Harriet Lerner is a clinical psychologist and has a good set of practical advice books I dip into often. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed by them being “self-help”. Goodness knows we all need a lot of self-help throughout our lives. If there’s one thing growing older has taught me, it is that we have to continue raising our individual selves throughout our lives. And that cannot happen if we do not reach out to expert resources, whether they are people or books.
I’ve owned her set of “Dance” books since they first came out. Many quotable bits there. Here are a few and I’ll probably add more as I go along rereading them.
From The Dance of Fear:
If there is one overriding reason why our world and relationships are in such a mess, it is that we try to get rid of our anxiety, fear, and shame as fast as possible, regardless of the long-term consequences. In doing so, we blame and shame others and, in countless ways, we unwittingly act against ourselves. We confuse our fear-driven thoughts with what is right, best, necessary, or true.
. . .
We may believe that anxiety and fear don’t concern us because we avoid experiencing them. We may keep the scope of our lives narrow and familiar, opting for sameness and safety. We may not even know that we are scared of success, failure, rejection, criticism, conflict, competition, intimacy, or adventure because we rarely test the limits of our competence and creativity. We avoid anxiety by avoiding risk and change. Our challenge: To be willing to become more anxious, via embracing new situations and stepping more fully into our lives.
From The Dance of Anger:
Our society doesn’t promote self-acceptance and it never will. First of all, self-acceptance doesn’t sell products. Capitalism would fall if we liked ourselves the way we are now. Also, people who feel shamed and inadequate themselves tend to pass it on. I’m sure you’ve noticed that many individuals and groups try to enhance their self-esteem by diminishing others.
From The Dance of Connection:
Some issues need to be revisited—not dropped—and talk is essential to this process. We need words to begin to heal betrayals, inequalities, and ruptured connections. Our need for language, conversation, and definition goes beyond the wish to put things right. Through words we come to know the other person—and to be known. This knowing is at the heart of our deepest longings for intimacy and connection with others. How relationships unfold with the most important people in our lives depends on courage and clarity in finding voice. This is equally true for our relationship with our self.
. . .
The challenge in all intimate relationships is to preserve both the “I” and the “we” without losing either when the going gets tough. If we’re faced with a choice, we need to choose speech over silence, keep our behavior in line with our stated values and beliefs—and save ourselves first.
. . .
Our challenge as adults is to develop a strong voice that is uniquely our own, a voice that reflects our deepest values and convictions. Once we are comfortable within that voice, we can bring it to our most important relationships. We can choose to move to the center of a difficult conversation–or we can let it go. We can speak–or decide not to. Whatever we choose, we can head back to the sandbox with clarity, wisdom, and intention. By doing so, we can strengthen the self and our connections, and have the best chance of achieving happiness during our time with each other.