Core Social Motives- Police and Criminals - same but different.
One of the most attractive elements of being a police officer (many years ago) was the sense of belonging to an organisation with shared values. These shared values were even more intensified as members of a team either in uniform or the CID. Whether a dog handler, a counter terrorism officer, a detective on the Flying Squad, a uniform officer within the response team, a traffic officer, a member of the senior management team, we probably all felt that unique sense of belonging. We had ties and badges reflecting to whom we belonged.
The social psychologist, Susan Fiske (2004) identified five core social motives which facilitates effective functioning in social groups. Fiske posits that core social motives describe how we interact with others via our behaviours, thinking and feelings in relation to others. She describes these five core social motives as : belonging, understanding, controlling, self-enhancing and trusting.
The mere exposure to behaviours within a family or environmental setting can be interpreted as the norm and forms their attitudes.These norms become the unwritten rules for behaviour, and over time the cognitions are developed from this exposure that supports the affect and behaviour.
Through modelling by the family, environment or respected peers, social influence impacts upon the core social motives of belonging and understanding, and can be both positive and negative.
The lives we live are affected by social influence through choices we make in choosing our friends, sport, hobbies, clubs, culture ; every choice we make is unconsciously driven by the feeling of a sense of belonging, understanding, controlling, self-enhancement and trust with peers who have similar to us.
As a police officer I did feel a sense of belonging (although not always because of when I joined the police) plus a sense of control acting within the law and internal police policies . I belonged to an organisation who helped others, and arrested criminals who failed to adhere to the law. The police service also provided opportunities for my self enhancement through specialisation, promotion, skill development and increased knowledge. My sense of self was enhanced because of what I did for others and society at large.
And, I trusted my peers who I knew would come to my aid in a crisis, would support me and be part of a team with shared values.
As a police blogger recently suggested, police officers have been screened and tested for 'our integrity, our honesty, our morals and beliefs ...'(Core Social Motives)
Over the last decade, leadership within the police service has changed considerably. Today's police leaders are approachable men and women who are critical thinkers, developing emotional intelligence, people management, active listening, creativity, complex problem solving, cognitive flexibility, negotiation etc. They don't believe they are always right because they are the boss. They listen to the minority voice and value thoughts that challenge their own.
Changing the culture and beliefs of any organisation takes a long time - as humans our default setting is hard wired -we live in a world of automaticity. As individuals we can only change when the unconscious becomes conscious - nothing changes if nothing changes. In order to change we really do have to get honest and look at ourselves ; there is a bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of us.
We don't develop emotional intelligence by reading a book. It is an internal process, examining our fears, vulnerabilities, our ego, our sense of who we are. Are we defined by our job, our status, the numbers who follow us on twitter?
Developing emotional intelligence takes courage, pain, honesty, removal of our masks, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. It isn't a tick box exercise- it is a life long process of reviewing our behaviour, thoughts and feelings every day for the rest of our lives which eventually becomes wisdom.
From being a retired detective, my own sense of development and growth has taken me into the world of a prison - helping men on a volunteer basis, deal with their addiction issues. Through one to one work we examine, as part of the process of recovery, the five core social motives appertaining to their life starting in childhood.
In their addiction and criminal behaviour their core social motives, formed in childhood, are acted out. Their false persona keeps them safe- their swagger, their reputation, their tattoos and their scars from battles, driven by fear of 'what if I drop the mask I don't like myself'. Too frightened to find their authentic self, they remain cloaked in a false self which they know is false and use substances to self repair.
Criminals find a sense of belonging in gangs, addiction, criminality - in a world they think they understand, they think they have control, they trust because they don't 'grass' and their self enhancement relates to their reputation
I have been in the prison for eleven years; I understand criminality because I was a cop, I understand addiction because I am in my 24th year of recovery from alcoholism. There is a sense of belonging, understanding, trusting, self enhancing (through hope) when one addict identifies with another. The journey of transition from negative to positive core social motives is the difficult task, yet the most rewarding.
I have permission to share this with you - it is the words of one prisoner seeking to change. He describes his lack of belonging as a child in a dysfunctional alcoholic family.
'Escaping the loneliness of 'home' I found comfort in parks and long bus rides, roaming trying to find that connection that I needed, inclusion in something other than rejection. I travelled on the buses around London searching to give my young life meaning, Hamley's Toy store, Harrods, stealing sometimes, just watching families on their days out connecting, loving and caring for each other, yearning in my heart to be 'their child' in 'that' family and loved. Bus rides end to end looking out the window putting off the inevitable time when I head off 'home'.
This loneliness, sadness and anger often manifested itself in destructive behaviour, smashing windows, destroying plants and flowers in the park, anything i could do to reflect the pain I was feeling.
Life has been a search for belonging, value and identity - always looking outside of myself, thinking I could make people love me, becoming more entrenched in beliefs that were warped".
He already thinks of himself as a scumbag, unlovable, a loser, a thief, a dirty drug injecting user. He doesn't need other people to tell him - he knows that about himself and feels shame.
Addiction is an attempt at self repair - addicts know there is something wrong inside and are trying to fix it either by using substances that numb or makes them feel because of their internalised disassociation.
What he does want is someone to hear him, without judging, to help him address his issues so he can start to feel he belongs somewhere. I have met many dozens more like him - do not underestimate how hard it is to change hard wired neural pathways of thinking, feeling and behaviours -we are creatures of habits which are hard to change. The destination is the feeling of internal validation through a new sense of belonging in recovery, a sense of understanding self, more choices which gives more control over his life, self enhancement through new opportunities and the ability to trust self that he won't pick up a drink or a drug when the going gets tough.
Self examination is courageous.
Commander Sutherland @ police commander always hits the right notes in his blogs. His twitter account heading reads 'Nobody Is Not Loved.' There is no dispute that Police officers are heroes who save lives, put their own lives in danger, catch criminals who rightly have to be in prison to protect the public, show extraordinary courage, and provide an emergency service 24/7. They always have and they always will.
In the news, Prisons are in the headlines again - assaults, suicides, self harm all on the rise, hurting themselves or hurting prison staff . Internal pain projected internally or on to others. Self hatred is acute.
We all know that Prisons are not the priority of the public or the Government at a time when services are being cut in the NHS and other front line services. Why help someone who is not prepared to help himself?
I need to remind us all there are courageous men in prison too, endeavouring to find their authentic self, working hard to change hard wired emotions, feelings and behaviours in a place where they are shamed and ridiculed by others, too scared to take off their own masks.
Getting clean and sober in prison is no easy task.