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This is one of a series of Lesson-5 articles on
improving family functioning. The series extends
the concepts in
Lessons 1-4 so study them first.
One sign of the lethal [wounds + unawareness]
is silently weakening American families and society is the epidemic of
personal legal suits. The existence of "family
law" in our judicial system demonstrates that many such suits are
among family members.
36 years' study and clinical experience, this article proposestypical surface and
actual causes of
court fights, and options for avoiding and
resolving them. The article is written to disputants, attorneys,
mediators, and judges, and the professionals who train and evaluate them.
What's the Problem?
Our legal system exists because some people are unable to
negotiate "fair" solutions to their conflicts without outside authority and intervention. Common conflicts
among family members include...
Domestic violence and boundary violations (stalking and harassment);
over child visitation, custody, financial
support, health, education, religious practices, alienation, adoption,
emancipation, abduction, and parental rights. A specially divisive case
involves "parental alienation;"
or elder abuse and/or neglect;
Disputes over money and assets - e.g. debt and property
ownership and contested wills;
Family business disagreements;
and sometimes legal suits
are used to...
and/or get revenge.
A secondary problem is that
legal combat usually
family-relationship problems. This is partly because it's adversarial, and partly because of the well-intentioned, expensive
interventions of lawyers, mediators, and judges who don't know what you'll
read in this Web site. Legal battles always lower a
nurturance level, and
wound dependent kids.
bitterness, hurt, distrust, disrespect, and resentments can take years to
While the family problems above are real and stressful, I propose that
none of them are the
PrimaryCauses of Legal Combat
Three things cause all legal battles:
public unawareness of the [wounds + unawareness]
wounds, including denial (reality
reaction to this premise. Paradoxically: if it applies to
you, you may not know it (unawareness), and/or you'll
deny or minimize that it applies (reality distortion) - and take no action.
Short term: if you feel some family adult or child is
clearly in imminent danger, seek help from the police, child
protective services, and/or other local and/or state
appropriate sources. If
false selves control you, what you're sure is "imminent danger" may not be what you
think (reality distortion).
Long term - if you're involved in, or considering, legal action with
another family member, you can...
ignore what you just read.
Initiate or continue the lose-lose legal process, notice (or deny) the toxic results over months or
years, blame other people, and suffer guilt and regret for not acting;
or you can...
accept responsibility for changing your half
of the combat;
try to interest the other person/s in the
options in this article for all your sakes - specially if kids are
ignore uninformed advice from people who
don't know the three causes of the conflict (above). This includes
lawyers, mediators, counselors, clergy, authors, bloggers, and other well-meaning
So - for your integrity's and family's sakes:
Do what you can to stop or
delay the legal proceedings. If you have a legal advisor, ask him or her to
read this article and discuss its implications for you all. For extra credit, ask the advisor to assess for psychological wounds. a high
percentage of people in human-service positions are
GWCs, and don't (want
to) know it.
Adopt a long-range outlook, patientlystudy
Lesson 1 here with an open mind, and
assess yourself honestly
for psychological wounds. Ignoring this step suggests you're dominated by false selves,
which puts you all
at risk of increasing family stress. Studying and applying Lesson 1 has many
benefits beyond avoiding legal combat and costs!
__ Tailor this example to form a
Bill of Personal Rights for
yourself. Then see if you acknowledge that your "adversary"
has exactly the same human rights as you do. If you
say "Yes, but...", a false self probably dominates you. This
is a far more serious problem than your dispute!
__ Take responsibility for and identify your
attitudes about the other
person and their values and actions. Critical,
disrespectful, bigoted attitudes by either one of you can
make effective win-win problem-solving impossible. Such attitudes
are always a sign of a
Use your new knowledge and Lesson-1
assess your conflict partner/s for significant wounds. If you conclude s/he is a
Grown Wounded Child (GWC):
change your attitude from scorn, disrespect,
and hostility to compassion and respect. The other person didn't cause
their (or your) wounds, and isn't aware of them and their
study and apply
ideas on relating to a GWC and notice how their behavior changes.
invite the wounded person to read
this, and then assess themselves for psychological wounds.
is a parent, suggest doing this will help the kids.
If s/he won't read
and discuss these articles, use
these guides and avoid trying to "make" the
person "see" their wounds. You can't, any
more than you can convince an atheist to believe in God.
__ Remind yourself that the basic reason people use legal
force is because they don't know how to (or don't want to)
negotiate disagreements - and may blame each other for that.
So accept that
probably neither of
you know how to think, communicate, and
problem-solve effectively. To test this,
take this quiz with an open
mind, and then see if you two use any of these common communication
__Commit to improving
your thinking and communication with your conflict
partner. Think of
someone with whom you have consistently satisfying communication
with, including resolving disputes successfully. Use that as a
model to imagine effective
problem-solving with your
"adversary." Your goal is to
free your true Self to
guide you as you learn to practice effective communication
To learn the many options you have for more
effective communication, read
this and ask your "adversary" to read and discuss
it. Ignoring this probably means false selves control one
or both of you.
__ Patiently invest time and effort in studying
Lesson 2. It will explain
specifically why you two have been unable to
negotiate your differences, and how to change that. When
your true Self
your conflict-partner to study and discuss this Lesson with
you so you each can get your needs filled well enough
without resorting to legal force.
Now study and apply these options for resolving
values conflicts and divisive
relationship triangles. It's highly likely these are
part or most of your disputes!
someone has already hired a lawyer of filed suit, give a
copy of this article to the professionals involved. Then
invite them to study
this article to learn how to
lethal [wounds + unawareness]
__ If you've been though a legal battle with family
members, all people involved - including kids - need to
forgive themselves and each other
for the stress you all endured. I hope meditating on this
article will help you appreciate what caused the battle and
forgive and heal you all.
Divorcing or Re/marrying...
Divorce usually means that both mates and their relatives
are significantly wounded and unaware of the topics in this
Web site. That implies that the families have clusters of
relationship problems.Legally-married mates must use attorneys to formally end
their spousal responsibilities and negotiate property
settlements and parenting agreements.
For several reasons, this legal process can increase
hostility between former partners and their family members.
If you're in a
divorcing family, read and discuss
for extra perspective and options - specially if kids
are involved. If you're embroiled in a lose-lose-lose
"parental alienation" conflict, read
this after you finish this article.
Most U.S. divorcÚs eventually remarry. If they're parents,
they form or join a stepfamily, Typical
multi-home stepfamilies are
far more complex and stressful than average
intact biofamilies. They often become embroiled in battles
over child custody, visitation, education, parenting,
adoption, and loyalties. When stepfamily members can't find
workable compromises, the may seek solutions by using
Most such litigants and legal professionals are
untrained in stepfamily
problems as well as what you're reading here.
If you're in
a stepfamily (or may be), read and discuss
this quiz, and
invest time in studying
Lesson 1-7. For
incentive, note that most sociologists report that
well over half of American stepfamily mates
re/divorce psychologically or legally.None of them expect this.
Family court exists in the American justice system because many thousands of
people are unable to negotiate stable compromises to family role,
relationship, and asset disputes by themselves.
The expensive, adversarial
legal process inevitably amplifies family relationship problems,
Lesson-5 article summarizes
commonsurface disputes, and proposes three unseen primary
reasons for most family (and other) litigation:
public unawareness of the [wounds + unawareness]
wounds, including denial (reality
The article offers specific suggestions for lay and
professional people on how to combat each of these three
core problems - primarily by studying and applying the
Lessons in this online self-improvement
course. This includes suggestions for people in divorcing families
and stepfamilies, which are specially prone to family
conflict, litigation, and stress.