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Law and Psychology

Combining Law and Psychology

At the core, most legal issues involve: (1) a specific behavior or series of behaviors; (2) pre-existing expectations held by people adversely impacted by the specific behavior(s); and (3) conditioned responses of those adversely impacted to the specific behavior(s) in question.  Stress typically results from these situations insofar as feelings of safety and predictability are commonly threatened.  When under stress, individuals typically revert to familiar ways of coping and assume a restrictive view both of what has happened, and the range of possibilities that may exist in potentially moving forward.

Traditional legal training is almost exclusively focused on the identification of facts (behaviors) and the application of normative judgments (laws) to these facts.  The bypassing of individual and interpersonal dynamics inherent in most legal training usually leads to less-than-optimal solutions in which one side “wins” and the other side “loses.”  Thus, the major reason that typical attorneys bypass individual and interpersonal dynamics of their clients is simply because they lack the professional training to do so.

While attorneys and psychotherapists are both ethically bound to maintain the confidentiality of their clients, traditional attorneys are not specifically trained to create an empathic environment in which clients feel safe to explore more deeply-rooted fears and insecurities commonly triggered by conflict and legal disputes.  Legal clients are rarely encouraged to explore beliefs residing below immediate consciousness – beliefs that may actually be driving their reactions to the specific behaviors that have occurred.  As a result, decisions of clients that ultimately dictate legal strategy often emanate from a narrow, fear-based point that ignores consideration of what is most true and meaningful to the client.

On the other hand, while psychotherapists are trained to create a safe, empathic space in which clients can explore and gain clarity on what is truly important to them, this is done exclusive of knowledge of the legal framework that the client must navigate to successfully address his or her situation on a practical level.

In combining practice law practice experience with training in psychotherapy, a holistic lawyer can create a unique forum in which clients can successfully address their practical concerns in optimal ways consistent with their authentic selves, and the needs of others impacted by the ways in which the situation is potentially resolved.  This level of authenticity often lies beneath the habitual reactions commonly triggered in conflict-laden situations that can usually be explored only in a specifically tailored environment conducive to such inquiry.

For more information on holistic law practice combining law and psychology, visit http://www.Holistic-Lawyer.com, or call (415) 508-6263.

About the Author

Michael Lubofsky is an attorney admitted to practice law in California and Connecticut.  He is a graduate of the Boston University School of Law, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a B.A., cum laude in Psychology.  Mike is currently completing his first year in a master’s program in Counseling Psychology at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California.

Categories
Holistic Divorce Holistic Philosophy Law Practice Mindfulness

The Importance of Mindful Spousal Support

The issue of spousal support, especially when involving highly disparate incomes of a separating couple, is one of the most challenging areas of the divorce process.  Underlying the complexity are fundamental notions of “fairness” that may significantly differ for each spouse.  To successfully deal with the issue of spousal support in a way that minimizes negative drag for both parties, it is essential that spousal support be addressed with deliberation and mindfulness, ideally working together with both parties outside of the typical adversarial framework.

For purposes of discussion, we will assume a scenario involving a significantly higher earning husband and a marriage exceeding twenty years with no dependent children.   Husband worked throughout the marriage up to a current income level of $250,000/year.  Wife has made decisions at important junctures during the marriage that the couple believed were important to child rearing as well as ensuring that household-related issues were adequately addressed given Husband’s professional commitments and is proceeding forward with minimal marketable work experience.

In the typical adversarial unfolding of a divorce, the husband is initially confronted with temporary spousal support demands along with the divorce petition or response.  At that point, staring at a written document in isolation, what he is likely to see will be limited to the bottom-line demand that he pay 30-40% of his salary to his soon-to-be ex-wife with no end date in sight.  Suddenly, despite his hard work and sacrifices over the years, he will be taking home significantly less pay every month.

From the wife’s vantage point, however, it is not difficult to understand the fear and uncertainty that she faces moving forward into the future.  Now in her late 40’s, with little marketable work experience accumulated over the past two decades, she wonders how she will be able to move forward in a way that anywhere approximates the life to which she has grown accustomed.

Pervasive social conditioning colors the respective outlooks of both the husband and wife in this scenario.  The wife may well feel that her contributions to the community have been generally devalued by society at large, and possibly by her soon-to-be ex-husband in particular.  Similarly, the husband may consider it unfair to have to give almost half his pay to his wife when she is not “gainfully employed” as this term is generally interpreted in contemporary society.

This stark difference in conditioning may be just the tip of the iceberg of how differently the husband and wife approach this situation.  A highly conscious, holistic and mindful approach is essential in helping each party gain a felt appreciation for the outlook of the other, including underlying conditioning that cannot be ignored.

Bringing a holistic, mindful approach to the issue of spousal support requires both parties to work directly with the attorney, usually at the same time.  The holistic lawyer provides each party a full opportunity to articulate his or her fears and concerns.  It is only when  both parties feel thoroughly understood the concrete financial terms are discussed.

Additionally, once a spousal support agreement is reached, there can negotiated particular protocols to see that monthly payments are both given and received in a mindful, conscious way so as to ensure that both parties feel sufficiently appreciated and valued and have not lost sight of the underlying conditioning, fears, etc. discussed at the front end of this process.

To learn more about mindful spousal support, contact Holistic Lawyer Michael Lubofsky either by calling (415) 508-6263, or by visiting http://www.Holistic-Lawyer.com.

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Holistic Mediation Mediation

Mediation: Often Not Just the Best Solution, the Only Solution

Defensive and aggressive reactions to conflict most often arise because of an inability to be heard and understood. At the heart of most conflict lies some core issue that, if recognized, acknowledged, and explored, would provide the seed for peaceful, optimal resolution, truly in the best interests of the parties and more broad societal context in which they live. Often, the failure to identify and explore these core issues will keep the parties locked into a dualistic, adversarial posture that will serve to escalate the conflict.

Whether a conflict involves one spouse not taking out the trash, a neighbor making too much noise, or a violent attack by a religious faction, one party to these activities feels on some level that they are not being heard – that core beliefs or concerns that they harbor are not being sufficiently acknowledged.

Our predominant adversarial model of “justice” overwhelmingly operates in a way that allows no exploration of underlying precipitants of conflict. Attorneys are specifically trained to elicit “facts” from clients that they will then apply to the law in crafting a litigation strategy. Unfortunately, a client’s recitation of “facts” in reality often constitutes a “story,” and excludes subconscious motivations of one’s behavior.

In order to begin exploring these less salient motivations of one’s behavior, an environment must be created that fosters an air of openness, respect, and trust so that individuals can become willing to explore and articulate underlying thoughts and emotions that may have led to, or exacerbated, the conflict. The structure of a courtroom, and the nature of civil procedure and rules of evidence, are antithetical to the creation of an open environment in which litigants might otherwise feel safe in exploring more sensitive thoughts and emotions.

By contrast, among the benefits of mediation are ground rules specifically laid to establish an environment of respect. Sharply honed listening skills and ability to empathize will help an experienced mediator quickly begin to create an environment conducive to the exploration of more vulnerable thoughts and feelings of the parties. Not bound by rules of procedure and evidence, the parties can begin to articulate what is truly important to them. Often what comes to the surface are thoughts and feelings of which the parties themselves were consciously unaware. The seeds are then sewn for the crafting of a solution that can truly address the core needs of all involved.

One might say that any solution falling short of this process is really no solution at all.

To learn more about the benefits of holistic mediation, contact Holistic Lawyer and Mediator Michael Lubofsky at (415) 508-6263, or visit http://www.Holistic-Lawyer.com.

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Holistic Mediation Mediation

Mediation Versus Litigation: Addressing a Larger Societal Problem

Within a wide swath of civil litigation can be found a common denominator: The tendency of people in contemporary American society to sidestep responsibility for their own happiness and well-being, instead looking toward external factors to blame for undesirable outcomes or consequences.

Almost by definition, our predominant adversarial model of civil litigation encourages, cultivates, and solidifies blame.  For example, in filing an initial complaint to initiate a lawsuit, a plaintiff is basically required by procedural rules to allege facts that establish on their face what a defendant or defendants did wrong.  The plaintiff is then required to set forth a request for relief stating how these alleged improper or wrongful acts caused harm or loss.  Nowhere at this initial pleading stage would a plaintiff acknowledge any affirmative role that may have contributed to the harm of which he or she is complaining.

It is only at a more advanced stage of pleading that an adverse party may file a “Request for Admissions,” which would prompt a party to acknowledge that his/her/its actions or inactions may have contributed to the problem at hand.

So it often seems in a more broad societal context.  We seem conditioned to focus on external factors to explain our problems (and much of our happiness).  Many would maintain, however, that such thought-driven notions that attribute happiness or lack thereof to external factors are largely delusional.  Such a misguided orientation may go far in explaining why litigation “victories” resulting from the adversarial process seldom produce an enduring sense that the conflict has been resolved in any sort of optimal fashion.

In contrast, holistic law and mediation works to help dissolve defensiveness and entrenched conditioning to the point at which participants become better able to see through their misguided preconceptions.  They are then better able to objectively assess their acts or omissions that may have contributed to the current conflict.  At the same time, the cultivation of an empathic environment by the holistic lawyer or mediator facilitates this process as participants feel more understood and less judged for “mistakes” or “misunderstandings” that my have contributed to the conflict.

To learn  more about how holistic law and mediation can facilitate optimal, sustainable conflict resolution, contact Holistic Lawyer and Mediator Michael Lubofsky at (415) 508-6263, or visit http://www.Holistic-Lawyer.com.

Categories
Compassion Holistic Divorce Holistic Mediation Mediation Mindfulness

The Transformational Potential of Mediation

In conducting more than two dozen mediation sessions in Alameda County Superior Court, what is most glaringly apparent is the extent to which mediation participants enter mediation with all-defined, hardened positions.  Moreover, these individuals almost always are convinced that their interpretations of some event or events that have taken place in the past are the “correct” or “right” interpretation, and that the opposing party is simply “wrong.”

Through extensive mediation training and experience, a professional mediator becomes increasingly able to identify when a participant appears “locked into” a position, and then employ sensitive listening and empathic skills that may soon begin to loosen the grip of tightly-held, heavily egoic, positions.  It is the dissolving of these firmly held positions that begins to shift a mediation focus from positions to interests.

Freed from the grip of ego, one can begin to entertain an increasingly expansive notion of “interest” to transcend one’s “self interest” which may have predominated at the outset of the mediation.  “Interest” can then begin to more fully encompass a spouse, a family, a community, or even all of life.  In this way, mediation can serve a transformational function as a springboard for previously untapped solutions that transcend self-interest and serve to move the participants, as well as society at large, forward in more sustainable ways.

To learn more about how mediation might work for you, contact Meditator and Holistic Lawyer Michael Lubofsky by calling (415) 508-6263, or by visiting http://www.mindfulaw.com.

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Holistic Mediation Mediation

Mediation versus Litigation: The Answer Becomes Clear

Where holistic law practice has at its core wisdom borne from a grounded sense of being, it is only within the mediation forum that individuals are afforded the freedom and flexibility to access this wisdom and have this wisdom guide participants toward optimal dispute resolution.

In contrast, formal litigation imposes strict rules (e.g., rules of evidence) that ultimately ensure that disputes are settled based largely on objectively verifiable events.  By definition, admissible evidence excludes intuitive knowledge and other phenomenon arguably behind the realm of human thought, including compassion and empathy, as salient factors to be considered by the parties when attempting to fashion a remedy to a dispute.

While litigating parties may, individually, evoke and consult with unverifiable sources of knowledge such as intuition, compassion, etc., in determining his or her individual litigation strategy, the litigation process itself is designed to eliminate discussion and consideration of such factors when both parties are together before the tribunal.  The parties are thus denied the opportunity to reevaluate their respective positions in light of inner wisdom accessed and articulated by other parties with what litigation would deem “adversarial interests.”

From an evolutionary standpoint, it is understandable that interpersonal dispute resolution grew into a system that basically extracted emotion and unverifiable feelings from the equation.  It is not difficult to imagine that in a lesser evolved form, such emotion and visceral sense was likely to lead to chaos and physical violence.

It is also conceivable, however, that as a species we have evolved to a point at which we are beginning to recognize truth as lying beyond thought and objectively verifiable facts.  Holistic law practice, by helping clients disidentify from learned conditioning and habitual reactions, can facilitate heightened access to this inner wisdom.  A properly orchestrated mediation forum can ensure that the inner wisdom of all interested parties is elicited and properly considered in sculpting optimal dispute resolution.

To learn more about holistic law practice and its applicability in the mediation context, contact Attorney Michael Lubofsky at (415) 508-6263 or visit http://www.mindfulaw.com.

 

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Holistic Philosophy Law Practice Mindfulness

Holistic Law: Blame and Attribution As a Means of Sidestepping Legal Problems

Through evolution, as an important means of survival, it was often critical when faced with challenges in meeting our basic needs that we were able to identify a cause in the environment that we could then act upon to remove the current obstacle.  In many of these primordial situations, if one were to just do nothing, he or she could be physically attacked by a hostile adversary or animal posing a direct threat to survival.

Thus, from an evolutionary psychology standpoint, it makes sense that he human ability to find external causes for difficult situations was critical for survival of the species.

As with many of our more ingrained coping strategies, however, our strong tendency towards identifying environmental factors as causes of challenging situations has become strongly habitual.  In contemporary society, we are seldom faced with immediate threats to our physical survival.  Nevertheless, when faced with difficult situations that prompt anxiety or fear, our conditioning often looks towards external causes that we may come to believe caused our current difficulties.

If this conditioned response mode is not met with a threshold of consciousness (i.e., grounding in present-moment experience), one can quickly become absorbed and seriously distracted with thought-driven stories about how this person or that person caused or brought about the threatening situation.  This tendency can soon lead to outward expressions of anger, blame, etc. as if these expressions might somehow alleviate the challenging situation.  In the process, however, one will become increasingly disconnected from present-moment experience and come to experience deeper unhappiness that, in itself, may prompt another cycle and layer of blame and attribution.

This type of cycle may be common within individuals involved in, or considering, legal action.  Whether involved in divorce, an employment law dispute, an accident that has caused physical injury, criminal prosecution of some type, etc., it is not difficult to imagine one easily becoming enmeshed in this blame and attribution cycle.  The extent to which this cycle gains momentum is the extent to which the individual is likely to overlook creative solutions to the current situation that might potentially serve to transform his or her life in truly positive ways.  Instead, decisions are likely to be made as to how one might exact revenge or retribution against the person, institutions, etc. that are considered responsible for the current situation.

Holistic law practice works with clients to, among other things, help temper this ingrained tendency towards blame and attribution and instead heighten one’s connection to present-moment experience.  It is within this heightened mindfulness that clients can identify optimal solutions to their challenging legal situations.  To learn more, contact Holistic Attorney Michael Lubofsky at (415) 508-6263, or visit http://www.holistic-lawyer.com.

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Holistic Philosophy Law Practice Mindfulness

The Danger of Defensive Reaction When Dealing With Legal Problems

Mindfulness has at its core the cultivation of a heightened ability to consciously connect with present-moment experience.  Doing this often involves a process over time of dis-identification from “ego” or thought-driven notions about how “I am” or “you are,” as a “separate” individual.  When we remain stuck in such learned conditioning, we are far more likely to react to difficult situations in an unconscious, defensive manner principally aimed at keeping one’s ego intact and preserving our relatively static notion of “self.”

To the extent that one’s ego derails an individual from present-moment experience (i.e., “reality”), he or she is likely to become agitated, anxious, and reactive.  In the process he or she will often fail to identify creative approaches to these situations, miss opportunities to deepen consciousness, and ultimately remain stuck in old patterns of habitual reactions.

The inability to maintain one’s connection to present-moment experience can be very common when facing legal problems that may have implications for situations in one’s life that have come to form the core of how he or she has come to define his or her “self.”

Mindfulness in law practice is essential in helping clients break out of non-productive and often harmful habitual reactions to these challenging life situations, and instead open to new possibilities that extend beyond the perceived boundaries of the “self.”  The inability to approach legal situations in a mindful way will often lead to recurrence of similar undesirable life situations in the future.

To learn more about the incorporation of mindfulness in law practice, contact Holistic Lawyer Michael Lubofsky at (415) 508-6263, or visit http://www.Holistic-Lawyer.com.

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Holistic Philosophy Law Practice Mindfulness

The Role of Unsatisfactoriness in Legal Problems

The first noble truth in Buddhist philosophy is that life includes dukkha which is roughly translated from Pali by contemporary scholars as a sense of “unsatisfactoriness.”  From an evolutionary standpoint, being “wired” with this sensitivity makes sense as an internal motivator for humans to venture out into their environments seeking food, shelter, procreation, etc.

One could argue that we as a species have reached an evolutionary milestone, at least within contemporary American culture, at which our basic survival needs are largely satisfied, and much of the dangers to survival that may have predominated at some earlier point in our evolution are no longer present.

Nevertheless, our programmed inclination towards “unsatisfactoriness” still exists, to some extent, within all of us.  It would seem plausible that this programming continues, however, to motivate us to almost continuously scan the environment for perceived threats.  In contemporary times with most true threats to our survival extinguished, perceived threats have come to primarily include internal, thought-driven notions of identity or “ego,” and ideas of how life “should” or “should not” be.

It it is within this second category of perceived threats to identity driven largely by ideas of how life needs to be that often gives rise to legal conflict. Individuals will invoke legal process to effectuate some result that they believe will, to some extent, cause life to become more in line with his or her expectations of how life should be.

The integration of mindfulness in law practice seeks to address this phenomenon at its root by working to cultivate heightened clarity on a client’s preconceived notion that may be motivating a desire to pursue litigation in the first instance. By helping clients begin to dis-identify from these conditioned notions, more creative solutions beyond adversarial litigation are far more likely to manifest. These holistic solutions are far more likely to truly help the client in potentially transformational ways, as well as move society towards a more just foundation.

to learn more about holistic law and the integration of mindfulness in law practice, contact Attorney Michael Lubofsky at (415) 508-6263, or visit http://www.mindfulaw.com.

Categories
Mindfulness

Mindfulness in Law Practice as Key To Optimal Client Solutions

The arising of most life situations calling for legal action or intervention involves the coming together of innumerable factors over time.  In order to craft and execute optimal legal solutions, it is necessary to consider as many of these pastors as possible.  This incisive approach is the primary goal of integrating mindfulness in law practice.

In traditional law practice, an attorney is primarily concerned with understanding the goals articulated by the client at the outset of representation.  Usually, these goals are considered in a dualistic framework in which client goals or objectives will be achieved at the expense of another.  This approach will most often overlook other factors present in the client’s situation which, if considered, could hold the key to identifying solutions that could help the client far into the future.  In certain situations, a client’s life could be truly transformed through this process.

Mindfulness in law practice requires intention on the part of both the attorney and client to move beyond preconceived notions, conditioned thought, and habitual reactions that may be causing the client to view his or her situation in a myopic fashion.  This is accomplished through mindfulness exercises integrated into the practice of law.  This is the primary goal of holistic lawyering.

To learn more about integrating mindfulness in law practice, contact Michael Lubofsky at (415) 508-6263, or visit http://www.mindfulaw.com.

By Michael Lubofsky