eyes open

eyes open
"know thyself" is the cure, the answer, the process, the goal, the result


If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

Let's just agree that the case has already been made respecting the chronic and near-ubiquitous dissatisfaction among lawyers for their work. Let us also agree to agree that the pandemic of drug- and alcohol-abuse among lawyers (per social scientists at "x" percent above the national average) is not just a coincidence. What then are we to make of this and, further--aside from hand-wringing--what to do about it?

Let us also agree not to lie to each other, shall we? Let's agree not to tell each other that "it won't happen to me" for mere wanting. Let's agree not to believe that this only happens to attorneys of a certain generation and that "we" "new" "younger" attorneys won't suffer the same fate merely by virtue of our youth and more "modern" outlook. Do you (those under-30 types) seriously believe that your forebears did not start out with the same vitality and optimism?

Start Unpeeling the Onion

I suggest we actually begin to unpeel the onion of this occupational hazard and undeniably destructive drain on our profession as a whole, with all the detrimental affects this can conceivably have and has arguably already had on our society (footnote 1: just how many corporations claim (and truthfully) that their counsel signed off on their misdeeds before doing them?).

As I am not a scientist, not a sociologist and not a psychologist, I'll dispense with the niceties and proofs and just give you my theory straight out: our profession suffers from dis-ease because it emphasizes rational thought processes to the exclusion of emotion, of creativity, and, perhaps most importantly, of the "sub-conscious."

Hearkening Back to Jung

Those who have read Jung's last great work (and the only one accessible to the layman) "Man and His Symbols," may see his influence here. Let me paraphrase and "translate."

The unconscious (subconscious, whatever) is a vital and important aspect of human existence and sanity. It is not a relic of "primitive" man; it is not a sissy-haven and scapegoat for bad behavior. Rather, it is a font of creativity--perhaps THE font of creativity--of the human psyche. It is a vital part of (link to) our interaction to our own histories (memories) and that of the world at large. And, unfortunately, it is neglected, suppressed, and without a voice.

But for our dreams.

Dreams Matter

Jung's theory is that our dreams are vitally important to our mental, and even physical, health. Our dreams are the only way for "civilized" man to interact with (listen to, learn from) an entire thought process, almost another entire "being" within us--and one that we cannot live without. Primitive man (per Jung) had not lost the interaction between the strange, wonderful and grotesque projections that the unconscious mind projects onto every interaction, thought, and sight. Primitive man sees a shaman in a wolf, an angry god in a storm, a ghost in a rustle of the wind. Importantly, however, these fantastical associations have important meaning to us as human beings. Most importantly, they come from the same source (arguably) that all our creative, generative and new thoughts and ideas come from. We ignore it to our peril.

Yet, that is precisely what "modern" man (yes, woman, too) has done. We have collectively decided to--and "consciously" I might add, relegate the unconscious to "persona non-grata" status. As stated, what remain accessible to us, are our dreams.

The Source of Our Collective Discontent

I have not worked out just how we as modern professionals are to integrate the important messages that our unconscious gives to us, but I do know that we can and must do more to do so. We as attorneys particularly are in need of this integration. We work in a society-within-a-society that even more strongly and exclusively values "reason" and "rationalism" over emotion, sentiment, and the fantastical than the layman. I suggest, then, that our malaise, our depression, our destructive and compulsive behaviors, stem from a mind that is diseased because it is not nourished by the creative and generative powers of the unconscious.

Two Examples

I'm afraid this post is already far too long and I do not have the wherewithal to flesh out an entire system of analysis and integration. However, we fail to pick up this challenge to our peril.

Two quick examples. First, Jung relates the story of an otherwise high-functioning professional who had a recurring dream of walking off of a cliff. Jung, given the man's background, was gravely concerned. The individual had been engaged in a string of rather sordid financial and other engagements, and had begun to adopt a series of high-risk physical projects (involving mountain climbing) that Jung thought was some sort of unconscious intent to restore an equilibrium to that individual. Despite repeated warnings to re-evaluate his new-found passion, the individual continued to take ever-more dangerous mountain treks. Two weeks after the dream, his mountaineering friends related a telling and horrifying event--the man (otherwise apparently happy, fulfilled and successful) simply walked off the cliff--just as in his dream. Let me emphasis, he did not fall, he walked off. Trouble is, this unconscious obedience to a long-ignored call took another colleague with him to his demise.

Second story: I recall a vivid dream just before my wills and trusts final in law school. It was an intricate and peculiarly sharp, concrete and vivid dream; one that I could not understand, but knew was important. However, I had better things to do. I sat for the exam (and nearly failed it). I recalled only later that night the details of the dream--and realized that I had dreamed every detail of the exam fact scenario, and every single answer. Had I perhaps been more disposed to listen to, value and care about my dreams--indeed a full third of my human existence if you will--perhaps I might have averted a small (but painful nonetheless) perceived failure in my life.

I can't promise you can avoid all professional set-backs by paying undue attention to your dreams--but then again, you might.

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