Patricia Woo is a lawyer in Hong Kong who often helps families with their estates. What makes her different is that her clients come from all over the world for advice that goes beyond the legal side of things. She also addresses the spiritual.
As a starting point, she often asks a client, “Does what you want for yourself and the family come from love or fear?”
Very few of her clients had thought about this before coming into her office. As Woo says, “This is the moment they pause and start to think.”
However, in Woo’s experience, the answer won’t come from “thinking.” “Most of my clients have done a lot of thinking before coming to see me,” she explains. “I am there to help them switch to an unfamiliar but fruitful mode.”
One of the tools she uses is “intuitive inquiry.” It’s one of the transpersonal psychology research methods to help people collect “internal data.”
As Woo explains, “We are used to working with external data such as numbers, rules and regulations, but there’s a lot more.” Among the factors she includes in internal data are:
- Unconscious images;
- Experience of energy;
- Spiritual and religious experience;
- Body sensations;
- Feelings of empathy; and
- Feelings stemming from emotional wounds.
Summing this up, she says, “These responses can tell us so much about ourselves, and a complete waste not to make good use of this kind of internal data.”
Help With a Complex Trust
Woo tells of a wealthy woman who came in for legal advice on a complex trust.
As Woo explains, “She was telling me all these rules for her children to follow. When listening to her, I felt a tight gripping pain in the stomach (which happens when something isn’t “right”) and sensed that she wanted to use the structures to control. So, I asked the love or fear question. Firmly she said she had only love for her family.”
Woo was pretty sure that wasn’t the entire answer.
“Let’s put down your initial top 10 key terms for the trust,” Woo suggested. “Then we’ll look at them from both legal and ‘internal’ aspects. Notice and tell me your body sensation when we talk about each of the terms. You might also ‘see’ shapes, colors of different level of brightness or other images. Just trust whatever comes along.”
The conversation started with a discussion of her client’s requirement that every family member had to work for the family business for at least five years. Then she asked her client to “look inward.”
The client said she had an image of her son with his upper body enclosed in a red square. Woo wasn’t totally surprised. The woman’s son would find this acceptable while feeling a bit repressed.
Then Woo asked, “How about your daughter?”
“I can only see her at a distance surrounded by a greyish cloud,” the client answered. As Woo and the client continued talking, it came out that the daughter never really liked the business world and wanted to stay away.
This “internal data” revealed to the client that her current plan almost certainly had unacceptable flaws. Woo and her client began exploring an alternative approach to the trust. Under the new version, family members are encouraged to contribute to the family, but they’re free to suggest their own ways of doing this.
Amazingly, the client’s “internal data” became transformed. “Now I see a gold light around the entire family,” the client enthusiastically told Woo. “There are streams of warmth. I can even smell the aroma of peaches. My father who built the family business loved peaches, and I know it means that he would like this new approach!”
Woo and her client spent a pleasant afternoon going through the key trust terms. One by one, the client let herself let go of what didn’t feel right and adjusted to terms that felt positive.
The end result? Says Woo, “At the end of the session we had a transformed version of the key terms, having worked with both external data and internal data.”
The next project the client wanted Woo’s help with is writing the family constitution. “We’re yet to finalize the documents,” points out Woo, “but there’s a phrase in my client’s letter to her family that reads: ‘While we plan the tangibles, we always remember to honor the intangibles.’”
When you’re advising clients, you might benefit from making use of their “internal data.” This approach can lead to fruitful and, in the end, more appropriate and more realistic decisions.
Mitzi Perdue is a speaker and co-author of How to Be UP in Down Times. Contact her at www.MitziPerdue.com