Extracts from Lerner's 'The Dance of Connection'

Here are some extracts from 'The Dance of Connection' by Harrier Lerner, which I found an extraordinarily helpful read:

'How we use our voice is at the heart of who we are in the world and the foundation of both intimacy and self-regard.'

'Some men* act out or act up in a variety of ways when they can't make themselves heard by the key people in their lives - a process that slowly erodes and eventually destroys their self-respect.'

[*HD: not only men!]

In the ideal family... 'parents calmly enforce rules that guide a child's behaviour, but they don't attempt to regulate the child's emotions or ideas... Children are seen objectively for who they really are, not through the distorted lens of what a parent wishes, fears, or needs them to be... Parents model a vibrant, equal partnership in which conflict can be creatively addressed and resolved.'

'When issues are unresolved in one generation, they are often reenacted in the next.'

'Some of us need to practice voicing our strength. Some of us need to practice voicing vulnerability... Over time, our self-regard and our ability to be intimate suffer when we are unable to put forth both competence and vulnerability in a balanced way.'

'Feelings come as a package deal. We can't deny our rage, pain and vulnerability without also denying our capacity for joy, love and intimacy.'

'Rushing in to offer advice - or to cheer someone up - may reflect our own inability to remain emotionally present in the face of another person's problems or pain, or to experience our own... we can unwittingly rob those we love of the opportunity to feel what they are feeling and express it to us. Learning to be an attentive, caring listener and a skilled questioner can empower others to search for their own solutions.'

'It takes courage to ask for help... especially eldest daughters who learned growing up that they could not rely on a parent to be competent and nurturing. In this common circumstance, a woman may possess a towering competence but have enormous difficulty in putting forth the more sensitive, vulnerable parts of herself.'

'Being an idealised child carries a high price tag.'

'The most important question is not the intensity of the love we feel, but whether the relationship is good for us and whether we are navigating our part of it in a solid way... Is there a sense of safety, ease and comfort in the relationship that make authenticity and self-disclosure possible? Does the person we love enlarge (rather than diminish) our sense of self and our capacity to speak our own truths? Are we able to voice our differences to bring conflict out in the open and resolve it?'

'We clarify a bottom line, not primarily to change or control the other person (although the wish to do so may certainly be there) but rather to preserve the dignity, integrity and well-being of the self.'

'When two lives are financially, emotionally, and logistically intertwined, differences can severely affect one's current and future well-being.'

'In the name of being nice we can make a commitment to security, sameness and safety, rather than to truth, courage and honour... But kindness, timing and tact are not the opposite of honesty... There is no virtue in speaking to others in a way that makes it impossible for them to hear what you have to say or to appreciate the truth of your position.'

'Only after we can hear our daughter's criticisms and anger, and are open to apologising for the inevitable hurts and mistakes that every parent makes, can we expect to be truly heard by them... To listen with an open heart in order to understand the other person requires intention, commitment, and practice. It is a spiritual exercise, in the truest sense of the word.'

'We will always come from a more solid place if we speak to preserve our own well-being and integrity and refuse to be silenced by fear - not because we need a genuine apology from the other person or expect to have our reality validated.'

'The capacity to take responsibility and feel remorse is related to how much self-love and self-respect that person has available to draw on.'

'None of us can escape rejection and disappointment unless we sit mute in a corner and take no risks. If we live courageously, we will experience - and survive - rejections and losses that are not fair and not talked through. Sometimes in our lives the best course of action is to let go and move on.'

'Finally our clarity of voice reflects the degree of our self-awareness. Having an authentic voice requires us to operate from core values, rather than in reaction to the other person's immaturity. We must keep our own immaturity in check, which admittedly is hard to do when we're caught up in strong emotions. We need to use both wisdom and intuition in deciding whether to lighten up and let something go, or to take a difficult conversation another round.'

'Practice is everything, whether we're aiming to take up more - or less - space.'

'As Ram Dass has pointed out, we are human beings, not human doings. Being is very hard for some of us, and we may need to rehearse silence more than we need to practice speech.. Nothing takes a great toll than a DADT policy in family life when the subject is emotionally important.'

'Paradoxically, the more enduring a connection, the more vulnerable we are to getting stuck in conversations where our experience of our self and the other person becomes fixed and small. Disconnection can become a way of life for people sharing... a common history.'

'Our conversations invent us. Through our speech and our silence, we become smaller or larger selves. Through our speech and our silence, we diminish or enhance the other person, and we narrow or expand the possibilities between us. How we use our voice determines the quality of our relationships, who we are in the world, and what the world can be and might become. Clearly a lot is at stake here.'