The Bulletin

Police stress linked to police brutality in US

  • Written by Dr. Scott Terry


The United States and the world is reeling from CoVid 19.  But the United States is also shocked by a wave of police murders of innocent protesters. What is causing police to behave so brutally?

It is often stress and even post-traumatic stress that puts an internal pressure on the police. With years of public service, the pressure of the job can build up, debilitating the public servants who are supposed to protect.

Some policemen are simply in the wrong profession and should be removed.  However, in many cases, a good natured officer can become overwhelmed by daily pressures and stressful events and begin over-reacting.

There are a large range of standard medical procedures to help reduce stress and post-traumatic stress, such as Prolonged Exposure and Cognitive Behavior therapy and pharmaceuticals.

There are also many alternative and complementary protocols that have been shown to rapidly reduce these conditions.

Many groups are investigating alternatives, including use of horses and dogs to provide companionship, diet and exercise routines, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and different types of meditation.

One well-documented protocol for reducing stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the Transcendental Meditation technique. According to a 2018 research study in Lancet Psychiatry, TM is at least as effective as Prolonged Exposure (PE) without risking re-exposure to the traumatic events. The study showed that whereas 40% of veterans showed significant reduction in PTSD with PE, at least 60% of veterans who were TM practitioners showed significant reduction in this chronic and debilitating mental condition.  In addition, regular TM practice has been shown to structure resilience, thereby helping to maintain lower levels of stress in daily life.

One female police officer faced many deaths, murders, many types of violence for years.  She found herself troubled by sleeping, horrible dreams, anger, drinking problem, hypertension, feeling numb, always worried and fearful. After years of service and stress, she was diagnosed with PTSD.

She tried many drugs but they made her feel numb or some of them had negative side effects, she lost her hair.

Then she decided to learn Transcendental Meditation (TM).

With TM she was able to sleep better. “I had fewer dreams about the incident and policing and I felt I was able to talk about it without getting too upset. I just felt more myself.”

“When I was meditating I felt at peace.”

“I felt as if I had fewer flashbacks. That feeling of being on high alert and waking up at 3 in the morning and checking out the entire house, or feeling jumpy any time I heard a loud bang: that went away.”

“I was drinking less alcohol. I felt a lot calmer around my kids and husband.”

TM is a natural, easily learned practice that provides deep rest to body and mind and thereby begins to reverse the accumulation of stress within the practitioner. Studies show TM can alleviate high blood pressure and insomnia.

A calmer police officer who is clearer thinking and less on edge will be better equipped to defuse a potentially explosive situation, rather than to make it worse.  The manifold health benefits of TM practice can reduce work hours lost and increase overall effectiveness among law enforcement officers (TM.org)  Over 12 peer reviewed scientific studies show that TM helps veterans of war, refugees, highly stressed students and even prisoners, overcome stress and reduce PTSD.

Not only does a TM practitioner reduce stress, but the policeman who practices TM regularly chooses to grow more settled in mind, less reactive to the many external stressors, and more able to enjoy the progressive possibilities that arise for progress for themselves and their society.

The police officer who implements TM not only reduces the likelihood of getting PTSD or reduces the PTSD if he or she has become highly stressed, but he experiences Post-Traumatic Growth if he has been in traumatic situations. One begins to appreciate the nourishing qualities of oneself and others. One becomes happier and more creative. Over 350 peer reviewed studies show a very wide range of improvements through Transcendental Meditation (TM.org). All these are measures Post-Traumatic Growth.  (TM.org). Now the pressures of the job and of life stimulate the police officer or anyone to make even greater progress without accumulating stress.

All of us need a tool to become less stressed, more calm to be able to find the best in each day, even as the world vigorously changes in front of our eyes, like turbulent waves in an ocean storm.  Here is a technique to help us re-unite ourselves and our nation.

About the authors:

Dr. Scott F. Terry, Ed.D., M.A., IL.-L.M.F.T., IL.-L.C.P.C., IA.-L.M.F.T., IA.-L.M.H.C., Ch.T., and AAMFT approved supervisor. With 25 years of practice as a doctoral level clinician, supervisor, professor, clinical and executive director of five large mental health organization practices, including the Ardent Counseling Center, and a radio show.

David Shapiro, B.A. cum laude chemistry, M.A., the founding President of PTSD Relief Now and its African PTSD Relief projects and Alliance for PTSD Recovery (both are 501C3 charities)
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