Archive for October, 2009

I’ve Been Spending Too Much Time At The Courthouse

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

I’ve been spending too much time at the Courthouse.

I’ve been spending too much time at the Courthouse.

I look at these words and realize that I haven’t been able to think or write for some time now.  I link it to the unusually large amount of time I have spent in the halls of justice.  Sitting around. Waiting.  Exposed to tension, stress and anxiety from every direction.

Why did my father tell me repeatedly, “If you are looking for truth or justice don’t go into a Court of law”?  He should have told me “If you are looking for chaos, you will find it in the legal system”.

As I sit and am finally able to think about the inordinately large and excessive amount of Time I have spent recently in the Courthouse and the legal system, my mind begins to turn to the matter of CHAOS and I begin to feel anxious.  My hands get cold and my breathing becomes shallow.  This is what I usually experience everytime I step into a Courthouse.  I used to associate it with performance anxiety–how well would I do on the stand?  It’s funny because I have been testifying in Courtrooms for over 20 years, yet I still to this day get anxious everytime I have to go into what I have come to term “the pit”(–the pit of my stomach?).  I do usually get a severe case of diahrrea whenever I go to Court.  I have come to expect it and now refer to it as my Courthouse shits.

But now I think it has more to do with the notion of chaos–the unpredictable, unthinkable, uncontrollable.

From my recent experiences with the legal system, I have taken away another view of my anxiety response.  It has something to do with chaos.

I now think that the legal system–the laws and Courts–are all designed to give the illusion that chaos can be controlled.  The chaos of what humans do and feel.  How crazy we humans can be and act.

There is pretty much a law to control/contain most outrageous things we humans do.

But can chaos be contained/controlled?  I doubt it, and now I think that in attempting to control/contain chaos, chaos wins and the container/controller becomes chaotic.  The legal system is a mess.  It is in total chaos.  It may have been designed to control chaos, but in the process it has become chaotic.  And as the chaos of the legal system spirals, more and more laws and rules are enacted to control/contain the chaos until the legal system is totally chaotic and out of control.  No wonder I refer to it as “going into the pit”.  Who would want to go to such a chaotic place?



And yet…

She comes, as perhaps most of us do, to therapy looking for some way to control/contain the chaos she has experienced in her short life.  She recounts a tale of horrors.  Early in her life she starts to have panic attacks.  She is frequently sick as a child going to the hospital often.  Mom and Dad are engaged in an endless cycle of domestic violence.  She does her best to control their chaos.  While she is somewhat successful, her success at controlling/containing her parents chaos exacts a price.  The chaos goes into her.  She becomes hypochondriacal, always worrying about her body.  She develops multiple phobias.  She fears that at any moment the chaos will return and swallow her up.

In therapy, I can collude with her and avoid the chaos she carries inside her.  I can steer the conversation away from it so I do not have to deal/experience it, or I can allow the chaos to be present and try and tolerate it as best I can.  Perhaps if I can tolerate/contain the chaos then some alternative will emerge for her.  It is difficult at times for me, but I do the best I can.  Chaos can be overwhelming, frightening, potentially annihilating.

Perhaps we all spend our lives avoiding the experience of chaos–creating illusions, like the legal system, that chaos does not exist or that it can be contained/controlled.

But chaos exists.  And I do believe that it can be momentarily/temporarily contained, but this will exact a price on the container. The container will become chaotic/destroyed/damaged.  Which, of course, it one of the dangers of being a therapist.  Perhaps this is why the suicide rate is so high among therapists–too much collateral damage from trying to contain too much chaos?

The other alternative is to tolerate and experience the chaos–as opposed to trying to control/contain it.  I imagine this is a scarier alternative because it will require faith that one will survive the experience.


My mind now drifts to thoughts of faith, chaos and babies. 

Where does faith come from?

Where does chaos come from?

Where do babies come from?

I imagine the experience of coming into this world is chaotic.  And perhaps it is in this experience and how it is traversed that the answer lies. 

Or perhaps there is no answer, only a solution–faith.  Faith that one can survive the chaos.

But wouldn’t this require a faith-ful Other person to help us cross the divide?



Dr. Brody