PART 1: Understanding the self
I preach endlessly that it all begins with you.
We’re afraid of judges because they’re power-persons, which harkens back to our experiences with our first power-persons – usually a parent. Most often we don’t understand that psychic connection while we stand miserable and quaking before His Honor. Instead of a judge the psychic eye sees a raging father or a scolding mother. The psychic memory has not forgotten the child’s helplessness before such a power-person. Nor has the survival instinct let the psychic mind forget that should the child be cast out, the child will face the ultimate horror—death. And what if the judge should reject us?
We are introduced at an early age to the relationship between power and helplessness. Beyond the fear of the parent power-person we are taught to fear the ever-watching God—the ultimate power. Why do judges peer down on us from on high? Why do the remnants of ancient belief systems still have us “praying” to his Honor? From the earliest times we learn the art of beseeching that is often gilded with resentment—the deaf, unresponsive God of Job. And always we long for our own power.
At a recent seminar conducted at Trial Lawyers College, participants were asked to complete any unfinished business they might have with a parent, living or dead—one participant taking on the role of the child, another the parent and the two reversing roles as necessary to permit the full story to emerge. The results of such exercises are universally astounding. The participants are touched in deep places, some to weeping, some to silence and others to anger. But none leave the exercise unmoved. Why, I have wondered, is there such a high quotient of parent-child conflict?
My own supposition, formed empirically over the years, is that more children than we suspect have been abused. I am defining abuse from the child’s perspective of powerlessness. To the child, abuse feels like the inexorable, assertion of raw, undeserved power. It may include perceived unjust punishment, deprivation or a sense of abandonment directed to a child who is unable to fight back or to protect himself or herself. It is the painful exercise of power by often innocent parents that imposes injury.
Parents are not equipped to judge their conduct through the eyes of the child. No courses are offered for Parenting 101. Often abuse grows out of the parent’s own experienced abuse as a child—so the biblical admonition that “the sins of the father are visited upon the child.” Some parents who feel powerless themselves are the first to exercise unwarranted power over their children. The abused child, as I have defined him or her will become the lawyer most likely to be abused by the judge.
“The abused child, as I have defined him or her will become the lawyer most likely to be abused by the judge.”
At the above mentioned seminar I was drawn to a young woman, a beginning lawyer, who presented herself as childlike. She had a small, sad, perpetual smile on her face, and if I shut my eyes and listened, her voice sounded like that of a five or six-year-old. Physically she looked like a little girl with a chubby body and a round doll-like face. Naturally she was adored and protected by the other participants at the seminar. She had had limited experience in the courtroom. But the few cases she’d tried before several judges left her with the impression that judges were kind and helpful. I thought, yes, who but a sadist bent on injuring children could possibly treat such a child with anything but kindness. I found myself wanting to protect her, and this lawyer, still as child, was taken under the wings of the judge, the same judge, I discovered, who had been the judge from hell for another participant in the same seminar.
My own parents were often bewildered as to how to deal with their rambunctious, raucous, rebellious offspring. I was never spanked nor sent to a corner. I do not remember any particular punishment at all. When those mutinous adolescent years came along my parents simply threw up their hands in surrender, and I left home at sixteen to conquer the world, which I viewed as a probability. I rebelled against the strict, religious teaching of my mother and absorbed the anger of my father against the “upper crust,” the moneyed class, who, were represented by the callus authority of his employers. I loved my father and hated the boss, that malevolence on high who could abuse that good, brave man. Early on I saw authority as the enemy and vowed never to be captured by power, and, of course, that included the power of the judge. My life with judges has not always been easy.
I have never heard a judge admonish a lawyer, “I am not your father, Mr. Jones. I am the judge.” Nor have I met a lawyer who has walked into the courtroom saying, “Remember, this man is not my father or my mother, this is not my father’s boss nor some heartless, demanding teacher. The relationship of judge and lawyer rolls on, year after year, the judge as the power-person, the lawyer as child, the lawyer struggling in the courtroom against the power of the judge and neither understanding much about the seeds of their relationship.
COMING SOON, Part 2 of 3: “The Dangerous Disease of Power”