• Brendan

Getting to Know The Monster and Engaging with Fear

I start back up on a trial on Monday, so I hit the office before 8 a.m. today. It was a good and productive half day of work - I think I have my cross-examination in order - mostly. I also have been thinking a lot about our friend Adam's post regarding social media and Dr. Frankenstein's monster. And these two things are related actually.

First, because I was working on a cross exam, my thoughts went back to my wonderful experience at the National Family Law Trial Institute in Houston. Back when I attended, Roger Dodd (co-author with Larry Pozner of "Cross-Examination: Science and Techniques"), was the lecturer for the Advanced Cross-Examination program. I remember Roger playing a little clip from Eminem's song "The Monster (ft. Rihanna)" (which is also now blaring in my apartment as I write this). As only Roger can do, he managed to take the material of that song and its lyrics and mold it into the proverbial "teachable moment" about lawyers and cross-examination.

Next, because of Adam's great guest post, and the fact my own trial has an "online" component to it, I have had the social media "monster" on my mind as well of late. After a moment of reflection, I went ahead and bit the bullet - I deactivated my Twitter. This time, I painstakingly reviewed each tweet, retweet and like as I deleted each one. Thinking of Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" - I asked myself "did it spark joy" when you did this? I then laboriously conducted the same exercise as I unfollowed every account before finally closing out and packing it in.

What I found (for me) was that very few accounts were actually solid follows. And what I also found was that only a handful of tweets/retweets/likes had actually sparked "joy" or its social media equivalent. Mostly, those "joy" moments were interactions with a wizened and more experienced divorce lawyer in town who, for whatever reason, would engage with me on Twitter. His engagement invariably lightened my load or gave me perspective or at least made me laugh. There was also the occasional witty turn of phrase or piquant take that also made me chuckle and remember that moment. But mostly it felt like a waste. A really big waste. So much ephemera. As I forced myself to actually engage with this detritus - I had an experience I have not had during several of my other "breaks" from the grid. And I will circle back to that experience shortly.

So after having surgically removed myself from Twitter - I then turned to Facebook. After figuring out how to manage the "Exes and Allies" page from a new page where I don't do anything (because you have to do that it seems), I systematically struck everything, went dark and closed it all down with a permanent deletion. I actually exhaled audibly. I looked back at things I liked, wrote or shared. Again, subjecting myself to the Marie Kondo "joy" experiment on each item. I found (not surprisingly) that Facebook had made me feel even worse than Twitter. At least on Twitter, people act more like actual people (in almost every way - good and bad). I also realized how compelled I felt at the time to like and engage with things I otherwise wouldn't. It all felt very coercive. Very shabby.

And so, now, I am a refugee from social media. For now. The hours of time spent with great immediacy and intent yielded very little in the end. I could have easily been writing, reading, engaging or just being. Instead, I fed the monster. Not just the social media monster. But the internal one. The one Eminem (ft. Rihanna) noted and Roger Dodd counseled us about - the voices inside of our heads.

That is a monster to which those of us either on or off social media may relate. And I don't literally mean hearing voices. I'm not THAT off. I mean instead the softer voices. The internal narratives. The compulsions and predilections. I am, as you no doubt sense by now, a compulsive over-sharer and over-thinker. I was that way before social media, during social media, and will be "after" social media (at least until 20+ years of therapy kicks in and works). As my work colleagues could attest, I am an ever-flowing source of mostly irrelevant and self-aggrandizing commentary. From my GI issues to my issues with the CPI or CSI:Miami. I just talk. A lot. Mostly about me.

And if we get down to brass tacks, what that all really is about is fear. And this is a realization that meditation helped me to start to understand. and that hit home today poignantly. Talking, writing, posting, sharing - it is all a way of staving off fear or re-routing myself around it. It is a convenient distraction from the discomfort of the moment in which I usually find myself. Because the real truth is that most of the time I am uncomfortable. I am edgy. Bristling. Quick to anger or take offense. But also quick to find a ray of light and crack a joke, dance a jig, pull an impersonation or put on a show.

So what is the fear then? It is a lot like the fear some of you may feel. Fear of being found a fraud, fear of being displaced, fear of missing out, fear of being left behind. Who knows? Some would suggest it is a childhood attachment issue. However, that research is, as we now see, more open for debate. Because I also have some sensory sensitivities, some would hazard that it is related to some form of spectrum issue. Whatever. It doesn't much matter. It is there and it pulls a lot of levers when permitted.

My point simply is this: we all have our monsters. Online or Offline. Some folks can swim the social media currents just fine. But we all have our moments at the edge. The real question is: What do we do with them? Do we listen to them? Obey them? Ignore them? Or do we welcome them in. Not to take over and assume control like inmates running the asylum, but to see them for what they are - signals. Signals to learn the actual lesson they are really trying to tell us.

Whether it is in marriage or divorce, something in between, or none of the above, there is a lot of work we probably can or should do. On ourselves. Doing that work makes the monsters we carry around a little less scary. A little less powerful. Sit and reflect on your monsters. How they undermine you. How they elevate you at times too. But see them for what they are. And then move forward. They don't go away. But they can help illuminate that way forward. Just watch your step...

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