Posts Tagged ‘Psychodrama’

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Doubling: Listening With The Third Ear

November 27, 2011

In a continuing effort to share information on psychodrama and the tools trial lawyers use most often to work with clients, prepare for and present their cases at trial, what follows is the next installment on this topic.

Doubling

A double is an auxiliary (a group member asked to play a role in the drama or re-enactment) who speaks the inner life of the protagonist, in whatever role he happens to inhabit in that moment. The job of the double is to tune in to the protagonist’s unexpressed thoughts and feelings and express them, bringing material lodged in the background to the foreground.

The double is the hidden voice, the truest self, the one who helps the protagonist realize and acknowledge what she is thinking and feeling. The double gives voice to the protagonist’s interior reality, helping the protagonist go deeper, strip off the outer socially visible layers, and reach the deeper layers of expression. The double speaks in the first person, as the inner voice of the protagonist, but does not engage in conversation with the protagonist. In essence, the double assists the protagonist in expressing herself more fully. Using a double facilitates expressing a protagonist’s deepest emotions, and is one of the most effective techniques to bring out unexpressed emotions. J. L. Moreno, the creator of psychodrama, described the double as the protagonist’s inside.[1]

As the double expresses the protagonist’s inner thoughts or feelings, it is extremely important to give the protagonist an opportunity to accept, reject, or correct the statements which the double makes, and if accepted, to put them in her own words. For example:

Protagonist: I don’t know what I’m going to do. I wish she would talk to me.

Double: I feel helpless and all alone.

Protagonist: I do feel helpless. I just don’t understand why she won’t talk to me.

Double: I feel angry at her.

Protagonist: [Has a puzzled look on his face.]

Double: If that is right, put it in your own words. If it is wrong, correct it.

Protagonist: It isn’t right. I’m not angry. I am hurt, and I feel betrayed.

Double: I trusted her to talk to me, to tell me what was going on.

Protagonist: Yes, that’s it. I did trust her to talk to me. To let me in. And she betrayed my trust.

Even an incorrect statement is helpful to the protagonist, for in correcting the statement, the protagonist clarifies what is going on inside her.

A good double helps the protagonist to feel seen and understood, and, at the same time, to move into deeper levels of feeling. Often during a traumatic life event, we dissociate or freeze, and may feel helpless or powerless. Through psychodramatic reenactment, a protagonist can revisit that moment in her life and, through the use of a double, stay in her body, and express thoughts and feelings she was too overwhelmed to express at the time. This can be very beneficial to a protagonist as it facilitates feeling and integration of emotions that she split from her consciousness.

A double can also provide support for the protagonist. This helps him take more risks and enter the action more completely. In addition, a double can provide suggestions and interpretations to the protagonist through the role. For example, if your client is having a difficult time expressing sadness over the changes in his life because of an accident, you may want to double by uttering words he cannot: “I am sad. I can no longer lift my little boy to his high chair. I can no longer have sex with my wife. I feel useless and less of a man.” Make sure you give your client the opportunity to accept or reject this doubling statement. If he accepts it, ask him to put it in his own words.

When you wish to act as a double for someone, (for example, a friend, spouse, client, or witness) the process generally is to stand slightly behind and to the side of the protagonist. It is extremely important to abandon your own agenda, to set aside your need to ask questions or solve problems, and tune in and listen without judgment. Listen with your heart, not your head. Let the feelings that come up reverberate in you. You should be aware of the protagonist’s non-verbal communication, and imitate her body language. When you mirror the protagonist’s gestures, posture, body positions, and tone of voice, you will begin to experience the same kinds of body sensations as the protagonist.

Neuroscientists have recently discovered mirror neurons, a class of brain cells that operate similar to radio waves. They explain why we pick up on the feelings and moods of people we are with.

                       Mirror neurons track the emotional flow, move-

                        ment and even intentions of the person we are

                        with, and replicate this sensed state in our own

                        brain by stirring in our brain the same areas active

                        in the other person. Mirror neurons offer a neu-

                        ral mechanism that explains emotional contagion,

                        the tendency of one person to catch the feelings

                        of another, particularly if strongly expressed. This

                        brain-to-brain link may also account for feelings

                        of rapport, which research finds depend in part on

                        extremely rapid synchronization of peoples’ pos-

                        ture, vocal pacing and movements as they interact.

                        In short, these brain cells seem to allow the inter-

                        personal orchestration of shifts in physiology.[2]

A double should not, however, overwhelm or take over for the protagonist. Instead, the double should feel into the protagonist, becoming attuned to the protagonist’s moods, feelings, and rhythm. The double needs to let go of any prior perception she may have had of the protagonist and trust her intuition, being open to the feelings that arise. When the double speaks for the protagonist, the double should speak in the first person: “I feel really angry that . . .”

Learning to be a good double, setting aside your own agenda and tuning in to another person is a powerful experience, not only for the double but for the person being doubled as well. Doubling is essentially the skill of active listening on a very deep level, and connecting to the emotions, the inner life, of the other person.

The skill of listening is one of the most important skills for you to have; you use it in all phases of trial, and you should actively develop it. When a speaker and his double participate in a listening/doubling exercise, the exercise creates a bond between them. The person being doubled feels seen, heard, and most importantly, validated. Validation results in connection and trust.

Once you have significant experience with this tool, you can begin to use it without standing slightly behind and to the side of the person you wish to double, without imitating their non- verbal communication, and without speaking in first person as if an inner voice. You can double jurors as you conduct voir dire, double witnesses in deposition, and even double the judge. This tool can also be used during direct examination to help the witness go deeper and fully express their feelings to the jury. You can use this tool when meeting with clients to ensure your relationship starts out on a good note and to demonstrate that you care about them as people.

You can learn more about psychodrama and how trial lawyers use this method by reading the book – Trial In Action: The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama, (2010 Trial Guides) available at http://www.trialguides.com/book/trial-in-action/

[1] Moreno, Blomkvist and Rutzel, Psychodrama, 69.

[2] Daniel Goleman, Essay—Friends for Life: An Emerging Biology of Emotional Healing (2006).

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Role Reversal – The Engine of Psychodrama

October 26, 2011

Role reversal is the engine of psychodrama and is the most important and difficult technique to master. It is also the tool that trial lawyers familiar with psychodrama use most often.

You go through life with only your set of eyes and your perspective on life’s events. Role reversal is the technique of stepping into the role of another. It requires that you give up your own position and temporarily leave yourself to occupy and experience the role of someone else. Initially, you play the role by imitating what you have heard and seen the other person say and do. Ultimately, you progress to exploring the role itself by bringing your universal life experiences to it.

When you successfully reverse roles with another person, you have an opportunity to see life through that person’s eyes, even if only momentarily. You feel like him, think like him, and act like him. This concretized changing of roles allows you to look at yourself from the perspective of the other and from this vantage point, get a different vision of yourself. You might see how you come across and how others perceive you; at the same time, you gain a greater understanding of the other person. This is the gift of role reversal.

When you are truly able to stand in the shoes of another and see things from that person’s perspective, a role reversal has occurred. It is not a complete or valid role reversal, however, until you do it without judgment. “Playing different roles, allowing a situation to be seen from a variety of perspectives, automatically shifts awareness . . .”[1] In the context of a legal case, being able to see a situation from a variety of perspectives gives you a wealth of information from which to choose when creating a discovery plan, preparing for both direct and cross examination of witnesses, and putting together a persuasive story for trial.

There are several functions role reversal serves. The first is to gain information or insight into the role of the other. “What occurs in role reversal is that your perception of the role of the other begins to change when you shut off your own person.”[2] By standing in the shoes of another, you are able to look at a situation, event, or even yourself through the eyes of the other and form a new perspective. You gain an awareness that you previously didn’t know.

Additionally, by being in the role of the other, you begin to examine and understand that person’s choices and behaviors in the situation you are exploring. Similarly, you will experience great insight into the person’s motives and rationale for that behavior. Such understanding and insight is valuable, not only from a personal perspective, but from a professional one as well. When you are seeking to understand or determine the motivation of people or witnesses in a case, using this tool exposes and makes accessible information you may not be able to obtain from other sources.[3]

The actual physical task of reversing roles is quite simple. The difficulty lies in being able to step outside of yourself and set aside your own ego to truly experience the role of the other person.

Example: Role Reversal in a Discrimination Case

Imagine you are working on a case where your female client, a postal worker, suffered age discrimination at the hands of her supervisor. At some point in your preparation of the case, you may want to reverse roles with the supervisor to better understand his behavior, what motivates him, why he did what he did, who he is, and what he feels about your client. You may also want your client to reverse roles with the supervisor to help her show you her experience of the supervisor with exact language, intonation, and actions that he used. This will give you information about him that would not be available in a simple reporting of what he may have said or done. Role reversal brings the experience alive and makes it three-dimensional—you hear it, see it, and feel it— versus a one-dimensional narrative that is unlikely to provide as much valuable information or detail. Because your client knows the supervisor better than you and has greater knowledge about who this person is and why he behaved as he did, she can become an active participant in preparing the case.

Using the example of the supervisor in an age discrimination case, a step-by-step approach for role reversal follows:

  •           Physically move from the spot where you are standing in

your own role, to another spot where you will take on the

role of the supervisor. Moving to another spot in order

to actually change roles is important. It concretely marks

changing roles.

  •            Allow yourself to take on the role. What is your name?

How old are you? What do you look like? What color

are your hair and eyes? How tall are you? How are you

dressed? What type of shoes are you wearing?

Tyson Spoce [Lawyer is in role reversal with Tyson Spoce, the supervisor]: I am forty-seven years old. I have gray hair that I keep a little long. I am about six feet, three inches tall and in pretty good shape. I am wearing a postal service uniform, navy blue pants with a light blue short sleeve shirt. I am wearing black running shoes. I also have a wedding ring on my left hand and a college football ring on my right hand.

  •           Take a moment and feel yourself physically in the role.

How do you walk? Sit? Stand? What is your posture like?

Walk around in this new body. Do you shuffle or step

firmly? Feel your center of gravity.

Tyson Spoce: I have a bad back from a football injury so sometimes I walk with my left hand on my lower back. When my back is hurting I shift around a bit and I can’t sit in one position for very long. If I stand for long periods of time, I shift my weight back and forth between my feet.

  •           Once you have taken on the physical qualities of the su-

pervisor, continue exploring the role. How long have you

worked for the Postal Service? Why did you go to work

there? How is it that you became a supervisor? Do you like

your job? What are your job duties? What type of problems

do you have on your job? Who do you report to?

Tyson Spoce: I have worked for the postal service since I was  twenty-four years old. It has been my career. The pay is good   and I’m a manager. I worked my way up from postal carrier. I oversee the branch and supervise all the employees at this branch.

  •           As the supervisor, look at the plaintiff. How long have

you known her? When did you first meet? What do you

feel as you look at her? Describe your relationship with

her. How do you feel about your relationship with her?

What type of employee is she? Have you had any prob-

lems with her? What do you want from her? Why? Let us

hear your soliloquy (your inner thoughts that you might

not express aloud to anyone else) about her allegations

that you discriminated against her because of her age. Did

you discriminate against her? Perhaps you are unwilling

to use the word “discriminate.” If so, use the word you

would choose. Why did you behave in this way?

Tyson Spoce: Jenny Jones came to work in our branch about two years ago. She has always had an attitude problem. Maybe it is because she is older, I don’t know. As an older woman she seems to be pretty lonely. I have gone out of my way and have tried to be friendly with her. I even asked her to go to lunch with me on a number of times, but she refused. I also asked her to go out for drinks after work but she got all huffy and told me she didn’t think that would be appropriate. The younger employees love to hang out with me and go the extra mile. She just puts her time in and goes home. Her job here would be easier if she put a little more effort into being friendly with me. After all, I am her boss.

Role reversal need not be limited to exploration of parties and witnesses, although use with both can help you prepare both direct and cross examination questions as well as help you understand the events of the case through their eyes. You can also use this tool to help you gain insight into and understand jurors, opposing counsel, and even the judge.


[1] Tian Dayton, PhD., The Living Stage, A Step by Step Guide to Psychodrama, Sociometry and Experiential Group Therapy (Health Communications, Inc., 2005), 39.

[2] Zerka Moreno, Leif Dag Blomkvist, and Thomas Rutzel, Psychodrama: Sur- plus Reality And The Art Of Healing (Routledge, 2000), 74.

[3] Role Reversal can be used for a variety of purposes: (a) helping a person understand the role of another; (b) learning how one’s interactions affect the roles of others; (c) providing information about the individual’s social system; and, (d) making the subject aware of discrepancies in verbal and nonverbal communications. D. R. Buchanan, “Psychodrama.” In The Psychosocial Therapies: Part II of The Psychiatric Therapies, ed. T. B. Karasu, M.D. (Washington, D.C.,: The American Psychiatric Association, 1984), 792.

To learn more about psychodrama and how lawyers can and do use it to prepare for trial and present their case(s), see Trial In Action:The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama, J. Garcia-Colson, F. Sison, M. Peckham (2010) Trial Guides. http://www.trialguides.com/book/trial-in-action/

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The Power Of Story In The Courtroom

May 10, 2011

Story is the portal through which we enter other people’s lives, connect with them and discover our similarities. Stories are the source of human connection; and, storytelling is, perhaps, the most important component of effective communication. And, effective communication is the means to achieving your goal as a trial attorney: justice for your client.

A hunger to hear stories is ingrained in every human being. From the time that our ancestors sat around fires in caves, up through today, human beings seek out and thrive on stories and storytelling, in order to connect with their fellow man, to pass down history and to teach. Story is the currency of human contact. As Annette Simmons (storytelling expert) writes in her book, The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling: “Telling stories and being curious about the stories of others is a way of life as much as it is a technique of influence.”

Our insatiable appetite for stories is fed daily through movies, cable television and the internet. Stories permeate our everyday lives, from the moment we wake, to the moment we fall asleep. Stories even inhabit and invade our dreams. Stories are everywhere, because more than anything else in our culture, stories move us.

But, some stories draw us in and move us more than do others. In the courtroom, we need to grab the jury’s attention, to hold it and, ultimately, to move the jury to action on behalf of our clients. This is not an easy task.

One of the most difficult tasks that you face as a lawyer is finding out about, or, rather, discovering, your client’s story, the one that you must tell at trial. What parts of the story are important? Where do you begin? Who are the characters, or important players? What facts do you need to prove the client’s claims? And, most importantly, what story will move a jury to deliver justice?

You cannot give jurors the actual experience of your client; but, you can provide them with the next best thing. According to Annette Simmons, “Stories interpret raw facts and proofs to create reality.” You can bring your client’s experience to jurors through story; by weaving a story that is so vivid and detailed that jurors feel as if they are actually there to experience the events of the story as they are happening. Simmons goes on to say that, “Story is a re-imagined experience narrated with enough detail and feeling to cause your listener’s imaginations to experience it as real.” Even though the jurors cannot be witnesses to the actual event, they can, through the use of psychodramatic tools, bear witness to the re-imagining of the experience.

One of the first things that you must do to fully explore your client’s story is to abandon your agenda: to focus not only on the elements of the cause of action asserted in the case, but to, instead, look at all of the facts, all the points of view expressed and the perspectives of each witness, including the opposition’s. In this way, only, will you get the whole story. You need to take a first look at the story as a human being, not just as a lawyer, so that you can relate to another group of human beings: jurors.

The case may be about an automobile accident, but the story is about much more than the accident itself. If all you do is focus on the actual event giving rise to the cause of action (the accident), you will miss critical parts of the story. Those other parts of the story will help a jury to understand, not only the accident itself, but also how the accident had an impact on your client’s life, and, ultimately, how not holding the defendant responsible could have an impact on each of the jurors’ lives. (This is not, incidentally, about violating the Golden Rule; rather, it is recognition of the universal truths that are part of our lives. Many of us share similar life experiences, albeit with slight variations; this means that our stories are largely the same.)

Traditionally, you begin to explore a new client’s case through an initial interview. Unfortunately, most lawyers limit themselves to looking for facts that fit into various boxes tending to prove the elements of a particular cause of action. This is, after all, what you were taught in law school. This stock-type of analysis, though, will not serve you well when it comes to finding the story that will result in the successful outcome of your client’s case, because this sort of baseline work-up does not take into account emotions, or the universal story, or stories, that have arisen out of the events. A story, to be effective, must evoke feelings in the listener or observer.

In a trial, human beings, not automatons, are the decision makers. These human beings are the people whom you want to convince that your client has been wronged, and is now deserving of redress. Despite what many law professors teach, people make decisions based on their gut, on their instincts, and their feelings, rather than on rationality and the application of intellect. As human beings, our feelings play a large role in our decision-making. After all, a verdict really reflects the decision of human beings who use their intellect and rational analysis to support the decision that they “feel” is right.

Limiting yourself to a cold analysis of facts, and pigeonholing those facts into neat cause of action checklists, is far too limiting. It may result in your missing powerful and persuasive aspects of your client’s story, specifically, feelings and emotions that will lead a jury to mete out justice on behalf of your client. Annette Simmons says that, “[F]acts aren’t as powerful as human emotions. Feelings alter facts, at least the impact of facts.” The most effective way to elicit an emotional response from people is through psychodramatic methods, that is, the “show me, don’t tell me” method.

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Psychodrama And The Power of Story

February 3, 2011

Story is the portal through which we enter other people’s lives, connect with them, and discover our similarities. Stories are the source of human connection and perhaps the most important component to effective communication. Effective communication is a means to achieve your goal: justice for your client.

The hunger for story is ingrained in every human being. From the time our ancestors sat around fires in caves until today, humans seek and thrive on story to connect with their fellow man, pass down history and to teach. Story is the currency of human contact. “Telling stories and being curious about the stories of others is a way of life as much as it is a technique of influence.”[1]

Our insatiable appetite for stories is fed daily via movies, cable TV, and the Internet. Stories permeate our everyday lives, from the moment we wake to the moment we sleep. They even inhabit and invade our dreams. Stories are everywhere because more than anything else in culture, stories move us.

But some draw and move us more than others. In the courtroom, we need to grab the jury’s attention, hold it, and move them to action on behalf of our clients. This is not an easy task.

One of the most difficult tasks you face as a lawyer is finding or discovering your client’s story, the one that you must tell at trial. What parts of the story are important? Where do you begin? Who are the characters or important players? What facts do you need to prove the client’s claims? And most importantly, what story will move a jury to deliver justice?

You cannot give jurors the actual experience of your client, but you can provide them with the next best thing. According to storytelling expert Annette Simmons, author of The Story Factor and Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, “Stories interpret raw facts and proofs to create reality.”[2] You can bring your client’s experience to jurors through story, one that is so vivid and detailed the jurors feel as if they are actually there to experience the event as it is happening. “Story is a re-imagined experience narrated with enough detail and feeling to cause your listener’s imaginations to experience it as real.”[3] While they cannot be witnesses to the actual event, through the use of psychodramatic tools, they can bear witness to the re-imagining of the experience.

One of the first things that must happen in order to fully explore a client’s story is for you to abandon your agenda that focuses only on the elements of the cause of action asserted in the case, and instead, to look at all of the facts, the points of view and perspectives of each witness (including the opposition’s) and explore the story as a whole. You need to look at the story first as a human being, not just as a lawyer, so you can relate to and tell it to a group of human beings, the jurors.

The case may be about an automobile accident but the story is about much more than the accident itself. If all you do is focus on the actual event giving rise to the cause of action—the accident—you will miss critical parts of the story. These parts of the story help a jury understand not only the accident itself, but how the accident had an impact on your client’s life, and ultimately, how not holding the defendant responsible could have an impact on each of the jurors’ lives.[4]

Traditionally, you begin by interviewing the client. Unfortunately, most lawyers limit themselves to looking for facts that fit into various boxes that prove the elements of a particular cause of action. This is, after all, what you were taught in law school.

But this type of analysis will not serve you well when it comes to finding and exploring the story that will result in a successful outcome of the case. It does not take into consideration emotions or the universal story or stories that may arise from the events. A story, to be effective, must evoke feelings in the listener or the observer.

In a trial, human beings, not automatons, are the decision makers; they are the people you want to convince that your client has been wronged and deserves redress. Despite what many law professors would have us think, people make decisions based on their gut, their instincts, and their feelings, rather than rationality and intellect. As human beings, our feelings play a huge role in our decision-making. After all, a verdict reflects the decision of human beings who use their intellect and rational analysis to support the decision they “feel” is right.

Limiting yourself to a cold analysis of facts, pigeon-holing those facts into causes of action is too limiting. It may result in your missing powerful and persuasive aspects of the story, specifically feelings and emotions that will lead a jury to justice on behalf of your client. “[F]acts aren’t as powerful as human emotions. Feelings alter facts, at least the impact of facts.”4 The most effective way to elicit an emotional response from people is through psychodramatic methods, that is, the “show me, don’t tell me” way.

You can learn more about Psychodrama and how lawyers are using it by reading the book – Trial In Action:The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama available from Trial Guides. For information on programs that train lawyers in the use of psychodrama and its application to trial practice, visit The 3 Sisters, LLP web site. To learn more about the power of Story in the courtroom, attend The Art of Telling Our Client’s Story – Aug. 11 – 14, 2011 in Portland, OR.


[1] Annette Simmons, The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling (Basis Books, 2001), 189.

[2] Annette Simmons, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, (AMACOM, 2007), 3.

[3] Id. 19.

[4] This is not about violating the Golden Rule but a recognition of the universal truths that are part of our lives. Many of us share similar life experiences, albeit with slight variations; this means our stories are largely the same.

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Psychodrama and Trial Lawyers

January 21, 2011

At any point in practice, a trial lawyer needs not only to be intelligent with an understanding of the law, but also to be a good storyteller, director, and performer, and most importantly, an empathic, genuine, and real human being. Through your courtroom presentations, your goal is to help your juries hear, see, and feel your client’s stories. To do so, you need special tools to assist you. One method of training that gives you powerful and effective techniques for preparing and presenting your client’s case is psychodrama.

What is Psychodrama?

Psychodrama is an action method during which participants show a group what happened vs. telling what happened. It is an action method, a method of communication and a role-playing modality. It is the exploration of the truth through dramatic action. Psychodrama is a powerful method that not only brings out the humanity of people, but also the universal stories and truths that connect us all.

In a psychodrama, participants dramatize or act out events from their lives as a spontaneous play, typically in a group setting. The main actor, called the protagonist or star, literally acts out the event that the group is exploring. A psychodrama is a three-dimensional spontaneous re-enactment presented in the moment with no script or rehearsal. The purpose is to gain insight or understanding of yourself or significant others, and about events in your life that you can only achieve in action.

In essence, psychodrama is a method that enables people (the actor, auxiliaries, and audience) to act and feel, to find out, and see things for themselves; it empowers the person who is the subject of the psychodrama (the protagonist), to both show and tell her own story.

It is difficult to fully understand psychodrama, its use and effectiveness until you experience it. It is somewhat like learning to ride a bicycle. Reading about riding a bicycle won’t teach you how to do it; you need to experience it. The same is true with psychodrama.

Why Should Lawyers Use Psychodrama?

The tools of this method help trial lawyers and their clients communicate with each other more effectively. Through the use of psychodrama, lawyers are better able to discover and explore their clients’ stories and to present them in 3D – so that the jury hears, sees and most importantly, feels the story.

What happens to the client that leads to legal action is a meaningful experience in that client’s life. If a protagonist can re-enact a meaningful experience on the psychodrama stage, so can a client in preparing for trial. Through psychodrama, a client can educate his lawyer about what happened to him, how it has affected his life, and perhaps more importantly, who he is. At the same time, re-enacting the client’s meaningful experience enhances the lawyer’s ability to share the client’s story with the jury in the courtroom in a much more powerful, human, and effective way.

Lawyers who become versed in psychodrama effectively use the same tools when they prepare their client and case for trial, as well as when they present the case. Not only have they found greater success in the courtroom, they have gained greater satisfaction in the practice of law. Additionally, they have better and richer relationships with their clients.

Psychodrama is not, however, a short-cut or a formula for success. Those lawyers who have achieved the greatest results in using this method have committed themselves to personal exploration and the development of skill in using the tools of psychodrama.

Psychodrama Brings the Client’s Story to Life

Psychodrama enables you, in an efficient and powerful manner, to not only discover your client’s story in three-dimensional format—hear it, see it and feel it—but to examine and explore the various witnesses’ different points of view and perspectives. If you want to influence a jury, you need to deal with them on an emotional level, using the power of story. “You have to awaken the emotions in yourself that you want to awaken in them. Like an actor in a play, to communicate an emotion, you have to feel it first.”[1] Psychodrama enables you to identify and explore the themes that arise from the facts and the emotions as they come alive through a psychodramatic re-enactment. Using re-enactment, you gather the raw data from which to shape and frame your client’s story.

You can learn more about Psychodrama and how lawyers are using it by reading the book – Trial In Action:The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama available from Trial Guides. For information on programs that train lawyers in the use of psychodrama and its application to trial practice, visit The 3 Sisters, LLP web site.


[1] Annette Simmons, The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling (Basis Books, 2001), 151.

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So Much to Be Thankful For

November 18, 2010

 

The 3 Sisters (from left) Mary Peckham, Joane Garcia-Colson, Fredilyn Sison

Had anyone asked us—the 3 Sisters, Mary, Fredi and I—ten years ago what we would be doing today, I doubt that any of us would have predicted that we would be part of a partnership created to help people, particularly trial lawyers, realize their full potential. And yet, that is exactly where we are.

The three of us met ten years ago when we were part of an organization that provides continuing legal education programs to trial lawyers. Through this experience, we were exposed to psychodrama. As many of you know who have read this blog, psychodrama is an action method, a way to communicate deeply and meaningfully. It is the exploration of the truth through dramatic action. A psychodrama not only brings out the humanity of people, but also the universal stories and truths that connect us all.

Psychodrama can be therapeutic as it gives participants the opportunity to explore events from their lives to gain greater understanding of the self and to begin to heal old wounds. Psychodrama also empowers those who experience it to become more fully present in the here and now, enjoy greater spontaneity, realize their own potential, and create the life they each want to lead.

Over the years, each of us dedicated ourselves to doing as much of our own personal work as possible so that we can better know who we are, how we came to be that way and what we can do to shape our future. Our journey has not always been easy and each of us has traveled psychodramatically through many painful moments from the past. With each passing experience, we grew as human beings and as lawyers.  By learning more about ourselves, we are more able to understand others.  Over the last ten to twelve years, we have shared our skill and knowledge of psychodrama with other lawyers across the country and helped them to discover and learn to use the tools of this powerful method to represent their clients. We have exposed them to ideas and techniques that can assist them both in preparing and presenting their clients’ stories in trial. Teaching at various workshops improved our skill and stimulated our creativity. These experiences also increased our desire to develop our skill and proficiency in using the psychodramatic method to help others.  After years of training and study, each of us was certified as a practitioner (CP) of psychodrama by the American Board of Examiners. Mary and I have continued our training and hope to soon be certified as trainers (TEP’s). Fredi, in her inimitable way, said, “Basta!”  The three of us continue to go to workshops, often together.  Psychodrama continues to help us each individually and provides many tools we call upon and employ both personally and professionally.  To say that our lives have been enhanced as a result of our exposure to psychodrama would be an understatement.

From left - Mary Peckham, Fredilyn Sison, Joane Garcia-Colson

In the mid 2000’s, we began to brainstorm ideas for working together, for taking our creative ideas and sharing them with others. Originally, our thoughts were simply playful, more fantastical than practical:  a 3 Sisters coffee house, bookstore, stand-up comedy and yarn shop. As we grew as people, our ideas grew. The idea of a Trial Boot Camp for Women took shape after several troubling experiences throughout the years. Two of us attended one program as part of the teaching staff where our male colleagues introduced the other male faculty as talented and skilled trial lawyers but ignored the many accomplishments of the female staff members. One of our friends, a courageous lawyer who does employment law, got up and started to introduce the talented lawyers she knew and named the women attorney staff in the room.  Other female professionals we have talked to over the years have had similar experiences and often feel invisible at seminars and workshops. Issues unique to women are rarely acknowledged, much less addressed with any sort of depth or understanding.  And so, we conceived the idea of a program where women could come together to work on issues unique to them and to meet and build relationships with other female trial lawyers.

In the late summer of 2009, Fredi and I began talking about making our idea of creating a program specifically for women trial lawyers a reality.  Our concept was to develop and design a program to nurture female trial lawyers and help them develop their own voice, recognize their unique talents as women and bring them into the courtroom. In September 2009, Mary, Fredi, Lynne Bratcher and I traveled to Colorado, where we brainstormed and outlined our ideas for a Women’s Trial Boot Camp.

After a successful inaugural run in May, 2010, we decided to create other programs with the same mission in mind.  We also wanted to invite other teachers with whom we enjoyed working in the past and who we believe share the same thoughts, ideas and feelings about teaching (Lynne, Carl Bettinger and Charlie Abourezk) to join us.  We did not and do not intend to be a traditional provider of programs for trial lawyers or for women only. Our ideas, beliefs and vision are much broader. And men are more than welcome at all of our programs, with the exception of the Women’s Trial Boot Camp.

“Garcia-Colson, Sison, and Peckham intelligibly meld psychodrama and trial skills in an easily understandable book. As a pioneer in psychodramatic trial consulting, I highly recommend this book to lawyers and psychodramatists alike. J. L. Moreno would be pleased.” —John Nolte, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and trial consultant

It’s hard to imagine that we embarked on this great journey from a fun, playful conversation.  But that’s the nature of spontaneity and creativity.  We missed teaching together.   We wanted to do something different, something that was collaborative, receptive and adaptive.  We wanted to meet interesting and interested people.  We’ve accomplished a great deal this year—–2 programs, and coming next month, a book.

We wrote the book because we wanted to reach more people who were interested in being better lawyers for clients and to help them learn to master the tools of psychodrama.  We wished to keep the dream of Jacob Moreno, the father of psychodrama, alive.  The book’s name is Trial in Action: The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama.  It is being published by Trial Guides.  We are extremely proud of it, as it will expose psychodrama to a wider audience.  Check out the book and reviews at: http://www.trialguides.com/book/trial-in-action/

Because of how well our 2010 programs have been received, we have four (4) programs planned for 2011:

  • Trial in Action: The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama – Feb. 17-20 –  New Orleans, LA

  • Second Annual Women’s Trial Boot Camp – May 12-15  – Palm Springs, CA

  • The Art of Telling Our Clients’ Story – Aug. 11-14 – Portland, OR

  • Trial Intensive: Voir Dire and Group Formation – Oct. 20-23 – Palm Springs, CA

In addition to Lynne, Carl and Charlie, who will be faculty for one or more of the programs above, John Nolte will be our special guest at the New Orleans seminar.  Details about all of our programs and testimonials from participants can be found on our web site at http://www.the3sisters.org.

The Faculty for - The Art of Telling Our Clients' Stories (from left) Fredilyn Sison, Charlie Abourezk, Mary Peckham, Carl Bettinger, Joane Garcia-Colson

Our partnership is still is in its infancy. But we are filled with excitement and enthusiasm, and we love working with all the people we’ve met.  It’s been great collaborating with each other.  It’s nice to be teaching with old friends once again.  We have so many people to thank—those who supported us during tough times and those who have joined our journey, because we wouldn’t be here without them.  It’s been a spectacular year, and we are grateful for everything that has happened.  We look forward to next year!

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The Inaugural Women’s Trial Boot Camp

May 18, 2010
Inaugural Class - Women's Trial Boot Camp - 2010

Inaugural Class - Women's Trial Boot Camp - May, 2010

Inspiration comes from many sources. This past weekend I was inspired by a group of talented and courageous women who attended the 3 Sisters Women’s Trial Boot Camp in Palm Springs, California. And as I write this, I feel their energy and camaraderie still, as if we were gathered together in the Palm Canyon room at the Hyatt Suites.  Our three days together were both validating and powerful and I will never forget the wonderful women I reconnected with, met for the first time, and with whom I shared three-days in Palm Springs.

This program was a long time in the making and the journey began many months ago, first in late night telephone calls and emails and finally coming to fruition around the dining room table at a rented condo in Breckenridge, Colorado.  In September 2009, a girls’ weekend in the mountains reminded those in attendance of the power of women and our need to nurture, support and encourage each other. As female trial lawyers, we face different challenges than our male counterparts, and often, we lack the self-confidence and support we need to reach our full potential.  Each of us recognized the need for a place where women trial lawyers could come together and work on the issues unique to us, where our voices could be heard and competition didn’t rule the day.  A rough outline for a Women’s Trial Boot Camp was developed, tentative dates were chosen and a location was agreed upon. We left the mountains of Colorado excited by the possibilities and our creativity stimulated.

Over the next several months, we continued brainstorming the program. We drafted our mission statement and refined our ideas. In November 2009, the 3 Sisters, LLP was launched and the program announced. A big question, however, loomed in our minds – Would anyone want to attend a Women’s Trial Boot Camp? To our surprise, we received a response far greater than we ever imagined.

As the opening session approached, anxiety ran high and the 3 Sisters, (myself, Fredilyn Sison and Mary Peckham) spent hours reviewing our plan, revising it to cover skills and topics we felt were important and making sure we had crossed all the T’s and dotted the I’s and that we were ready to meet the expectations and objectives of the women who would be joining us.

On Wednesday night, we finalized our preparations and caught up with each other. Bright and early Thursday morning we went on a long run to dissipate some of the nervous energy we each were feeling. When 6 p.m. rolled around, we drove the few blocks to the Hyatt Suites and set up for the opening session. As the participants began to arrive, the air was filled with excitement and enthusiasm. Women from TX, CA, WA, PA, and NC and even as far as Africa were soon gathered together. Poolside at the Hyatt we socialized during an informal reception with fabulous food, but even better company. The bonding began that night and a community was beginning to form. After some opening group building exercises, we retired for the night.

Friday morning began with an optional yoga session. The yoga teacher, who joined us that morning, and every other morning of the program, was simply incredible. She not only taught to the skill level of the group, she brought a quiet strength and peaceful spirit to the group each morning. What an incredible way to start the day.

After continental breakfast, we set to work. Many important skills were covered and we celebrated our uniqueness as women. The program belonged to the group and was adapted frequently to meet their needs, address their concerns and enhance the learning. It was a mutual give and take between the 3 Sisters and the group. All in attendance were supportive of each other and a willingness to help, nurture and encourage the other attendees was palpable. It was an incredibly positive atmosphere in which all could learn, challenge themselves and grow. The group was comprised of plaintiffs’ lawyers, family law practitioners, and public defenders, from women just admitted to the bar to those who have practiced 20+ years.

After an amazing day Friday, I didn’t think it could get any better. But it did! There was so much creative energy in the room and the new ideas, methods and exercises we shared were enthusiastically embraced. Saturday was even more powerful than Friday.

There were no evening sessions and the wonderful women who attended had the time to bond, get to know each other and spend time together relaxing and socializing.  Groups went to dinner together and formed friendships that will continue beyond the program.

Sunday was our last session, beginning again with yoga. Three days had flown by. I felt so much love, appreciation and validation from my fellow 3 Sisters and from the women who joined us for the weekend. Over our three days together, we had been on a journey and came to the end more self confident, powerful and energized than when we began. It was an amazing experience and I am still feeling the power and energy of the group. I have been inspired by every woman who participated. We have formed a community.  And an amazing community it is! This is just the beginning.

For more information about 3 Sisters programs, please visit http://www.the3sisters.org. Our next program is The Art of Telling Our Clients’ Story – Sept. 30- Oct. 3, 2010 in Palm Springs, California and is open to both male and female trial lawyers who represent people.

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An Intensive Start To 2010

January 6, 2010

2010 is off to a great start! I just returned from a four-and-a-half day psychodrama directing intensive in Phoenix, AZ, which I attended with one of my best friends, Fredi Sison. The trainer was Rebecca Walters of the Hudson Valley Psychodrama Institute. For those who aren’t familiar with directing intensives, the format is designed specifically to help folks who are learning to direct psychodrama and/or who are looking to improve their directing, increase their skills and proficiency. The intensive is limited to nine participants each of whom directs a two-hour psychodrama session including warm up, protagonist selection, action and sharing. After each drama, a full hour is spent thoroughly and completely processing the drama, discussing the psychodramatic method, director’s choices, options and ideas for improvement. Sociometry is also incorporated into the teaching. Feedback is specific and concrete. The intensive is a positive and safe environment in which to learn more about directing and to grow your skills and improve.

In addition to the opportunity to direct a full drama and run a group session, each participant gets to be a protagonist. I have found that working on my own issues and being in the role of the protagonist has helped me grow as a person and has been a great way to learn more about directing. Every time I am a protagonist I learn something new about directing.

One of the things that made this intensive so wonderful were the participants in attendance. In addition to me, Fredi and Rebecca, six other women from Arizona and Minnesota participated. (Unfortunately, the ninth participant had to cancel at the last minute due to a death in her family.) Five of the other six participants were mental health professionals and the sixth a woman with a PhD who has spent her career in academia. All of us have trained with various other psychodramatists across the country. Only three of the participants (including Fredi and me) are certified practitioners of psychodrama. The breadth of experience using psychodrama the group collectively brought to the intensive and the variety of ways in which each of us has done so added richness to the learning. We each brought our unique style to our directing and the laboratory in which we learned together was rich with new ideas.

There is something special and wonderful about working with an entire group of women. There were no egos, no attitudes or competition.  The group was incredibly supportive, collaborative and nurturing.  Our creativity flourished. The willingness to share and help each other grow and improve was powerful. Kindness and compassion were ever present.  We both laughed and cried together. I have participated in many psychodrama workshops over the years but this one was special given the wonderful, caring and talented women in attendance. I have added six new friends to my social atom.

I can’t yet articulate all that I learned but I know I have grown as a director and as a person. My personal drama was painful but gave me great insight into myself and a relationship I have deep pain about. I am eternally grateful for the group, the director who led me through my drama and for the insights I gained and the new ideas and tools I will add to my arsenal.

It was particularly wonderful to spend time with Fredi. She is an amazing woman, treasured friend and genuine person. She inspires me in so many ways and together, along with Mary Peckham, our creative energy sustains and energizes me. I am so blessed to have both Fredi and Mary in my life. I have no words to express all they mean to me or how much each of them has helped me grow.

2009 was a very difficult and painful year for me in many ways. I am more than glad to put it behind me.  Although 2010 is in its infancy, I am already building the foundation for a great year.

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Speaking Out – By Carl Bettinger

December 7, 2009

For the past few months  I’ve thought of little but Larry Selk’s story, the profoundly disabled man who was sodomized in a resident care home.  Towards the end of my closing, I told the jurors that I recognized that it is scary to speak up and be heard, yet doing so is sometimes necessary. I should not ask of my jurors anything more than I ask of myself.

During the trial, I was asked to staff Round Top in February.  Normally, I would have signed on without a moment’s hesitation.  I’ve decided not to staff the Round Top program. This is the first time I have not accepted a request to staff that was not related to work or family matters since I began staffing in 2003.  I can go to Texas in February, but I choose not to. This isn’t easy for me, as I believe that the TLC which now exists is one that may decide to remove me from staff for speaking up, a removal that I do not want, but if I can’t say what I want and need to say without fear of retribution, I don’t belong here.

Two months ago, when I showed up to staff the Advanced Program at the Ranch, I was asked by Jude Basile to resign from the Board. While it was deemed a “request”, there did not seem to be any volition involved. I agreed to do so, as I was planning to resign after the Board Meeting in January, 2010. However, I  was bothered by the timing of it, and the disingenuous way it was done. It occurred the first night that staff showed up for the program and without any forewarning. The decision to ask for my resignation clearly had been made long in advance of my arrival. To me it felt as though I had been kept in the dark so that I would prepare for and show up to staff the Advanced without having a chance to consider whether to attend at all under the circumstances. To my knowledge, my “resignation” from the Board, and those of Lynne Bratcher, Katlin Larimer and Fredi Sison, were requested without a formal Board vote.

There have been many changes in recent years at TLC that trouble me, and many relate the extent to which important decisions are made behind closed doors. I am not suggesting that the Board not make decisions, but why are the minutes not available to all alumni? In fact, why does the Board self-select? Why not an election of Board members by the alumni? Since people have questions about the finances, why not simply post the books to the web page so any alum can examine them? When I was on the Board (albeit the shortest tenure ever for any Board member!), I was shown the books. Why not show them to everyone? Why are staff evaluations not disclosed to the very staff being evaluated, and how many of you know this is the practice, i.e., not to show them to staff?

Why are so many decisions, particularly those of consequence, made in secret? Who has been removed from staff, when, and by whom? Will this be formally announced, or will these staff simply disappear? It would seem that Joane is no longer a member of the TLC staff. When was this decision made? And by whom? Why not put it to a vote of the alumni, many of whom return again and again as students?     Why should so many, particularly staff, feel reluctant to speak up for fear of retribution? During Grad II, Fredi Sison utilized a modified psychodramatic  exercise which probably has a formal name, but I will call “Step-in.” The group forms a large circle. A person steps in and says, “Who else here [fill in the blank]?”  Our psychodramatists had used this in other contexts before, usually asking people for a personal sharing. This time, however, the share was not limited. Participants asked wonderful questions, e.g., “Who else here has had to care for a dying loved one?”; “Who has ever lived with a mentally ill person?” “Who considers their body a friend?”   A collection of these would be enough for a book on jury selection. I asked, “Who is afraid to speak their truth at TLC for fear of retribution of some sort?” Many group members stepped in. After this year’s staff training, I suspect that number would be much higher if that question were posed to the staff.

My concerns include the loss or marginalization of those who, to my way of thinking, make TLC possible, particularly the psychodramatists.  It should go without saying that our psychodramatists are the finest of their kind in the world. To say we are lucky to have them is like saying the world is lucky to have oxygen. Yet, they have become increasingly marginalized over the years, particularly this year in the way they have not been fairly compensated. (If money is a problem, I sincerely doubt that the TLC community would not do what is necessary.) The college’s curriculum is unique because of psychodrama, and it succeeds because of psychodrama.  John Nolte,  who had been with the College from its earliest times, has contributed much over the years.  Not only his outstanding psychodramatic skills, but his sense of humor, his compassion, his sense of fair play have made this college a special place for so many.  He told me he had been invited to Round Top, but that TLC would not pay his way (although one Board member graciously offered to pay for it personally); rather he was expected to pay his own way and to teach without pay.  I find that insulting.  Katlin has been responsible for many of the exercises that we use at the college. She has the most institutional knowledge of all, but has been increasingly sidelined. Don is our guru on groups, Kathie our luminary on speaking your mind, and Louise Lipman, our newest, is out of this world. They are part of the very essence of TLC, yet are being treated as though they are otherwise.

My concerns continue with other fantastic staff we have lost over the years. Charlie Abourezk is gone. Garvin Isaacs is gone. Susan Mindenbergs, Cricket. All gone, either by their choice or design. Joane was told she would be asked to staff and she has not been, nor would there appear to be any intention to ask her.  Fredi Sison would appear to have joined this circle of non-staff. After Joane left, Fredi volunteered as the executive director of two programs, Grad II and the Advanced, both of which turned out great. She not only oversaw each program, but she created the curriculum and developed a new exercise (which I referred to in my postings about my recent trial as the “social atom”, but which my notes from Grad II label “Exploring the Cast”).  Are there any public defenders left on staff?

We are losing some of the best people in the college.  Some have left by their own choice, and some have been forced out. Obviously, the leadership can choose whomever they want to be part of the college, be it student or staff.  But they shouldn’t get to do so without anyone speaking up. In his nearly celestial eloquence, Dr. King once said that “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

At the risk of being the latest to be pushed out the door, this is my way of honoring my friends and Larry’s jurors.

Carl

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Are You a True Friend?

September 24, 2009

I have been thinking a great deal about what it means to be a friend. I have written on this topic before in my post “Darling, I Am Here For You.” Luckily for me, I have some incredible friends who embody this saying and have been there for me over the last several months during a time of great challenge and transition. I have cried with these friends and laughed, and they have held, supported, encouraged and nurtured me through my pain and sadness. They have also celebrated my great joys. For my part, I have, I hope, been there for them as well. While this saying, or more aptly stated practice, is incredibly important to me, I have realized in the last few weeks that friendship is about so much more than this simple principle alone.

In the last several months, I have discovered, much to my dismay, that for some people friendship is a matter of convenience or is based on what I can do for them. The word friend easily rolls off their tongues and while they talk a good game, the meaning of true friendship is a concept they are unfamiliar with.  Sadly, some of these proclaimed friends have turned their backs on me when I was down and had no qualms about dumping me when they felt it was beneficial for them to do so. Before the last few months, I simply couldn’t fathom that some of those people who called me friend, professed to love and care about me, would quickly abandon me when others, with more power or greater influence beckoned them. Apparently, for these people, advancement of personal interests is higher in priority than friendship.

This realization has been quite painful for me and causes me to question my own judgment in trusting some of these people. Over the years, I have trusted and bared my soul in psychodrama to many of these folks.  Much to my surprise, some have had no difficulty revealing to others what I shared in confidence.  Some have gone so far as to use information gained in a psychodrama about my childhood experiences against me. Perhaps I was naïve, but this simply shocks me. How can anyone trust the psychodramatic process if those who participate are willing to and will breach confidence when it suits them to do so or when it gives them an advantage?

Don’t get me wrong; I am a firm believer in psychodrama. I don’t, however, think it is a panacea or the solution to all a person’s problems. But it is a method that can help people understand themselves and grow as a person. This is valuable and worthwhile. But it does not nor can it answer or solve all problems nor eliminate or erase the bad things that have happened to us. It can, however, give us clarity and insight and help us change for the better.  At least it has done this for me and continues to do so.

Psychodrama is a process through which I have greatly benefitted in terms of my knowledge about myself, who I am and why I am the way I am. I have grown immensely as a result of my own personal work. I have also benefitted from my personal therapy off the psychodrama stage. The combination of both have given me strength and empowered me to stand up for myself and take control of my life.  I know my therapist will not, and legally cannot, reveal my confidences. Just as a lawyer must guard and protect a client’s confidence (with limited exceptions), so must a therapist.

Despite the agreement of the participants in a psychodrama to hold in strict confidence the innermost thoughts and feelings of the protagonist, I have come to learn that too many people (including many lawyers) are willing to share confidences with those who were not part of the group.  The hurt that results from such breach is especially painful when it comes at the hands of one who has professed to be my friend. And perhaps more so when someone I admire, respect and look up to and who has repeatedly told me that they loved me and would “be there for me” has violated my confidence. Even worse is when these people, who advocate and teach role reversal  for greater understanding of others, have flat out refused to reverse roles with me when asked and instead have responded “I am not going to play those silly games.” Silly games?

I believe that a true friend seeks to understand, cares for and about me and will guard and protect my confidences as if they are their own. It has been a shock to me to learn that there are people who will take things I have disclosed in confidence, either in a psychodrama or a private and deeply personal conversation and reveal such information to others. I simply do not understand the ease with which my requests for confidence have been ignored. I hesitate to say the revelations were made maliciously or to hurt me, but I can’t reconcile why someone with whom I have shared deep, innermost thoughts and feelings would share those with others, especially with people who are not my friends or who have purposefully set out to hurt me.

I have also come to value the honest feedback of those friends who have been and are there for me. I know their comments come from the heart and are made with love and caring and not out of spite or with an agenda. It isn’t always easy to hear difficult things from your friends but it has been my experience that the truth from a loving friend enhances the friendship and helps me see things about myself that I may not have been able to see on my own. I appreciate people with whom I can be myself, even when we disagree. What would be the value of a friendship with someone who shares all of my opinions, sees all things through my paradigm or who agrees with every idea or thought I have? The sharing of ideas and open debate with those close to me are gifts I treasure and stimulates my creativity.

I am certainly not a perfect friend. I can be opinionated, short and at times angry. I can also be impatient. I have no doubt I have hurt people out of ignorance or anger. But I strive to be there for those close to me and keep to myself the confidences that have been shared.  I also try to apologize when I inflict pain. I imagine at some times I am more successful than at others.

Maybe in life we only earn a few close friends who we can trust both implicitly and explicitly, and who will truly be there for us in our time of need. I am grateful that I have a few such people in my life. They bring me great joy and hope. And to those who have discarded me and my friendship because it no longers meets your needs, I hope you find what you are looking for and that you will be blessed, as I have been, with a few true friends.