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I Was Ahead of My Time. (And still am.)

I was quoted in magazines, including California Lawyer- see here and here— 10 years ago, And more.

And I dared write this,  way back then on, Divorcenet. (Two of my articles were so popular they are still on the Nolo version. (Here and here.)

So, here is is again, in 2012. Yes, You Can! The Power of Intent

© 2007 Carroll Straus

Most spouses are powerless and unhappy in  the bewildering and frankly toxic legal system. Dealing with ex-spouses is not going to be easy, and the system is a juggernaut, once it gets rolling.  To stop it alone is impossible. HOWEVER– one factor we can become empowered by is our intent. The dictionary defines “intent” as “aim or purpose…”object, plan or design.”

What the dictionary omits is how a clear “aim, goal, purpose or design” can alter the course of our court case.  But it can! In a “litigated” divorce, and co-parenting with an angry or distant “ex”, you may discover that your clarity of aim is all you can take charge of.  We can only control what is in our hands. And that is only… us.

You have heard, “We are co-creators of our own reality.”  (Most recently the much-hyped movie “The Secret” has given a wider audience to this.) Some of you say, “Oh, yeah!”  Some may be baffled or skeptical.  There is, nevertheless, truth (and hard science) to this belief,  in the “real world.”   Certainly it is 100% true of our inner world. The evidence can range from the obvious (being obsessed with “losing” a significant other and driving them away) to the subtle– repeating life patterns, some good, some painful. (I just had an insight today about one of mine!) This is due to early learning we are blind to. We miss the “cause and the effect”, but they are there.  These “programs” run our lives.  We easily see them in others, on TV. Our own are invisible, except in the “mirror” of those around us.

This invisible factor in all our doings, our Intent, is the main ingredient in the quality of our lives.  And deep in our hearts, way beneath the surface, we know this.  We often feel our intent — where we are “coming from” as we go out merry way.  We all know the feel of a mean comment like “I thought you invented stubborn.” (Yes this was one of mine!) It feels vile, as though we’d been subtly stabbed in the gut.  On the other hand we know the warm, fuzzy feeling we get when someone says, “You’re terrible” — with love. We feel it when the words don’t match the “heart”. We feel the hidden agenda. And when the covert  actor is us, we know (on some level) what our true intent is. It takes some digging but the truth is in there!

Words have surprisingly little play in communication.  Maybe only 10% of our communications is verbal. Thus, if we speak from love, love is comes across .If we speak from malice, “Icky” comes across.

Deepak Chopra writes  “intent has “infinite organizing power.”  I have seen it. If you look you will see it. Not easily, in a society where we have been taught to believe in randomness, duality and only the mechanistic “facts.” But the investigation is worth it.

There is no consensus on how strong emotions play out around us. Some say that all “reality”  is our thought. (I am not so sure about this.) But all manmade “stuff’ was once thought!  A car, a bridge, a computer– each was first a thought, then plans, then reality.

We now know that neuropeptides are a road between brain and body, carrying messengers to every cell. Candace Pert told us so in “Molecules of Emotion” in 1999. More recently, (2005) Bruce Lipton has demonstrated (in hard science) how thoughts cause proteins in our cells to change shape and change function,  like a computer chip turning on or off.

In biology,  we all know sunlight ends up as matter.  Emotionally, we can feel how a snotty remark can ruin our day. Have you kicked a tire or smashed a computer in frustration? Hardly logical, but common.  But our feelings actually  run us, even though we are just starting, as a society, to admit it.

Startlingly, if we observe closely enough, there can really be no question that intent– again, our true aim or purpose– has more impact on relationships than any other single factor, and yet it remains acknowledged except by a few on the “lunatic fringe.” Which is sad, because in each and every situation (no matter how the deck may be stacked against us) our intent is the one thing which first, last, and always, remains in our hands.  Caroline Myss states in “Anatomy of the Spirit: the Seven Stages of Power and Healing,” We do weave our spirits into the events and relationships of our lives.”  Intent is how we direct our spirit.

Directing intent  is simple–but not easy.  Take the statement  “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Huh?  If our intentions were “good” then we should be in OK, right? Alas, no. Post “good deed” hell may be how we feel watching the aftermath– of choices we made without being clear about the UNDERLYING aim or purpose of our acts.  Have you ever “meant well” and gotten clobbered?  I have. I have also learned that what I ended up with was based in large part on what my true intent was. The good news about the “hit” is if can be a “gift.” I learned what my unrecognized error was! Without the “hit” that recognition would not have taken place. With recognition, changes to lour “agenda” come as if by magic.

We all lie to ourselves because, sadly, we all feel “not good enough.” “The truth hurts” is true– but it is a sharp SHORT pain! Thus, we read, “strait is the gate and narrow is the way and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13) and “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) If we only knew the power of this deep truth! The gate to “freedom” and peace of mind lies where none of us has been trained to look– deep down, below the surface… it is… Truth!

Can we err and not be lying? Of course. But only once! “Meaning well” and creating pain (repeatedly) is common, but not “OK.”  One of my teachers said, “If you want to know what you’re committed to, look at your life.  Suffice it to say, the truth lies in the end result–our very own inner hell.

Divorce is both and end and a beginning, and the choices are many. Very few divorcing souses can say they got through it without being in  court hell, but it can be done. And if hell is already upon us– we can use that hell to burn away the underlying material that is no longer serving us.

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…

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.

Miracles on 7th Street er–Ocean Avenue

Miracles. Law. Doesn’t sound like a fit does it? But trust me—it was. Some of the adventures I previously wrote about–getting the bishop to put the kibosh on the priest vs. bus driver suit– was in the ball park. Settling cases based on human values when I was a newbie—yeah, that’s pretty close. (Now I know… it is all because I am an “HSP“. )

Then there was another case, in Long Beach, where I smelled a rat and had a friend pull a “property profile” and saw that the Plaintiffs’ attorney (and the plaintiffs were honestly the “bad guys”) had a lien on the house the lawsuit was about.  Yeah, that one too. (You see, that is TOTALLY unethical. In case you can’t see why, it is because the lawyers could have taken the property away from the parties—even before the case was sorted out. Lawyers have a fiduciary duty—they –we-have to put clients first.) I know—folks are running for their nitro glycerin. Don’t sue me please. But this is true.

So as soon as I found this—gee folks it’s public record—that case settled. REAL fast. We won. (And my boss felt we didn’t we get a good enough deal… sound familiar???) But I digress. But NO ONE else thought to see where these young folks were get the money to hire attorneys to sue their gramma to get her house, just lil ol me. I wondered, I had a hunch, I checked… I saw. (Guess why I like “House”?)

But it got REALLY clear when I had a family law case with a twenty-something dad. It as a custody case, and I tended never to take these. Still don’t. But somehow this one seemed legit, it felt right, so I took it.  In intake, knowing court was likely,  I told my guy to make himself look like Beaver Cleaver—which his friends razzed him for. (They actually said “what are you–Beaver Cleaver?)

Mom was apparently not emotionally stable. So… off to court we went. My newly Beaver-Ckeavered young dad and I.

I was very focused, getting ready for the appearance. Wore my $700 Barry Bricken “don’t f*** with me” suit. (Trust me that was some bucks back them. Size 6 wool—GORGEOUS, but oh so don’t mess with me.) Wore my gold and diamond watch. As I dressed, I was thinking of nothing else. Drove from Galleon Way in San Juan Capistrano to Long Beach… made my appearance with my newly spiffed young dad in tow. We were dealing with Mon in pro per. Back then, this was every attorneys nightmare. The case was put over until after lunch, costing my gut hundreds of dollars in extra time spent. During lunch,as were int he courtroom– or maybe the hallway–Mom came over and said to both of us “you can have the baby”.

criminal for naught

criminal for naught (Photo credit: carrollUSA)

We are all gobsmacked. But she meant it.  A stipulation is entered and we all go home—dad to his folks with the baby—Mom to… Well it turns out God knows where. he disappeared. (Which was a problem.)

But that day we were very happy indeed. Later I asked one if my Summit friends “How did I DO that?” He said “it was your intention”—I had described the while day to him… I said “OK.” But still… it was a miracle.I wish I knew how things turned out for the poor kid–but I don’t.

Like all my miracles it was not appreciated.  Dad was mad because Mom melted away and we could not do squat. He fired me.  But.. I knew the child was better off with him and his parents. Yes, miracles were easy. Maybe not so popular—but easy. I have no idea why easy. I am beginning to understand why no one went “WOW-you are awesome. Next time…

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Left Brain Right Brain

February 19, 2012 6 comments

Yesterday I did a play day. No papers to grade, no research to do—sunshine all day. I went for a hike with a friend and her two dogs, then we just did whatever we felt like all day.Of course, my left brain fired off a few “shoulds” but I told it to shut up. It mostly did. One of the benefits of hanging out with a friend is my left brain leaves me in peace.

Today I did some things I “needed” to do but they did not take all day. Naturally, that left my left brain—aka the Rational Mind—a lot of time to criticize. I “should” at least blog. Or jog. Or DO something. Anything, really.

Today I had an epiphany. Right brainers don’t live in the same strait jacket. If a sculptor isn’t sculpting on a given day there are not 2 gazillion “success” coaches telling him he (or  she) SHOULD be sculpting every day to achieve the “goal” of creating.

Writing is “creative”,  but there are so many people who think they “should” write every day. (I never did believe that, and I still don’t—but my writing has never been “normal”. I do very little editing. What I want to say comes out, either done or mostly done, most of the time. And if I don’t do it for a year it is still just fine.)

But law—law is all about the left brain. Geez—no wonder lawyers are bloody miserable. Left brain all the time.  The left brain is the prime source of the “lie that has to die.” So I shall be an artist.  For now, photography. Next? Dunno. It will be fun to see!

But  here’s the strange part: even in law school was not doing the whole thing “left brained.” For instance, one of the things you must learn in law school is legal research. (Never mind that most lawyers end up doing boring, repetitive mundane tasks that require NO research whatsoever.) I liked this. I have the mind of a sleuth—I love solving mysteries, solving puzzles–and doing legal research is puzzle solving. (EUREKA MOMENT- no wonder I like “House”!!)

Is there case law on this? What does the case law say? Does it help or hurt my client’s position? Had  that case law been periods or amplified? Many question MANY books. State law cases, federal cases —circuit courts, Supreme court—a veritable wonderland of clues and meandering labyrinths. Did I shepardize it enough?

Most law students agonize over knowing when they have done enough research. Lawyers do too, if they are working in a case.

I didn’t. I just knew that I knew when I had done enough. Of course, I never said this. I knew better. I am not sure how much  of this—of so much that I see now—is pure “intuition” (the right brain—see Jill Bolte Taylor video here) and how much is the “guidance” …about which more later.

Bu I do NOT regret learning law or doing law…but I think I will change hemispheres now.

What I did NOT go to law school to be…

February 14, 2012 Leave a comment

“Competitive,  a situational pessimist”–these are two of the three qualities another “integrative lawyer” described as what her assumed audience went to law school because of, or to become. (The last was self reliant.” That I have been.)

Now I am beginning to wonder… am I REALLY weird? I know there are a few people reading this so feel free to provide a response. Am I the only non competitive lawyer out there? (I have been competitive in a few situations–but it has NEVER been my real motive for any activity.)

I drove across the country to go to a unique law school to GROW. To BECOME. To be able to make a difference in the world-my world and the world at large. As a child I really did not have a voice, so it did occur to me, after several years in the human  potential movement, that this was a huge benefit of being a lawyer.When I spoke on behalf of a client, my voice was heard. But I went to law school to be of service. I said as much in my essay, to gain admission to SCALE. They (the admissions committee) seemed to think it was a good motive!
But my inner driver–and I was indeed driven–was much more about knowing stuff and about  justice, and not at ALL about being competitive. Lucky for me SCALE took much of the competition out of the program by using nontraditional grades, and stressing learning above being “best.”  All my life it has been painfully obvious that for every winner there was a loser and that winning all the time was impossible. It never motivated me. Never.

Seeking truth and justice is very different from seeking a win or seeking to prove someone else is “less than.” Can I be alone on this mind set, in law? I suspect not– but when  one has been enrobed with the mantle of “lawyer,” the projection and preconceived notions tend to hide what and who is REALLY inside.

Which is one reason lawyers are so often  miserable. And if only person can win, then of every two lawyers on a case one is going to go down in defeat.

I knew I was “different” even in SCALE because we did some sort of personality inventory one day. I don’t think it was Myers Briggs,but I know it charted us in quadrants and I was the ONLY one in the upper left quadrant. I think I was shown as more of a risk taker then everyone else. (This is true. Not physical risks– risks like.. driving to LA to go to SCALE!)

And take these sort of risks I did. And do.

Now if I just knew why…

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So, as I was saying…

February 9, 2012 4 comments

I finally arrived in Sierra Madre on that rare day when you could see the mountains from the freeway–there was no visible smog. I got off at Baldwin Avenue and drive up into those foothills and felt a deep sense of… I think it was “home.” As usual (looking back) I had fallen into a GREAT place to live during those intense years of studying law. My roommate had graduated from SCALE and was the main reason I had realized that yes, I, too could go to law school, despite the unusual  undergrad degree I had from Goddard.

My half  of the rent was $50.00 a month–I had no idea until quite recently that this was NOT the going rate for the LA basin– I had just come from 6 years in the militarily in Mississippi and Guam. And the place was eccentric and charming–we had a GORGEOUS antique O’Keefe and Merrit stove and a tree growing up through our deck. 379 Sycamore. A great street in a magical little town. OK ,so Wayne was a ghastly roommate–left pots of food on the stove until they damn near got maggots, and had little quirks like that. He was, simply put–a PIG!  But I was so happy in my “genteel poverty” it didn’t faze me.

Someone asked yesterday “why law school? Why that law school?” Well, I will tell you. It felt right.  I had known for a long time I needed to do something with my life. Joining the military was my first step into adulthood. I did well on the language aptitude test and on the Officer’s Candidate School test, as well as on the LSAT. (Which I took with a nasty medical issue which was dealt with at MacDill AFB AFTER I finished the test!) But I decide on law school. Looking back I can think of various reasons this may have been important for me, but they were not reasons I had in mind when I made the call. It felt right. My interview had gone well and I had asked if they would admit me to SCALE. (Someone had told me if you asked they would tell you. I asked–they said “if everything you have told us is true, yes”. It was true– I am obsessed with truth.) I was in!

So I went. Why that law school? It felt right. Now I am getting pretty darn clear I had guidance of some sort, every step of the way. I was in many ways very confused, at least emotionally, but there was a part of me that KNEW… and I listened.

Thanks God for that. SCALE was far and away the most exciting experience I have ever had. I had no way to know I was avoiding the deliberate trauma and dehumanization inflicted on law students in “traditional” programs.

I was lucky. So lucky. NOW I know… I always have been.