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Abuse—a badge of shame, or a badge of honor? (Or, NEITHER?)

I was an abused child. It is almost surely one of the reasons I took up law. God knows I don’t have the personality or values of a “typical attorney.” (For the record, that would be “pit bull”, “shark”– cold and emotionless, competitive to the nth degree, and so on.) Even in law school, when they did a personality assessment on all of us, I was in quadrant by myself.

My personality? HSP, INFJ , aka human life detector. Overly altruistic, idealistic, able to pick up on things others don’t, willing to risk my personal   safety when I see someone in need—and especially when my “spidey sense” says there is no actual danger to me. (I have written about one such episode on Quora. In response to the question”what is the nicest things you’ve ever done that no one knows about?”) I have written about some of these adventures on this blog also. Many other examples abound, untold by me. No—I am not boasting. No one knows about these things, so it’s not quite boasting, is it? I’m claiming these parts of myself. Finally. 

I am now claiming some of these parts of me, because I found out  in my 6th decade. that I am not alone, or utterly unique. I’ve become aware that Elaine Arons, PhD. bless her, hss discovered there are lots of us and has done terrific work to help us recognize ourselves, and use these characteristics for our own and other’s benefit.

It has been recognized by many writers that the HSP child who has poor parenting is likely to suffer many emotional issues. I can testify to that. As fate would have it, my HSPness—combined with my mother’s BPDness (which I now suspect to have been HSPness that went awry) I got the designation of the “broken one” in the family. (I had to find that out from a therapist in the 90s. I just thought I truly was broken.)

I am not sure if my obsessive overachieverhood is an HSP perfectionism—yes, perfectionism  is part of it—or dumb luck. But instead of submitting to my own belief in my brokenness, I set about a redemptive path, and redemptive achievement. One of these moves was to enlist in the USAF, where I was no longer bound to my mother in any way. There, I was promoted at the first round in every cycle, and ended up with a Good Conduct Medal—me, who was sent to the psych doc by one of my bosses (God bless that doc  for not crucifying me!). The immature, confused, me that I was, he did not give a destructive label.  He could have.

After that six year stint in becoming an adult land, I msde another leap. enrolling in the law school I have also written about. I not only did that program in the two years which made it unique—I also worked the whole time.  For a whole year, in the UDAF Reserves (no one on those duty weekends believed I really had to study all weekend!!) Later, as a house cleaner for my neighbors/ landlords.

Yes, the school said it couldn’t be done, but using my trusty spidey sense I did it. Luckily for me in several of these decisions (doing was they said “couldn’t be done” – or, say, applying to only one law school) here was no one telling me not to do it. Doings it my way  would have been seen as being “stubborn”—a label I have heard applied to me many times. (I say there’s a fine line between stubborn and determined. It can be hard to know which is which.) But in that journey—as so often– I was successful, so I get to say “determined.”

But having an inner guidance system unknown to the 80% who are not HSP–and a LONG track record of trusting it—can lead to much misattribution by the 80%,  and, of course, invalidation. (Thr bane of my childhood .) Which brings me to the current “crisis.”

Battered women. What do battered women have to do with all this, with me, with my spidey sense, my abusive childhood? Well, I’m glad you asked.

A lot, it turns out.

For most if my legal career I avoided all contentious legal matters. Even back when I was in Long Beach where  there was a decent community of attorneys who all knew one another (and the 2 judges), I knew these ugly cases didn’t work out well. Getting paid was always an issue, and the children were at risk. I never wanted to get into that mess, so I pretty much never did.

As things went along, year by year, I realized I almost always preferred the men in my mediation cases to the women. It wasn’t hard to see why—I knew that much about me. (Nice dad, mean mom.) But after that, I also noticed many of these men were abusees. Yes, you read that right. Abused men. Bruises, major scratches, martial arts moves—knives being brandished. Scratching, clawing.  Manipulation, lies, lawsuits. I saw it all.

Only one man I know reacted when his wife tried to get physical with him, and he is an aikido black bet—and a very manly man. (Sicilian, yet.)  The rest did not. (Do not underestimate the power of acculturation of men with regard to “hitting women.”) Many of these men, I later realized, were married to BPD women—as was my dad. He was usually calm, but  my mother got him to hit her once. Now,  I understand why. Then,  I was just terrified.

Is it OK to hit? Of course not. Do abusees play a role in their abuse? Well, yes, they do. I found that out, too. Abuse is about power and control—and both-or all—parties are caught in it. (Yes, me too. The childhood patterns are hard to work one’s way through and out of–but it can be done.) Now, as I have  found abused women reaching out to me for help, I have discovered I can assist them.

Except when I can’t.

I can’t help the HCP (High Conflict Personality) types. Not yet, anyway–although my extreme ambition of forever-blooming self improvement is sending me off to get the hang of that, too.

But some of the repressed parts if me—the wounded parts I have buried–have now erupted. BLAM.

Anger. You see, there is an entire segment of the politics of “battered women” is HCP and proud of it. They wear their abuse like a badge of honor- and they dismiss anyone who even so much as tries to point out that their strident behavior is costing them dearly. (Any honest attorney will tell you that, and studies have been done on it.) See http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/even-today-an-angry-female-arouses-fear-and-is-dismissed/2012/01/26/gIQAStovTQ_story.html.

A quote: “No doubt Marianne Gingrich is a more forgiving, pious woman than I. But it’s also likely that she’s keenly aware that female anger simply doesn’t sell, that it is regularly used to discredit and dismiss serious and real frustrations by women. In the myriad of personal and professional ways females have achieved parity with men over the decades, freedom of expression is not one of them.”

Se also http://www.huffingtonpost.com/myisha-cherry/politics-of-anger_b_2926891.html

“The “it” that I am referring to is a concept borrowed from philosopher Sue Campbell, which I term the “politics of dismissal.” When a man gets angry, (i.e. Mitt Romney at the first debate and Obama at the second debate), that anger is translated as toughness, leadership, getting serious about the issues. However, when a woman gets angry, her anger is dismissed as passion, hysterics, or irrationality.”

Yep. All true.

Is this “fair”? No. But it IS. It is and women who act this way in court are doomed. (The psychco-spiritual effects of this state of mind aside–and they are quite real also.)

But worse yet, yesterday it hit me– I AM FURIOUS with them—or had been, underneath my armor. (Hiding from my conscious mind.) Furious that MY abuse was invisible and I don’t get to be part of a self protective tribe that would validate me. Furious that no one see MY pain– MY abuse. They call themselves “protective Moms”. (I sure didn’t have one of those.) Alas, they refuse to see that even when the court system screws it up—and they do, God knows they do—their HCP behavior is part of why they are trapped. (See also http://janicelevinson.blogspot.com/)

And I am so triggered by all my bottled up (and so far not fully owned) pain and anger that I can barely even READ their stuff, let alone become effective in dealing with it. And the thing is–they DO need help. And they are not getting it. Oh yes, I shall indeed need to do the shadow work that is now so painfully clear. Yes, I shall.

But it’s messy. And maybe it is my grandiosity that thinks I can actually do something about it. We shall see.

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So how does an HSP who marches to a different drummer survive as a lawyer??

You may well ask.

Well first she gets lucky (a trait I seem to have which may or may not be related to the HSP/INFJ stuff) and goes to THE perfect law school. They encouraged is to really think. No hornbooks, we read every case from beginning to end with every footnote and every badly written account of what happened. Every. Single. Word. (In many cases much was not said that needed to be said. Like what happened at the level below in the appeal.)

Second the perfectionism that is so characteristic of the HSP helped. I read every case and I briefed every case. EVERY CASE. I didn’t resent it. I was thrilled to be there and thrilled to discover I was good at this stuff. (The 2 year SCALE program demanded dedication and motivation, and… determination. “Known as SCALE, the program features an accelerated law school curriculum that challenges students to master analytical reasoning and legal writing skills while remaining sensitive to ethical obligations and client needs.

A trailblazer since 1974, the SCALE Program has focused on integrating substantive knowledge and professional skills instruction, a model that is just now being incorporated into curricular reforms at many other law schools in response to the call for more practical skills training in legal education.”)

They–the school and our professors– also were determined to keep the destructive competition out of our experience, That helped, too.

I think the fact that i sued both sides of my brain probably helped–although the left brain was the one “hauling the laboring oar.” (It was years later that I realized why I had to listen to jazz while I studied– 4 or 5 hours at night, after class every single day. it gave my right brain something to do! Oh-and I don’t much like jazz.)

In any case, I didn’t study in the library. I sent home and jogged–outdoors in nature in the beautiful, tree filled  little town of Sierra Madre.This burned off anxiety and soothed my soul. The whole town did. And I didn’t have anyone else’s “stuff” distracting me. (Of course I didn’t know this was a factor then. I did know when I typed my Bar exam I was happy it was a much smaller group and there would be fewer crazies.)

So that’s how I survived that 2 years. I studied alone– no study groups for me. Probably an HSP control thing. I did all the work and did it on time. I did not wait until the last minute. (Control, perfectionism.)

And that is hw it all began.

I am also an INFJ… at Law.

May 19, 2013 4 comments

OK so I admit I never liked the Meyers Briggs stuff. I am not sure why. I do remember us doing some sort of metric in law school and I was in a quadrant all by myself—no one else in my (small) class was like me. But this law school class (SCALE) was not like the “traditional” law schools so, it was “all good.”

I know that more recently, when I joined a LinkedIn group on the MBTI, I still found it cumbersome. Maybe that is because I can—and always could—“read” people without a metric. (I now know that INFJs are famous for this. And for some GREAT comments and cartons on these qualities see the blog of INFJoe.)

Now I realize there is at least one upside to the MBTI. It has a following. If I talk about HSP it is dismissed. But many people “get” MBTI and anyone can look it up and see it is in wide use. It has also helped me realize my nature (that I could never get rid of all these years, despite my obsession with personal growth) is not a sickness, a disease, or a curse… it is just an inborn set of traits I may as well use, enjoy… and just plain live with.

So I am not just an HSP lawyer… I am an INFJ lawyer. I ask you—is this your picture of the archetypal lawyer???

“Because the INFJ has such strong intuitive capabilities, they trust their own instincts above all else. This may result in an INFJ stubbornness and tendency to ignore other people’s opinions. They believe [feel deeply] that they’re right. On the other hand, INFJ is a perfectionist who doubts that they are living up to their full potential. INFJs are rarely at complete peace with themselves – there’s always something else they should be doing to improve themselves and the world around them. They believe in constant growth, and don’t often take time to revel in their accomplishments. They have strong value systems, and need to live their lives in accordance with what they feel is right. In deference to the Feeling aspect of their personalities, INFJs are in some ways gentle and easy going. Conversely, they have very high expectations of themselves, and frequently of their families. They don’t believe in compromising their ideals.? (see here)

So I am not like your average lawyer. Even in law school I just “knew” when my legal research was done—most agonized over it. Earlier yet, I just knew I could take the LSAT with no formal prep —I scored 165. I also applied to only one law school—and that one was  a perfect fit. (I was called impulsive but it was really intuition.)

I have been put down by a whole lot of people… but in oh so many cases I was right in the end, and now I know why.

And I also know why I am always quite willing to change my opinions if the facts indicate it, and will always be a work in progress. And often dismissed and not infrequently envied—secretly.

A mixed blessing to have—an UNMIXED blessing to finally recognize.