Befriending Fear Decreases The Need For Force

Several years ago Montgomery County, Alabama, Deputy Sheriff Kevin Murphy spoke about the impact of fear in the police community and in policing itself, during an interview with PBS Special Correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault. He underlined a perspective that seems vitally important to shifting our governing of ourselves. Police are people and subject to the same emotional considerations as other humans. First, when a person is in fear, running on adrenaline and narrowed focus, it’s impossible to use whole-body thinking, to utilize strategy, de-escalating, communicating for connection.  Second, when a person is inside of fear, othering happens.  People don’t seem “like me” or maybe even fully human. Others become the enemy, and it’s much easier to polarize, to demean and dehumanize as justification for force. We all get more stupid when we’re scared, and the technologies, practices for shifting from fear to presence are available right now:

Imagine if police training integrated emotional literacy all along the way from selection through training procedures. Imagine if police learned to identify their fear signatures, to notice the triggers and body sensations that signaled rising fear. If police could communicate THEIR fear with confidence of being received and met to shift into presence, connection and collaboration, what new procedures might arise. We could all rebuild trust and the expectation of support rather than confrontation. That is the world I’m advocating and invite your full-on participation.

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