LawCare volunteer, litigation lawyer and psychodynamic counsellor, Angus Lyon, talks about the concept of ‘mentalisation’, as a way of understanding ourselves and others.
“Lawyers aren’t trained to ‘do emotion’, we’re brain people, we know how to be lawyers and how to do law, and we focus on being good at those things,” explains Mr Lyon. “There can be a tension between doing law as lawyers are trained to do, and doing life, being ‘livers’ of life. This tension can feed into the difficulties lawyers have when they feel under stress, and don’t have the tools, or strategies, or techniques, to work through what they need to do.”
Mentalisation is about curiosity, being curious about the way people behave, why they do what they do, and say what they say. It is being informed by thinking and by emotions. In terms of therapy, mentalisation helps individuals to be more self-aware, and more ‘other aware’, as a way of doing life better.
“Mentalisation helps us to understand ourselves better in relation to others in a more functional way,” says Mr Lyon. “Understanding myself better helps me to ponder about a number of explanations for what might be going on under the surface for others.
“If we can listen to our bodies, emotions and thoughts, it can help us hugely in interpreting what’s going on inside and around us, and we become more emotionally literate. This means we won’t be jumping to conclusions, but will be more curious about what might be going on for the other person.
“All this contributes to wellbeing, and the evidence shows that in firms and organisations where wellbeing is thought about in a proactive way, people are more productive and effective, and they can be lawyers in the way they want to be.”
Angus Lyon is author of A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress