Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

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, Our Story

January 6, 2012

Our Story-One Size Doesn’t Fit All

The story has already been told in jury selection and opening statement. And really, the jurors already know what they will do or at least know what they want to do. Now, I just need to tell it again in cross examination and in direct with Carolynn. This was a case about a young girl who was drinking and driving in the middle of a war, a case about a girl who trusted a machine to tell the truth. Tim Evans told us at Rusty Duncan and few years ago about how practicing law has changed over the years. Apparently, lawyers didn’t have to deal with all the wars years ago. This war on drinking and driving is unfair to the people because in war innocent civilians are sometimes injured or killed. To win consistently, we need themes, theories, power statements, and our story. One size doesn’t fit all though.

Carolynn’s story didn’t just come to me on the morning of trial. You’ve heard them say, “C’mon, it is just a DWI case”. No, Carolynn’s story and her case, like a fingerprint, is different than any other DWI you’ve seen. While there can be similarities, Carolynn’s story includes her life experiences, up to the time she walked in my office. It includes what she has been through and what she is going through in her life. We’ve got to spend many hours outside the courtroom to get to know our clients and their stories and the issues that concern us about their case. The concerning issues are key in jury selection. I begin making my list when I meet clients for the first time.

If someone can tell you what happened, they can also show you. By using psychodrama techniques, Carolynn can show us scenes from her life and from the day of her arrest. Through this process, we get to know and care about our clients. We are able to find the “bad guy” that Dan Hurley has told us about. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a particular person; it can be society, the government, or anything. We learn how the propaganda war may have affected Carolynn. She felt guilty about drinking and driving and being arrested. We see what really happened after the video was turned off. We see that she is telling the truth about the Trooper not being in her presence for 15 minutes prior to the test. Also, her memory of the events in the jail, are relevant to her mental and physical faculties. We are able to see the inside of the jail. We see the colors, we hear the sounds, and we can smell it. “We” is everyone in the courtroom. If we don’t care about our clients, why would a jury? If we don’t know our client’s story, how can we tell it?

The worst thing we can do in a trial is to bore the jury. From time to time, I entertain the possibility of becoming a judge one day. I quickly change my mind after thinking about being trapped up there on the thrown every day. Usually we don’t realize it or care about being boring because we are too busy asking our next great question. I understand that none of us will ever be David Guinn funny, but that is alright because we have to be ourselves to be genuine. We can only dream about the possibility. I’ve learned over the years, and still have to constantly remind myself, not to fight with the witnesses. Again, I have to resist the urge to lose control of myself. I make my points and move on. Since I knew the issues in this case, I didn’t waste time arguing about the angle of the stimulus and the speed in which it passed and other irrelevant matters. I tell my story in cross knowing that the witness’s answer will often be disagreeable. Sit in the Trooper’s shoes and feel what it is like to be in his position. What is behind the standard testimony that comes out so freely on direct examination by the prosecutor? What is true about him that he doesn’t want to admit or say?

I didn’t want to fight with the technical supervisor or show him how smart I was either. When we fight with the state’s experts, we will lose with the jury even if we win a point or two in the process. I simply got what I needed that was relevant to win this case and got out.

Closing and Conclusion

If the case isn’t won by closing argument, it’s probably too late, but I believe it certainly can be lost there. It is again time to give the control to the jury. We give them the power and reason to help our clients. It isn’t really about Carolynn anyway, it is about the jury. How can their decision help Carolynn and them at the same time? Maybe they don’t want the “bad guy” to get them or their family. Maybe they don’t like betrayal. After a few days in trial, the jury found Carolynn Not Guilty of DWI despite strong breath test evidence. Several of the jurors wanted to hug her. Why? You could call it love, but they cared about her.

The jury changed when I gave up my control and shared a part of me. By being genuine and acknowledging them and their beliefs, we became a group for justice.

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, a Series

December 21, 2011

Where should the lawyer begin?

People are asking questions like, “How did you overcome a .14 breath test?” I want to give them an answer, but I can’t do it quickly because it involves a combination of my life experiences. Many of which involve many other lawyers and friends along the journey or what Greg Westfall refers to as the “Process of Life”.

Why do I write this for anyone to read? Why spend the time to get this right? I feel a need to share what others have given me. With it, comes my need to fight the knaves that surely will come. I thank my friend, David Guinn, for sharing the poem “IF” by Rudyard Kipling. I especially relate to the part about “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken, Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”. Sometimes, the truth will strike a chord in us that will cause a reaction. It could be that any reaction is better than none. We can all learn from each other in this world, but we have to be open. Open to the possibility that there is more to this life than just going through the motions and merely existing until we die. Similarly, there can be, and should be, more to a trial than just going through the motions. I’ve learned from so many lawyers over the years and, at 50 years old, I still know there is much more to learn and that I don’t know it all. We, as lawyers, have the opportunity to make change in this world even if it is only one jury at a time. We have the ability to change clients, judges, prosecutors, jurors, and ourselves.

It is a little embarrassing to admit that this case was only my second trial with a breath test result above .14 in twelve (12) years. Well, admittedly, I’m not one of the self-proclaimed DWI Kings, or Dudes. Yes, I struggle with sarcasm, but truth is also important to me. Lawyers like Gary Trichter and Troy McKinney have paved the way and taught many of us how to win these, as well as other types of cases. They did it with passion and hard work, not slogans. As with respect, they’ve earned it and don’t have a need to demand it or sell anyone. For me, trying only, or mainly, DWI cases would become dull and boring, and I would lose the passion required to be effective. If it is only about the money, then we probably ought to do something different with the life given to us. To be effective, we have to invest ourselves, which requires our heart. As Gerry Spence says, “To win, you have to put it all in”.

When I first heard the phrase, they were just words that sounded good and right. Just like when he said, “It all begins with me”. I struggled with the phrase. It sounded so cocky and arrogant to me, until I realized it wasn’t “about” me. It begins with me, or us, because we have to know ourselves. I have to know why I am the way I am before I can be self-aware of what is happening with me and why. Knowing ourselves is also necessary in understanding others (the jury). I know that where it begins is probably deeper, but let’s begin with us. We have to find a way to explore or examine ourselves.