Archive for the ‘Fear and Anxiety’ Category

A Look at Spontaneity and Anxiety

December 4, 2012

It did not surprise me to learn that anxiety disorders are the most prevalent disorders in our society. Further, when I think about my life, it did not surprise me to hear that it is not anxiety disorders that are most often treated by therapists. This lack of attention can have detrimental effects on our society. Problems or consequences of untreated anxiety, specifically, untreated social phobia disorder and avoidant personality disorder, can be profound. There are ways to prevent or overcome anxiety disorders.

Anxiety is defined as “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it” Anxiety. 2012. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anxiety. Anxiety is believed to be unique to humans and unlike other animals, we are able to use our memory and imagination. Anxiety. 2012. In The Free Dictionary.com. Retrieved from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/anxiety. Since we have that ability, it will take more effort to live “in the moment” for most of us. During a personal interview, Kathy St. Clair, a psychodramatist from Roanoke, Virginia, noted that “fear is always “future” related.” (St.Clair, 2012) Fear about the future probably involves memory of the past and imagination of the future. Of course, some anxiety is normal and probably natural and necessary. (Morrison, 1995, p. 247) Anxiety is an element of almost all mental disorders and it can rise to a level that requires treatment. (Morrison, 1995, p. 247) Fear, and the anxiety associated with it, seems to be the main component of Social Anxiety Disorder and Avoidant Personality Disorder. Some of the criteria for social phobia are “…persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations…” (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (4th ed. text rev.), 2000, p. 456) Some people with a social phobia may also have an Avoidant Personality Disorder, which is more severe than a Social Phobia. (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. 455) It involves a pattern of social inhibitions and abnormal sensitivity to feeling inadequate and possible criticism. (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. 721) Regardless of the level of anxiety, it has the likely potential to affect our ability to be present and in the moment at any given time in our life.

J.L. Moreno has said that there is an inverse relationship between anxiety and spontaneity. As we become more spontaneous, the anxiety will decrease. Moreno defines spontaneity as “an adequate response to a present situation.” (J.L. Moreno, 1953, p. 336) But he also takes into consideration the novelty of the situation. (Moreno, 1955, p. 108) Are we talking about a new situation or an old situation? As an example, I’m walking down the hall and a friend says, “How are you doing?” As many of us usually and automatically do, I respond, “Fine, how are you”. I would call that an unnovel response to an unnovel comment and not very spontaneous or creative.

When I first began looking at this issue, I focused on anxiety as being very negative and initially thought that if I had less anxiety, I would be more spontaneous. But, Moreno says to look at the cause of the problem. “Anxiety sets in because there is spontaneity missing, not because “there is anxiety” and spontaneity dwindles because anxiety rises.” (J.L. Moreno, 1953, p. 338) Moreno originated the “twin concept” of spontaneity and creativity as a part of all human beings and their relationships to others. (Moreno, 1955, p. 105) Moreno views creativity, not as a talent, but as a “spontaneous-creative process”. (Nolte, 2008, p. 106) Creativity is the potential we have had and will have. Spontaneity is what makes being creative possible. (Nolte, 2008, pp. 107-108) Moreno believes that creativity applies to all things that have been created, will be created, and those that might be created, but will not be. (Nolte, 2008, p. 108) If we are not reaching our potential because we lack spontaneity, how do we get it?

Even if we are generally spontaneous, there are many times in our life when we go through the routine and use very little, if any spontaneity. I think of growing up in our church as a child listening to the long winded men saying the prayer only so they could hear themselves talk. Those types of prayers meant nothing to me. Moreno gives an example of repeating a prayer that has been recited many times. The speaker can choose to merely repeat it or give it life with his own spontaneity. (Nolte, 2008, pp. 112-113) Spontaneity cannot be stored up like some forms of energy. It is available in the moment and the “here and now”. (Nolte, 2008, p. 114) The warm up process is a part of the creative process and essential to being able to be spontaneous. Warming up is similar to an athlete preparing or warming up for an event. (Nolte, 2008, p. 128) Moreno uses the word “conserve” to refer to a product of spontaneity and creativity. (Nolte, 2008, p. 120)

Many of our conserves have served us well, but the way we relate to our conserves can be positive and negative. The repeated prayer or song, like the Star Spangled Banner, may be good products of the originator’s creativity, but if they are not repeated with the individual’s own spontaneity, they will probably come out dull, lifeless, and meaningless. (Nolte, 2008, pp. 122-123) If we become controlled by the conserves, we risk becoming dull, boring, and mechanical people. (Nolte, 2008, p. 126)

Looking back, I remember struggling with anxiety in my early teens. I suppose that I knew it was excessive, but was either too embarrassed to ask for help or did not think it would make a difference. Initially, I tried to control it with alcohol. Later, I began to combat it by facing it, but it was not until I began to participate in psychodrama workshops that I was able to overcome it.

For many, psychodrama is a big part of the solution. Psychodrama was developed by Jacob L. Moreno. He defined it as exploring the truth by dramatic methods. We live in the same world with each other, but we all experience it differently. My truth or perception of this world is different than yours and anyone else’s. Psychodrama explores an individual’s perception of the world or universe (Nolte, Guide to Training, 2009, p. 1). Some people are leery. If we can get people past the name, “psychodrama”, and into the action of a drama, potential critics will soon see the benefits. After all, we do not have a problem with the word, “psychology”, even though it begins with “psycho”. Getting past the closed minds in this world is important, but it is possible if we begin earlier in the life process. For a lot of people, the older we get, the more closed minded we become. Many may be content living a controlled conserved life rather than a more spontaneous one. (Nolte, The Psychodrama Papers, 2008, p. 126) Psychodrama is therapeutic and uses parts of many therapy theories. To me, psychodrama uses concepts of Person-Centered, Existential, and Gestalt therapies because it promotes genuineness, empathetic listening, non-judgmental sharing, and the premise that most people have it in them to find the solutions to their issues. It could be the best way to become more self-aware of who we are, and why. When we become more self-aware of the unconscious awareness, or the dark side, or shadow, we are able to make better choices in life (Ken Wilber, 2008, p. 43). Using psychodrama techniques early would help people understand themselves and others better in the developmental process. Carl Rogers’ three conditions to creating a growth promoting climate for our children might be key for causing change and growth earlier in life (Rogers, 1980, pp. 115-116). Imagine if we taught children that it is safe to be genuine with each other? What if our children had less of a desire to put up fronts or facades with each other? What if our children learned to accept and care for each other unconditionally? What if our children are taught to listen without judgment and really understand their classmates? I am thinking back about the possibility of feeling free to share my feelings of inadequacy and anxiety without fear. I am sure I would not have been the only one with those feelings. Instead, I kept them inside and felt alone in my struggles. If we are free to express and share these issues, the process would build self-esteem and self-confidence, which would go a long way in preventing drug use and other destructive actions of youth and adults. With psychodrama, we are able to free ourselves from blocks to our spontaneity and creativity. (Nolte, 2008, pp. 127-128) When we are more spontaneous and creative, our lives become more enjoyable.

Our society has it backwards. We are not preventative; we are, instead, more punitive. Money is not an issue when we jump on the punishment wagon. Put a bandage on it and go on with our lives. Our society does not have the “we” attitude. It is more of the “me” and “mine” attitude. A more preventative society is extremely necessary, especially with identifying and treating anxiety. To do that, we have to be informed and educated in the mental health field. We have to be a more empathetic society. Teachers and educators have to be those that genuinely care about our students and be more aware of the harmful effects of anxiety and the possible dangers of strict compliance with our societal conserves. Educators are in prime positions to influence our youth and should be valued by our society. When we help others to be more spontaneous and creative, they will be more able to overcome anxiety and reach their potential and live more enjoyable lives.

References

(n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2012, from Merrium-Webster Web site: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anxiety

(n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2012, from Free Dictionary Web site: http://www.medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/anxiety

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Arlington: American Psychiatric Association.

St.Clair, K. (2012, October 26). M.S.W. (T. Vitz, Interviewer)

J.L. Moreno, M. (1953). Who Shall Survive?, 2nd Edition. Beacon, New York.

Ken Wilber, T. P. (2008). Integral Life Practice. Boston & London: Integral Books.

Moreno, J. (1955). Theory of Spontaneity-Creativity. Sociometry, Vol. 18, No. 4, Sociometry and the Science of Man, 105-118.

Morrison, J. (1995). DSM-IV Made Easy. New York: The Guilford Press.

Nolte, J. (2008). The Psychodrama Papers. Hartford: Encounter Publications.

Nolte, J. (2009). Guide to Training. Retrieved February 14, 2012, from National Psychodrama Training Center: http://www.nationalpsychodramatrainingcenter.com

Rogers, C. R. (1980). A Way of Being. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Overcoming Tough Issues in Trial- Jury Selection

December 31, 2011

The issues in our story, jury selection

I’ve never had a jury panel as unfavorable as this one seemed to be.  Carolynn and I are sitting at a table alone, while the prosecutor is doing his best to minimize his burden and instill fear in the minds of the potential jurors.  We hear the jurors talk about relatives injured or killed by intoxicated drivers.   One of the jurors begins to cry as she tells us about her husband being killed by a drunk.  Before I stand up, all kinds of thoughts and feelings are racing through my head.  “What am I going to do with this?”  “I should have found a way to put this trial off for another day”.  “I was ready at the last setting, why couldn’t I have tried the case then”.  “I’m blaming myself, because I shouldn’t have asked the judge for a continuance in July so I could go to Wyoming”.   “We don’t have a chance to win this now”.  “If the case in front of us wouldn’t have pled, we wouldn’t be here now”.  “Why does Carolynn have to be the unlucky person to get this jury?”   Remember, my typical response to feeling helpless and how anxiety can get in my way?  Since I can’t run or come back another day, I stand up and walk around the table and face them.  After all, if it goes bad, I can always blame the jury later.

If I had not taken the time to look at myself and work on my issues, I would probably have become overly nervous, anxious, and would have allowed the feeling of helplessness take its control.  I probably would have resorted to some of the useless, harmful phrases and questions that came so easily over the years.  “As Carolynn sits here, she is presumed innocent”.  “She doesn’t have to produce any evidence at all”.  “Mr. Jones, if we stop now and you hear nothing else during this trial, what does your verdict have to be?”  It is embarrassing as I type and think about using those words of the past.  I probably would have argued with the jurors who disagreed with me while trying to control their responses for fear that any more bad answers would surely kill my efforts to help Carolynn.  I would have become tied the seemingly important legal questions I wanted to ask.  Their answers would mean nothing really since I had to move on to my next great question and I would not have heard them.  How are we doing?  Are we making progress with this panel?  When we conduct this type of “Voir Dire”, we may feel pretty cool, smart, or slick, but the momentum isn’t moving to our side.  How does the juror feel when we ask him the clever or trick question?  How do the jurors feel when we attempt to control them?  How do the other potential jurors feel as they watch this take place?  How do we feel, when we are in their seats?  Carolynn would be better off if we spent the 30 minutes talking about a recent football game.

Instead, I face the panel.  Internally, I ask myself, “What is really going on with me as I stand up?  What am I feeling? What is the jury feeling?”  I acknowledge what I’m feeling in that moment i.e. feeling of anxiety and/or the helpless feeling and realize my potential to lose control of myself, the part of me, that I’ve struggled with in the past.  I’m still not warmed up to this task and the jury isn’t warmed up much either, certainly not to me.  I look around at the panel a moment and ask them if anyone has an idea about what’s going on with me right now?  Does anyone have an idea of how I’m feeling now?  There is a little bit of silence, but they are working on it.  Sometimes, we don’t like silence, and feel like we have to talk, and of course then, we usually ruin it.  One juror near the middle of the panel speaks up, says something like, “you’ve got a problem”.   I might say, “Tell me what you mean?” or “Yes, with all this about drunk drivers, it isn’t looking very good for Carolynn is it?” or maybe, “I heard that too, but we’ve got these rights- presumption of innocence, right to remain silent, state’s burden to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  We’ve got nothing to worry about, right?” (Semi facetiously)  Basically, I listen to this juror and acknowledge him in some way.  We use our judgment to decide how we want to acknowledge their answers.  It might be as simple as “Yes”, a nod, or “I imagine you were frustrated”

Although it has been a part of my training for the last twelve (12) years, I didn’t realize that I was using what Carl Rogers believes is key to creating a climate that benefits us.  When we are genuine, or real, our body language will be congruent with our words.  Instead of arguing with the jurors, we accept them where they are.  Finally, we listen to their answers and sincerely acknowledge them rather than hurrying to our next great question.

Well, we’ve used our time wisely and discussed the issues important in Carolynn’s story and managed to gain a little momentum, but we’ve got a long way to go.  The state will give their brief opening statement and call their witnesses that will surely say that Carolynn is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Pay That Ticket?

November 6, 2011

Recently, I tried a case to a jury in a local Municipal Court. It really didn’t take long at all and the jury’s decision was Not Guilty. Why would someone want to spend their time and money and contest a ticket?

I initially thought that Don wanted me to get him “Deferred Disposition” to keep the citation off his driving record because that is what most people want. It is easy, relatively inexpensive, and avoids the risk of conviction. I’m glad Don insisted on a trial in his case.

Don was charged with driving through a business parking lot to avoid congestion, as were many other citizens. We all know that we aren’t supposed to cut through the corner gas station to avoid the intersection, but Don’s situation was different. Yes, Don wanted to avoid the congested intersection. Don’t we all want to do that at times? I’d rather drive all over town for an extra 30 minutes, than sit still in traffic. Anyway, Don turned into a marked left turn lane to take a left off of a major roadway onto what appeared to be a public roadway. Once he turned left, the only options he had were two make a U-turn and go back or turn right in front of a Montessori School. It appeared that a road for “thru traffic” will be completed in the future.

At trial, we learned that many people were doing the same thing and the Montessori school had been complaining about it. It looked like a public street and there were no signs notifying the public otherwise. By the way, if you ever decide to cut through a parking lot, make sure you come to at least one complete stop during the crossing then it won’t be an offense. As the Court was excusing the jurors to deliberate, one of the jurors asked, “How many other tickets were issued to others at that location?” The judge couldn’t answer, but I appreciated his question. I wonder how many of our citizens received the same citation and gave their money to the city?

All of us should seriously consider using our resources to contest charges in Municipal or Justice Courts, especially, when we feel the accuser made a mistake. Like George Roland said, “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, they’ll keep doing what they’ve been doing.” Regardless of the jury’s decision, our accusers will be held accountable. Our system works better when “the people” run the show.

Is it really just a ticket?

Stopped by Police with alcohol on our breath- Now what?

September 20, 2011

Well, thanks to politics and the bandwagon folks, along with all their propaganda, our chance of continuing on our journey is unlikely whether we are intoxicated or not. The problem for me is that I sometimes like to go out for Oysters. Milk with my Oysters just doesn’t sound like a good combination, but a Blue Moon with them does. Note: This does not apply to anyone under 21. If you are under 21, it is illegal to drive with any alcohol in your system.
They (who are they?) come into our lives through television and billboards with statements that don’t reflect our law. “Drink, Drive, Go to Jail”; “DWI, you can’t afford it”; “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving”; “Drink, Drive, You Lose”. They attempt to pressure all involved in the process even though the legislature is clear about drinking and then driving. Besides, whether we are buzzed on Starbucks, alcohol, or our prescribed medication, we can easily still have the normal use of our faculties and often times, better than normal. I’m thinking about a game of pool right now. If you are 21 or older, it is not against the law to drink and then drive as long as we aren’t intoxicated. Intoxication is “not having” the normal use of faculties by reason of alcohol, drugs, or a combination, and it is Not– “Not having” the normal use of faculties because we are tired, sick, weak, or uncoordinated even with some alcohol in our system. The field sobriety tests are designed for people to fail them. They are done on the side of the road, usually at night, where we don’t have a good visual frame of reference. Our vision is most important element in keeping our balance. When they are not performed perfectly, the State says intoxication is to blame. If the legislature wanted the law to be no driving with any alcohol in our system, they would make it the law.
What would I do if stopped on the way home after my Blue Moon and Oysters?
Answer- It depends. I’ve seen a lot over the last 22 years. The machine the state uses is not accurate to determine a quantitative amount of alcohol in our blood, regardless of what their witnesses will say. It is the alcohol in our blood that can affect us, not our breath. No breath test can be accurate, especially since we all have different blood/breath ratios. The machine is only good to show whether alcohol is present in the breath. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN) is a joke and any perceived nystagmus (jerkiness of the eyeball) is never video recorded for a judge or jury to see. Any misstep on the walk and turn and 1 leg stand will be attributed to alcohol and not my age, hour of the day, bad knee, health, or nervousness. The officer will not investigate any of those issues. I know that if I refuse to give a breath sample, many officers will get a warrant to take blood from my body against my will.
The reality is that anytime we drink and drive, we are taking the risk of being arrested. (“They” like it that way) So, it is best not to drink and drive. But, do we want them deciding what the law is, or should be, by using the fear of arrest to deter the innocent drinking and driving? Not me. And so, when I drink and drive, I will not be intoxicated. I will not drive in fear. If I am stopped, I know that the officer will smell the odor of the alcohol beverage on my breath. I know the pressures he/she is working under and I know the officer is not on my side. I will give him only the information required of me. We are required to give them our name, date of birth and our residence address. We are not required to give it audibly. I will not necessarily answer questions about where I’ve been or where I’m going or how much I’ve had to drink. It is none of their business. Instead, other than identify myself, I may invoke my right to consult with a lawyer before answering any questions, sign anything, or do anything, even when he tells me that I don’t have that right. I will be respectful and courteous even when invoking my rights. And, in response to the statement from the officer that he smells alcohol on my breath, I might say, “It should, I had a beer with dinner”. I will not agree to any breath testing, even if it means I will have my driver’s license suspended. Why do I use the word “never”? I suppose, I could agree to take a breath test after I give a sample of my blood. They wouldn’t want to have both for comparison though. That is probably why the officer will never tell you that you have an independent right to a blood test within (2) hours after you provide a specimen of your breath. Even if you knew about that part of the law, good luck getting the independent blood test if you are locked up. In addition, don’t let the intended fear of losing your driver’s license scare you. We can always apply for an Occupational Drivers’ License. Although the officer will want to conduct some “Field Sobriety Tests” on me, I will not allow the officer to conduct any tests on me and that includes the HGN where he would watch the eye ball move as I follow his pen from side to side. By the way, they will usually phrase their request in a way to make you think, it is no big deal and it is just a formality. i.e. “I’m just going to do a few tests to make sure you are o.k. to drive”. They are trained to phrase things in ways to get what they want, and to me, it is being dishonest. There is a part of me that may make a wager with the officer. “I will provide a blood specimen, provided that if the test shows that I’m under a .08, you agree to pay me $1,000.00 and if the result is .08 or more, I’ll pay you $3,000.00. But, the blood tests have their limitations also, so I may refuse everything. If, for any reason, I had any difficulty in conversing with the officer, I would identify myself with my driver’s license and invoke my right to remain silent.
In the end, it is the State who will have the burden of proof of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt before they can brand us with a DWI. Hopefully, a jury or good judge can endure the unjust pressures and require the State to meet their burden and make the right call. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt should be more than just a phrase used to give Americans the appearance of fairness.

The Feeling of Futility

October 25, 2010

Getting some of that “Justice” in Collin County, Texas, under the John R. Roach Regime, and before that under Tom O’Connell can sometimes get a man down. Judge Wooten is saying, “Man?” I don’t want to be, or appear negative, just honest about what’s been happening here. Just know that I’m smiling as I type this out. I can blame it on a lot of things; initially politics comes to mind, but the reality is, that it is deeper than that. One would really have to work very hard on one’s self to find the answer. We can look at a piece of the puzzle though. Most police officers and prosecutors that we produce here in America have a skewed definition of Justice. I say America even though Collin County, Texas is what I really know. The duty “to see that justice is done” means nothing. Put you in the shoes of the types of police officers and prosecutors we produce now.

Look down at your clothing and in the mirror. What do you see? Shiny wingtips, black boots, starched white shirt with your power tie, a face that exudes your almighty judgment. You feel the judgmental attitudes, the pressures, the power (you wouldn’t otherwise get), the political pressure, the lack of love or caring for humans that leads to tunnel vision, etc. Oh…, you might go to church and sit down in a pew, but you aren’t really human. Yes, John Prine has seen it too.

And so, change needs to start at the top. The “Top” is the deeper part of life that each of us needs to find.

Let’s look at the typical prosecutor; as opposed to the good ones back in the day that would do what is right, regardless of the consequences. Anyway, you are not that guy. You are a young man or woman just out of law school. You’re big stuff now. It’s probably your first job and you’ve got school loans to pay. You work for “the man” (it could be “the woman”, but “the man” sounds better). The man (District Attorney) likes his job; he likes his status; and he likes his money. The man knows he has to be a political man to keep the government teat flowing. Everything you do comes from the top, (“the man”), or you get fired. All you know about “justice” is what the man and his other subservient ants have taught you. Sometimes your individual sense of justice bubbles up inside you, but you have to suppress it because the man is evaluating you and you need this job. Now, we get into “slavery”. You are a slave to the job and to the man. Not only do you have a school loan, but you are also now married with kids and on the road to being a career prosecutor. It feels too late to make a change now because the fear of getting off the teat is too great. But, there is one way out. Become a Judge! Freedom at last! No, you are still a slave to our political world. As an aside, who better to judge us? A career prosecutor who “knows the law” and has little, if any, real life experience? That is what, we the people, have allowed it to come to.

Now take a break and come on back for a look at our current Collin County District Attorney, “John R. Roach”. He really wants his first name to be “Judge”. This Man wants everyone to believe that he is the “Chief Law Enforcement Officer in Collin County”. His picture should be in Wikipedia under “Power Hungry Individual”. The definition, in my opinion, would include words like arrogant, narcissistic, and egotistical. He is the opposite of love. Although he is retiring in December 2010, he must really want to go out with a bang. The bang is backfiring on him though and the people are finally seeing him for what he has become. He enjoys using fear to intimidate. He wrongfully targeted and investigated good judges and others, who he does not want in public office. He has wrongfully indicted lawyers in his continued effort to instill fear. You might say, “It is not affecting me…why should I care?” The answer is as simple as a Google search for “Martin Niemollor”. I blame myself and the lawyers before me for not seeing him for what he was when he first came to Collin County, Texas. Politics and public office has no place for the arrogant. Maybe it takes people like Greg Willis, Susanne Wooten, and many others to endure his wrath, to get us to see. Fortunately, these people are strong and would not give into the threats and oppression brought by him and those in his control.

And so, the far right thinking people, who sit right next to you in church, vote. Unreasonable fears about safety, etc. cause them to get radical and multiply like wild feral hogs. Their motivation, although wrong, is as strong as the policeman or judge who will do just about anything to get the power and perceived respect he didn’t get as a child. These types of people know, not what they do. God love them. And the cycle goes on and on. We sit back feeling helpless to change. We see our one vote as meaningless. We keep rolling with the flow, ignoring what we sense deep down in our soul, until they, come for us. By then, it is too late really. We are in our 50’s and 60’s, beat down and tired. We can only wish we could have seen it coming when we were younger. We can only wish we would have had the backbone to stand up. What held us back? I’m guessing that fear is behind the reason.

When we really look at the problem, solving it seems futile. But we do not quit; we do not give up. We keep getting back up and we keep fighting. Where is the top for you?

Despite Roach’s objection, attempted indictment, and the required political games, Greg Willis persevered and will be our District Attorney in January, 2011. Until the next starved politician comes along, the people will be in good hands with Greg at the top of our District Attorney’s Office. I really see the potential for some positive change here. He knows what Justice is and will ensure that his office will see that it is done. I believe that Greg is doing this for reasons that are right and just.

And now it is time to change the name of, what is publicly referred to as, the John R. Roach Juvenile Detention Center. Until the name is changed, I will call it the Collin County Juvenile Detention Center. Keep smiling, and loving your neighbor, even when they make it so difficult.

Letting Go of the Baggage and Trial Lawyering

June 1, 2010

Number three on the list of (5) things we can live without is “Letting Go of the Baggage”. This weeks message was from Hebrews 12:1-3. It talks about “throwing off everything that hinders”…. “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out…”

What hinders the trial lawyer? We’ve mentioned fear, anxiety, and stuff earlier. I think throwing off everything means to throw it all off. But, what interested me was letting “self” go. What is this image of “self” all about? Are we really supposed to be perfect? When we get hung up on our image and perfection, we can’t be real. Fear of failure limits us. It prevents living and taking important risks required to find truth and, therefore, win.

What race is marked out for us? I’m thinking that the race marked out is different for each of us. We realize that we all have our talents and we’ve been given the choice on how we use them. If the race is not to get more money and more stuff, what is it?

Many of us know our race, but seem to veer off the track from time to time. I know I feel a lot better when I stay on the track. Patience comes to mind. I should have more patience.

If you want to hear Jeff Warren’s series on 5 things you can live without, check out the podcasts where “Letting Go of the Baggage” is archived.
http://www.fbcmckinneypodcast.com/

Living with Fear/Anxiety and Trial Lawyering

May 22, 2010

I went to Church last Sunday and heard Pastor Jeff Warren talk on “You can Live Without Fear”. I’ve been known to skip church on occasion, but was glad I didn’t skip this sermon. Dealing with “Fear and Anxiety” is something I’ve been trying to figure out since attending college and law school in the 80’s. I was interested because I’ve struggled with it. Although fear and anxiety affected other areas of my life, it hit the hardest at times when I had to present myself before people for any reason. Although I fought it, I didn’t begin to really explore it until 1999 at the Trial Lawyer’s College in Wyoming.

As I listened to Jeff, I thought about how the message related to lawyers. Not only have I struggled with it, I have seen, and heard about, many lawyers who have abused alcohol and drugs in their effort to cope with it. In the face of fear and anxiety, many lawyers “fold” to avoid a jury trial. Yes, like folding your cards in a card game. Unlike a card game, where folding might be beneficial in the long run, we are dealing with someone’s life. And yes, we can justify anything in our minds. In the face of fear many of us hide behind many different kinds of masks. It might be a fancy suit, the choice of words, constant joking, or maybe even a $3,500.00 Louis Vuitton briefcase. “Look, it’s a person, it’s a human, no, it’s Lawyerman”. The problem is that jurors are not stupid and can see right through it. What is “it”? “It” is fake. “It” is artificial. “It” is not real. When the lawyer is unsuccessful in folding before the jury trial begins, the fear and anxiety remains and the lawyer must address the jurors. Rather than talk with the jurors, he may lecture them instead. The anxiety causes him to turn to what feels comfortable and safe, and he may make a worthless statement like “Can you be fair and impartial?” or “I take it by your silence that you would be fair and impartial” when more than likely, the silence comes from frustration or boredom. But more important than being a useless statement, this type of communication hurts the client.

I have talked to lawyers about how I’ve dealt with fear and anxiety. The first year out of law school, I felt the need to face this fear in order to conquer it. Although I wasn’t a prosecutor at heart, I acted like one for about a year, forcing myself to get up in front of judges and jurors. Since then, I have talked to lawyers about making the trial about the client and not them. I’ve talked to them about the phrase I first saw in ’99, on the back of a T-Shirt, in Wyoming, “Without Fear, there is No Courage” and about the next step, “Feel the Fear, Find the Courage”. I love those quotes. What do we fear in trial? Some of us have a fear of losing, some of us worry about looking stupid, and sometimes, it is just the fear of the unknown. It could be just a lack of faith and trust. Who will we trust? Many times, we lawyers don’t trust the jury and many lawyers just don’t care about the client. It is all about “me” and trying to perform. What will these people think of “me”, the lawyer? I agree with Gerry Spence that “it begins with me”, but I have to add, “but, it is not about me”.

Preacher Jeff reminded me that the Bible talks about Fear and Anxiety in many places. Imagine that. The Bible has all of the answers that I’ve been searching for. As a child, I heard the phrases on Sunday- Have no fear; Do not worry; Fear not, but it didn’t stop me from trying to do it my way or on my own. I think many of us make life tougher than it should be because we leave God out of our lives until things get out of “our” control. Jeff’s verse for the day was: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

I don’t believe that “Peace on Earth” means that the fighting on earth will stop. I think that God is willing to give us peace, but some of us refuse to take advantage of the gift. Instead, many of us lack the faith and trust necessary to live in peace. Ironically, Paul was in prison when he wrote about peace and joy in the book of Philippians.

Although able to walk, talk, and breathe, living with Fear and Anxiety, isn’t really living at all! When we struggle with fear/anxiety, we are unable to listen, be in the moment, or otherwise be real. Fear and anxiety shut us down. It stifles creativity and spontaneity. And so, it appears that we can choose to merely exist on this earth or we can live. How do you feel about it?

If you want to hear Jeff Warren’s series on 5 things you can live without, check out the podcasts where “You Can Live Without Fear” is archived. http://www.fbcmckinneypodcast.com/