Christmas wish list: that more people will enjoy the experience of listening and being listened to


By Bernadette Healy

What is it like to be with the other when you truly focus on listening to them and their story?  Embarking on this kind of journey – if only for 10 mins – is a little like going to a foreign land as we cannot really know how it is for the other no matter how well we know them or think we know them.  If we want to truly be with the other we must let go of our preconceptions and our petty needs such as the use of conversation with another to gather data; compare ourselves; or make ourselves feel better etc.  Paradoxically if we approach it with the openness and curiosity that we typically bring to travelling, we will find that the other can help us, like a travel guide, to see their world through the eyes of the local expert: – them – as, after all, we are each the expert in our own lives.  There you will discover the other in a new and wondrous way and find yourself in the midst of connection.

The following is offered as a representation of being with the other:

 The red ribbon sits between us

silken light

A floating promise

If I or you tug too hard it falls from the other’s hand

If I let go it drops into the space beneath,

out of reach,

not ours anymore.

Holding, not grasping

Keeping it untangled and free.

Holding so you know I am there but not calling for you unbidden

We can leave it still and sit connected.

We can place it down and take it up again at another time.

We can take turns offering and leaving it resting.

My rabbit holds it at times – but I must not allow him to run off too far afield.

I am there with you

My ribbon will sometimes meander as I try to stay with your twists and turns

Remind me if I am falling behind or have strayed too far ahead or away from you

The ribbon connecting you to me to you to we

Safely softly huge

Holds contains encircles




The New Leaf

By Georgia Briggs

georgiaBriggsEvery so often in life, things just don’t work out. Call it karma or fate, or as my Aunty refers to it “sometimes life is just s**t, and it applied to so many things!” but unfortunately you’re stuck with it, and it’s how you manage it that really matters (character building I believe it’s more positively known as).

If you’ve been following my column (thanks!) then you’ll note that quite a few of my last ‘life not going my way’ moments have knocked me for 6. While I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m feeling much better about those in the individual sense (I’m not, the Dream Job called and gave me the feedback I requested yesterday and the wound reopened tenfold), I’m here to tell you what I did to take a little bit of control again.

Most post law students would find that there is a big hole left which use to be filled with endless amounts of study. Once you finish you initially fill that hole with activities such as seeing friends, sleeping, working or just rolling around on the floor of your house going “I can do this because I don’t have to study anymore!” However after a while, you really think “gosh, what do I do with my time now?” I believe the technical term is you realise you’re a little bit ‘bored’. Oh, and if this doesn’t sound like you, give it time…

Well, I, being the person not willing to roll any longer, applied for my Masters. SURPRISE!

It’s a Masters of Teaching. DOUBLE SURPRISE!

I have been volunteering at a local primary school for some time, and, as my friend put it to me when I told her about the Masters, “those kids got to you”. I’ve always had a bit of an interest in teaching, I did year 10 work experience in teaching (and journalism… next academic venture to resurface?) but didn’t pursue it after being sucked whole-heartedly into Law in years 11 and 12 Legal Studies.

Now it’s back, and I’m learning about something that is so not law it’s almost funny! While there’s plenty of academic research to be had, I’m being asked (keep in mind it’s my first assignment, in my first class in my first semester) to make a ‘multimodal artefact’ about what kind of teacher I want to be. It can be “a powerpoint slide, a rap, a collage, a video, a short essay, a role play etc”. Hell yeah! While it is hard work to be in a degree again, and the concept of “oh right, I can’t put this off” is starting to finally hit me, I couldn’t be happier that I’ve taken a complete left turn into something I’ve always been interested in but never taken a chance on.

It helps knowing that if it all feels too much I can always stop, but it feels so, so, so right to have gone in this direction, and now the legal job hunt punching me in the face the last month or so, doesn’t feel quite as bad. I urge you to do the same, but with anything that you’ve thought “hmm, I’d like to do this” but never gotten around to. I can’t actual explain the relief of taking the chance on this and having it work so well (even if it is only the first few weeks), and having it inadvertently balance much of my other turmoil with regard to post law school life and the job hunt.

Use your new free time to do something totally awesome and different! New language, juggling, landscape architecture. Rolling on the floor isn’t going to be interesting forever, especially not for smart people like yourselves!

P.S I immediately bought a stamp that says “well done” with a happy bee on it. 😀 It’s necessary – I’m a teacher! (well sort of)

The neurobiology of interpersonal experience – relationships help shape the structure and function of the brain


By Bernadette Healy

Being in relationship is not only fundamental to health and happiness [1] but is also something for which we are hard-wired neurologically[2].  Results from studies on the connections between the development of the brain and individual psychology show that in addition to our neurological propensity for social connectedness and even empathy, that interpersonal relationships actually affect the structure and functioning of the brain which in turn, impacts on a person’s emotional, social and mental functioning.

One of the leading figures in this area, Daniel Siegel[3] suggests that relationships are not just important to us emotionally or subjectively but that our relationships influence the development of the mind which he defines as patterns in the flow of energy and information[4] He suggests that the actual structure of the brain is set up to enable connection with one another – the mind actually developing not just from one’s own brain, the neurophysiological, but also via connections with the brains of those with whom we are in relationship – particularly via our early experience of relationship with parents.

That is, interpersonal interactions shape the genetically programmed maturational information which determines the development of the nervous system.   Siegel has outlined 5 interpersonal processes which he describes as being critical in the optimum shaping of brain development.  An individual’s experience of these interpersonal processes with each parent – ones early attachment experience – impact all subsequent relationships, including our romantic relationships.

There are five key interpersonal processes between parents and their children which have been found to optimise the shaping of brain development, including the ability to participate fully in healthy, connected adult relationships.

The five key interpersonal processes[5] are:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Reflective dialogue
  3. Repair
  4. Coherent narrative
  5. Emotional communication

Collaboration refers to a style of communication which is both contingent and collaborative.  It is a process in which a signal from Person A is not just received by Person B in a mirror fashion, but is processed and followed by a response from Person B which incorporates the fact that the message has been taken in, processed and interpreted and is now relayed in a collaborative exchange.

Reflective dialogue refers to the conversations particularly between parents and their children about the nature of the mind.  These conversations need to include content about thoughts, feelings, perceptions, memories, sensations, attitudes, beliefs and intentions and are necessary to develop what Siegel calls mind-sight or the ability to think about and visualize the mind itself, both of others and of the self. This ability is associated with the development of empathy and compassion.

Repair is the interpersonal process which refers to a comprehensive response to the ruptures in contingent collaborative communication within relationships.  That is, ruptures to being in tune with someone.  Ruptures are inevitable as, for a myriad of reasons, one or other in a relationship cannot always respond as fully as the other needs.

Repair is an interactive, dynamic action which requires reaching out, and giving an apology, but also acknowledging that you have made a mistake and then actively trying to get back in tune with the other. An example of the use of repair with your partner following conflict may be described as follows:

  • As soon as possible reflect on the conflict
  • go back to your partner
  • check that your ego is not leading the way and acknowledge your part in the situation
  • resist the urge to tell them what you think their contribution was
  • admit that you were wrong
  • tell them that you care about how they are feeling
  • ask them how they are
  • ask what it is that they need right now from you to repair the situation and enable them to feel better

Coherent narratives are the best predictor of successful attachment – which is the strongest predictor of positive development.  A coherent narrative is about the coherence with which the autobiographical story of a parent is relayed to the child.  It is not so much about what has happened in the parent’s life, but the coherence with which the story is relayed. The ability to tell such a narrative reflects successful neural integration – which is also required to engage in collaborative communication.

Emotional communication refers to the process of parents sharing the positive and negative emotions of their children. It is comprised of two parts: firstly a parent allows themselves to feel the emotion within themselves that the child is expressing; and secondly then helps the child to regulate his or her emotional state.  It is very important for parents to be able to share and amplify positive emotions, such as joy, in this way.  Parents need to be able to tolerate negative emotions in their children rather than seeking to quickly fix a problem or avoiding, by taking those emotions inside and modelling to children the fact that negative emotions can be tolerated and soothed and will allow us to learn about ourselves.  Moving towards rather than running away from negative emotion ultimately results in learning how to self soothe.  Anxiety is commonly related to problems with regulation of emotion including difficulties with self-soothing and is likely to have had its genesis in insufficient emotional communication with parent/s at critical developmental periods.

Attachment style and choice of romantic partner

Needless to say it is extremely common to find that one or more of the above processes is compromised in early childhood.  Impacts are felt throughout subsequent development.  The experience of the above interpersonal processes contribute to the attachment style of adults which in turn impacts our choice of romantic partner.

Understanding your experience of relationship in your family of origin will provide insight about the way that you are in relationship and clues as to areas where improvement needs to be made (great news is that you can, with sufficient effort, overcome impact of deficits in these key interpersonal processes – though obviously in cases of severe early deprivation, long-term and probably professional help will be required).


[1]Vaillant, G.E. (2002) Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the landmark Harvard study of Adult Development.  This work is based on a scientific evaluation of three prospective, longitudinal, adult development study cohorts comprising 800 subjects all of whom were born in the early 20th century. A unique database was compiled by means of giving out questionnaires every couple of years and conducting physical examinations every 5 years and standardized interviews every 15 years. Corollary data were also compiled from spouses and children. The data were scrutinized by a panel of researchers who were blind to the identities of the members.

[2] Siegel, D.J. (1999). The developing mind: How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are. New York: Guilford Press.

[3] Siegel, D.J. (2007).  The mindful brain: Reflection and attunement in the cultivation of well-being.  New York: W.W. Norton.

[4] Siegel, D.J. (2000).  Interview with Cynthia Levin, Mental Health Net, October 1st 2000 – (accessible introduction to key concepts in Siegel’s book: The developing mind).

[5] For a step-by-step guide for parents in improving their ability to practise these interpersonal skills see: Siegel,D.J. & M. Hartzell (2014). Parenting from the inside out. (available as eBook)

When the rug is pulled out from under you… and thrown over your eyes… and someone sets you on fire while you’re in the dark.

By Georgia Briggs

georgiaBriggsLet me paint a small picture for you:

  1. It’s your birthday;
  2. You have to work on your birthday for the first time in your life, so you’ feeling a little underwhelmed by the whole thing;
  3. You had a superb interview with your Dream Job exactly one month ago and are waiting to hear back;
  4. No, you’re not being cocky, it went really well and one of the interviewers even said “what a fantastic answer, you’re pretty much already in”;
  5. You get an email from your Dream Job;
  6. You did not get the Dream Job;
    … did I mention it was my birthday?

Now I know what your first question is, because it will be the same as my lovely best friends’ question was when I told them, “did they give reasons why?” No, but I could email HR if I wanted to find out, 4 minutes later I had. Haven’t heard back yet.

I wrote an earlier article about how I had the wrong impression about a job interview which I thought went badly, but turns out I got. This would be the complete opposite, except worse, because the Dream Job that you’ve been pining for, for the last 5 years just punched you in the face with its generic email content.

The next question should of course be, how long did I stare at my screen re-reading the email? At least 10 minutes, while I yelled to my mum and her friend to “hold on” without giving any further information as to why. I just couldn’t fathom it, it must be a typo, it just couldn’t be a ‘no’. Needless to say the birthday party hat I had insisted on wearing to make work more fun was taken off.

So what now? (aka when your faith is truly shaken)

My family has one of those “if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be” type mentalities. In fact, when I’ve been getting knocked back for some other jobs recently we’ve all been thinking (and occasionally saying) that clearly I’m not meant to have this job because I’m going to hear back from my Dream Job who will give me a resounding yes and welcome me with open arms. It’s really hard to see the positive side of this knock back. What in the hell could ‘fate’ have in store for me in terms of job prospects (supposedly saving up for a good one) if my Dream Job is a big fat no?

So what do you do, when your Dream Job knocks you for six… I’ll let you know when I know. Apologies for the loose type of ending here, but I seriously don’t know, and really that lack of understanding and almost speechlessness (though not in writing) shows just how lost a\ writer who has a fun “whoopsie daisy” kind of column can be at the moment. Maybe soon I’ll have a top 10 list of “coming to terms with not getting your Dream Job”. Everyone loves a top 10!



An evening of musical entertainment guaranteed to provoke, amuse, and inspire? Guilty as charged.


Tickets are selling fast for BottledSnail Production’s upcoming Crime & Punishment: Cabaret for a Cause (Ding Dong Lounge, Oct 19 – 28), a fundraiser for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. The show is an all-singing, all-(terrible)-dancing conversation exploring contemporary issues of justice, civil rights, and the law (but in a fun way!) and in true cabaret-style there will be a live band, bar, and delicious food from Miss Katie’s Crab Shack sold throughout.

To see this all-lawyer cast get their jazz-hands on GET YOUR TICKETS NOW.

For more info see

We hope to see you there – watch this space for a review.

There is Only One Version of Your Story


By Bernadette Healy

It is entirely possible that even amidst your busy work life – while trying to make an impression on those that matter – striving to stand out, and hoping to be chosen for greater things – that you could also be wondering about where you find yourself now, in the world of work.  You might be wondering about the purpose of your role; the meaningfulness of your assigned tasks; the degree to which the project is worthwhile and even the merits of the company,  workplace or even industry sector within which you find yourself.

You might ask your younger self, for example your 18 or 19 year old self, what do you think of where I am now?  Have I sold out my ideals?  Is this worth all the hype that was created back then around the possibility of securing one of these coveted roles?  Have I missed out on a time of just trying different things? Of working only to enable travel to the next place? Of experiencing my days largely unaware of the time?  Ought I to be pursuing that other idea that used to occupy me?

Yes it is quite possible and even probable that you can be working in an effective and committed way while actively wondering about all those other options. Yes you can even be being celebrated by others for the way you are doing your job while internally experiencing profound questioning of that very same role.  You may even be wondering more generally about what larger purpose your work should be addressing.

A sense of purposefulness is not static.  A sense of purposefulness can at times elude us.  The clear purposefulness that we felt just a few short months ago in the very same place can start to shift and morph into an in-between place, a place of not where we once were, but clearly not the next thing either.  This can be both unexpected and quite confusing.  Also it can sometimes be a bit sad as we long for the time when either we were so busy getting to that job, that we didn’t think about the what of it, or we might be longing for the time when we were so thrilled to get that job and then so preoccupied learning how to be in it, that there was no room for anything else.  The sadness can be for the loss of innocence; the shift in your way of experiencing yourself in relation to the world of work compared to an earlier, less conscious time.

Unless you are overdue for a major life review (e.g. 20+ years of a working life with little or no active reflection to date), the good and bad news is that you don’t have to change anything just because you are having doubts and questions and ‘what if’ kinds of thoughts.

You have a number of options.

  • You can keep doing what you are doing
  • You can keep doing what you are doing and resolve to notice but not act upon questioning thoughts
  • You can keep doing what you are doing, notice your questioning thoughts and resolve to pay regular attention to them
  • You can keep doing what you are doing, notice and note the questioning thoughts and then review, for example, 3 months from now with a view to identifying recurring themes and ideas
  • You can start acting in your head as if you are going to make a change and think through all the possible options, do some research, make lists of pros and cons – (this needs to be done seriously for it to be useful)
  • You can do the above and then leave it for a few months – trusting that after you have spent appropriate time, energy and conscious thought on this complex cognitive task that factoring in an incubation period will generate a number of novel solutions (please see this earlier post for discussion and reference for non-conscious cognitions)
  • You can gather information from people who know about the options you are considering[i]
  • You can be on the lookout for projects or opportunities to experience more about other interests and ideas (perhaps at work but also including in your own time; volunteering; classes; workshops; going to different places; creating opportunities for new experiences)
  • You can keep doing your job and your life and reflecting and weighing up options while being aware of the fact that you have many unanswered questions – the next ‘just right for this moment’ thing will become clear if you can be patient and open to hearing yourself above the noise of everything else.


[i] but always weigh up others’ judgements carefully.  The most important source of information about your future direction is you and your felt sense of what is and is not a good fit with the person you know yourself to be.

A Few Interview Secrets

By Georgia Briggs

georgiaBriggsAs we move further along the path to our Dream Job, or even just, A Solicitor Job, all of us have experienced different things in interviews which we now know can make or break the impression you make on your potential employers. I have a couple today, and if you have any, I encourage you to share them to assist us all, come on, we’re all friends here.

“Do you have any questions for us?”

Yes, YES, dear god yes! When I was younger, if I believed they had already covered all my questions, logical ones, such as what will the work be like, what is my role, what are my hours, what is my pay, then no, I don’t have anything more to ask, it’s already been answered through the interview. WRONG.

Turns out (and yes, all you smarties are probably going, ‘well yeah, dar”, well not “dar”, because I didn’t know once upon a time which means someone else doesn’t) that you should, nay MUST, ask a question, even if you genuinely are content with the information you’ve received. Ask one about the company, better ask three, about the work environment, about the establishment of the position and whether there is room for promotion down the track. You. Must. Ask.

It is also important, that in preparation for this, because now you all know, that you think of a few potential questions beforehand. I’m not going to be the one to tell you to prepare endlessly for an interview. I know some who do and some who don’t, but we all spend a few minutes waiting to fall asleep at night, or cutting it a little close, waiting for them to come and walk us into the interview room, thinking about what you might answer to questions, what they might ask you. Prepare your questions BEFOREHAND, then you look super smart and interested (yay!).

How you answer your questions

I was recently told at the end of an interview, in a kind way, that I should have answered all the questions using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result). I’d never heard of it, and while they didn’t mind “as much” because they were only looking for “a temporary person” if I ever went for another job in this sector then I should answer using the STAR method or I would “definitely not get the job”.

While I am pleased to have been told now, as she said “how would you know if no one has ever told you that it’s a specific requirement”, it’s very disconcerting to hear at the end of an interview you think went okay, but I thank her for telling me anyway.

I pass this previously completely unknown information onto you, the people, so that you may better utilise your interview skills for problem questions then I did.

Question: Tell me about a time where you….

Situation: Set the back story -what was happening at the time.

Task: What was the issue that came up?

Action: What did you to do solve said issue?

Result: Did it work?

Take a few moments before answering their questions (it feels like a horrendously awkward silence, but it’s really not) to organise your answer so it comes out clean and crisp.

If this method all seems a bit much and to me it did a little, just give it a bit more thought, an extra two seconds (one is too short, and three is too many) before you answer your question.

Do you have any tips or secrets to interviews you think new lawyers would like to know? Share the benefit of your wisdom with us by leaving a comment.

I work a lot.


Basically because I like to go on holidays, so I want to be able to afford to go on holidays. I want to go on exchange next, but I can’t decided how long I want to go for, either 6 months or 6 weeks. The idea of 6 months gives me a little bit of anxiety because it’s such a long time. But it will either be in Stockholm or somewhere near Prague. Hopefully at the end of the year I’ll fly out to Europe.

Legends of Law School is a monthly column by Georgia Briggs

I was taking a law school admissions test in a big classroom at Harvard.


“My friend and I were some of the only women in the room. I was feeling nervous. I was a senior in college. I wasn’t sure how well I’d do. And while we’re waiting for the exam to start, a group of men began to yell things like: ‘You don’t need to be here.’ And ‘There’s plenty else you can do.’ It turned into a real ‘pile on.’ One of them even said: ‘If you take my spot, I’ll get drafted, and I’ll go to Vietnam, and I’ll die.’ And they weren’t kidding around. It was intense. It got very personal. But I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t afford to get distracted because I didn’t want to mess up the test. So I just kept looking down, hoping that the proctor would walk in the room. I know that I can be perceived as aloof or cold or unemotional. But I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions. And that’s a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off.’ And sometimes I think I come across more in the ‘walled off’ arena. And if I create that perception, then I take responsibility. I don’t view myself as cold or unemotional. And neither do my friends. And neither does my family. But if that sometimes is the perception I create, then I can’t blame people for thinking that.”

[Courtesy of: Humans of New York]