May 29th, 2017

Stanislavski and The Threshold of the Subconscious

Applied to trial work, Stanislavski teaches the key to success is to reach the state where the subconscious mind functions without interference from the conscious mind. In this state we are relaxed, we have no fear of failure, and we are uninhibited. We forget who we are from an ego self conscious standpoint.

Here “we achieve inner freedom as well as physical relaxation.” Stanislavski, An Actor Prepares (Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood)(On the Threshold of the Subconscious). When we reach this state we have truth and faith in our actions. This is the state Stanislavski terms “I am.” Id.

We get to this level by seeding our client’s case into our subconscious mind. Our faith in the case naturally follows and we move toward “I am.” To get to “I am” we discover our obstacles and learn to deal with them.

We eliminate the obstacle of fear by getting in touch with our subconscious mind. We remember an event in our life where we felt similar emotions to those of our client. We emotionally bond with our client.  And we naturally convey this to the jury.

We eliminate the obstacle of vagueness which Stanislavski teaches occurs when “a part may be worked out wrong, or its objectives may be indefinite.” Id. (Indefinite gaps that must be filled). “The only way to deal with [this] situation is by clearing up all that is lacking in precision.” Id. Meaning we fill factual gaps for the jury so our story is clear.  Our story flows without factual gaps.

We eliminate the obstacle of being too conscientious. We sense this problem when we have a feeling of forcing ourself. We are going through emotions we do not have. Here we remember to be ourself.  We trust ourself and swim with the current.

When a lawyer gives himself to the pursuit of the objective of his client’s case, he does it completely. He becomes free to function in accordance with his and his client’s needs and desires. Through his own subconscious experience he tries the case as an expression of his creative subconscious. Id.

When we reach “I am” advocacy we and our client and story merge in the courtroom. We find it easy and pleasant to try the case. We are in the ocean of our subconscious. Id.

    July 24th, 2010

    Flow Naturally


    Constantin Stanislavski stresses being true to our natural feelings. By this he means never try to manipulate  feelings. Stanslaviski calls such an attempt “false action.”  In a trial there cannot be under any circumstances testimony or argument directed at arousing a feeling for its own sake. Ignoring this rule will result in artificiality.

    Testimony and argument must stand on its own. We must never seek to add emotion in a calculated way.  As taught by Stanislavski all true  feelings and emotions are the result of the natural internalization of experiences.

    It is proper to think of the previous experience when preparing for  testimony or argument. This is the natural way to associate the past feeling with the present testimony or fact. When testifying or arguing, however, it is essential to let the result produce itself rather then consciously trying to bring the feeling to the fore front- like trying to push the river.

    This may seem like a subtle distinction, but it is significant.  Thus for testimony use the feeling at the time of the experience when preparing to testify. For argument use a past similar experience and reaction when preparing for the argument.

    At the time of testimony or argument, never consciously try to invoke feeling. Rather just testify or argue and allow the feeling to rise to the surface  on its own; it will rise and flow with the testimony or argument without  trying to invoke the emotion or feeling. This is because true and natural emotion or feeling  produces itself.

    Lesson Four- Don’t push the river.

      July 8th, 2010

      Truthful Feelings

      actor-prepares-cover-200x305-2 A couple of years ago I attended an engaging continuing legal education seminar featuring graduates of  The Gerry Spence Trial College. They discussed the importance of being true to your feelings, of living without pretense, of being spontaneous and natural. At the trial college they practice “psychodrama” to assist in getting to the real self which is essential for trial advocacy.

      That evening I went to the book store to find the source of “psychodrama.”  At the book store I did not find anything on “psychodrama,” but I did find works by the great Russian actor, director, and acting teacher- Constantin Stanislavski.  The Stanislavski works caused me to remember an article I read years ago in Litigation Magazine titled “Stanislavski in the Courtroom.

      The author discusses Stanislavaki’s concept of Imaging, Emotional Memory, and Commitment to Truth. She discusses how Stanislavski’s theories when practiced lead to a higher form of advocacy.  This led me to study Stanislavski.

      From studying  Stanislavaki’s method I see how it applies to more than theatre. It applies to sincerity and the elimination of a plastic persona. It applies to  getting in touch with emotions and living at a higher level. It applies to being able to try cases and perform in any endeavor  at a high level. In the next series of posts we discuss Stanislavaki’s method  as in relates to trial work and beyond. These posts are under the Category “Stanislavski in the Courtroom.”


      The first and foremost rule is truthfulness, meaning  honesty at all times. Do away with phoniness, pretense, and the desire to act in a way to please others. Truthful expression comes from the heart. With honest expression there is no doubt. Honest expression causes sincerity in voice, facial expression, and body language. The listener picks this up.

      Truth, which is usually simple and straightforward, is inviting to the listener. When truth embraces your whole being it has a way of sinking deeper and deeper into the listener’s mind to the point it reaches the subconscious mind of the listener. This invokes positive emotions in the listener. This creates an unconsciousness bond between speaker and listener.

      The opposite occurs when an agenda, pretense, or phoniness is involved- a plastic rehearsed from the mind alone message. Here tone of voice, facial expression and body language tell the listener this is a surface message, a message calculated to convince, and it is not the truth. The listener’s conscious mind quickly picks this up. If the message gets to the listener’s unconscious mind, which is doubtful, a gut reaction against the message occurs. Either way it is processed “this is phony.”

      Lesson Number One- An argument built on truth will grow, but one built on pretense will shrivel.