This edition of our Warrior magazine is about “the horse”.
The horse, taken from the famous Uncle Slim story that is one of the many Spence stories told to each class and at most Regional Seminars.
I remember the first time I heard the story. There I was sitting in the Big Barn, on the first night of the first TLC, almost 17 years ago. I knew no one. I was sitting next to Morris Dees. I was in a state of shock just being there and wondering what is this going to be? How in the world did I end up here? Then Spence launched into his Uncle Slim story. I was mesmerized -- his presence, his voice, his hands, his eyes, so much so I barely heard the story. He concluded it with something like “So, tomorrow we begin. We will go to work on the horse.” Hearing the words “…work on the horse” I snapped out of my trance and thought: huh, what? ….what he say? …work on the horse?..., what was that?... are we grooming horses tomorrow? Cleaning stalls? ….what did I miss…?? !!!
The next morning, entering the cookhouse for breakfast, I saw the day’s schedule posted there. It had the date and one word: “Psychodrama”. Standing in line with other students, we all asked each other, “What is Psychodrama?” None of us knew or had even heard of it. We dismissed it as some crazy Spence move to get us interested in what might be a morning lecture. Wow, were we in for a treat!
Probably most if not all of you who are reading this now have heard the Uncle Slim story about the $1000 saddle on a $100 horse, and you have experienced Psychodrama to varying degrees. The psychodramatic method has touched all of us who have attended TLC in some way or another. Some of us have sat through a few psychodramas and watched. Some of us have watched – and shared. Some have been axillaries, playing significant roles in others’ dramas. Some have even explored their own psychodramas. Some of us continue the archeological dig into the “self”. Some attend other workshops on psychodrama and direction. I personally have probably attended at least a dozen psychodrama workshops or more. The work on our horse, the real work, is ongoing. Spence himself often tells us he remains on this dig into his own self every day.
That first class in 1994 experienced psychodrama for almost 4 days at the beginning of the month and 3 more at the end. Most of us left wondering, “What the heck was that?” There was little if any application of the psychodramatic process to trial preparation or trial practice. It was all personal work. TLC has since expanded the use of psychodramatic methods into many areas of our profession. The method has no limits but for our own creativity. “Discovering the Story” has developed from using the psychodramatic methods of story-telling. Role reversal, scene setting, doubling, and chair back have all been incorporated into much of what we teach to help trial lawyers be better at our trade.
Well, back to Uncle Slim. Although I heard very little of the meaning of the story the first time I heard it, I have since absorbed much more. I think I have heard Gerry tell the story at least 50 times. I love it. I heard it at the California seminar. I stood up at the end and told him that he left out my favorite part when Spence does Uncle Slim’s laugh. He did the laugh for us in Big Sur at my request. The real meaning of that story can almost be a mantra for the TLC method: “It is your horse, NOT the saddle that matters.”
Our horse is who we are. There are parts of us that sometimes we do not want to see. Part of us that feels not just pain and sorrow, but elation and joy. We may look at scenes and events of our lives that we have silently carried as a burden – a burden that we did not know existed until we looked at it in a psychodrama.
“It all begins with YOU” is another Spence quote. This understanding of ourselves, our human experience, is the key to understanding and communicating with others. This part is often overlooked after a few experiences in psychodrama. The attitude of “been there, done that” helps us hide from and avoid the additional ongoing work on the horse that the method requires. This ongoing personal work is at the core of all my trial preparation and the trial itself.
The features of the saddle, we have been told and have learned, are the tricks played on our by our left brain. Many lawyers are great at this intellectualization and analysis devoid of human emotion, understanding and feeling. Always paying attention to the saddle is the part that allows us to go through life without ever feeling or knowing our horse. The saddle allows us to control our horse. The saddle isolates and controls our horse. Removing the saddle is the first part in looking at the horse – alone, without a covering, without the burdens that come with carrying too many saddles.
The purpose of the psychodrama method is to work on the horse. We must remember that. Psychodrama must first and foremost contribute to our personal work. Remove the saddle and watch the wild horse, with all is power and beauty and fury run free. Then, and only then, can we truly start to make use of our horse. We watch, participate and work on our horse through psychodrama and personal work. We develop through feeling the pain of our “horse”. We grow so that our horse is strong and powerful and can never be driven away by the burdens of self, but rather can only grow stronger through understanding and compassion and discovery of one’s self.
I watched you suffer a dull aching pain,
Now you decided to show me the same
No sweeping exits, or off stage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses couldn’t drag me away
The Rolling Stones
Keep working on the horse…it is a great one!!