Go-Go Gadget Collaborative Team!

Well, me and collaborative law took our relationship to the next step (third base! OH MY, don't tell the fiance) this week. It was actually a pretty amazing culmination to an extended tooth-gnashing group effort to get training up here that would teach us attorneys how to integrate collaborative allied professionals into our cases, while giving potential allied professionals the training to be allied professionals. A short primer (yeah right): In its most potent form, collaborative divorce draws on expertise from the legal/ADR side of the table (us attorneys) as well as financial and psychological disciplines (financial experts, coaches, and child specialists). When we farm out some of the financial and - say - long standing communication issues/conflict patterns to experts who are specially trained and have a background in their respective disciplines, it exponentially increases the effectiveness of our meetings and empowers the clients to make triple-charged decisions. Or at least helps the cope better between the paradoxically impossible situation of needing to make a number of crucially life changing decisions at a time when they are all temporarily insane and least equipped to be making such decisions.

So, the training was a two day training with attorneys and our new (hopefully) group members, and it was amazingly enlightening. Now of course since it's a distinct interdisciplinary paradigm for handling divorce, there is inevitably a fresh new jingoistic argot with which to contend. I am happy for it, but for the record, if any one says the following words to me in the next few days, my brain may start smoking:

1. Hear - It's kind of from an ADR and counseling background this word. One of the most crucial elements in conversation is that people feel heard, a surprisingly rare sensation in this day and age. So often while accomplishing this need, we tend to fall into saying something like "So, I'm hearing..." "I hear you say..." And if you really want to piss somebody off when they are indicating that they think you've misunderstood, there's always the lethal "I hear you, but what I'm saying" (I don't suggest the latter). When I've mediated, I've tended to stay away from it and go with the possibly no better "sounds like" or "seems like" or "that must be" or really just go for restating with my signature question-mark intonation at the end... I'm not sure why hear prickles me so much, except maybe it can feel like a telling-instead-of-showing moment. Or because every third statement has to be framed this way and it becomes unoriginal to somebody who prefers stylistic variety. Anyways, for the next few days, I'd request that people go synesthetic on me and say things like "I'm tasting that you want to go to the movies now"

2. Container - long story. Let's just say that in Collaborative Law, the structure is carefully constructed to help client navigate through the chaos of their emotional and instinctive hurricanes. Container comes in as a metaphor for this structure (as in keeping the BLARG of dissolution carefully contained within a clear structrure), as well as a number of other things. It's a handy metaphor, but container this and container that and suddenly I'm thinking of full catheters (don't ask me why) and wishing the container were full of candy instead of collaboration.

3. Curious - ok, I will say that some of the most profound advice that I've learned to give in the last few years is to approach the actions of another with curiosity instead of anger or fear. I've used this personally for most of life by telling little stories about why people have taken particular actions and substituting in as many different stories as possible. I have a fleeting grasp on reality anyways, so have fully embraced that my life is merely a story I've chosen to tell by selectively editing a string of data and connecting it with interpretive gloss. Might as well find one that doesn't trigger my gut to start churning. I really like the curiosity formulation. However "I'm curious..." has become kind of a running joke for my brain with an increasingly passive aggressive or hostile undertone. "I'm curious why you totally didn't hear that I just told you and your container of compassion to F OFF" for instance. So when I hear it articulated with the "I'm curious" formulation, I start laughing and snickering and suddenly it's awkward.

4. Panties - ok not related to the training. I've just never liked the word.

Anyways, the trainers were a great pair of non-stereotypes - a touchy-feely attorney and an aggressively logical mental health professional. They complemented each other well, I thought, and it was great to have the distinctions really drawn between the roles inside and outside of collaborative paradigms. For me, I had somewhat understood but never so clearly that the role of the coach is not that of a healer or long-term therapist. The relationship between the child and child specialist is even more distinct. There are no therapeutic relationships formed. And it's genuinely about identifying patterns, containing the toxic waste, and giving clients options not only in planning their futures but in choosing how to interact with each other and the situation.. Coaches can, in that regard, lay the groundwork for the natural healing that can come years down the road when we've successfully eradicated "the husband and wife" but it isn't the goal. I reveled in our trainer's practicality on this issue.

 Since the training was coach-heavy, we learned quite a lot about what happens in coaching sessions (basically voodoo and magic!) Didn't hurt on a side note that Anne, the logical MHP was also very schedule conscious (oh my god, we get to start things on time??) and practical, saying things like "the word 'trust' is a sinkhole" and acknowledging that sometimes it's appropriate to just tell a client that s/he's being a dick (depending on the scenario).

Also, there was knitting:

That's Penny. Who is not my mother. But people confuse them all the time. Which is weird because people think I look exactly like my mother, but nobody says I look exactly like Penny. Which is even weirder because others have said, I look an awful lot like Penny's daughter. Mind blown yet? And yes, she also has a head and a face and stuff. Really.

There was also ...

A sign! No, cake. There was a trip to Pure Bliss to buy cake, because it turned out to be somebody's birthday. I ended up with a large chunk of it and am slowly working towards my goal of giving Mr. (W)right diabetes so he will have to have his feet amputated and will never be able to leave me! He's eaten about half of the remainder, and will have a bit more in the future. I love dating a human garbage disposal. It's endlessly delightful to put enormous piles of decadence in front of him and watch them vanish. It's more fun playing perpetual easter egg hunt and hiding candies in his bags and pockets, but I think he's grateful I didn't take that approach with the cake (that frosting was awfully gooey).

At any rate, it was an exhausting, deeply self-aware couple of days. On the one hand, I am about ready to be a reactionary selfish-emotional-prick for a few days just to make up for all the self-compassion and reflection of the last few. On the other I'm just excited that maybe we're at the precipe of a new growth spurt for the practice of law that I deeply covet. I'm on my way towards becoming part of a TEAM of professionals that work together to eradicate husbands and wives... Wait that sounded sort of shady, I mean you know "help people transition to embracing their identities as individuals and parents"...  kind of like the Super Friends, but more divorcing and less um I forget what kind of super hero stuff the super friends did. But less of that probably.

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