I’ve been prepared for battle since I was small.
I was always ready to fight my corner, to stand up for the people who couldn’t. Even when I was beaten and bruised I still got back up and tried to fight a new way.
It was the desperate need to fight for what was right that first led me to law. I was a child in the middle of a battlefield and the lawyers led the way out. Made sense from the chaos. Created peace where there had been none.
I instinctively knew I wanted to be one of them because these were people who fixed broken things, found solutions to problems my tiny brain had no clue how to solve.
Somehow I equated being able to solve a problem with being problem-free.
What can I say? I was 9 years old and a touch naive.
I truly believed that once I became a lawyer my problems would subside and I would no longer need to fight in order to be seen, to be heard, to be respected.
Except, somewhere along the way I internalised the fight.
I no longer fought the people around me for resources, for safety, to be heard. The battle raged inside my mind, hustling for my worthiness like no-one had ever hustled before. bargaining with myself and the universe that if I could just get to this point, if I could just make it this far, then I would be ok, then I would be safe.
The funny thing about racing for the horizon is that you never actually reach it. It stretches out, long and languid in front of you and remains firmly out of grasp.
Whilst the fight remained within me, even as I lost against myself, it became my first instinct.
I became a litigation lawyer and fought battles professionally.
Oh I counselled against the full-nuclear options but fight nonetheless I did. My body still recognised all the adrenaline and the cortisol and the fear and the breathless excitement that maybe this time I would win.
Over and over I played out the same old story - find the weakness, create the opening, charge ahead.
I didn’t realise how much it was hurting me.
Show me a dozen lawyers and more than half will be there because of their own experiences. I have known people to become lawyers because their parents were, because they saw medical negligence first hand and wanted to put it right, because they watched their parents war and saw the resolution a good divorce attorney brings.
But there is a big difference between learning the lesson and using the knowledge for good and compounding and recompounding the old traumas.
A client and I discussed the nature of litigation and the secondary victimisation it wreaks upon the participants; I worked with people who were recently bereaved and who, day after day, week after week, month after month had to relive the trauma of losing their loved one, of the struggle that followed their death, in some cases the literal details of giving mouth to mouth to their hours-dead partner.
I can tell you now, it wasn’t just hurting them, the weight of their testimony too much upon my shoulders.
But still the urge to fight, to set the record straight, to be in the right, carried on.
This week I received news of a mistake, an error, an injustice. And my first instinct was to fight. To make them know just how much hurt they had caused. To push for more.
Have you ever heard of Pareto’s Principle? It’s the 80/20 concept - 80% of our results come from 20% of the work, 80% of the wealth is owned by 20% of the people and so on.
And when I considered this situation and the need to fight, I suddenly remembered Pareto’s Principle, that if 80%of the results come from 20% of the work, then it takes 80% effort to increase the final 20%.
To put it another way; you can continue to fight, but will the net gain be worth the net output?
And as I thought this over and wondered whether all the time, all the energy, all the tears and all the sleepless nights would be worth it, I realised that I had already put down the sword.
If you’re reading this, know this.
You don’t have to spend your whole life trapped in fear and a maelstrom of emotions. Fighting and battling may be second nature to you, as it was to me, but check whether it’s something that helps you or hurts you. Are you acting consciously or reacting using the outdated coping mechanisms you developed as a child?
It could just be that it’s time for you to put down the sword and try a different approach