By: Robert (Bob) Bianchi, Esq & David J. Bruno, Esq

At The Bianchi Law Group, we are proud of the legal services we provide to our clients. But, is there more to what we do as attorneys than merely offering legal services alone?

We believe the answer is a resounding “yes.” Many people come to us broken, alone, in fear, and sensing their lives are worthless and meaningless. Many of us suffer from these problems during difficult times in our lives.

When Dave and I founded The Bianchi Law Group, we noticed that author Brené Brown who wrote “The Gifts of Imperfection” had insights that could greatly assist the many people we come into contact with each day who struggle with thoughts of regret, fear, and insufficiency.

When I was the Morris County Prosecutor, I hung on our walls of the office the poem by President Teddy Roosevelt entitled “The Man in the Arena.” It is an excellent poem for trial lawyers. I always felt that trial lawyers are in an arena. It is a place of conflict, fear, worry, comparison, scarcity, critique- – a place where you get “bloody” with no guarantees of victory or success. Trying a case in court is not a place for the faint of heart.  It takes courage to try a case in an adversarial system, with people watching your every move.  To be sure, we all (regardless of our professions) are in an arena in one form or another.

We were impressed that Brené used this very poem to begin her prolific training into the theme of shame, and how we all can learn to better navigate the complexities and sufferings we encounter in our lives. After reading her book, Dave and I decided that we needed to be trained by Brené in San Antonio, Texas so that we could better assist our clients and colleagues to whom we are often honored to lecture to, as they navigate difficult times in their lives.

The training was amazing! Dave and I two years later are studying to become fully certified in this amazing program. We decided that we would write a series of blogs on what we have learned in our own lives and incorporate Brené’s insights into these blogs too.

Brené talks about the topics of shame in a way that resonates with all people. When we realize what is going on in our own minds, we are able to better serve those that we encounter to alleviate some of the fears and difficulties they are facing. Let’s face it, we are all on a journey and despite appearances we all could use help in living a more joyful and actualized life- – undaunted by the “gremlins” as Brené calls them- -that so greatly affect our peace of mind.

Brené breaks down the arena in this way:

“In the arena metaphor, the seats represent people who send or have sent messages about us as well as the messages themselves. Some of the people and messages support us in our efforts to be our true selves, and some of the people and messages can work against us.”

She interestingly breaks down the arena in this way:

1. The Cheap Seats: “They are for the season ticket holders who hurl advice, judgment, and criticism. Any effort to be brave will always find these gremlins causing trouble in their seats.” She goes on to state “These seats include the anonymous critics, those who criticize us but are not connected to our day-to-day lives.”

2. Box Seats: Brené states “They are filled with the people that built the Arena. They built the arena to benefit the people who look like them: in race, class, sexual orientation, ability, and status. These people have already determined your odds based on stereotypes, misinformation, and fear.” Interestingly, Brené rightly states “Sometimes we buy into these messages and therefore find ourselves sitting in this section.”

3. The Critic’s Section: “This is where comparison, scarcity, and shame set. They come either from internal or from external messages.” Brené goes on to state “These can represent internal messages as well as messages we get from other people in our lives. Comparison is when we look at how we measure up to our perceptions of others. Scarcity is the messages or feelings that we are never enough. Shame is the painful feeling of being less than, and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

4. Support Section: Brené states: “These hold the two most important seats- empathy and self-compassion. Do we trust ourselves? Do we have someone sitting there who, when we get our butts kicked, look at us with genuine empathy, see our courage, and are proud to be in our cheering section.”

Brené concludes this section of her work by stating: “Understand that when we show up and be brave and are seen, it’s complex. We want to fill the empathy and self-compassion seats both for ourselves and for those we love and support.” Brené discusses the importance of these seats saying “These people and messages are the keys to overcoming what we hear from the other sections and to finding the courage to show up and be seen.”

Now that we have defined the arena, we will in subsequent blogs discuss further how these basic, yet profound insights, can start us on a journey to “show up and be brave” during the difficulties of our lives in a more powerful and productive way. Until we blog again, please make sure you are filling your arena with those who bring you empowerment, empathy and never forget to show yourself a healthy dose of self-compassion.