I just finished reading The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner. This is not a new book by any stretch, and it is not particularly written for parents. It is written for women. But I think it is applicable to all of us, and definitely to those parents dealing with a child who is struggling. After all, in challenging situations with our children there is often anger involved, right?
There are so many things in the book and certainly I couldn’t cover them all, but here are 3 key points that really stood out for me:
1. Anger isn’t right or wrong, it is just an emotion like any other. It’s OK to be angry! Can I just scream THANK YOU a million times? Have you ever been angry and then were told that you were wrong, that it was totally inappropriate or not ladylike, or that your anger was hurting others? Well I certainly have, and so to read that being angry is permissible, OK, and normal, especially being a woman, was a huge relief. So thank you Harriet Lerner – a hundred times over.
‘Anger is something we feel. It exists for a reason and always deserves our respect and attention. We all have a right to everything we feel – and certainly our anger is no exception’. – Harriet Lerner
2. Anger can be used as a signal, a sign, to indicate to us that something needs to change. I loved the idea that Harriet Lerner conveys in the book about how our anger could be used for good, to improve our situation over time if it is used as a signal to tells us to investigate further what it is really about. It certainly might take a while to figure that out, and like so many other things it is a process and not an event. I have certainly found it helpful when I get angry or even irritated to ask myself, “What is this really telling me?”. What a useful tool, and it works like a champ!
”Anger is a signal, and one worth listening to. Our anger may be a message that we are being hurt, that our needs or wants are not being adequately met, or simply that something isn’t right.” – Harriet Lerner
3. Unresolved anger will affect another relationship that may be seemingly unrelated.
Oh wow, that’s a big one, right? We have all probably made some connection between our parent/sibling relationships and our own behaviors outside that circle of people. However, in this book she explains it so beautifully, and offers ideas/solutions to help – taking it to whole new level for me! (check out her relationship triangles – great stuff) After I thought about it further, I just had to say, ‘Um, yep – that’s right….’
“Issues that go unaddressed with members of our first family only fuel our fires in other relationships”. – Harriet Lerner
To be sure, there is more to this book than what I have listed. In fact, it could be read several times and we’d probably get more/something different each time. I highly recommend that everyone read the book, parent of struggling child or not! There is something in there for all of us, should we choose to see it!
I would love to hear your take on the book, my 3 points, or anger itself – please comment in the section below!
PS. Do you know what ‘de-selfing’ is? Read the book to find out. I have done it, and I bet you have to!!
Leslie Ferris is a Certified and Credentialed Life Coach
Serving the parents of struggling tweens, teens, and young adults
Contact her today for your 1/2 complimentary discussion to explore what life coaching can do for you.
Connect with her via her website at http://www.phase2foryou.com