Episode 13 21 June 2021
Our lives as legal mythology
Lawyer, mediator, collaborative practitioner, coach
Peter Lustig is a lawyer and mediator based in Melbourne, Australia. As a collaborative practitioner, he is interested in healing and peacemaking: resolutions, not least-worst-outcome settlements. As a coach, he is involved in men's groups including adult male rite of passage programs with a not-for-profit called Mankind Project Australia.
In this episode, we talk about how lawyers - like health professionals - are facilitators of heroic healing journeys and how that shows up in our life stories, including Peter's own epic legal battle with an iconic Australian corporation.
Peter Lustig has been a lawyer for over four decades. In that time, he says he has transitioned from being a head-kicking adversarial gun for hire, towards the more human approach of helping people understand why conflict is in their lives and what it is there to teach them. He specialises in family law, estate planning and disputes, employment law, construction, insolvency and shareholder disputes and commercial rental disputes.
Peter has also been involved in personal growth and particularly, men’s work for decades. He is the immediate past chair of the not-for-profit ManKind Project Australia Ltd; a charity which runs adult male rite of passage programs to assist men to become authentic and be the men they were always born to be.
- [1:39] Peter explains how childhood trauma and experiences as a young man equipped him only to deal with conflict through fight, flight or freeze responses, For him, a good part of being an adversarial lawyer was arrogance.
- [3:38] Creating one's own rites of passage is part of the journey into inquiring about one's purpose. Doing his own inner work led Peter to see his clients were becoming entangled with the law because there were lessons they were resistant to learning.
- [7:49] I discuss with Peter the parallels between our profession and the medical profession, and between traditional legal practice which resolves conflicts superficially and allopathic medicine, which treats symptoms only.
- [10:35] Just as our bodies express psychological trauma as physical ailments, conflict shows up in our lives to demonstrate to us what is going on within us.
- [14:26] Peter's shares his own bruising experiences in a long-running legal dispute with Qantas, which began with an incident while he was boarding a flight from Sydney to Melbourne with a client.
- [18:27] The proceedings Peter was embroiled in involved defending a felony charge with a potential significant custodial penalty. Peter was successfully cleared of the charge on appeal.
- [20:11] Following resolution of the criminal proceedings, Peter and his client launched civil action against Qantas in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal . Eventually, Qantas succeeded in arguing the Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.
- [22:49] Peter's overall lesson from the epic battle with the iconic Australian company is that it was humbling, and he would do things differently if he could go back to the moment that set it off, The dispute became about entitlements, and the relationship aspects were lost in the heat of legal battle.
- [26:09] From Peter's personal saga, we move to the men's groups he leads, which are adult male rite of passage programs taking young men through wilderness journeys where they conquer challenges and integrate the experiences upon return, all in a safe space overseen by other men who have experienced the same.
- [29:54] The programs encourage alignment of the heat, heart and belly; authenticity; and checking in with emotions.
- [33:45] We talk about how women typically process and heal trauma differently, being moved to nurture in a maternal sense as opposed to directing efforts towards fixing as men traditionally do.
- [37:11] Peter explains how lockdown exacerbates conflict and we can use it as an opportunity to identify triggers.
- [38:44] Being a better human being is the aim, which will lead us to be better lawyers - better in everything we do.
- [40:15] Peter relates 2 powerful stories of resolution in a partnership dispute and a divorce settlement which shows that ultimately resolving all interpersonal conflict comes down to reminding ourselves of our relationships with the people around us.
Peter's website: https://peterslustig.net/
Bill Plotkin, depth psychologist, wilderness guide, and agent of cultural evolution. Founder of Animas Valley Institute which organises guided immersions into nature.
Bill Plotkin's first book: Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and the Psyche.
The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk.
Lustig v Regina  NSWCCA 143, the quashing of Peter's conviction in 2009.
Qantas Airways Limited v Lustig  FCA 253, Federal Court decision finding VCAT had no jurisdiction in Peter's civil action.
Joseph Campbell Foundation dedicated to the legacy of Joseph Campbell, American mythologist, writer and lecturer.
Mankind Project Australia. not-for-profit organisation and holders of a sacred, male rite-of-passage ritual.
Pathways Foundation, a not for profit organisation assisting young people to make a healthy and timely transition from boy to young man and girl to young woman.
It's Not About the Nail, short video on the differences between how men and women solve problems.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the New Earth lawyer podcast, where we feature lawyers who are changing the practice of law to change the world. My name is Geraldine Johns-Putra. I'm your host, and I am a lawyer. I'm based in Melbourne, Australia.
Today we have with us Peter Lustig. He's a collaborative practitioner. He's a mediator, a lawyer, a coach. He's also based in Melbourne, Australia. Peter has been a lawyer for over four decades. He specialises in family law, employment, law, estate planning, construction, and disputes. In that time of being a lawyer for the four decades, he says he has transitioned from being a head-kicking adversarial gun for hire towards a more human approach of helping people understand why conflict is in their lives and what it's there to teach them. Peter, it's a real privilege to have you welcome.
Thank you, it feels like a privilege to be here.
I am very interested in, I think people listening or watching this would be very interested in, hearing about that transition from the headkicker to the more human approach, could you tell us your story and what set off the transition?
Well, I think what set it off is probably my childhood and trauma and my experiences and how I dealt with them. Back then, it might mean to, everyone knows about the flight or fright or freeze reactions when confronted with conflicts, so as a younger man, certainly or as a teenager, and as a younger man, when confronted with some sort of conflict, somebody would sort of put their hand on their sword hilt. And I would bring out my thermonuclear devices.
Fairly typical for many adversarial lawyers, and for a lot of us, as well, us human beings. And that was probably my own defences, rocking in whether I was aware of it or not. And I got pretty good at it. I'm sure there were lots of lawyers around who were even better than me. And there was a lot of arrogance in that, a huge amount. And at the end of the day, that arrogance, I think cost me and I think cost our clients and cost our culture.
A heap of pain. That was I now see was probably unnecessary.
And were you feeling a strong attachment to the identity of being a lawyer and being able to explode these devices?
Being a lawyer was so imbued in my ego.
It's a huge mask. And as I was saying, before we started recording, right at the moment, I'm in the midst of seriously questioning whether I want to continue, at least in the way that I am. And, you know, what's in the rest of my life for me at this point?
So I'm reading a beautiful book called Soulcraft by a fellow named Bill Plotkin.
It's a beautiful journey, about creating your own rites of passage. And at the moment, I'm right in the midst of separation, or if you'd like dissolution, who am I really, and that will probably, I imagine, include the mask of, I'm a bloke and he looks like I'm a bloke, and I look like I, well for some anyway, I've got all my shit together. And I know what I'm doing. And that's probably true in many respects. And that doesn't necessarily directly or even indirectly address the existential questions of why am I here? What am I doing? What's my purpose? Whereas once upon a time, there was a lot of that in my life.
So what I found, I've also been in places, as I said to you before we started recording, at least twice, I've questioned my own position, whether I want to continue being a lawyer. And what I found is that there's a sort of spiral to life, that we go around and around and around. And we should actually with each revisiting of the issues, we hopefully are a little bit higher up on the spiral. So we're revisiting with some knowledge and some wisdom collected along the way, but we're still coming back to the same place.
Yeah, not only knowledge and wisdom, but the wisdom actually includes more tools on board, you know, for doing my own work.
And probably, that's, you know, coming back to your original question, that's probably one of the jumping off points, if you like, for me moving from being an adversarial lawyer towards being more of a collaborative practitioner, doing my own inner work and appreciating that a lot of what I was doing was actually helping people to maintain their own egos. And what I was seeing that many people got into trouble, or in contact, if you like, with the law, and had to address something with legal sequelae to it, by virtue of them holding tightly to their ego, and not wanting necessarily to learn, perhaps the lessons that are there, to fit for them to learn.
So an example might be remembering a client came in together with his wife. The deal was that he had gone guarantor for his older brother. And his older brother, of course, had done a runner or gone bankrupt, or whatever it was, and he was left holding the bag, to a significant extent. And when I asked him about it, if he told me, yes, indeed, he did love his older brother. And he would do anything for him. And indeed, their doing anything for him had resulted in him perhaps inappropriately going guarantor for his brother, when he didn't know what the risks were necessarily. And when I asked him, if I remember being quite stunned that I said, has this happened before? And he said yes. Or rather actually, no, he didn't say yes, his wife did.
Because he was a bit blind to it. And I said, oh, okay. So previously, it's not been as big or serious as this. And the answer is no, it hadn't been. And each time, it was getting bigger and bigger and bigger coming through this, not necessarily in the same way. But each time is lack of an appropriate and clean and clear at the end, nevertheless, a loved boundary with his older brother was getting him deeper and deeper and deeper into the mud.
Yeah. Yeah, to the point where more conflict was arising in his life, and he couldn't ignore it anymore.
Well, that's exactly right. And I think that's what happens to a lot of people. In fact, if not a lot of people, everyone in some way or another, you know, whether it necessarily involves us in engaging within the legal system, or just in relationships.
And this is where, as I move into speaking to more people with this podcast, the parallels between our profession and the medical profession, keep jumping out to me, right? Because a lot of us express issues that need our attention, not just through conflict, the other way it expresses is through disease. So then we come into interaction with the medical profession, and the medical profession is a healing profession hold itself out to be, but we also have a healing role.
Yeah, absolutely. In fact, I would suggest that, I do suggest it's not just the medical profession, certainly the wellbeing zeitgeist if you like. Coming again, back to your original question. Yes. I've been an amateur student of process-oriented psychology for, I don't know, three decades, maybe.
Could you tell us about process-oriented psychology? I'm not familiar with it.
The process was originated by a guy named Arny Mindell. He's put around he's a beautiful man, incredibly intelligent. And he was, I believe, some sort of physicist, if I recall correctly, and he eventually became a Jungian psychologist and decided that they were way too tame for him.
And so he branched out into what is now known as process-oriented psychology. And one of his very, very early works was around the connection between body symptoms, and what's actually going on inside.
Exactly, as you were saying. So in the strictly medical sphere, people come out with physical ailments. And the interesting question is, how come? You know because we can treat those sorts of things topically by treating the symptoms, right, whereas process work and indeed the law as I reckon it ought to be practised and indeed relationships might be saying, well, how come I've got that symptom?
Well, what is it, inside of me that I'm not listening to, or outside of me, that is going on by reason of which that symptom is present, which is really, I'm sure, you've heard of the book, I'm not sure who was the author, but it's called I think The Body Knows. So the body reacts to what is actually going on, even if my mind is able to completely shut it out and ignore it or push it into shadow into my unconscious.
So the parallels are beautiful, absolutely there. In as much as the more I learn about my own inner world, the more I'm hopefully able to see what's actually going on and to actually own my own shadows. Like everyone I've got shadows I'm unaware of, as well. I have a young son who, well, he's in his early 20s now, and he and I had quite a interaction on Sunday, when we were going for a walk with my daughter in a park. And he was insisting that there were parts of me that I wasn't taking responsibility for, doing things that were ignoring the impacts of what I was doing on other people. He was just really very, very strenuous about it. And yeah, that was incredibly uncomfortable for me to hear that from somebody who knows me probably just about better than anyone on the planet. So, it was forcing me, because I love him so much and because I knew that he was coming from a place of loving me, it was effectively saying to me, hey, what's going on here? What is it that I'm ignoring? And if I can answer your question, that's exactly what happens with people who have disputes, which end up having legal content. What I what I, what I see is that they come to a lawyer, and, and totally understandably, people just want legal issues gone. They want them solved, they either want the money or they want to be, you know, they don't want to be harassed for something rather, and all of that stuff is able to be dealt with just by time, money, and, emotions.
So was it something that occurred within you and then with your inner reflections, you began to see how it was playing out around you? Or was it more of a case that what was being expressed outside of you and a conflict that people were having, maybe conflicts resolved, but that's just treating the symptom and not having the deeper issue resolved, and then it made you reflect? So which one was it the inner first or..?
I think it was both.
It was the external as well and seeing the damage the adversarial litigation does. It's, a dance it's in one sense a game. It's a game where we as lawyers and the clients, of course, are playing with lives, and having real consequences that can be incredibly devastating for people. And even the process itself, can can be harmful and can be traumatising, and retraumatising.
Seeing more and more, I was seeing that that particular dance wasn't necessarily addressing what the core issues were. Those core issues were, how come this dispute has arisen in the first place.
Now, there's another interesting parallel with the medical world. And that phrase comes to mind: physician, heal thyself. So I wanted to ask you about an incident that happened in your life, which was a dispute that you got into where you actually found yourself very much enmeshed in a legal issue with Qantas.
I mean, that was, that went for years, it was a significant part of your life, and what did you learn from being so enmeshed in that battle?
Well, on the surface, I can say that Qantas makes more in a week than I'll probably make in my life, or right at the moment in the midst of COVID, perhaps that's not quite true. But I think about two or three years ago, when this all ended, posting profits are part of the year or for a half year. And I'm not sure that I'm going to make anything close to that in the whole of my lifetime, or even 10 times that. So on that surface level be careful about who you pick a fight with was a big lesson for me. Below that, it was incredibly disappointing. You and I were speaking before we started recording about this almost fanatical allegiance that many Australians, myself then included, have to Qantas
Yeah. It's emotional.
Yeah. And the ads that they did was such, they were gorgeous, you know, like, Qantas is the spirit of Australia, you know, and I told you the story of how I once got a free flight with the then Ansett and I felt disloyal, even though they upgraded me to business class. I mean, how weird is that? And so, and I was a Qantas Club member, I was travelling with a client, who was, who very frequently travels on Qantas alone. And we got into a dispute in in that I wanted to hang a couple of dinner suits, which I had with me, one for myself and one for my eldest son. And we had been to a gallery opening and with my wife, the night before, where we'd worn them. I wanted to hang them in the suit bin, in the hanging locker. And it was in the midst of a baggage handler strike and so everyone was a big tetchy, or at least, that's my impression.
We'd been waiting a long time, overly, to board.
Okay, so there was a delay as well, a flight delay.
All of that and ...
The cabin, the man who was in charge of the cabin, steward, customer service manager is what they called him said you can't do that, it's full. And my friend said, being a frequent flyer, much more frequent flyer than me, thought that's a bit strange, most of business class was ... business class there was half empty, the flight wasn't totally full. He opened the door, and it was actually empty coat hangers hanging in there. And he said something to the CSM like, or to me, but in a loud, loudish voice, he's a liar, this is this is totally empty. And of course, the CSM took offence at that and asked him to step outside, onto the outside of the aircraft but still on the aerobridge. I got back out there just in time to see him poking my friend in the chest, saying, I don't like being told I'm a liar in front of my crew. My friend, I thought, I was concerned that it would become really physical, but my friend said, well, you know, I don't like when I've been told a lie. With that the CSM said, well, you're not gonna fly to Melbourne. This was in Sydney.
And my friend said, well, that's ridiculous. Look, I'm going to go and sit down, talk to this bloke, he's my lawyer.
Yes. So you are right into the conflict at that point?
The gods smiled on me big time.
Yeah. So it escalated. There were criminal proceedings. And then later on, there were civil proceedings as well.
Did you feel as someone who was at the end of, in some cases, especially in the criminal proceedings, at the end of the legal process, how did it make you feel? Did it make you identify more with your clients being embroiled in this?
Yes. Although I don't really do very much criminal work at all, maybe one or two relatively minor traffic type cases a year, if that. But yeah, being on the end of a fairly hefty proceeding, you know, I was facing a 14 year felony charge.
Yeah. I can only imagine how stressful that would have been.
in the course of the performance of duties or functions in relation to an operational aircraft, and poof! It was an Act, a piece of anti terrorist legislation. And that was like the furthest thing from our minds.
So being at that end of it, the wrong end of it, frightening, hugely expensive. I have no doubt it would have cost quite as easily half a mil. It certainly cost me easily that both in monies outlaid for counsel and the rest. And also lost time.
Huge enormous input into it.
Well, obviously it drained your resources, monetary and emotionally. But at the end of it, you were cleared, you won on appeal, which is great news so that the law has managed to keep you as a lawyer.
And then the civil proceedings went through where there was a dispute over the frequent flyer points, that...
Not quite. We decided to go to VCAT, Civil and Administrative Tribunal and to deliberately ask for something for less than $10,000.
Because that is then a no-cost jurisdiction in VCAT.
And so we asked for reinstatement to Frequent Flyers club and a number of, quite a number of frequent flyer points and to, and in fact Qantas had said, its head of group security had written to us at one point saying Qantas takes very, very seriously all issues to do with passenger safety and comfort, obvious motherhood statement, and I wrote I remember writing back and saying, well, if that's so why won't you even listen to me or to us, when we would like to tell you what really happened? It turned out that they had gotten reports that we were interfering with or attacking female cabin crew and stuff like this. It was just completely off the radar, and inaccurate.
Anyway, so we wanted them to remove the 'don't ever fly with us, don't ever darken our doorway of any of our services again' letter. And they had committed, you know, once all the criminal stuff was dealt with to reviewing it, which they hadn't really done.
So we asked for that. And, sadly, Qantas brought an application to effectively say that VCAT didn't have jurisdiction. That was refused. And, rather than appealing it to the Supreme Court, they issued new proceedings in the Federal Court challenging that, saying that the cause of action arose on Commonwealth territory, and as a result, VCAT didn't have jurisdiction to be able to deal with it.
And they won on that point?
Very sadly they won on that point.
I see. And so okay, obviously, a few twists and turns in that. Where would you put that experience, massive experience, clearly, relative to everything else going on in your life, in your journey?
In a nutshell, it was hugely humbling.
And having to deal with the stress and the financial impacts, and the time impacts and also defying a monolith, it was incredibly humbling. And I think it brought me down two or three notches. And as much as I might not have liked the methodology, or the process, I think it helped me to become a better human being, in the end, more empathetic, and more compassionate both towards myself and towards others. If I had my time again, I would have said to this customer service manager, oh, my gosh, we're so sorry. You know, it was an entitlements argument, as against the relational one.
Yes. Yes, so, a bit of a sliding doors moment, which happens to all of us. But in your case, it led down, it led you down a certain path.
When I look. Yes. And one other point about it is that it's a real shame because Qantas lost out big time. Now two customers, two former frequent flyer customers, who would have been spending many, many thousands of dollars with, and both of us are now flying with an alternative. Very happy. In fact, we had to buy ourselves tickets on Virgin to get back to Melbourne, although we'd been promised would be on the next Qantas flight if we got off of the aircraft, which we did, and then they reneged on that. But happily Virgin upgraded us.
Yeah. That was the beginning of another loyalty story with another brand.
And all the way through we were seeking dialogue and being able to, can we talk and it was, it never ever, ever, ever happened ever. Only about entitlements. And as a friend of mine who started Salesforce used to say it always costs a company more to get a new customer in than it does to retain one.
Yeah. Well, Peter, I really want to thank you for sharing that with us, that story actually has a lot of lessons in it for, not just the lessons you took away, but for Qantas as well. We could talk also about the whole presentation of a corporation and their fight for loyalty with customers and so on. But I wanted to go into another direction now. And that's the work you do with men's groups. And you are the immediate past chair of Mankind Project Australia. It's a charity, which runs adult male rite of passage programmes, I really want to get into this. I have had a mix of male and female guests on this podcast. And I've actually intentionally tried to mix them up. And I do really want to get into this particular topic about what it's teaching you in your legal practice and how it's helping you to transform it and transform your clients.
Well, being chair I don't think did any of that. But being involved in the project did. So this was back in 2005, I think, I trained with an organisation called Pathways Foundation, which is a national, not for profit as well a charity, and which does contemporary rites of passage for young people stepping into adulthood. How that looks is for boys, it's going out into the bush for maybe a week with your dad, or perhaps a grandfather or uncle and doing a rite of passage, which is separating from your community. Being faced ultimately, with some existential type questions like being challenged, somewhere, rather, finding your own inner resources to meet that challenge, and then integrating it and then returning back to your community and being witnessed for who you've now become. That's the traditional rite of passage, descent, and return, if you like, that Joseph Campbell wrote about many years ago.
So the Mankind Project is an international brotherhood, it operates in 30 plus countries, I think, something like that. And essentially, it's an adult male rite of passage program. So it takes men who, any age from about 16, 17 onwards, and takes them over a weekend through about 60 different processes, which follow that same pattern. And it's completely voluntary, in the sense that each man can go as deep within himself as he chooses. And it's in a very, very held space there, there are often 20 to 30 or 40, men who are participants in these program. And in one, say there'd be 40, there might be anywhere between 60 70, 80 other men who've previously staffed on these trainings, or have previously gone through it themselves, hold the space for them, and lead them through those programs that, those processes it's incredible the way that it works. And when when men come back from us, rather than forgetting about this, you know, a few months later, and you know, that was all rah-rah and terrific and all this stuff, and now, a few months later, I'm gonna forget it, we have what are called I-groups or integration groups so that once you you've completed your training, you can come into an I-group, and continue doing the sort of work, in using the inner working tools that you learn on the program to meet the challenges that you meet daily in your lives. I did the program back in 2010. And I've been going to an I-group ever since. Back then most groups were closed or if you like, only open to men who've done the training. These days, most of them are open, so any man can can rock along if they'd like.
And so I imagine that it ends up healing the individual, really improving their relationships with the immediate family and loved ones, but also gives them a different sense of their place in the community. So their interactions with the wider community, at their jobs, or at their clubs, their sporting clubs or whatever else.
Yeah, well the program is very much designed to, excuse me, to ensure that things like head, heart and belly are in alignment. So because when they're not, that's when we do well, that's when I've done things that I'm unconscious about, and I can damage myself and other people being unconscious about it.
And it can also mean times as we were speaking earlier, when I can end up with illnesses and sicknesses because it's part of me wanting to go one way or wanting to go another, whether I'm aware of that or not. So what it leads to is men becoming way more authentic in their own lives, the more authentic I am, the more congruent I am in who I am and who I'm being, the more aligned I am with what it is that I want to do in the world. And indeed, during the training, men also get a mission, or if they've already got a mission, they get another one or a refinement of it.
Yeah, which is really directed towards the masculine. The masculine perspective, right, of being directed or being goal oriented. Now that's in stereotypical terms, that's the dynamic. Obviously, we each have masculine and feminine impulses within us. But if you're embodied as a man, then the masculine ones, impulses are going to be more overt. So it's actually giving a channel to that.
It's partly that. And indeed, some more parts of the training and of the activities in the I-group, for example, in the I-group, we do what's called a checking. Checking is me saying my name, a spirit name if I have one and would like to share it, what's going on in my body from here, down, from my neck down? And why, why talk about feelings? And where are they? It's to enhance the capacity for emotional fluidity and intelligence. Why? Because the more aware I am of what's going on inside my body, the more I can own it, and be out in the world, doing those things and noticing what's actually going on.
Ties back nicely to that conversation we were having earlier about conflict.
So recognising when the external manifestation of something is presenting itself as a conflict, but it's actually, you can identify where in your body, it's hitting you or hurting you?
Yeah, well, I mean, I'm sure, I have no doubt that every single person listening to this, and you and I both included, would have had some sort of argument with a partner or, you know, in a close relationship, at some point or other, how many times have I projected what's going on inside of me without acknowledging that and said, it's all your fault?
If you only stopped doing this, if you only did do that, you know, we would have a beautiful relationship, I would be happy.
So that's, that's called projection. And what it is, is, it's saying there's something inside here, which I haven't owned completely, or which I am disowning if you like, or which is in shadow. And when I do own it, it's probably there because of some sort of childhood incident, which had me decide that what I want is love, or I want to avoid pain, or a combination of them. And so I decided to be in the world in a particular way. One of the ways in which I decided to do that was to be fairly full on aggressive and headkicking, as we were speaking earlier,
I have found in my experiences working with groups that are mixed, as well as women's groups, is that women, when they are confronted with this idea that the conflict arises from within tend to have to show themselves love. And many women can identify with that when they begin to see themselves as a child, inner child. And then they love, they use their maternal instincts to love the inner child back into a feeling of peace and appreciation and acceptance. Is it the same for men or do men apply a male impulse of fixing it, so that they then apply that to whatever is wounded in them, to fix it?
It's such a strong cultural thing.
And there's a terrific YouTube thing called The Nail, which if if anyone is listening to this, hasn't seen it, just google The Nail and have a watch. And that's where a couple are trying to, she's trying to say, I just want to be heard. He's trying to say I just want to fix it for you. And she's saying, shut up, just listen to me. So to answer your question, yeah, there is a propensity for me and many men to just want to get things done, rather than being, sadly, in some respects that makes us human 'doings' rather than human beings. Yeah.
There was a thing that's been on my mind as you've been talking and that is, given the situation, we're both in Melbourne, so we've tolerated extended lockdowns, so the situation that's been on my mind that I wanted to ask you about is, you work within these men's groups, does the lack of control that many of us feel faced with, you know we're being told to sit in our homes, we can only go out a certain distance or for certain reasons, it's impacting the way we run our careers and our contribution to the community, are you seeing in men's groups that that lack of control of your own life is really impacting men? How is it impacting men?
It's like any sort of pressure cooker. And we're seeing this in the incidents of domestic violence, going both ways, separations and all the rest of it, When I'm in a relationship, and I'm caught in a confined space, either time wise, or physically as, as we are at the moment to some extent, in lockdown, it just exacerbates the things that make us, lead us into conflict. And when I'm not acknowledging what's actually going on inside of me, what I will try to do is try to control what's going on for the other person. And as always, that's what we do, we get into a corner, and we have this amazing arm wrestle where one side is trying to control not only the story and the context, but also the outcome, and the other side's trying to do the same at the same time.
So in lockdown, what tends to happen is these there are no outward distractions, like work or going to the movies or necessarily perhaps running, or whatever it is that you do to distract yourself from what's actually going on inside. So control becomes a way bigger issue. One of, one mentor of mine talks about when I'm triggered by something, that's an opportunity for me to bring love and healing and compassion to that part of me that is being triggered. So if you do or say something that has me go aargh, I might, if I have those skills and that awareness, have the capacity to look inside and say, hey, what's doing that? You know what's driving that inside here?
Yeah. Yeah, that's very wise advice. I was gonna ask you a final question, given all of your experience, and we've touched on all the things that have impacted you, in the last decades, any advice for young would be headkickers who are wondering, is this for me, the law? All of your wisdom garnered from yours, what would you say to young ones who are thinking maybe there's another way to practise law?
Well, there certainly is and there's not really another way to practise law, in my view, it's another way to be a human being. And what I'm seeing increasingly in the younger generations, men and women together seem to be way, way, way more conscious of what's going on in the world, what's going on inside of them.
There's been a, it's been pretty popular over the last, say, decade, and this whole idea of wellness and mindfulness. And really those beautiful concepts, which help people simply be more conscious of who they are as human beings. And it seems to me that the more rounded people are, the more, they're more able to take on board whatever is going on. And not necessarily take it personally as well. The better they're going to be as corporate citizens in our countries. And indeed, as lawyers.
Yeah. So it's all about being a better human being and by extension, whatever roles you play, daughter, son, mother, father, sister, brother, friend, lawyer, doctor, you'll be better at it.
Can I also add one more thing as well, not directly answering that question. It seems to me that when there's conflict, and if if people can actually own that, that it's not all the other person's fault.
So to take it back to Qantas, it wasn't the customer service manager's fault, you know, he got really upset. It was ours as well or mine as well in the way that I was dealing with him. And I certainly, you know, I mentioned arrogance, for example. And to some extent, there was a lot of disrespect in that. And so I was insisting on rights rather than looking at relationship. So what often happens in conflicts is, it's a 'you owe me this' or 'I'm not liable in the way that you're saying'. I remember having a dealing with a partnership dispute a little while ago, and the two men who were involved had built up a very, very successful business that was turning over millions. And it was almost stultified, because they were at such loggerheads, they'd been together for 15 years, When they finally got together and addressed it, we worked through a number of issues, and there was only a couple left. And the question that was asked was, look at the man sitting opposite you, he has been your partner for 15 years, and you and he and your families have gone out on innumerable occasions together, your children he is godfather to your children, and almost all of the material wealth that you are presently enjoying is as a result of that man's input. So what is it, not that you want from this man, but what is it that you might give to him? And that's when we were talking about the price, the buyout price, and we were able to agree on it like inside of moments.
Yeah, so even something as fundamental as price, as transactional as price, comes back down to the relationship and the history between people.
Absolutely. Absolutely. And, for example, in a collaboration, a family law collaboration, the couple were saying we'd like to resolve this fairly quickly. And we ended up suggesting that they write down on a piece of paper, the same thing, not what they wanted from each other, but what they would be prepared to give to each other. And when we came back together, we gave the two pieces of folded up paper to the neutral facilitator.
And she opened them up and she said, oh, one's got one's included the loan on one hasn't. And so being a finance professional, she was very quickly able to get them to common denominators. And then she goes, aha, you're only ten grand apart. We're upon the woman. this was in a you know, fairly significant estate, and the woman suddenly burst out loud, burst out crying. And we just have all of us just held space.
And she kept on crying. And then after a little while, somebody asked, please don't stop, you know, whatever you're expressing go with it and when you're ready, we're all curious as to what's going on for you. And she continued crying for a little bit and then she looked up at her husband and with tears in her eyes, she said, I had no idea that you would ever be so generous. I accept, thank you. It was like,
One of those moments that takes your breath away. Lawyering, conflict resolution, that was a resolution it wasn't a settlement.
Peter, thank you for a really deep interview. I've enjoyed hearing the stories that you've related, your personal ones as well as the ones you've kindly shared with your clients. Thank you for joining us.
Can I put in a quick ad before we end?
Just anyone who's interested. Mankind Project Australia is mkpau.org and I facilitate a weekly I-group in a circle with men sitting in circle on Zoom. And when lockdown ends that alternates fortnightly with a face to face one. So I think there are some, I'm pretty sure there are some links to that on my website. So if anyone's interested, please be in touch.
I'll make sure to include the links as well on the episode page for this episode Peter, so that people can check it out. All right. Thank you for sharing space.
Yeah. Thank you.