It’s no secret that women are faced with challenges unique to us regularly. Everything from the way women parent to the way women display emotion, think about their confidence, communicate with others and so much more always seems to be on display.
It can be challenging at times to find the right way to deal with our perceptions of ourselves, let alone those the world places on us.
One of the most impactful authors I’ve had the opportunity to read books by over the years is Harriet Lerner. Though she has a plethora of reading options to pick from, the books from her “Dance” series are by far the best of the best within her body of work.
These books help you develop in multiple areas of your life as you maneuver through life like a dance that is sometimes graceful and at other times jerky wherein we manage the challenges of interpersonal and intrapersonal behaviors:
This book is a real guide on helping women deal with the way we manage anger, perceive anger, and how the world expects us to manage or even ignore our anger. It was the very first book I read by Lerner and the one that got me hooked on her series of books as I navigated a painful divorce several years ago.
In this work by Lerner, she teaches women to understand their anger and the causes behind it.
She teaches them to see how not being able to express anger effectively can cause undue suffering and long-term coping behaviors. She also helps the reader see how others who know many of our maladaptive behaviors can push buttons that we are ultimately responsible for dealing with and learn responses vs. reactions.
Her descriptions of the different types of anger syndromes, the responses we have, the reactions we have, and how we perceive what we are experiencing can help women get off the “I’m about to lose my temper and have all my points invalidated” train if they desire to do so.
It also provides thoughts around considerations needed to find pathways to peace and solutions when anger blocks your path without feeling like losing the battle or giving up your power.
In this piece by Lerner, she digs deeply into communication and the need for intimacy in connection humans have but from a woman’s perspective. She talks about the complexity women often deal with in trying to find our voice in situations where the world has often told us our voice is either not needed or, in some cases, not valued.
She lends credibility to the fears that we sometimes have in being truthful and vulnerable when we are ready to speak, and she follows up with empowering words to support the strength in doing so under the right circumstances on our own terms.
The book is also filled with stories of her own family and their communication style. She discusses her mother’s style vs. her father’s and debunks that myth that women communicate more yet instead mentions how women often express their pain more openly.
The conclusion is that we all need connection, and it is a dance to find out how to make it work with each person we encounter, but we can do it in harmony with time and practice. There will be times when we feel desperate for this communication, and we must learn how this impacts our ability to connect in healthier ways.
Lerner does it again in this piece. She addressed one of the emotions humans try hardest to get through, get over and or get around. Fear itself is a basic emotion that can help us with safety, but it can also be paralyzing when not managed well.
In this book, Lerner equates fear and the inability to let it take over to be one of the contributors to unhappiness in addition to shame and anxiety.
She also gives specific steps to help people navigate their way through fear in a way that is not demanding, judgmental, or even complex but instead with a true intention of helping her readers find a place of overcoming.
Just as she has with other books, Lerner gives examples of how the different topics impact people while using couples in her examples. This seems to be her way of examining the interactions between women and men and the different styles of communication, whether learned at home or based on society’s views of behavior.
One of the things found as a common thread through the book is a need to identify the voices that have spoken to us in our life to tell us we were not enough and how we can reject them. If we don’t identify them and find ways to counter their negativity, they can continuously play in the back of our heads and ultimately feed the fears we try to overcome.
I recommend this book in addition to the others because it completes the circle on how communication styles impact the way we interact with others and gain connection. It is as if Lerner’s books should be learning for us all at some point.
Lerner speaks about how we say things and points out one thing we see a lot in today’s world full of social media: context, context, context.
Without context, it can see if people are telling untruths, and this can be a form of intentional or unintentional deception. How many times have we seen something go viral on social media because of a comment taken out of context only to find out later we did not know the whole story, and it left us wondering if the original poster intended to deceive us?
She relies on several behavioral theories and relational examples about secrets kept in families, which can draw things out a bit in the book, but the overall context is helpful for the reader to see how deception can hurt others even when we think it is protecting them.
The truth is, you can’t go wrong reading any books by Harriet Lerner, in my opinion; however, to dance dance dance as you make your way through this thing called life with the help of her books takes it to a whole other level of personal development.
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