May 6, 2009

"The Dance of Anger"

I'd like to offer my thoughts on the book The Dance of Anger: a woman's guide to changing the patterns of intimate relationships by Harriet Lerner. I've been thinking a little lately, about how easily I get angry and really want to make some changes so I'm not passing the pattern on in our family. Someone suggested this book a long time ago, but I'd never gotten to it. When I came to mind I picked it up at the library. I believe it was a good recommendation and has given me some great things to think about and ideas to implement. This book, however, does not address the issue of anger as sin, since it's not written by a Christian author. And really, that is the root of my/our problem and only God can change us from angry people to people of peace and calm responses. Nevertheless, I do love some of the points Lerner has to make and will share them here.

As the title indicates, this book deals with anger in our relationships. Here are points I loved and will incorporate more into my thinking:
  1. Use your anger to help you learn more about yourself and move toward change. Anger usually indicates something much deeper than what's making us furious on the surface. Take time, when angry (or after you've cooled down!), to ask yourself some questions and really get at the root of the problem.
  2. You can't change other people, so focus on observing your relationships and thinking through changes YOU need to make to change the "dance" you're in with people, to move away from angry patterns.
  3. There are no quick fixes, we have to make decisions about how we will interact differently and stick with it when we're faced with "counter moves" from others. Change in relationships takes times. There's hope, but there's also work to be put in!
  4. Observe, observe, observe how you and others act and react in relationships. Do you distance or pursue? Are you overfunctioning or underfunctioning? Are you blaming instead of taking responsibility for your part in the relationship? After this, you can think about changes you need to make moving forward.
  5. Get to know your family history. She encourages us to have relationships with family members independent of others. And she suggests putting together a family tree that includes births, marriages, deaths, illnesses, divorces, education levels, etc. to see patterns and/or understand tense times in our history. This can be accomplished by asking questions of many different family members and learning about their lives, instead of just hearing the advice they have on how (they think) we should be living ours.
Overall, Lerner calls women to take responsibility for themselves and define who they are for themselves and in their relationships. It does have a bit of a women's lib. bent to it, that rubbed me the wrong way. But I would recommend the book, especially if you're stuck in angry patterns in some important relationships in your life.

The baby's awake, so this review is over and not proofread. I hope you find it helpful!

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