If you’ve read our book, How to Get Your Son Back, you know I was a deeply troubled teen who had a number of serious encounters with the police. Each time I saw someone in blue my heart started pounding, blood rushed to my head, and my senses became heightened. I hated the police – those sons of bitches. I thought they were always out to get me.
After earning several blotches on my record as a clueless teen, I couldn’t get a job that paid much more than $15 per hour. In my mind, the cops had really f’ed my life up. They were the ones who arrested me and put me in jail. They were the cause of my terrible legal record. It sucked shit to be me. Each time I was arrested, it felt as though the cops were emasculating me by handcuffing me in putting my ass into the back of a squad car. The fact they put their hands on me in the first place was infuriating. I didn’t want ANY authority figure touching me – especially not a cop. I spent lots of time and energy hating and anxiously detesting a group men and women I didn’t even know.
So, what was really going on?
As my dad and I began working to transform me from a high school dropout and suicidal, angry young man with multiple felonies, I experienced a lot of help and healing for my PTSD, anxiety, and depression. As I engaged in this introspective work, I started to examine my hatred for the police. Were the police really as bad as I was making them out to be? I began to ask myself, why were the police ever in a position to touch me in the first place? If I truly endeavored to discover the root of my abhorrence for the cops I had to examine all facets, including myself.
The answer was simple: I broke the laws implemented by the people we as a society elect, the lawmakers. After I thought about the crimes I had committed, a bigger and more honest picture started to formulate. I was the one who totally messed up my life; there was no one else to blame for the initial infractions I committed, ones I knew were wrong (You’ll have to read the book for more details.). Through careful, impartial analysis, it was easy to see the fault did not lie with law enforcement. It was on me.
Let’s be real. Deep-seeded emotions don’t simply disappear when we gain a little knowledge and insight. There was more to it.
I was still angry at the police. So, I continued my introspective healing and dug a bit deeper. It seemed as though ego was a massive problem for me. If you could have bought me for what I was worth and sold me for what I thought I was worth, you’d have made Buffet look like a chump. As I looked back at my behavior, I realized I consistently attempted to position myself as the dominate person, regardless of the social situation. Any perceived challenge or threat of that position caused me great anxiety and anger. My problem was having such a poor self-image.
Since I can remember, I had always thought badly of myself. I was big and strong growing up, so I felt the best way to compensate for my feelings of inadequacy was to make sure I was always in a position of dominance. So, I fought a lot. I couldn’t “just be me” because if others saw me as I did, they would see the same piece of shit I did when I looked in the mirror. You can imagine the shame I felt when I was sitting in the back of a cop car wearing pretty silver bracelets on my wrists. When the cops took my dominate image away, I was pissed off like you wouldn’t believe. That is how shame works. Much of my behavior has been motivated by the need to protect my secret feelings of inadequacy.
Law enforcement is nothing more than a job to ensure the laws WE create are upheld. Essentially, I was upset and hated the police because I screwed up, violating society’s rules – the ones WE set, the ones I agree to by living here. It wasn’t about the police at all. It was about me seeing myself as a piece of shit and creating an image and reputation as a badass, so no one would discover my most closely guarded secret. I tried to up hold my appearance and I was arrested and publicly shamed – emotions I associated with my memory of the police.
Worse yet, I became a social outlier and my peers began to ostracize me and label me as a loser, someone to stay away from. I made the conscious choice to break the law, and I eventually got caught while others behaved themselves. It became more and more clear; law enforcement was not the enemy. My self-image and the defenses guarding others from seeing the “true” me were the actual enemies.
I wonder how many other people still carry the same mindset I did…
What’s bothersome is hearing about police officers being gunned down all over the country by total freaks who in all likelihood took my line of thinking and hatred to the next couple levels, committing the ultimate act of evil. Although I cannot understand how someone could take another life, I do have insight as to how a person could allow hatred to metastasize into a wicked rage.
As a white guy, I cannot speak to the racial component. But I can speak to how hatred and disdain stemmed from my feelings of deep inadequacy that were exposed though my arrests, the fines, the inability to get jobs, and being exposed as a weak and powerless man. The emotions that became linked with those memories and cues (the police) are some of the strongest and lasting memories we as humans develop, as they are primitive and linked to our survival.
Police officers serve the public and often endanger themselves for our protection. Yet they are on the end of criticism, much of which is misguided and baseless. However, some complaints have proven to have merit. As good people in society who agree to the laws our government implements, we must take inventory of ourselves and of our own personal shortcomings, not the system’s. Blaming the system and those who enforce its rules is the ultimate cop out (pun intended). It’s the most lame, ubiquitous excuse around that life’s losers commonly cling to as a means to compensate for their lack of self-worth.
Sure, this is a social problem, but it can also be a personal problem. There is no question bad people reside in law enforcement – just like they do in other careers. However, the extent to which we blame the police versus accepting responsibility for our role in this growing social problem is far less clear. I have empathy for the police. I also have some empathy for those struggling with disdain against police. I do challenge them to look deeply at themselves and ask, to what degree am I to blame for the anger I have inside me.