In my first couple years of practice, I recall hearing a couple of times, "oh, you're the female lawyer." And I was thinking, "wow, gee, good guess." It was frustrating to be seen as a novelty, even if very slightly, and even if the person saying it was totally unconscious that they were under some kind of 1950s patriarchal spell.
Suppose you’re a woman lawyer too. Suppose you are younger than your client. Or maybe, you’re the same approximate age or older than your client, but your client is totally unaccustomed to interacting with women in leadership or authority roles, so he’s not quite sure what to make of you.
Either way, your client is bugging out about their case, and this is challenging for you, to put it politely.
Maybe he is showing up in your office every day without an appointment, sitting in the waiting room with a petulant scowl that makes you consider coming in through the back door and hiding behind the Xerox machine. Maybe she calls every day to whine, and you feel like you’re Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” having the same conversation again and again. Maybe his mother calls you to complain that the case isn’t resolved yet. Oooh, that’s the GOAT.
You’re the one with the schooling, and possibly also the years of experience, and the know-how to analyze her situation, or explain in plain English what he is facing. But you feel ill-equipped to manage your client’s reactivity, and find it difficult to work around your client’s emotional state to convey important information to them and do your job.
Litigation of any kind is a highly charged emotional experience, especially the longer it goes on. It is, basically, varsity squad adulting. It is a lot for anybody, especially someone who does not have all-star emotional maturity, executive functioning, a solid support system and three whole foods meals per day. “Common” sense is actually rare, because it seems to be unavailable in the average day in the life of so many. Even among so-called middle-class Americans, we find a lot of economic anxiety, poor nutrition, family pain out a Steinbeck novel, and low-grade modern-life-type trauma that just makes it just damn hard to have a legal problem on top of everything else that’s going on.
Each person has inherent worthiness, even if they’re being a pain in the ass. (I know you know this already. But it is worth reminding ourselves.)
Litigation can bring out some of the most immature thoughts and feelings out of typically level-headed, responsible adults.
So, in this post I’ll be talking about people who do not qualify as disabled, and just have “garden variety” trauma and drama that doesn’t warrant an official diagnosis. We are assuming here that you have determined that they are not suffering from a diminished capacity, asking you to help them commit crimes or lie, or otherwise so horribly interfering with the representation that you have grounds to withdraw. (That is a separate subject; refer to Washington State -- or if you're not in WA, your state's -- Rules of Professional Conduct 1.14, Client with Diminished Capacity, and 1.16, Withdrawing or Terminating Representation.) They’re just…being human, freaking out, and you’re freaking out with them.
So, how to stop freaking out with them? How can you “hold space” for your client in a way that you will fulfill your ethical obligation to represent them competently and communicate? How can you do this without your client feeling so judged or shamed that they shut down and stop listening to you at the worst possible time? How can you touch the core of your client, the place where their higher wisdom is receptive to your learned advice?
First let’s review a few Rules of Professional Conduct. I cite to Washington State’s. If you practice somewhere else, of course, check your own state's rules. I won’t copy and paste all the rules here; if you want to read the full version of cited rules, and the rest of the rules, they're all right here: Washington's RPCs.
Let's start with 1.1, Competence. In addition to the basics -- study up before you take a client's life/freedom/future into your hands -- there's another benefit. When we know what we are doing, we project authority and confidence in our vibe. People can feel it, sense it, and almost smell it. Remember how you had so much memorized for the bar exam? Remember the time you over-prepared for a motion hearing and the words just flowed out of your mouth? Maybe that was as recent as this morning! A client who might doubt you because of your age, inexperience, or appearance will feel it if you know your subject matter, If you also use *good posture [*Amazon affiliate link] and practice empowering body language -- even if it is in the privacy of your apartment when you are getting ready in the morning -- it will carry through your day.
Let's also discuss RPC 1.2, Scope of Representation and Allocation of Authority between Client and Lawyer. Your job is to give your client professional advice that enables them to make the best decision for themselves. Sometimes people who have legal troubles have been in a reactive, passive orientation to their own lives. These are the folks who will say, "this is all up to you," the first time you convey a settlement offer. You know to gently, but firmly, tell them that you absolutely cannot make that decision for them, and that all you can do is give them advice, AND you don't have a crystal ball or a time machine. But sometimes they still want to be wishy-washy. Other clients still haven't let go of their anger at their situation, and when you get the first settlement offer, they will rant and rave and want to drop out of negotiations, even if that isn't a good idea. You are ethically obligated to abide by their wishes, and at the same time, if you can have a good relationship with this client, they may reach the best decision for themselves. Your client hired you to be the leader, to not have to "do their own brain surgery." How to be this leader? Communication.
This is where we get to RPC 1.4, Communication. This rule covers a lot, but for purposes of this post, we'll focus on the part that says the lawyer shall "explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation." The comments to RPC 1.4 flesh this out a little, but doesn't tell us precisely how to do this in the soup of stressful and uncomfortable emotions.
After you've worked on yourself (competence, good posture, confident body language) now it is time to work on holding space for your client. Holding space means you listen without judging your client, and without getting worked up too. Role Reversal is a great first step.
Role Reversal is a technique for building deep understanding and compassion for your client so that you can hold space for him.
Role Reversal is a technique borrowed from Psychodrama, a therapeutic method that uses reenactment and story. Of course, you do this exercise with co-counsel so that you don't violate client confidentiality. First you will play your client, and your co-counsel will simply listen. Stand face to face, or sit in two chairs facing each other. Your co-counsel will listen, silently, and isn't allowed to butt in until you're done. Then switch places. Your co-counsel is now playing your client. They will repeat back as much as they can remember from what you said, and now your job is to simply listen. If you find yourself wanting to ask a question of your "client," you have to switch places again and answer it yourself.
You will learn a lot this way about your own attitudes, judgments, thoughts and feelings that subtly interfere with explaining things in a way your client will hear them. The next time you interact with your client, you will sense that any barriers have softened.
The Brooke Castillo Self-Coaching Model is another technique for understanding where your own thoughts and feelings may be interfering with good client communication. You have to manage yourself before you can be an effective leader with your clients. It's a daily process.
Suppose your client reacted negatively to a settlement offer. You take what your client did or said, described as neutrally as possible, and call that the circumstance. What are YOU thinking about what they said or did? That is your thought. What do you feel when you think that thought? There's the rub. Maybe it's anger, frustration, worry, fear, disgust, you name it. Then there is something you are doing or not doing because of that emotion you are having: Are you a little snippy in the email response you fire off? Looking at social media instead of working on the brief? Are you sending desperate-sounding emails to opposing counsel who is ignoring you? Are you hiding behind the Xerox machine? Then, what is the current (or likely future) result of this kind of behavior on your end?
Once you work all that out, you might feel better immediately. Or, you might not. Either way, it's ok. If you're really stuck, and keep obsessing about what's going wrong and how it's impossible to please everyone, is to add the tag "and that's ok," or "I'm figuring this out" to whatever is going on in your brain.
For example, "my client needs to be more patient, and that's ok." Or, "my client is not going to like this offer, and I'm figuring out how to break the news to him." Just these slight modifiers will trick your brain into seeing your own solutions instead of thinking all hope is lost.
When you must convey bad news or present complex choices to your client, it will go over best if you do your OWN emotional management first -- about the client, the situation, and yourself. Being able to feel and work through all the ups and downs of litigation for yourself demonstrates palpable confidence to your client, and makes you the warm human leader in the relationship that your client needs.
If you'd like to work more in depth on rising to the leader you are meant to be, talk to me about private coaching!
This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Please read Part One of this series.
In Part One, we explored the letdown many of us very capable, intelligent women feel when we suddenly are not succeeding at the level we think we should be in the law profession, despite earnestly trying just as hard at it as we did in school (or dance, or sports, or life).
As Patterson Hood of the Drive-by Truckers sings, "nobody told me it'd be easy / or for that matter be so hard."
So here's a wide-ranging assortment of Flower Essences that address issues of money, abundance, scarcity and self-belief.
Trillium. Trilliums generally address the sense that something is missing (even if you intellectually know that it isn't). This blog post features a picture of a beautiful red trillium. My blog itself has a photo of a white trillium. This is going to be significant as you read further. Now, the red trilliums grow in California; what I've seen firsthand "in the wild" from hiking in western Washington State are the white trilliums.
White Trillium is a Columbia Gorge Flower Essence that corresponds more to the crown chakra and feminine consciousness, and the abundance that is available to us everywhere just with a shift in emotion or mindset. What is really fascinating to me is that the White Trilliums in my area turn a luscious orchid-maroon color as the blossom ages. See here:
Instead of fading, it intensifies. It is like it is bringing something from the imagination or spirit or unseen (the airy white color) into life and form (the rich maroon color). This flower teaches you that you can do that too. You can bring your imaginings into form, and stop feeling completely caught up in "first world problems." (Which is a big part of what I intend to do with this blog.)
Now let's talk about the red ones, which are more specific to money issues. FES' Trillium Flower Essence is the red variety. It addresses root chakra issues of survival. It is for the person who thinks at times they're barely making it, but really has more abundance than they allow themselves to feel. The person needing red trillium may be pretty aware that they "should" feel more abundant than they do, and know that they are pretty well off compared to many people on the planet, but they just can't shake the sense of scarcity.
Here's a scenario: let's say you are stressed about a huge tax bill, and not sure when this or that case is going to settle, and you're at the checkout at some store, and they ask you, "do you want to buy a candy bar for the troops today?" And in your mind are all these things like, "I should buy a candy bar for the troops. God, I'm such a jerk if I don't. But I have this huge tax bill. Should I? Shouldn't I?" And then maybe you buy one for the troops and then buy another one for yourself and feel upset that the candy bars are 50 cents more at this store than it is at the other store you were just at. (Mind chatter. Mind chatter.)
WHOA. Slow your roll...you have clean water, a roof over your head, and your tax bill is kind of a quality problem, isn't it?
Anyway, the Red Trillium is excellent for helping us balance our internal struggle with our first-world problems. They are legitimate soul problems, so don't kick yourself. Just consider this essence to help you do the spiritual and emotional work of consciously choosing giving.
Star Thistle. Star Thistle Flower Essence also addresses a sense of lack that is not a helpful view of the world, kind of like Trillium. Often the person needing Star Thistle really is in more of a state of actual financial stress than the Trillium person. The Star Thistle person will insist, "my situation really IS that bad" as a reason for staying "prickly" and not able to be fluid with material resources in a way that will get them flowing again. The Star Thistle person struggles with the idea that sometimes it can be wiser to spend money to make money. They may not buy the shoes that will last 5 years, even if buying a new cheap pair every 2 years is more expensive long term.
I have taken this essence a few times during my life, and I'll tell you that it just really helps me relax and trust myself, trust in my decisions, and be frugal when that's appropriate, without a major freak-out or guilt trip against myself. Star Thistle helps one discern the "line" that makes sense for the individual.
Cerato. Ah, wonderful Cerato. Cerato is not specifically a money issue remedy. It is one of the original Bach remedies. It is helpful for the person who doubts their own inner wisdom, and who has to poll their friends on every decision. It can also help the person who is easily led into the wrong decision because she listens too much to others and not enough to herself. The Cerato person never feels quite sure, and second-guesses themselves ad nauseam.
Cerato helps one be way more independently decisive and take less time to make decisions. Did you know that according to some, indecision is one of the biggest things that can hold you back? Or to put it more gently, indecision and not trusting oneself can cost one untold thousands of dollars of earning potential. I find that many people who complain of "stress" vaguely around issues of career and money need a course of Cerato just to get centered in hearing their own inner voice, and then a lot of the other problems take care of themselves.
California Poppy is also not specifically a money issue remedy, but is worth mentioning for the shopaholics out there. California poppy can help people who are caught up in trying to emulate the "lifestyles of the rich and famous" even if they don't have the resources to fund it. We all know the type -- their "money is on their feet" instead of their 401k. There is nothing wrong with having nice things, but not to the exclusion of one's true values. It helps those people go a little deeper to align with their own authentic values.
Penstemon is the remedy for when life just sucks in every way. I wish I could give it to everyone who just found out that the student loan forgiveness they were expecting is not going to happen. Penstemon evokes the biblical story of Job, and the great Steinbeck novel, Grapes of Wrath. This is the "light at the end of the tunnel" remedy, to help lift one out of self-pity (even if a pity party would be totally understandable). Penstemon is another remedy that isn't specifically about finances, but can be helpful.
Indian Root is one of the Desert Alchemy essences from Arizona. It is a cut through bull remedy for those who overcomplicate things and try too hard. Indulging in confusion, indecision, and overthinking can be a way the primitive brain lies to us and tells us that we are being "prudent" or "responsible," but in reality we are shooting ourselves in the foot because we are doing nothing to get closer to our career or financial goals. I have taken this, and found that it gently but powerfully quiets that primitive brain, allowing the pre-frontal cortex -- the part of the brain more suited to the task of financial goal setting and execution -- room to do its thing.
In summary, money issues and scarcity thinking are never isolated. They tell us volumes about how we are handling other parts of our lives -- our health, our relationships, and all other decisions. This is not a license to judge others or judge oneself harshly. Nothing has gone wrong, and the power is yours!
If you're intrigued about how the Flower Essences or Coaching can help you, you owe it to yourself to reach out.
To your prosperity!
Notice that the rope that says "GUEST ONLY" is open, telling you that you're allowed to take these steps.
One of the biggest mental and emotional hurdles facing many lawyers, especially new ones, is money stress.
Once upon a time, when I was less than one year from having passed the bar, I was in Sears trying to buy some cheap suits so that I would have something to wear.
Not Nordstrom. SEARS. Like, where you buy a lawn mower.
Just one suit plus one thrift store blazer in my wardrobe was not getting me by. I tried on several suits in the junior's department, you know, those polyester ones. They fit ok and looked acceptable. Most of all, they were what I believed I could afford at the time.
I picked out two that would work and stood in line. When it was my turn, the retail clerk asked me if I wanted to open a Sears credit card. Well, my parents had a Sears credit card since forever, so this was probably a smart thing to do. Right? I gave them my information, and they declined me. Multiple times. In front of everybody standing in line behind me. It was humiliating. I recall it had something to do with my income not being enough. But I was....a lawyer.
What does any girl do? I called my mom to complain. She couldn't believe it either. I had good credit. I was current on my student loans. It wasn't like I was trying to buy a house. What was the deal?
I gave up without my cheap suits and left. Then, for the next couple of years, I regularly visited the Salvation Army, hoping the my benevolent unknown twin, the rich doppelgänger, would have donated some nice stuff. I regularly found quality pieces there that fit well, and cooked up a whole story in my brain about my "rich doppelgänger" who got bored with her clothes every month and donated them.
In any event, I enjoyed my resourcefulness, but this was NOT what I thought my life as a young lawyer was going to be. And it wasn't just about the clothes. It was a lot of things that felt so far out of my control -- and were so far from what I was told they would be.
Many of us go to law school on the dazzling promise of a better life, a life with more influence and financial security than that afforded us by just a four-year degree.
For many of us, it is felt as the golden ticket out of the working class. For many others, it seems it is just our fate as members of the Gen-X or Millennial generations to need expensive higher education in order to continue the middle-class standard of living we had as kids.
So...we strive to get good grades in undergrad. We strive to get into the best law school we can afford, and do what it takes to prove ourselves worthy of remaining there. We compete for class rank, and try to get the best job someone will give us.
We keep striving, and get very used to the underlying not-enoughness as an emotional default setting.
And then as soon as we pass the bar and start working, many of us find that the do-good stuff we really want to do pays less than the evil corp stuff the other kids are doing. But we find we are spending the same money to keep up, to go to CLEs and networking events and live in the same expensive neighborhoods. Our colleagues in big law may look more fancypants but may not actually be any better off, with their larger car payments and more expensive wardrobes.
We wonder if we will ever pay off the student loan, or buy a house. We feel guilty about spending the money on a facial, or a delicious meal out, or a pair of shoes that puts a confident pep in our step. We then get into a very self-defeating thought loop where everything we do to take care of ourselves, invest in ourselves, or enjoy life becomes another count in the indictment against ourselves that we rattle off in our minds every morning, noon and night. Thoughts like:
And sometimes, these thoughts flash by really super fast before we are even fully aware of them, like stealthy product placements in movies and TV.
But the end result is a feeling of powerlessness that colors all our choices, actions, and inaction.
If, despite all the feel-good memes we like and share, our primitive brain still thinks we're screwed no matter what we do, we won't invest in ourselves.
We will buy the cheaper suit that fits weird and falls apart after one season, and carry ourselves differently when we wear it.
We will resist signing up for a personal trainer for our physical health, or a personal coach for our emotional management, and tell ourselves it is because we "can't afford it."
We'll prepare our own taxes.
We won't go to the conference where we could meet the people that could help us make our practice take off, because the hotel is too expensive.
Or we'll book a cheap Airbnb the night before a big out-of-town deposition to save money, and end up getting only three hours of sleep because it smelled awful and we had to leave and it took two hours to find a hotel. And end up NOT saving money. (Not that I've ever done that. LOL.)
And worst of all, we might take a shitty case for a client we don't like, because we're afraid the next dollar isn't coming our way. (A wise man once told me, "you're better off going fishing." He knows fishing isn't my thing, but he made his point.)
We're like, "I paid for law school, and I'm still paying for it, and that's it. I'm cut off." And every time we pass up an important opportunity to invest in ourselves or just really enjoy something simply because of money, we strengthen the self-limiting neurosynaptic pathways in the brain until they become like a four-lane freeway.
Our reptilian brain tells us that we are doing the "responsible" thing by cheap-assing it, but our evolved brain, our pre-frontal cortex, tells us that maybe this is "penny wise and pound foolish." You know -- sabotaging ourselves.
And we keep sabotaging ourselves because underlying all these responsible-sounding, "realistic" thoughts is a lack of belief in ourselves.
"Is she serious?" you may be asking yourself. And thinking: We were the first women in our family to graduate from law school. Or, perhaps even the first to graduate from college. We got good grades, passed the bar. Of course we believe in ourselves, don't we?
The truth is, if you feel like there is something you need, but you can't afford it, it is because you are not yet believing in yourself enough. You are still believing, to some degree, that the value you get out of something is not wholly within your control.
I will say this another way. Many of us who achieve great things, like graduating from law school, passing the bar, and getting a job have just assumed that reaching those milestones would create our results. That's often how it's packaged and sold to us. This is difficult for many very earnest hard workers to hear, especially because so much of life is set up that way: "get good grades, and you'll get into a good school. Get a good rank, and you'll get a good job. Etc. Etc."
They say "jump", and we ask, "how high?" And when we do that, but then are a loss as to why we aren't financially successful, or happy, or clear on what's next, we feel betrayed -- by The Man, or the Boomers, or God/the Universe, or how our law school was marketed to us.
I want to reassure you that it is human to feel betrayed, angry, stuck, scared, and all the other feels. You have followed the syllabus they handed you, the same one they handed me too, yet if you are still reading, maybe you are not where you want to be.
The good news is that you can change this.
But it will require you to think about yourself differently from the ways you have thought about yourself that got you this far.
The beliefs that made you a good student and nail your interview -- basically, beliefs about being good at meeting standards set by others -- are not the beliefs that are going to fuel actions that solve your personal, professional or financial disappointments. (Otherwise, you would have figured it out.) That's why learning these emotional and self-belief skills is ironically often hardest for women who were strong students and good test takers.
So, I'm inviting you to take the first step on that staircase by asking yourself these questions in your journal:
This is going to provide you a wealth of insight! In Part Two, I will highlight several Flower Essences that address the money, scarcity, and self-belief issues from a vibrational standpoint, best used in tandem with the thought work. Stay tuned.
If you're female, and able to read this, you probably need Pomegranate Flower Essence. Stop reading and go get some.
Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a little. But seriously, just look at that gorgeous picture up there of a pomegranate flower just entering its luscious mama fruit phase, saying goodbye to its carefree maidenhood as a blossom, the last limp petals making no effort to hold on any longer, and the thick-skinned full fruit beginning to round out. Eventually it will have a round womb-like belly full of blood-red, health-giving juicy fruit. And when the time is ripe, some lucky chick is going to eat from the tree of knowledge and practically jump out of her knickers with all those antioxidants coursing through her veins.
The gestures of this incredible plant are so obviously connected to women's bodies, life phases, and moon cycles, that it is unsurprising that Pomegranate appears in folklore, religious texts, and art. Ancient wisdom is often a major clue to the healing properties of a flower or plant essence. (People way back when were pretty smart about things even though they didn't have the iCalendar telling them when they had to show up for meetings.)
Some folks believe that the "apple" Eve used to tempt Adam was lost in translation over the years, and was actually a pomegranate. Temptation worked the other way when Hades got Persephone all to himself for 3 months out of the year with delicious pomegranate.
Pomegranate Flower Essence is indicated for many situations and issues women face: pregnancy, obviously is one, but it works on multiple levels to address where we should put our creative efforts. Literally or figuratively, what should we "give birth to" in life, how we should balance our loyalties to ourselves and to others, and how we should balance work, family, and creative pursuits. It also broadly addresses issues of timing and seasons, because although women can "have it all" these days, many of us feel a lot of pressure to try to do it all, all at once.
Pomegranate Flower Essence has many applications.
In summary, Pomegranate essence is a good place for many women to start with Flower Essences. Sometimes when a woman doesn't know what essence to take, this one will help provide additional insight into where to go next. It is very timely with the issues at the forefront of women's conversations about roles, career, health, empowerment, and life phases. You could say we are in a very Pomegranate time.
Pomegranate Flower Essence on Amazon [affiliate link].
This post contains affiliate links. Full disclaimer here.
If you haven't read the first three parts of this series, you must! Start here.
So, we have given ourselves nutritional support in Part One. In Part Two, we learned about Flower Essences that help us transform the emotional issues that PMS presents, and introduced the concept that PMS is an opportunity. In Part Three, we laced up our shoes and went running (or at least walking). Now let's do some thought work.
Thought work. What is that?
Thought work is a practice or discipline where we look at our thoughts critically instead of letting them roll by unobserved. We pull those thoughts out of our heads and put them onto paper -- yes, paper and pen in a journal, and not typewritten -- and then work with them in some structured way so that over time, we have more self-awareness and more deliberate choice over our thoughts.
Thought work allows us to pedal toward the place of the Observer/Witness with training wheels, or like indoor rock climbing, where we know what rock to reach for next by the friendly marker of color-coded tape.
And, the repeated practice of thought work journaling is integral to the Positive Cycle and the Opportunity of PMS.
But first, let's talk about some of the things we have tried that only created small improvement.
Have you ever tried to meditate and been frustrated that you keep....f'n...THINKING! -- and thinking really ugly stuff about yourself or your life? Did you think that you had failed somehow? Or have you found that meditation feels really good while you're doing it, but you have yet to see much improvement in your circumstances? Is it impossible to meditate when you have PMS?
Or, let's say that you already have a journaling practice. Have you been frustrated that you've written down big goals and then you lose steam? Have you written page upon page but still feel frustrated with a lack of progress in areas of your life?
Have you tried everything, and wonder how any of it can change the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS that interfere with your career and your personal life?
I have answered yes to all of those above questions. And at times have been very frustrated, even angry with my body. One time when I had PMS, I was reading Byron Katie's Loving What Is and threw the book across the room. "This shit doesn't work for PMS!!!" I got a lot out of Loving What Is, but there was still a missing piece for me specific to PMS that I did not get until years later.
I began to turn the corner when I decided to revisit A Course In Miracles ("ACIM"). I had tried to read it a couple times from the beginning, but found it boring and didn't make it to the part that was the zinger for me. Then one day, I happened upon it. The piece of it that was transformational for me was Lesson 136, Sickness is a Defense Against the Truth, which opens with, "No one can heal unless [s]he understands what purpose sickness seems to serve."
As I read ACIM 136-137, for the first time, I was reading something that gave me a visceral aha, and a logical argument for the purpose of physical discomfort, and those things that we would label as symptoms or medical problems.
Before, most of what I had read struck me as new age dogma, scolding me for having "created" PMS and then shaming me for not yet creating something better for my life. "I am a new age failure" -- well now. That's a super helpful thought.
I continued to work with the concept that as long as I perceived PMS as a "sickness," I was judging it and myself as "wrong," and missing the purpose of the experience altogether. I was arguing with reality. Dammit, Byron Katie was right about reality -- "when you argue with it, you always lose." I needed ACIM 136 - 137 to make that click, however.
While I continued (and still continue) to experience my body and my emotions differently during that time, once I studied ACIM 136 - 137, I could never again go back to the place where I believed that PMS was a "problem." I continued (and still continue) to take care of myself physically with proper diet, supplements, and running, but my thoughts about the entire thing have permanently changed, and even now continue to improve, without having to con myself. Which brings us to the capstone thought work discipline that ties it all together: Brooke Castillo's Self-Coaching Model.
Brooke Castillo's Model goes like this: Circumstances are neutral. We have thoughts about them, and our thoughts cause our feelings. Our feelings drive our actions (or inaction). The actions taken (or not taken) create our results.
PMS is a neutral circumstance. PMS may be our reality, but it is neutral. It cannot make us feel bad. Our thoughts do that. And, we can choose our thoughts about PMS. Always.
I realize this may be a tough pill to swallow.
Here's how we smooth it out.
The work here is to first become aware of what you are thinking about PMS by journaling about it. This is not a one-and-done kind of thing. You may need to do this every month for the rest of your life (until you hit menopause and have something else to write about). You can look at that as a bad thing, or you can look at that as an opportunity. Every month, really look at it. If you are a loss as to where to start, start with these questions in your journal:
It's not easy. And, the answers to these questions might vary from day to day. The key thing is doing it and becoming aware. I promise you that you'll learn a lot about yourself answering those questions.
There is more to say about cultural stories about women's bodies and minds and how that influences our subjective experience of being women in women's bodies, but I will save that for future posts.
Once you have answered the questions, you have a lot of rich material to work with. What themes and challenges do you see? Where is the opportunity?
This is where the skilled selection of Flower Essences can really help. We do the proper nutritional and supplement foundation, we get the physical exercise in the form of bilateral movement (running, or at least walking), we get loving assistance from Nature in the form of Flower Essences that are specific to us, and we tie it all together and keep making forward progress through the daily thought work journaling. These strategies, working together, can truly transform your life.
If PMS has been your struggle, you are not alone. I hope this series of posts has helped you, and that you have learned several new things that get you out of the vicious cycle and into the Positive Cycle. If you desire additional support to do this, consider working with me.
To your peace of mind and health!
So here it is...part 3 of the Ultimate Guide to PMS.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Full disclaimer here.
If you have not read Part 1, and Part 2, please do so now.
In Part One, we shared my embarrassing PMS story, and then covered the nutritional/physical strategies for dealing with PMS. Then, in Part Two, we scratched the surface of Flower Essences. We introduced several Flower Essences that can be helpful for bridging the gap between the throes of physical and emotional PMS symptoms and the "witness/observer consciousness" that we need to transcend PMS.
I promised in Part One and Part Two that I would cover the specific mindfulness practice that actually works for me, the Opportunity of PMS, and the critically important thought work that ties it all together.
The Mindfulness Practice that Actually Works for Me
Why do I say "actually" works? Because lord knows I have tried everything to quell the monkey mind, the lawyer brain, the PMS brain -- the chatty, critical, freaking-out human brain by any name you call it. And here is the ONE thing that I can't skip. It isn't meditation, although that is extremely beneficial at times. It isn't Heartmath, even though that is a lovely practice with numerous benefits. And, yoga has a place as well. Furthermore, YouTube videos of Tina Turner chanting are cool because -- TINA TURNER, hello?!? But...If I do one thing to manage the mental and emotional challenges of PMS, it is:
Not just exercise in general. No. Specifically, running. Whether you jog, shuffle, sprint, or simply run, running is different from all other forms of exercise a human might try to do: (1) It stimulates the frontal cortex of the brain. (2) Bilateral movement helps the body-mind process and release trauma. You don't need to be a combat veteran to have traumas that need to be processed and moved through the body. Everyone has some trauma. Need more convincing that running is the key that unlocks many doors of healing? Give this a listen. And give this a read.
I run first thing in the morning, rain or shine, five to six days per week. Sometimes with a headlamp, and sometimes with reflective gear, gloves, a rain jacket and a hat. Not necessarily at 5:00am, although the basic gist of it is the same: start your morning right, and the rest of the day will be so much better.
I didn't start running until I was 29 years old. I had been a ballet dancer and very anti-running as a kid. I just woke up one day -- maybe it was the Saturn Return calling -- and I was like, "I'm a runner now." And that was that. And I was awkward and gasping when I ran my first 5k. It took me over 30 minutes, and I was red-faced and looked like a joke when I crossed that finish line. But, by the end of that summer, I had shaved several minutes off of that time. An identity shift like this is not impossible.
More about running and trauma will be covered in future posts. But for now, our immediate need is to cover the thought work process that ties all of this together. We shall do so in the next post. Please stay tuned. If you are suffering from PMS and the stress of practicing law, consider a run....even if it is simply around the block.
Affiliate disclosure: this post contains Amazon affiliate links. Full disclosure here.
If you haven't read Part One of this PMS series, please go back and read it now. It provides an important foundation.
The physical symptoms of PMS are enough of a challenge, but the emotional aspects can be even worse for many women. And, unfortunately, much of the "self care" and "mindfulness" strategies barely even scratch the surface...like trying to clean a locker room with a toothbrush.
Ever feel totally overwhelmed, angry, tearful, anxious, worried or irritable during that time of the month? Someone tell you to "just breathe" and you want to wring their neck? Try to go to yoga to sweat it out, but feel knocked over by someone else's cologne wafting through the studio?
PMS can make practicing law unnecessarily challenging, and practicing law can make the PMS unnecessarily challenging. It becomes a vicious cycle, and it is embarrassing or looks like lame-ass excuse-making to talk about it.
What a trifecta: being a lawyer, experiencing the physical symptoms, and the inexplicable emotional variations. When we are in the throes, it can seem impossible to step back into that neutral space (sometimes called witness consciousness or the observer and what Brooke Castillo has termed "passing through neutral") long enough to get perspective on any of it.
Part one of this series addressed some strategies I employ and products I use to get physical relief, but I know from years of personal experience that if we stop there, we miss the amazing opportunities PMS presents to us to become superwomen.
"Wait, what? This is an opportunity? Opportunity my ass," you might be thinking.
I will cover the Opportunities of PMS in the next post, but for now, let's create an energetic bridge from the physical into emotional relief -- and even gifts -- of PMS.
Still with me?
Flower Essences provide an energetic bridge from the difficult physical and emotional cocktail of PMS into a space of greater awareness, where we can process the challenging emotional and energetic aspects of PMS. Flower Essences are a gentle, yet powerful assist that helps us get from point A, physical and emotional misery, to point B, emotional relief, to point C and beyond -- the stages of increasing awareness and consciousness. Points B and C and beyond therefore become a Positive Cycle, and get us out of the vicious one.
When on the Positive Cycle, each subsequent "time of the month" teaches us to manage our bodies and minds in a new, better, more empowered way. Our improved perceptions and experience of the physical symptoms work to alleviate the symptoms. Our deeper and more grown-up nuanced awareness of the emotional aspects work to alleviate the negative emotions.
I am not saying we live a life free of negative emotion. That is not the point of life anyway -- the lawyergoddess knows that sometimes stuff sucks, and acceptance of that fact of life on earth doesn't mean she is going to get a ticket from the law of attraction police. (Proof: I have been a varsity team complainer off and on, and still have an amazing life!) Like seasons, there are changes; there are times that blossom and bear fruit, and there are times when things wither, rot, and freeze. How well we roll with it is so much of our experience. There is a great deal more to say about this that I'll cover in future posts. For now, you probably are here for emotional relief. So let's get on with it!
A Starter List of Flower Essences for PMS Relief
Shasta Lily: for being strong and remaining feminine in a masculine environment. Feeling like the old boys' network has got you down? Feel like you have to "tough it out" or that "there's no crying in baseball?" While this flower is not specific to PMS, this one is so useful for women learning how to better manage their energy in male "dominated" professions, that I include it here.
Agrimony: this is one of the original Bach remedies from England, for the type of person who covers up difficult emotions with a happy face, or buffers with addictive behaviors (sweets, intoxicating substances, too much social media....) to stuff down the emotions. My favorite in-depth discussion about this essence is at the Healingherbs UK site.
Mariposa Lily: this is one of the key essences for healing one's relationship with one's mother, and ability to nurture and be nurtured. Often, difficulties with the physical experience of being a woman stem from an emotional difficulty with being a woman in this world. Even if one reads the FES description of this remedy and it sounds a little extreme or intense, it is worth taking a deeper look: For example, we may feel that our relationship with Mother Earth is troubled. Or, we may feel that our relationship with the archetype of the Mother in our culture is suffering. Many people, women and men included, benefit from Mariposa Lily at some time in their lives when they feel "orphaned" and alone in a situation. For another angle on this category of issues, Evening Primrose is another powerful flower essence that can bring valuable insight to one's PMS experience.
Chocolate Lily: this flower, with its dark color, helps women who deal with an aversion to the physical aspects of their cycles, so they can learn to accept them more gracefully. Some who have worked with this essence report that it addresses chocolate cravings as well.
California Valerian: for anxiety about the future and insomnia; aids peaceful acceptance of life experiences due to better understanding of past experiences. Why do I include this as a PMS remedy? Instead of counting sheep, sometimes we count all the mistakes we made earlier in the day, or a year ago, or when we young and dumb. This tends to happen more during PMS when sleep is disrupted. In addition to addressing the physical aspects of sleep -- which I will cover in more depth in future posts -- California Valerian can help with the emotional aspects.
Pedicularis: for hypersensitivity and crying fits, leading to seclusion; aids insight into one’s underlying true identity and connection to Earth wisdom. Sounds kinda far out there? A friend of mine described the Pedicularis state beautifully when she described how the crying starts to 'cry itself' in heaves...from somewhere else. That's awful in the moment, but there is spiritual gold somewhere in there once a certain level of relief and detachment can can get us to the witness place.
Cherry Plum: This is one of my favorite essences for PMS stress. I resisted trying it for years because I was scared off by the description -- it sounded way too extreme for me. But let me help you by describing what I think it is good for. Now, when we have PMS and part of us feels like we are one email, traffic jam, or spilled-coffee-on the-keyboard incident from completely losing our shit, yet some part of us knows that we are basically sane and this too shall pass, Cherry Plum can help. Understand that "white knuckling" thing too well? Cherry Plum helps us release the death grip on trying to control our circumstances....I linked you to the 1 ounce bottle. Throw it in your work briefcase. You're welcome.
Pomegranate: this essence aids us when we feel ambivalence and inner conflict about female roles. It also aids joyful expression of feminine creativity Many women feel torn between "traditional" women's roles and "modern" opportunities. Sometimes this manifests physically as infertility, PMS, and other issues with the reproductive organs. This essence works on some very deep, archetypal levels. So, let's get all Carl Jung/Joseph Campbell with this for a moment. Think of the goddess Persephone and the pomegranate seeds. Where and when have let ourselves get talked into into doing stuff we don't want to do? How does that still ultimately help us become more authentically creative? How is this universal to the experience of being a woman in this millennium or any other? Pomegranate flower essence warrants several posts all to itself!
Self-Heal: this essence is truly multi-purpose. It helps those who over-rely on external advice for health problems. We need Self Heal when we run around buying every supplement on a list, or read every book, or spend all our time studying health information rather than just making decisions and giving stuff a shot (for that matter, Cerato is helpful too.) Self Heal awakens our inner healing forces and helps us listen to our bodies. It comes in an essence form and in a wonderful soothing lotion called Self Heal Creme by FES.
Mala Mujer: yes, that's Spanish for "bad woman." Please look past any reaction you may have to the name of this plant and own it for its power; it's wonderful for softening the bitchy edge we sometimes get during PMS. For our own sake.
There are many more flower essence remedies that are helpful for women, and even more that may be helpful for one woman or another's PMS that aren't necessarily "women's" remedies or "PMS" remedies. I don't suggest by any means that you run out and buy every essence on this list -- that would be like mixing all the paints in your watercolor kit until you get mud. If one or two really spoke to you, get those; less is more. Or you can work with me directly.
And, stay tuned for Part 3 of this series, where we will dive into the specific mindfulness practice that works (for me), and the critically important thought work that will tie all of this together.
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
PMS and the woman lawyer. Impossible combination? Not necessarily. Let's challenge that.
First we should talk about the worst day of my life, second only to the death of my mother.
It's early March, 2006. I'm sitting in an office with my supervisor and boss and one other person in the office. They are grilling me about performance concerns. At this time, I'm a brand new attorney, admitted less than a year. And, I have severe PMS, the kind that, for about ten days every month, makes me dizzy, sleepy, fatigued, anxious, easily overwhelmed, depressed, experience physically painful food cravings that make it difficult to get through an hour of court (those of you who have had this know what it is like), and suffer embarrassing acne scabs on my face that might break open and start bleeding if I accidentally touch my face wrong.
I am earnestly trying to fix "the curse" while trying to learn how to be a lawyer. It is doubly challenging to do this as a harshly self-critical perfectionist. It is too much.
In my defense, I get my nurse practitioner on the speakerphone to try to explain "hormone imbalance" to the higher ups. They don't laugh audibly, but their tone is...mocking.
I leave that job, determined to fix this problem that threatened my career, and not be one of those people with some poorly-explained health problem that caused her job performance to suffer. I can't shake a deep shame, shame that a physical problem gets the best of me. I do not want to be one of "those" women walking around giving some lame-ass excuse.
I had been dealing with bad PMS since my late teens, and as soon as I was an adult making my own decisions, I spent quite a bit of time and money (that I didn't have much of at the time) trying to solve the problem.
Yes, as you either know yourself or can imagine, it was difficult to deal with during law school.
And, I entered the profession worried that it would remain a challenge, but hoped that the distraction of work would somehow alchemically transform me into an invincible superwoman who never had "female problems."
Much to my disappointment, it just intensified when I started working, and could no longer control my own schedule and take care of myself when I needed to.
In the several years that followed, I tried a variety of mainstream and complementary treatments and lifestyle changes to manage the condition such to where I could function, and function pretty darn well. It took years, and more money than I want to count up, but I figured it out.
PMS is a card that I was dealt in life, but my ability to deal with it today is light years better than it was in 2006. And today, I'm going to share with you how I got here.
First, the obligatory disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or any other kind of health professional or mental health professional. You should talk to a qualified health practitioner before trying any of this out on yourself. I provide this for informational purposes only, and hope that it empowers you to have better conversations with your health care providers.
With that out of the way, here is the Ultimate Guide.
I'm sure all of you reading this know that good nutrition is the foundation for health. Some have said that it is 80% of body composition (or maybe it was Woody Allen who said 80% of life is showing up?). But, the advice for what you should do when you have PMS varies widely: "never eat carbs!" vs. "never eat animal products!" and "never eat dairy!" vs. "eat lots of yogurt...and put it places other than your mouth..."
To make matters worse, what works for your best friend or sister might not work for you. And then you are back to demonic food cravings at that time of the month and you just dropped another $20 or whatever on some stupid diet book with lots of pretty food pictures and more bullshit. I had one nurse practitioner ask me, "what kinds of things are you craving? chocolate?" And I was like, "yeah, and other proteins, fats and carbohydrates." I was just fucking hungry and it was specific to that time of the month.
I personally tried, at different times, trying being gluten free, vegetarian, paleo, low carb, the Zone, all with promises that it would be the holy grail that would magically balance my hormones. I would feel better for a short while mostly from the placebo effect of the hope of trying something new. And then it would start to suck again.
And then I found it. I can't remember what led me there, but the nutrition protocol that works for me is Dr. Peter D'Adamo's GenoType Diet, featured in his book Change Your Genetic Destiny. The GenoType Diet can be personalized to you further with the SWAMI Xpress diet software, which is what I use. I'm really surprised more people don't know about this; it's outstanding. The premise of the GenoType Diet seems quite obvious -- our genes determine what kind of fuel burns best in our bodies, and certain markers like jaw angle, body style, and blood type (yes, blood type, stay with me) will tell you. Some humans run well on meat, some humans do better with grains, and depending on various factors, different cheeses work for different people. (Everyone should eat vegetables. No way around that, folks.)
Once I ran my SWAMI Xpress, I was astounded at the information. It was immensely validating, because it was giving me permission to eat things that I knew made me feel good and experience much milder PMS symptoms even though the CrossFit gym might disapprove. (If you hadn't caught the hint, I'm one of the types who has rice with dinner instead of steak.) And, it gave me some surprising information, like which specific cheeses to eat and which to avoid, and that turkey is better for me than chicken. My health has continued to improve over the almost six years I have been eating according to this protocol.
And the craziest part of it is that over time, I lost my taste for chocolate -- even at that time of the month. (It's not a recommended food for my type.) I can literally take it or leave it now. No willpower required. By eating what I should be eating, my desire for things that aren't great for me just gradually disappeared on their own.
My total life expenditures on supplement experimenting probably is equivalent to the GNP of a small nation somewhere. Ok, maybe that is an exaggeration, but I've tried them all. Here's what is money well spent for me:
Evening Primrose Oil or Borage Oil. I don't even take fish oil because I don't notice anything from taking it, and I eat plenty of fish. But if I go for more than a few days without my EPO or Borage Oil, my skin punishes me. These oils contain GLA, gamma linolenic acid, an anti-inflammatory compound that has a beneficial effect on the skin and helps reduce cramping in some women. I alternate between these two, depending on what is on sale. Typically, I purchase this Borage Oil from NOW foods because it is a good value. My dose is 7 to 10 capsules per day. That is how much I need for no cramps and clear skin.
Margarite Acne Pills. "Margarite," not margaritas. (I don't think anyone recommends margaritas when you have PMS.) Margarite Acne Pills are a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) formula I take during certain times of year, Fall and Spring, when I find acne is more challenging. An acupuncturist who does TCM can explain to you why seasonal changes and your liver and spleen chi can cause seemingly-unrelated conditions like acne, shedding too much hair, being pissed off all the time, and feeling fatigued to flare up when seasons change. Sounds weird? TCM is a different paradigm, and I just roll with it.
"Zinc Cream for Problem Skin" by Margarite Cosmetics out of West Palm Beach, FL. And if you forget to buy your supplements (hmm...this never happens) and need to topically treat a pimple, this Zinc Cream for Problem Skin cream dries it up fast.
IPL Laser Treatments. An IPL (intense pulsed light) laser treatment for acne is basically getting out the big guns. Sites like realself.com can help you search for a provider in your area. This has helped me quite a bit off and on through the years.
Free and Easy Wanderer. On the topic of being pissed off....This was another miracle TCM discovery for me. The wonderful acupuncturist who first told me about this supplement called them "happy pills." According to TCM, it works by balancing the liver chi. Whatever -- I take it when everyone else is a moron. Oh wait, that's PMS talking. These provide welcome assistance during that time.
Quinton Hypertonic Elixir. Their website. I first heard about this on the Ben Greenfield podcast. I add it to my water after running it through a Berkey Filter. I'm not a chemist, so you can just read their website. I'll say that I notice a difference from it and no longer need to figure out all these different minerals to buy and have a dozen different supplement bottles in the cabinet. This one supplement just takes care of minerals for me. And, it makes the water taste really good, like the expensive bottled water brands that I feel guilty for buying on the rare occasion I -- gasp -- purchase a bottle of water.
Filter the damn shower water! On the topic of water quality, lots of folks' tap water contains chemicals that can disrupt the endocrine system. It isn't just bad to drink them; it's horrible to breathe them in via shower steam, absorb them through the skin, and soak one's tresses in them. I use this shower filter to remove chloramines from the shower water. It was easy to install with some teflon tape and hand tightening. This is especially good for people who rent, or for other reasons don't want to install a whole house water filter.
Progesterone USP Cream. Again, I'm not a doctor and bioidentical hormones are hormones just the same, so talk to a qualified healthcare professional. For me, any synthetic hormones (like those found in birth control, even at the low doses that are supposed to be "ok" or make you better and have a life full of fun shit like they always do in pharmaceutical ads) are like throwing gasoline on a fire....they make everything far worse....some of you know exactly what I mean. I like the lavender fragrance. If lavender isn't your jam, there is an unscented version. I use it at night -- used during the day can make one very sleepy.
Magnesium Oil. Applied to the feet, it helps me get a good night sleep.
Whew! So, that is Part One. In subsequent parts, I will cover Flower Essences that address the mind-spirit aspect of PMS, the specific mindfulness practice that I think actually does something, and the thought work process that isn't just a lame affirmation (that you give up after one day because you hate trying to kid yourself. We've all been there, haven't we?)
Together, all of these strategies have made me many times healthier and happier. I look forward to posting the rest!
Who is the lawyergoddess?
She is a woman lawyer who does not trade in her femininity, or her integrity, for the sake of any false choice presented to her in her life or career.
She always shows up as her best, and radiates it from a state of mind that is beautiful, self-possessed, and powerful.
She knows she is intelligent, capable, worthy of respect, perfect just as she is, and deserving of the best in everything.
She takes care of herself. Most often, she smiles because she appreciates life. If she's not smiling, it may be because she is saddened by some injustice. She knows that life is full of contrast. But she does not wallow in pity, for herself or others.
She exudes beauty, creates wealth, and is surrounded by support. Not because she needs it -- no, because creating it is a pleasure and a joy, and how she leads by example.
She's not afraid to show how she feels, because she has a baseline awareness and complete self-acceptance that people usually respect, kind of like the way they respect the law of gravity. (It's automatic.) And if they don't, so what.
She's not afraid to be overdressed, or overprepared. She enjoys her power responsibly.
She doesn't rely completely on something like a vision board to make her vision come true. She knows that everything outside of her, like wearing the right outfit for the occasion, is an aid to a process that is deeply in her heart, intention, and deliberate thought work.
And, if magic happens, it's icing on the cake. Which she does like to have and eat too (in moderation, and of the utmost quality).
The lawyergoddess is a leader who knows her own mind, style, and values.
Yes, we can all be her.
When I'm not coaching other lawyers, I'm running a Fair Credit Reporting Act and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act practice. In that work, I meet men and women of all ages who have issues with debt and credit.
And, I'm a woman entrepreneur who started my practice with very little, and I'm now doing quite well.
So, it's fair to say that "my mind [is] on my (and your) money, and my (and your) money [is] on my mind."
So let's talk about money, and risk, and women, and practicing law.
I have observed that women are generally more risk-averse than men. We women are usually more interested in what is safe and sure, over what is flashy and risky. While some men might get into trouble by buying large-ticket items impulsively, women -- even in the younger generations -- get into trouble when they rely too heavily on something outside of themselves to provide security or authority for their financial lives.
Even if a woman has a shopping problem, underlying the disordered spending is a desire for safety and security that comes wearing the sheep's clothing of some external thing that money can buy that may make them feel more "safe" in the world.
Many women struggle with a "good girl" complex about money -- that if we are smart and get good grades, spending six figures on higher education is always going to pay off and be okay.
I've learned that we are going to be okay once we learn to trust ourselves and our inherent wisdom, and spend a lot of our own time teaching ourselves things they don't teach us in law school.
The gap between the naive "good girl," risk-averse place that has us putting trust in doing whatever our parents, teachers, or social class would have us do all the way to that empowered place where we finally trust ourselves and bet on ourselves can be a wide river to cross.
Depending on who our parents, teachers, or social class are or were, being the "good girl" and doing as one is told may lead to expensive law school for one woman -- and no education and a dead-end job for another.
Regardless of where we begin, the journey across that river to where we trust in ourselves, and learn to take the right risks at the right times, begins with full awareness of all of the influences, voices, thoughts and feelings that keep us stuck.
As our awareness develops, we learn SO much more about what risks we want to take, what money we want to invest, and who we want to be, regardless of who we may have been up until now.
And we can start from anywhere. Here and now is always the perfect place.
Some questions to ask yourself:
Where am I?
How did I get here?
What is the river that I am crossing?
How will I know when I have safely crossed to the other side?
How is where I am starting from absolutely perfect for me?
What risks am I willing to take to make my life what I want it to be?
What risks were foolhardy and inauthentic for me, and how am I wiser?
What voices inside me am I no longer going to listen to instead of my own wisdom?
How will my financial well-being be safer as a result of listening to myself?
I'd love to hear how it goes.