Sunday, November 17, 2013

Do lawyers share the same personality traits as addicts?

This is an article from The Texas Lawyer worth reflecting on authored by a psychotherapist who works with many lawyers. 

Why Traits That Make Good Lawyers Also Make Good Addicts

What characteristics make for a good lawyer? Different sources propose such things as love of argument, a passion for writing, focus, determination, people skills and perseverance. Others include high academic achievement, structured thinking, a certain independence and diversity of interests.

. . . .

As a coach and psychotherapist for lawyers, I have come to recognize a constellation of "isms" that underlies all the admirable qualities listed in the first paragraph. These are narcissism, defensiveness (which goes with narcissism), skepticism, a high need for control and rampant ambition. Quite often, lawyers engage in lots of thinking, less feeling, and little or no empathy. They often view the truth as malleable, a raw material to be shaped as needed. There is even a little—and sometimes a lot of— paranoia. And we all know that the legal profession openly encourages workaholism.
Now, let's shift to a look at the makeup of the addictive personality. Addiction is a disease of denial. To a greater or lesser degree, the addicted person behaves in a manner that is deceptive, dishonest and passive-aggressive. An addict experiences a great need for control, to keep the path to the fix (whatever it might be) open to him and concealed from others. Addicts frequently view others as threats and act in a passive-aggressive way to neutralize the perceived threat. The addict is a difficult, afflicted, unhappy person. Often, addicts possess an unacknowledged depression, have little respect for others (but may feign it) and have even less respect for themselves.
Without painting with too broad a brush, it is not hard to see how the shadow of ambition is narcissism, the shadow of love of argument is paranoia, the shadow of competitiveness is the need for control, and the ability to mold the truth is related to basic dishonesty. While it may be uncomfortable to consider, could lawyer jokes stem from a certain basis in truth?
So, let's put all the above together. While 75 to 80 percent of lawyers are functioning well, thriving and living the life predicted by the characteristics noted in the first paragraph, about 20 to 25 percent of attorneys possess the profile that squares well with the addictive profile, and they function poorly.
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 Continue reading here.


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