting on anger which reduces impulsively
  • We are told from childhood anger is bad instead of using anger constructively
  • Review your contribution to the anger
  • Development of humility
  • Relaxation
  • Distraction

Conflict Resolution / Communication Skills

  • Calm yourself down beforehand
  • Understand your motives (to defeat or cause harm?)
  • Understand other individual’s perspective
  • Identify alternatives
  • Allow face-savings
  • Build bridges
  • Be assertive not aggressive
  • Negotiate and compromise
  • Discuss & prepare
  • Take timeouts
  • Avoid getting personal
  • Avoid making accusations
  • Avoid sulking or withdrawing
  • Avoid seeking revenge
  • Avoid serious discussions while using alcohol/drugs

Easy Going Temperament & Cognitive Distortions

  • Fairness Myth – Everything must be fair
  • Fatalism – Drawing conclusion of failure without adequate evidence
  • Selective Abstraction – Disregarding the bulk of information available
  • Control Myth – My job to control others
  • Change Myth – Others are choosing not to change
  • Caring Myth – Others act this way because they don’t care
  • Catastrophic Thinking – Keeping things in perspective
  • Crystal Balling – Foretelling negative future without evidence
  • Entitlement Myth – I should be treated special
  • Life is not an evolving process and should proceed through advancing stages
  • Personalizing – This unrelated situation applies to me
  • Punishment Myth – My job to punish others
  • Perfectionism – Everything must be perfect
  • Continually processing information
  • Responsibility Myth – My job is to make others responsible
  • Over-generalizing information
  • Blaming – Avoid blaming it is not your fault that you experienced this injustice.
  • External Value System – Success defined and based on others
  • Magical Thinking – Unrelated actions are connected
  • Mind Reading – Acting on a basis that you know what the other person is thinking
  • Minimizing Positives

Adaptive Behaviors Associated with Resilience

  • Establish varied interests that allow distractions
  • Exercise regularly
  • Preplanned pleasurable activities
  • Preplanned masterful activities
  • Utilize relaxation, warm baths, hot tubs and massage to reduce tension
  • Eat adequate and nutritious meals
  • Participate in recreation
  • Get enough rest
  • Avoid drinks that are high in caffeine
  • Stay away from alcoholic beverages
  • Continue to take prescribed medication as directed
  • Monitor your physical responses and convey information to physician
  • Maintain or develop routines and rituals
  • Limit viewing of the media coverage with explicit images
  • After critical incidents contact trained and experienced professionals for assistance

Children & Resilience

  • Make them feel safe in caring and supportive environment
  • Watch for signs of fear
  • Encourage play to express feelings
  • Enlist their help
  • Have them help others
  • Ask for their opinion
  • Realize biological changes occur
  • Answer questions clearly leaving little room for doubt
  • Limit exposure to news
  • Share your feelings
  • Encourage activities with others
  • Give reassurance
  • Establish and move towards goals
  • Increase self-cares
  • Increase opportunities for self-discovery
  • Maintain perspectives
  • Provide breaks
  • Serve as a role model for adaptive coping and problem solving