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Posts Tagged ‘infantilize’

I received this timely and topical letter a few weeks ago:

Hello,

Now is the time of year when all the 3L’s at every law school are enjoying the time between graduation and starting their bar review (at least for me). Do you have any advice for us on how to keep our sanity during this 10 week adventure and not go crazy or over-stress when the big day finally comes?

Thanks,

JD2010

It got me thinking about my own bar exam experience – and brought back a memory from my law school days.

Close to graduation time, I was having a final meeting with a professor with whom I’d written a journal article. It was a pleasant meeting – the article was in print and he was pleased with it. He even said he was going to use it as part of his syllabus for a seminar. I was feeling as close to a super-star as I ever got in law school.

At some point I confided my concerns about the approaching bar exam. I told him it gave me butterflies in my stomach.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” he assured me. “Only the real knuckle-draggers fail the bar exam.”

We shared a laugh, I shook his hand and left his office, but I knew – more than anything in the world – that I needed to pass that exam. I didn’t want to be a “knuckle-dragger.” I’m guessing you don’t want to be one, either.

The bar is a weird exam. It goes on forever, deals mostly with trivia, and no one cares how they do on it – you only have to pass.

In real world terms, the exam is entirely useless. At best, it gives you a smattering of a details from state law. At worst, it’s downright bizarre. I remember blowing a practice question because – it turns out – smoke-damaged – not charred – wood, didn’t count as evidence of arson in NY State. The wood had to be burned by a flame. Or something like that. I stared at the answer, wondering how anything so impossibly obscure could make it onto a statewide, standardized exam. But there were plenty of questions like that.

Anyway – first, here’s my exam-taking advice, handed down from my old roommate at Harvard, who went to Columbia Law School and got his JD a couple years before me. My psychotherapist advice will follow.

The trick to studying for the bar is not to bother with bar review lectures – they are a waste of time. Just take all the study materials and give yourself four hours to study them every weekday morning, from 9 am – 1 pm, for about three or four weeks.

Read the outlines front to back, slowly and carefully, then do all the practice tests, and outline each and every one of the practice essay questions. Check everything, make sure you understand anything you got wrong on the practice tests and – voila! You’ll do fine. In fact, you’ll be over-prepared, which is the idea.

At some point you’ll realize you know everything – even the bar only covers a discrete universe of information. I was so over-prepared that I spent the last few days before the exam hanging out at my cousin’s beach house, relaxing. By that time, I knew what I needed to know and it was getting repetitious.

If you follow this method, you will most likely follow in our paths and do extremely well on the bar exam – better than you have to do.

For years now, I’ve shared this advice with friends and clients. To a man, they have rejected it.

One client, last week, said “that’s not going to happen.”

I asked why, and she said “because I could never do that.”

Now I’ll put my psychotherapist hat back on, and talk about the infantilizing effects of legal education.

(more…)

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I wrote a column a few weeks back on Prince William and Kate Middleton.

I possess no expertise in the British royal family.  I merely stumbled upon an article in a gossip mag comparing the Prince’s girlfriend to his mother, and it provided an excuse to discuss why you might choose a spouse who resembles your parent.

The column became a best-seller.  I still get hundreds of hits each week from a stream of readers fascinated with the British royal family.  I’ve been posted on royal chat sites, Prince William discussion forums, Kate Middleton fan blogs – the works.

It was so popular that now I’m writing another column on the British royal family (or, as I’ve come to know them, Elizabeth, Philip and the kids) to explain why the first one did so well.

You – or a great many of you – are fascinated by these people.  It doesn’t take a genius to see why:  you want to be them.

Everyone does.

That’s because the British royal family are treated like children.  And you want to be treated like a child, too.

How are Elizabeth, Philip, Charles, Andrew, Edward and the others infantilized by their role as royals?

They live the life of a pampered young child.

They do not work – and they do not have to work.

They have everything they could ever want, let alone need, provided for them.

And most importantly:  they have your attention focused on them like a laser beam.

Someone’s eyes are on a small child perpetually – or they should be – making sure he doesn’t get into trouble, and celebrating his every achievement.  A child’s first pair of shoes are bronzed, and his first lock of hair preserved.  His first steps are photographed and met with applause.  Like Louis XIV at Versailles, even his bowel movements are cause for furious activity.  And a young child never has to apologize for demanding so much attention – it is simply taken for granted that it is his due.

William and Kate exist in a similar world.  They can’t go swimming without a paparazzo recording each stroke through a telephoto lens.

That must be just awful (you say to yourself, tut-tutting sympathetically.)  They can’t get a moment’s peace.

And they rebel sometimes, too, don’t they?  Spitting fury when an annoying scandal breaks, an embarrassing revelation about a legitimately personal aspect of their lives which none of us has the least right to know anything about.

At this point they become like teenagers, rebelling against adoring parents – insisting that when they lock their bedroom door they bloody well want mum and dad to stay out and leave them alone.

Poor things.

And yet…you never had that problem…because…it’s a good problem to have, isn’t it?

You never basked in one ten-thousandth the attention – or the adoration – to which William and Kate are subjected on a daily basis.

It must feel like heroin, directly into a vein.  A major rush.  All that attention – directly on YOU.  And you don’t even have to ask for it – let alone apologize for taking up everyone else’s time.

So you fixate on them.  And identify with them.  And dream about winning the lottery of life and actually BEING them.

It would be heavenly, wouldn’t it?

Let’s not kid ourselves, either.  You cannot love people intensely without also being angry at them.  It’s Newton’s Third Law of Motion translated to emotions:  for each and every emotion there is an equal and opposite emotion.

You adore William and Kate.  And you are angry at them, too – because they are receiving what you never received.

You deserve that attention, too.  You always have.  You are just as good as William or Kate, and you know it.

Your anger is expressed as an aggressive sense of entitlement.  You are entitled to photos of them swimming.  You are entitled to juicy bits of gossip about their personal lives.  Fair’s fair – isn’t it?

It all works out in the end.

The royals seem to be doing just fine – and your celebration of them is a way of celebrating yourself.  Lavishing attention on William and Kate (and dreaming of being them) amounts to lavishing attention on yourself because you are dreaming of being them all the while.

That’s why it feels so good.  It’s nothing more than play.

It’s perfectly natural for adults to unwind and relax through healthy regression – playing at being children – just as children prepare for the challenges of life in the opposite way, by playing at being adults.

No harm in fantasizing about being the royals – the most pampered children of all – so long as it doesn’t become an obsession that occupies your every waking moment.  (For most of us that isn’t an issue – it’s just a hobby.)

So go ahead and have your fun.

Imagine what it feels like to step out of that Rolls Royce and into the bursting flash bulbs.

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