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Truth or Troll? (OrBoth?)

I figured out two decades ago that while a court battle is not about truth. I even wrote a column called “It Ain’t About The Truth” where I opined on various court cases, including the OJ trial, and the (in)famous McDonald’s coffee case.

But also decades ago I figured out that divorce was not about “what happened”? It is all about emotions and people and relationships. I realized battles were bad for emotions and people and relationships. I didn’t need to figure out they were bad for kids—that I knew from losing my father due to the way my mother acted out her disappointment in my father.

He didn’t cheat on her—he didn’t drink. He didn’t say mean things. As far as I could see, he didn’t do anything wrong. He just did not, could not, fill up her emptiness.

No one else got divorced in those days. I just knew that my mother had problems with men. She dated married ones a lot, and she wasn’t real good at friendships with women either.

I didn’t see my father much after the divorce was finally over. Or in the YEARS between the day he left and the day he remarried in the 60s. (Then, I got him back in 1985. He died in 1990. I’ve learned more abut him from my baby half sister then I ever led when he was alive. But that’s a good thing.)

So seeing the mess that came from the clash of courts and families was not rocket science to me. In the early days (California had been no fault for decades in 1983) many lawyers seemed to feel the same way, so we settled every case. Even though I was pretty new, I was always good at negotiating and settling cases (remember that first case I wrote about?) so I did well. REALLY well.

But right about the time I came into law civility was on the wane, and by the time my consulting career came to a crashing halt, I could see there was a real need for divorce practice to change– so I set abut changing it. In the mid 90s I started my mediation practice. In the 2000s I had started a collaborative group in Orange County. I kept doing good work for couples who knew that court was bad …until the economic collapse of 2008.

But despite all slow but steady change in divorce practice, it just “wasn’t done” to say that court was flat out bad for families. I mean, I said it in essays on Divorcenet, but not to other lawyers or even to the public. From the first day I placed my bio on Divorcenet I had calls—many of the public seemed to know the courts were not the place they wanted to be. But when I said this to a Family Court judge in legal setting, her face went frozen in shock. When I tried to tell other lawyers that not everyone wanted to fight they scoffed—or worse.

But now this fact is being stated and HEARD—thanks in part to Mark Baer, with whom I had become friends, thanks to social networking. (and with whom I am now not friends—thanks also to social networking.) I am even now—-seeing attorneys speak up on Avvo—and have been told I started it. (!!)

So I find it disheartening that so many people are hearing him and thanking him… but all attorneys. Not the public. The he public still lives in wishful thinking land.

I also find it disheartening that so many anonymous “askers’” on Avvo call me a troll for saying the same thing. I also find it disheartening that when we got into a nasty misunderstanding, Mark opined—ON SOCIAL NETWORKING—that I was all wrong and he was all right. (This is never the case —and we both know it.)

I find it disheartening that no matter what different ways I try to explain things, I often cannot be heard by people who 1) ask for my help and 2) are so invested in the way they see their problem that they find any suggestion that there is any other way to approach to be, or feel like, an attack on their entire being.

I find it disheartening that one of my stubbornnesses is I keep trying—and almost never get paid.

So I guess we humans are all pretty stubborn. Study after study has shown that people think OTHERS are off course but they are not….others are wrong but they are not… still. Decade after decade.

What seems obvious to me—that in any dispute BOTH sides think they are right—and in a certain sense they both ARE right—seems to be one of those things where I am in a minority.

Is this because I am an “HSP”? (A real anomaly of 20% of humans and decidedly mixed bag… see http://richawriter.hubpages.com/hub/Its-Good-To-Be-Sensitive-25-Wonderful-Aspects-Of-Highly-Sensitive-People)

I don’t know. I DO know… this is a truth. (Two truths). No one starts out out expecting to be Bad and Wrong, and yet someone they married says they are. Judges seem to agree half the time. (All the time?) And…courts suck for families. 99.9% of the time.

Narcissism—it’s Not Your Friend… But Narcissists need Friends. Real Ones.

February 2, 2014 1 comment

The experts believe narcissism is caused by a wound to the developing psyche. The diagnostic manual DSM IV (used for billing –not for anything useful by way if helping people) includes these traits:

  Lacks the ability to empathize with the feelings or desires of others

  Is arrogant in attitudes and behavior

And “Narcissists have such an elevated sense of self-worth that they value themselves as inherently better than others, when in reality they have a fragile self-esteem, cannot handle criticism, and often try to compensate for this inner fragility by belittling or disparaging others in an attempt to validate their own self-worth”

I happen to know these traits well. I was surrounded by them as a child. I was often puzzled. For example: Riding in the car with my sister, who had long hair. (I probably did too—but I cannot recall for sure.) No air conditioning in those days- so I have the widow open and am happily enjoying the breeze. My sister commands me to close the window as that is how She wants it. (Why is that more important than how I want it? I wonder..)

My mother used to take us to Howard Johnson’s and eat peppermint ice cream with fudge sauce. None for  us kids—“it’s for grownups” she would say. Oddly, I sort of accepted that, at the time.

As soon as we were tall enough to wash dishes my mother bought a set of Melamine dishes so she would not ever have to wash dishes again,. And she didn’t. But I didn’t understand any if this at the tome—except that I could not see why what my sister wanted trumped what I wanted for no reason.

Here’s what the (not authoritative) Wikipedia article says about  the way the works: “Two factors that cause self-view to remain unrealistic are dysfunctional interactions with parents that can be either excessive attention or a lack thereof. For example but not limited to, the excessive attention and lack of attention go hand in hand when a child’s parents are divorced. Usually, one is overindulgent (typically the one seeing the child less) and the other shows less affection.[5] The child either compensates for lack of attention or acts in terms of unrealistic self-perception.

 “The cause of this disorder is unknown; however, Groopman and Cooper (2006) listed the following factors identified by various researchers as possibilities:[2]

  1. An oversensitive temperament (personality traits) at birth. (see HSP…)
  2. Excessive admiration that is never balanced with realistic feedback.
  3. Excessive praise for good behaviors or excessive criticism for bad behaviors in childhood.
  4. Overindulgence and overvaluation by parents, other family members, or peers. (see schools…)
  5. Being praised for perceived exceptional looks or abilities by adults. (Ditto)
  6. Severe emotional abuse in childhood.
  7. Unpredictable or unreliable care giving from parents.
  8. Learning manipulative behaviors from parents.
  9. Valued by parents as a means to regulate their own self-esteem.”I suspect my mother had 1,6, 7 and9 in the bag,


Then there’s also a thing called “parentification”. “Emotional Parentification: This type of parentification forces the child to meet the emotional needs of their parent and usually other siblings also. This kind of parentification is the most destructive. It robs the child of his/her childhood and sets him/her up to have a series of dysfunctions that will incapacitate him/her in life. In this role, the child is put into the practically impossible role of meeting the emotional and psychological needs of the parent. The child becomes the parent’s confidant.”
This was done by my mother—to both my sister and to me, but, I now see, more to my sister. My mother told us details of her sex life with daddy that we never should have heard—for example. My mother and Noel had a secret relationship I only heard about after her death. My sister had hoped the role reversal would be undone– and it was not. My sister was very angry. That much she coped to. The  reasons the mother was never a mother–but became more childlike–and the anger was so huge?? Not so much.

What I was not able to  see until I was much older is that Noel had been enlisted as my mother’s ally, confident and… parent. Unfortunately,  they also used me to meet their needs as a unit. It was a mess. (In many ways, it still is.)

For my part, having no real parenting, and very off and on care giving of any sort, I became the opposite—so perfectionist that, at about age 50, I realized this was a form of “reverse narcissism.” By what set of rules must I be better than everyone else—blameworthy for even the smallest error?

That has been a long battle to fight. Feeling I am defective—and being told don’t be 1) so hard on yourself 2) so analytical 3) so idealistic.

But I eventually did see that this was a shadow form of narcissism, and it released MOST of its hold on me. (It’s still a reflex though—I have to say “YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST PERSON TO _____”. (Lose the Netflix mailed liner for example.)

So why am I telling you all this? Well, for one, I have no one to tell my story to. But that aside, this is all too common- and all too often tied with divorce. (Both as cause and effect.)  Oversimplification seems rampant in law—but then, it’s also rampant on television  and I don’t think Twitter is helping. This is the not-so-simple stuff.

But the truth is the truth and the truth is wounded human beings abound. Wounded humans create other wounded human beings. And punishing the wounded human beings does  not unwound them.  And in family law, it unravels families. It does not, and cannot, knit them up.

So, except for Bill Eddy (whose work has tremendous potential for helping the wounded people in the divorce arena –he has coined the term “High Conflict Personality” ,which I am sure he would agree has the above characteristics—as he is both a therapist and an attorney, has created a communication model that  includes empathetic listening)  no one seems to care. Thanks to Bill… some new s tools are coming into the picture. I quote:

“Everyone gets upset some of the time. High conflict people get upset a lot of the time. A simple technique called an “E.A.R. Statement” can help you calm others down. This is especially helpful if you are in a close relationship or a position of authority. High conflict people tend to emotionally attack those closest to them and those in authority, especially when they are frustrated and can’t manage their own emotions. The intensity of their uncontrolled emotions can really catch you off-guard. But if you practice making E.A.R. statements you can connect with upset people and usually help them calm down.

E.A.R. Statements

E.A.R. stands for Empathy, Attention and Respect. It is the opposite of what you feel like giving someone when he or she is upset and verbally attacking YOU! Yet you will be amazed at how effective this is when you do it right.

An E.A.R. Statement connects with the person’s experience, with their feelings. For example, let’s say that someone verbally attacks you for not returning a phone call as quickly as he or she would have liked. “You don’t respect me! You don’t care how long I have to wait to deal with this problem! You’re not doing your job!”

Rather than defending yourself, give the person an E.A.R. Statement, such as: “Wow, I can hear how upset you are. Tell me what’s going on. I share your concerns about this problem and respect your efforts to solve it.” This statement included:
EMPATHY:         “I can hear how upset you are.”
ATTENTION:     “Tell me what’s going on.”
RESPECT:         “I respect your efforts.”

OK, So I admit I am still working on this when it comes to my own family—but I know they are wounded, so I guess I will forgive myself for not feeling all that warm and fuzzy about them. In any case, this technique works. Note that EMPATHY, not blame, is the key. The missing link.

Last but not least—I want to add that it might be a good idea of we stopped idolizing the really high functioning narcissists who make lots of money—at our expense. See the “The Wolf of Wall Street”.  (I like House and Sherlock and Patrick Jane though… Hey—to me it seems they have a real side, a kind side.. .  and people LISTEN TO THEM. So I want to be like them. But they are fiction. I know. Sigh.)

But me—I just want the world to know 1) this is real and common, and 2) If you are arrogant and condescending toward me- I WILL “overreact”. You can count on it.

Blindness and it’s Blessings

I have written before (not here)  that for many years I have thought that there as a problem with the old saw “in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king.”  I think we all know of many visionaries who were scoffed at or even assassinated. The history of the acceptance of germ theory is rife with stories of error. Millions of women died of puerperal fever-also called childbed fever–because the doctors of the time refused to believe in germs—or wash their hands before attending a childbirth. This even when they came from an autopsy and the smell of decay was on their hands. Those who could “see”—those who saw that there was contagion involved—were not “king”. They were reviled. This mess went on for 200 years.—even though many saw- or smelled-the problem, “From the 1600s through the mid to late 1800s, the majority of childbed fever cases were caused by the doctors themselves. With no knowledge of germs, doctors did not believe hand washing was needed. Statements like that of Dr. Charles Meigs, a leading obstetrician and teacher from Philadelphia, were the attitude of the time: “Doctors are gentlemen, and gentlemen’s hands are clean.”[

You can’t make this stuff up.

Of course the first hand washing effort involved essentially  bleach—chlorine bleach– and was not 100% ideal, so even those who “see” make mistakes, but I think that most of the time he who sees what other don’t is not a king—he is an outcast… or worse. “Semmelweis discovered that the incidence of puerperal fever could be drastically cut by the use of hand disinfection in obstetrical clinics.

Many more examples abound, and my current source of frustration is the way Family Law ignores the human dimension if the dilemmas posed by divorce and other intra family disruptions (like unwed parents, DNA testing revealing that which formerly remained secret,  and now same sex marriage and other similar confusions.)


So look out visionaries.. life ain’t so glorious if you can “see”. And that includes is INFJs…

The Truth I’ve Never Told…

OK now I have come out of the proverbial closet that I am “different.”
I am an HSP and an INFJ, and these have characteristics that are not the  ones you think when someone says “attorney.” Some of them I noticed decades ago—although I never knew why I had them. (Like the fact that I could see— simultaneously —both sides of an argument. I will never forget a fight going in  between my Mother and my new husband. Now I didn’t like my mother much—but I remember thinking, even as they argued… “I can see  both does of this.”)

So I knew this when I was a new attorney. It seemed to me this was a very great advantage to have as an attorney. I was baffled that my brethren seemed to neither have this ability nor to see any need for it. It is possible the reason I was offered a top job at the Hartford Insurance company firm I worked for (as a fairly new attorney) was that this ability did help me settle cases. (Insurance companies don’t want a protracted battle over liability—they want a solid analysis. They want a solid analysis of what happened, who messed up, and how– and settlement as soon as possible.)  This I  was—ahem—brilliant at.

I wasn’t so brilliant that I saw what this offer might mean for my future—I opted for a shorter commute and more money. Bad choice.

But I digress.  I could describe how bad a fit the new job was, and why—as I  now see.  given I now know my INFJ inclination—but that is not my point this time.

No. I want to confess that spooky occasions of knowing things I could not POSSIBLY know have been part of my life for a very long time. Yes, it is spooky. No, I have not told anyone. Ever. I can’t describe the inner feeling that accompanies these experiences—the knowing part— but trust me it is very distinct.

So. An example.

One  that sticks with me 50 years after the fact, is as follows:  It was  I think the summer before I graduated from Goddard College. (It has to have been, as my then boyfriend went back to Dartmouth before we graduated. I was with him.. ergo 1968 or 69.)

We were hanging around Greenwich Village. I remember going barefoot—as  odd as that  must sound. (Barefoot in New York City…?  But I was, at least part of the time. ) Hey, it was hippy heaven. it was the 60s.

For whatever reason he put a nickel in a gum machine. Lots of  red and yellow and green gumballs. They were much larger then, trust me. Like  the larger green  marble in this photo:

In any case there was a purple one. it was  not that close to the chute—but I just KNEW John was going to get that one. I just knew. So I bet him the contents of his wallet against the contents of mine.

He turned the handle thingamajig… and out came the purple gum ball.

He never paid, I never forget. As I say it is the FEELING that is… strange.  But I have never lost a bet. Same sense of knowing. If I don’t  know—I don’t bet. (And no, I can’t reproduce it at will.)

Another example. In an exercise, late in my long sojourn in the human potential movement.  we are working in pairs doing an exercise. We were each to ask the other person  what their  dreams were. (As in hopes and dreams.) My opposite number was a young guy with red hair with the fair skin that you’d expect. He went first, telling me some dream he had.  But I knew that was a blind. I said “you have a dream you’re not telling me.” He went beet red on the spot.

These are just the bizarre ones. I can ALWAYS tell when someone is lying or telling the truth—or hiding something.

I know. It’s weird. But it’s the truth.
As I mentioned in my last post the INFJ Myers Briggs has  the reputation of being a lie detector, so I (now) KNOW I am not crazy. I know some of what I “do” is somehow adding up two sets of data very fast—right brain and left brain. (Jill Bolte Taylor says left brain is a serial processor—right brain is a parallel processor.)

SOME of it. But not the damn gumball.

So I don’t know what on this earth is “in the ether”  that I access when I do—UTTERLY  without my own volition… but I  know it is real and accurate. I know this because so many people do it far better then I do.

I just never told anyone I have this history… and that yes, I am an empath. (” Deep Sense of Knowing… Empaths are highly sensitive. This is the term commonly used in describing one’s abilities (sensitivity) to another’s emotions and feelings. Empaths have a deep sense of knowing that accompanies empathy and are often compassionate, considerate, and understanding of others. “)

Is this a good thing????? I have no clue. But it makes me very very bad at putting up with BS. Very bad. And it has scared clients away. In fact, generally speaking people with something to hide seem keen to avoid me.
That I don’t mind. I hate anything hidden. Hate it. So you gotta get “empath” does not mean “warm and fuzzy.”  Many people find me quite cold and prickly. This may be because the hope their secret is safe,and with me, it is not.Thus, my avoiding them or calling them out is utterly inexplicable. And to them it is. But I can feel underlying agendas like a radar. That is not hit or miss—it always works. No, empath is not all angels and incense. No indeed.

Late last night I had an epiphany. That lady who defended her refusal to relinquish her struggle to prove her ex husband was/is evil–the lady who liked that I am am empath (and prompted my writing this post…) If she knew how I see this– which includes the clear knowledge that the ex hubby too is wounded and suffering, she would not like it much. (I refrained from saying so.) I also saw the role BPD plays with these embattled parents. A post for another day.

Now if I only had a single clue what to do with this mess. The saying is “in the land of  the blind the one eyed man is king.” I have known for YEARS now that is wrong.In the land if the bid the one eyed (wo)man is… dead meat.

Oh well. I yam what I yam as Popeye said…

I’m BAAACCCK, now.. I am Carroll, HSP at law

So OK I have been silent for a while. I just didn’t have the urge to lay it all out for a while. I bought a house and that was a biggie– I have been a gypsy for 4–count em FOUR–years.  So I am getting used to that and I am sussing out what is next for me. And I have learned that when I feel reluctant to  do something there is a reason. I just don’t always find out why. In any case– I am back.

And one thing has become clear. Much of what I have written about here is explained by the likelihood my brain IS different. (I am not unique in this…  20% of the population are this way.) I am an HSP.

My idealism? HSP. My hunches, like the priest one, which I wrote about here? ? HSP. The many and significant synchonicities and lucky breaks–most of which I will now write about? HSP. My multiple interests and gifts? HSP. ( Warning… This can be a curse.) My analytical habits of mind? HSP.

My obsession with truth and my never-ending curiosity?  HSP– as in this quote from “Overexcitabality and the Gifted

INTELLECTUAL OVEREXCITABILITTY
Intellectual OE is demonstrated by a marked need to seek understanding and truth, to gain knowledge, and to analyze and synthesize (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). Those high in Intellectual OE have incredibly active minds. They are intensely curious, often avid readers, and usually keen observers. They are able to concentrate, engage in prolonged intellectual effort, and are tenacious in problem solving when they choose. Other characteristics may include relishing elaborate planning and having remarkably detailed visual recall. People with Intellectual OE frequently love theory, thinking about thinking, and moral thinking. This focus on moral thinking often translates into strong concerns about moral and ethical issues-fairness on the playground, lack of respect for children, or being concerned about “adult” issues such as the homeless, AIDS, or war. Intellectually overexcitable people are also quite independent of thought and sometimes appear critical of and impatient with others who cannot sustain their intellectual pace. Or they may be become so excited about an idea that they interrupt at inappropriate times.”

OK I admit it– I do interrupt  this way. I thought I was just weird. I guess not. WIRED that way? Apparently. (BTW the term “over”–“overexcitable”– is applied by  those who are otherwise. Its not “over”  if it is exactly who and what you are.)

I am also an INFJ, No wonder I saw that family law as combat made  no sense to me at first glance. No wonder I write. No wonder my passion is often met with criticism by the self proclaimed spiritual types who think that “detachment”– lack of emotion” –equals the height of spiritual accomplishment. (I wish I had said this last Sunday– “I will let you teach me about power if you will let me teach you abut humility” . Hmph.)

So how did such a person end up in law? Part hunches, part synchronicity and part luck.

Stay tuned,