Divorce and Defeating Anxiety

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Divorce and Defeating Anxiety

I just returned from LA where, with my training team, I presented a three-day training in Collaborative Divorce. One initial observation I made from this training: many divorce lawyers who practice non-collaboratively are highly anxious and strung out about their work. Throughout the training, time and again, I saw and heard professionals express levels of high anxiety and borrowed worry about their clients:

  • “What about getting my client’s needs met?”
  • “I would feel ashamed of myself if I didn’t get in there and pitch for my client”.
  • “I am supposed to fight for my client. I just can’t sit around and keep quiet!”

Now that we understand, through many years of Collaborative work, that divorcing clients are at some level of trauma/crisis when they seek out a lawyer; we also realize that, as their divorce professionals, we are ever-at-risk to go into the trauma with them and begin reacting with impulsive, limbic aggression “on behalf of the client”. We mistakenly think that this is what is expected of us: to take on the trauma of the client.

In Collaborative Divorce, we notice the trauma of the client, but we do NOT take it on. Instead, we meet the client in the trauma-fog of his/her divorce and we help lead them out to various financial, emotional and legal safety zones which alleviate their anxiety and empower them to be rationally and responsibly present for a recuperative and constructive divorce resolution. This is a much more creative and satisfying way to work.

If you are a divorce professional, do yourself a vocational favor and get trained in Collaborative Divorce. You will be much less anxious and more pleased in the positive meaning of your work.

Upcoming trainings:

  • New York-September 26-27
  • Phoenix-January 16-18


I hope to see you there!

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The Bystander Effect

I just read a book that described the research behind the Bystander Effect. It is a disturbing phenomenon, indeed, and it has been empirically proven in many studies. The misconception most of us hold is that when someone has been hurt, witnesses will rush to their aid. The sad truth is the more people who witness a person in distress, the less likely it is that any one person within the group of witnesses will help.

The line of thinking in the Bystander Effect is that if one person , alone, sees someone in  trouble, he or she will feel compelled to help. If three or more people are witnessing someone in trouble, each supposes someone else in the group will help and so the individual abdicates his or her personal responsibility to step in. According to David McRaney, author of You are Not So Smart, the Bystander Effect has cost plenty of victims either their physical and/or emotional well-being. In many cases, by-standing has caused victims their lives, while others looked on.

I can personally relate to the Bystander Effect. When I was traveling in Florence, Italy, I was unaccustomed to the uneven cobblestone walkways. Upon exiting my hotel, I tripped just outside the entrance and went down sprawling onto the sidewalk. I hurt my knee and could not immediately get up. The number of pedestrians who literally climbed over me was astounding. Scores of them. Not one person offered help. I don’t remember what hurt worse: the injury to my knee or the shame of being ignored via apathy. I think the latter. Gosh. How do some people sleep at night?

I believe that the Bystander Effect needs to be considered as seriously as leaving the scene of an accident or leaving the scene of a crime. If it was our civic and legal responsibility to help someone in need, perhaps there would be less bullying, less domestic abuse, less hate crimes, less assaults, fewer injuries and fewer victims. Why do you think people abuse or bully other people? …because they can!

I have decided that by-standing someone in distress is officially not part of my behavioral repertoire. If I see someone being mistreated or in danger, I want to act in some way to be of aid to the victim. In my opinion, not only is it the moral choice; it is my honor to be of service to another who may be in distress. Give it some thought. What stand do you take?

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Mean Girls at the Health Club

It is hard to believe that mean girls are still around after high school. Don’t be too quick to breathe a sigh of relief that female middle-age brings with it an end to the days of dodging the mean girls. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the gym or the locker room, you are apt to encounter that iconic mean girl who will dare to go down into the abyss of old age, spitting the same old venom just to make sure she never loses that poisonous touch. She will grab the exercise equipment you just gathered for yourself. She will bark at you when a simple apology for her intrusiveness would have served just as well. She will name-call you. She will snub you and walk in the opposite direction when you enter the room. She will cover her  restylane-filled lips with her hand and whisper evil nothings about you. All this at a Health Club that, for an enormous monthly fee, touts a zero-tolerance anti-bullying policy.

As if that weren’t enough of a bitter pill to swallow, there are the “enablers of mean girl”; who surround, buffer and prohibit mean girl-enlightenment. Here is the drill: Mean girl attacks, enablers of mean girls surround her like a blanket and talk trash about their victim. Mean girl quickly becomes unreachable and therefore, never experiences the necessary conversation where she is expected to take accountability for her nasty, attacking behavior and all the damage it causes to others.

And how about those bystanders of mean girl? You know, the ones who say, “Just ignore it” or “You’re not letting yourself be bothered by her, are you?” or worse yet…they say nothing at all, which suggests acceptance. This phenomenon of bullying can take place at any time, any place, any age. It is an awful experience to be bullied…it is at best, emotionally violent; it is isolating; and, it is full of despair. It represents an apathetic and pathetic society that doesn’t even stand for the core value of human kindness.

Women bullying other women is one variation that I find to be especially tortuous. Don’t we, as a gender, have enough challenges in being treated respectfully? Isn’t it counter-intuitive to turn on our own Sisters? How are we ever going to embrace equality when we can’t trust each other? Maybe female bullies should be forced to wear the Scarlet B?

Pity we cannot treat the transgression of bullying like we treat a DUI. If only they could make you spit into a cup and test your saliva for “bully venom”. Then if you test positive, you would be ticketed for bullying, and you could be assured that you will spend at least a night in jail. If it is a second or third offense, expect the book to be thrown at you. If you are an accessory to bullying, you will also have to pay the price.

Surely, there has to be some way to more effectively criminalize this heinous behavior. Its continued stronghold threatens the very fabric of our society. If we can deal with a drunk, then we can certainly find some way to bust a bully…of any variety.