Posts Tagged ‘Anxiety’

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.

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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.

Overcoming Tough Issues in Trial- Knowing Ourselves

December 26, 2011

Exploring who we are.

Today, we are the person we have become as a result of our individual life experiences and our choices.  Those life experiences include the good, the bad, and maybe, something we think is unspeakable.   Many will go through their entire life without thinking or looking at why they think, act, or react in this world.  Why is it important?  Why should we care?  Besides, isn’t it easier to ignore it and keep living life the same way we’ve been doing it?  Change isn’t easy, especially changing something that has been ingrained in us as a child.   I relate to Alfred Adler’s view, “there can no longer be any doubt that everything we call a body shows a striving to become a whole”. [1](Rogers, 1980 p. 113)  We lawyers all have that paper on our wall that says, “Attorney and Counselor at Law”.  Is that all we need to win?  What if we really listened to ourselves, our gut, and continued our search for ways to get better?

In 1975, John Ackerman was searching for better ways to teach lawyers.  While President of the National College for Criminal Defense, Ackerman was not satisfied with lecture style of teaching students, and was searching for a way to help lawyers become more creative, spontaneous, and intuitive so that they would be better able to deal with the constant changes in the courtroom.  He talked with John Johnson, a social worker, who after thinking and researching, came up with psychodrama. [2] (Nolte, 2008 p. 264-265)

Similarly, sensing I needed something more, I began searching for answers.  Everything I knew about lawyering came from other lawyers, many of which were doing it wrong.  Do you remember phrases like, “Can you be fair and impartial?” or “I take it by your silence that you can”  They were silent because it wasn’t real or genuine.  Jurors are intuitive and they can see right through the facades, and tricks, that we sometimes feel the urge to employ.  It isn’t productive and we know it.  Again, Gary Trichter was teaching and he said something like, “all lawyers need some psychotherapy”.   After searching the internet for “psychotherapy”, I found the Trial Lawyer’s College (TLC) in Wyoming founded by Gerry Spence in 1994.  Fortunately, Ackerman, with the help of John Johnson, had introduced psychodrama to his friend, Spence, who incorporated it into his Trial College from the beginning.  I think he saw psychodrama as a way to teach others what he had discovered in his journey.

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 on the jury.  Psychodrama explores an individual’s perception of the world or universe. [3] Although you can read about it in a book, psychodrama is learned best by experiencing it.  For me, it has helped me recognize and understand why I am the way I am and provides a way for me to explore other ways to live.  As an example, I now know that my well-bred reaction to feeling helpless is losing control and I now know why.  In addition, I’ve explored how anxiety, has gotten in the way of really being present in the courtroom, and in life.  At times, anxiety has been debilitating.

I told Carolynn to kick me if I started to lose my temper during the trial because I knew that the helpless feeling would come.  I knew that my own anxiety might get in the way, if I allowed it and  I knew that if it did, I wouldn’t be fully present with the jurors and would be unable to really hear them.  How does any of this apply to jury selection?  The panel is in front of us, and prosecutor is up doing what he was taught and it is looking ugly for us right now.


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

[2] Nolte, J. (2008) The Psychodrama Papers. Connecticut: Encounter Publications

[3] National Psychodrama Training Center, http://nationalpsychodramatrainingcenter.com/?page_id=13

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/