Identifying the Archetypal Structure of Your Case

What is your very favorite movie? I mean, the movie that, no matter what, if it comes on the TV on a Sunday afternoon, you are absolutely going to watch it, no questions asked. If you are anything like me, those movies are the ones that compel me to step in to the shoes of the main character, and to feel the emotions s/he is experiencing.

Of course, a movie's ability to cause us to FEEL A DEEP EMPATHY for a reformed drunken killer, who sets out to kill a couple of cowboys for a reward posted by a group of prostitutes, and then avenges the death of his only friend in the world (Clint Eastwood in the "Unforgiven"), is not just coincidence. It is a very purposeful screen-play writing process, and is based, largely upon primordial archetypal structures, or blueprints in the human psyche.

What does that gibberish mean? Well, an archetypal structure is (according to Carl Gustav Jung), a universally shared image or concept that all humans have imprinted upon their very souls (for a lack of a better way of describing it). Maybe the easiest example to think of is the archetype (or the concept) of the villain. You see? Of course, when I say the word "villain," you automatically know what type of person I am talking about, right? You just conjured up an image of what a villain is in your mind's eye, right? Well, maybe that's because we have been exposed to images of villains throughout our lives, or maybe, as Jung would say, this image is imprinted on us from the depths of our souls, but either way, there is something to it: Because, when we are confronted with a well told narrative (for example, watch the movie, "The Pianist,") we respond emotionally, and with empathy.

Science has tried to determine why this is.  (See article by Paul J. Zac, Ph.D. "Why Inspiring Stories Make Us React" https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4445577/). The well-told narrative form is said to cause the brain (specifically the hypothalamus) to release a substance called "oxytocin." Oxytocin is a neuro-chemical associated with mothers giving birth, and is also known to increase the empathy of the person in whom the oxytocin is released. Dr. Zac further posits that this "empathy response" is correlated with action on the part of the listener.

Likely, the people at the children's cancer-research hospitals, and at the animal abuse and mistreatment organizations have figured this out; otherwise, why would they have such heart wrenching advertisements on TV followed by a call to action, i.e, give us money. The reason they do is because it works!

So how does all this relate to your criminal or civil case that is about to trial before the judge or a jury? And, doesn't working to instill empathy in a listener, followed by a call to action (for example, "I am asking you to do what you know in your heart is right; find my client not guilty") sound very manipulative? Well, the answer to the first question is simple: Your case will only be successful if you can identify the archetypal narrative structures in the facts of your case, and tell the listener's that narrative. Otherwise, you are without hope of making anyone act on your behalf.

The second question is pretty simple too: Attorneys are not there to make up facts. Attorneys are not there to manipulate the emotions of people. But your attorney is there to help you identify the important facts of your life that express your case in this narrative form. And only by identifying this structure in your life, and successfully delivering that narrative will you be able to motivate a person (or a group of six or twelve jurors) to see that what you want done is the right thing to do (which, I have found is the ONLY concern of most decision-makers in your case).

I hope you find a great movie to watch this weekend!

Bob Bottorff