Wednesday, 17 June 2009
The law and psychology
I saw a surprisingly good interview on television a few days ago. It was on one of those current affairs shows that come on right after the 6 o’clock news. Usually they are about shady tradesmen who are ripping off pensioners by getting prepaid for things like painting or gardening only never to be seen again. The news team approaches one of them in the street and he suddenly sprints off down the road with the poor old cameraman in pursuit and the reporter holding on to his trusty microphone hollering out questions that are never going to be answered. That sort of news report that is really more a combination of athletics and journalism as you hear the puffing and panting of the reporter and the cameraman.
However this was most illuminating interview with Chief Judge Antoinette Kennedy. The first woman to be appointed a judge in the state where I live and who is on the brink of retirement. First it is very rare for one of the judiciary to give any sort of interview.
She made a number of most interesting comments. She stated that sometimes she watches TV reports of those who have been involved in a trail in some way and they would say that the result gave them closure or it did not give them closure. She stated that such comments baffled her.
The court or trial system was never set up to give closure to people. That is not its purpose and is not its goal and its never has been. This is a very nice way of saying what I have been saying to clients for many years.
The goal of a trial is to answer a legal question of guilt or innocence. Its goal is not a therapeutic one. It is a court of law not a therapy group. It is not set up to or is trying to give people closure or some other kind of therapeutic gain. Its goal is to answer a legal question. It seems that for many of those involved in trials, they mistakenly look for a therapeutic goal from something that is not designed to provide one.
I have seen many clients who have been involved in various trials for various reasons over the years. My suggestion to them is that they try and emotionally distance them self as much as they possibly can from the trial and its outcome. I suggest that they have as little to do with the trial as possible and when it’s on and getting lots of press they leave the country for a few weeks holiday. It is very likely that something in the trial will result in some sort of further emotional scarring on the person and that is the last thing they need. A court room is not designed to be therapeutic for those listening on.
One does not need an outcome of a trail to get closure or to move on in life. That can be achieved much better long before any trial has taken place. Getting closure is a psychological process that can be achieved no matter what the outcome of a trial is.
The most common type of chronic anger in this community is those who seek or want revenge. Those who state what they want ‘justice’ for the crimes committed against them. These people are chronically angry in that they are holding onto their anger about some unjust act committed against them.
My counsel is to forget about winning the battles and just make sure you win the war. A trial is just a battle. If they feel like justice has not been done or they want further revenge for long periods of time then they certainly have lost the war. They are carrying around chronic anger and there is mountains of literature that clearly shows the physical damage that results from being chronically angry. It is singularly physically damaging and in many instances being closely involved in a trial will just increase the level of anger. It certainly does not help to win the war.