The Bounce-Back Factor: Even Pessimistic Lawyers Can Learn To Be More Resilient
Psychologist Ellen Ostrow, who is also a professional coach and founder of LawyersLifeCoach.com, agrees with Seligman that lawyers tend to blame themselves when things go wrong. "It tends to be about what's wrong with me and it's not changeable," she says. This, she adds, "is particularly true of women lawyers, who are apt to view themselves as failures rather than as someone who merely failed to accomplish something."
"I recently had a conference call with a group of women lawyers who were talking about why male mentors gave them work," she recalls. "And not one of them attributed it to competence. It was always something outside themselves."
For clients who struggle to bounce back after an experience that seriously taxes their emotional resources, Ostrow helps them to build what she calls a cognitive bridge between the difficulty of the present and the possibilities of the future. "In this way," she says, "resilience is something you can teach."
She often does so by using imagery. She might, for example, ask a client to imagine that she's getting into her fantasy car, "and as she drives, she discovers that it flies through time. She then lands and imagines every detail of what it looks like," says Ostrow. "Depending on the issue, different details might be emphasized. But the idea is to enable the person to visualize what she is striving for. It's not very different from some of the visualizing that athletes do when they see themselves successfully accomplishing their goals."