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Time Traveling

Over the years I have heard from hundreds of you who have read this column and taken the time to say thank you for something that I said that was helpful to you. This column is my time to say thanks to you. Thank you for reading the column and thank you for reaching out to tell me when it has beneficially impacted your life. Your words have meant a lot.

As I leave the LAP at the end of 2011, and Robynn Moraites swings fully into the saddle as your new LAP director, I want to do a little time traveling with you in order to touch on the spirit of the LAP. That spirit is the way I wish to say thanks to you the reader, and to a few I need to name. Let’s start in the Southwest about 80 years ago and then I will try to connect the dots.

In 1932 Dr. Carl Jung made a trip to the American Southwest. Dr. Jung was then, and remains today, one of the preeminent explorers of the inner terrain of the human psyche and how we mature and develop as human beings. He spent most of his life working as a psychiatrist in Switzerland, but on his trip to the United States in 1932, he had the opportunity to meet with Chief Mountain Lake, a leader of the Taos people out in the Southwest. The two men hit it off immediately and had a memorable conversation. Chief Mountain Lake’s remarks to Jung were very candid:

See how cruel the whites look, their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by folds. Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something. They are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think that they are all mad.

When Jung asks why he thinks they are all mad, Chief Mountain Lake replies, “They say they think with their heads.”

“Why, of course,” says Jung. “What do you think with?”

“We think here,” says Chief Mountain Lake, indicating his heart.

At this exchange, Jung was deeply affected. He had met somebody who was at the level of maturity that today we would call “unconscious consciousness,” and he was profoundly moved by that experience.

There are four stages of the development of the human psyche and spirit. They are:

  1. Unconscious Unconsciousness – This is the stage where we all start out. At this stage we are driven by our unconscious patterns to feel okay in the world. At this stage, as the name implies, we are unconscious of what those patterns are. If we stay stuck in this stage, we can be affected by depression, alcoholism, workaholism, and a number of other conditions, and never have a clue of what the underlying patterns are that have triggered the depression, addictive process, or some chronic malady.
  2. Conscious Unconsciousness – This is the stage where we develop some awareness of what the patterns are that are driving how we “do” life. Often, we get catapulted into this stage by some midlife crisis, health crisis, or other dramatic event which requires us to begin to look at what the driving patterns are that create difficulty for us. This is a stage of awakening. We begin to see what the patterns are, but we are not yet able to change their automatic compulsive operation in our life.
  3. Conscious Consciousness – At this stage we are not only awake and aware of the patterns that are driving our behavior and the way we deal with life, we are also consciously able to intervene in those patterns. We realize that regardless of whether our unconscious patterns have driven us into depression, alcoholism, or just a general state of unhappiness, there is no switch we can flip to get an immediate outcome that is different. We see that we do not have direct control over whether we are happy in our life, or whether we are angry or full of self pity, but we have become aware that, while we cannot change the outcome of how we experience life directly, we can change the patterns that determine the outcome. Much of modern-day therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, is focused on trying to develop an awareness of what these negative patterns are, how they arise out of faulty thinking, and how to implement new life patterns. Probably the most successful approach to becoming “consciously conscious” is found in the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The steps provide a systematic procedure to gain insight into the underlying emotions, drives, and needs that compel the need to medicate, which in turn trigger a neurochemical change in the brain resulting in alcoholism. This third stage of development is paradoxical in that, before change can occur, a complete acceptance is required (sometimes the word used is “surrender”) of the reality of the underlying dysfunctional patterns. Once there is acceptance, awareness then provides the discipline to put new patterns into place. It is often a lengthy process because the pattern-setting mechanism of the human brain normally changes slowly.
  4. Unconscious Consciousness – The stage at which Dr. Jung encountered Chief Mountain Lake occurs when one is no longer driven by the old compulsions for security, power, or control, but encounters life directly in the moment without the interference of defensive psychological patterns. When we meet someone in stage four, our experience is usually like Dr. Jung’s—one of startling clarity at the presence and realness of such a person. Their unconscious way of encountering life is free of the old psychological defenses that initially created a sense of security but ultimately block the richness of life’s experiences.

Although it is a timeless topic, recently there have been a lot of movies that turn on the idea that it is possible to go back into time and change events in the past so that the future is affected. In the recent movies Déjà Vu starring Denzel Washington, and Source Code starring Jake Gyllenhaal, the tension in the movies arises from a frenetic race to go back into the past to change the future. One of the reasons this movie theme is so popular these days is that we now understand from quantum physics that time travel is theoretically possible. These movies reflect the writers’ imagination of how that possibility could actually play out.

Quantum physics explains the possibility of time travel. It also explains a lot that we have not understood about how healing occurs. If T.S. Eliot is right, most of our life journeys end up with us returning home, but with a new perspective. My experience over these many years is that there are no short cuts in the process of human development and maturation. It is the process itself which allows us to move from stage one to, if we’re lucky, Chief Mountain Lake’s stage four.

It has been an exciting time to be helping lawyers deal with issues of depression and alcoholism because the opportunity for healing from these illnesses, when understood from a quantum biology perspective, is not just about using old ego psychology methods of bolstering the ego’s needs for power, control, and security. Rather, true healing lies in transforming one’s life so pattern-driving ego needs are diminished. If it were possible to travel back in time and change things that the LAP has done, I am glad to report that, for the most part, there is not much I would wish to be different. We always wish that we could have touched more of those lawyers leading lives of quiet desperation and helped them move into greater health and well being. However, I am comforted by the knowledge that the LAP has been able to help provide assistance to thousands of North Carolina lawyers.

If I could change one thing it would be that there be less of a stigma for those people who are caught in the throes of the process of advancing to a greater level of consciousness, and who suffer depression or alcoholism as an unintended by-product of that journey. Less stigma and more acceptance of the process of change as necessary (even with the difficult outcomes at times of depression or alcoholism), would provide more hope and comfort to those who must endure the very painful process of becoming aware of self-defeating patterns, and who need support in order to surrender them for more life-giving patterns to take their place.

One of the deeply gratifying aspects of my work with the LAP over the years has been the opportunity to experience the dedication of those lawyers who have led the LAP Board. Anything worthwhile that the LAP has been able to do while I have been director is a direct result of their ability, integrity, and commitment. I am honored to be able to thank them here publicly: Judge Phil Howerton, Steve Philo, Dan Dean, Ed Hinson, Victor Boone, Sara Davis, Sam Davis, and Mark Merritt.

I am also deeply appreciative of the perceptiveness of the LAP Board in recommending Robynn Moraites to be the new director of the LAP. I believe that all the lawyers in North Carolina are in good hands having Robynn at the helm to assure that when help is needed by a lawyer, the right kind of professional, confidential, and peer-supported help will be available for them. The LAP’s effort to help lawyers has primarily been successful over the years because of the selfless efforts of hundreds of volunteers and the dedication of LAP staffers Ed Ward and Towanda Garner. The support of Tom Lunsford, Alice Mine, and other Bar staffers has been essential and always gratifying. By her intelligence and grace, my own assistant, Buffy Holt, has made the daily routine and difficult situations always easier to navigate. Thanks, in the spirit of Chief Mountain Lake, from the heart to one and all.

Many of you have asked what I will be up to after this transition. I have been excited to discover in the past couple of years a desire to write fiction, and I hope to be working on another novel. In addition, I hope to be available to work with lawyers providing executive coaching and spiritual direction. Above all, I am deeply grateful for the opportunity that I have had to be a guide and to be a friend to so many of you over the years. I have walked with many of you, addressing life obstacles and recovering a new vitality in your lives. Probably it’s the only job I could have had where at the conclusion I feel, as I do now, that my extended family consists of over 20,000 brothers and sisters. It’s a good feeling. Thank you for it.

– By Don Carroll

The North Carolina Lawyer Assistance Program is a confidential program of assistance for all North Carolina lawyers which helps lawyers address problems of stress, depression, addiction, or other problems that may lead to impairing a lawyer’s ability to practice. If you are a North Carolina lawyer, judge, or law student and would like more information, go to www.nclap.org or call toll free: Robynn Moraites (for Charlotte and areas west) at 1-800-720-7257, Towanda Garner (in the Piedmont area) at 1-877-570-0991, or Ed Ward (for Raleigh and down east) at 1-877-627-3743. 

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