Book review: The Dance of Anger

The Dance of Anger cover

The reading list from my Creative Grief Coach certification course, included, “The Dance of Anger,” by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.  This book provides an honest assessment of how women express, repress, and manage their anger. Within the course, it aided us in our work as emotionally intelligent individuals and it helped us gain the skill that we need to bring to our coaching practice. For that practice, it is a helpful guide, because those who are grieving are dealing with a wide array of emotions, including, at times, anger. Also, we grieve in a community. This communal aspect of grief means that there will be multiple relationships touched by our grief journey and some of them may have patterns of anger.

Dr. Lerner presents many helpful techniques to work with anger. However, I’d like to focus on just two of them in this review. The first one is observation. This is an incredibly helpful technique in working with emotions in general.  If we can pause and observe our emotional reaction, notice that it is occurring, where it is occurring in our body, and, then, with discernment, choose what we say and do in that moment, then this helps us with our emotional health and our relationships in general.  I believe in the power of this for several reasons, including that it puts us first for a moment.  I’m saying this as a woman who has bit her tongue and held her words back more than is probably prudent.  I am not alone in this — many women do this and Dr. Lerner’s book is speaking to us — those who hold back and those who don’t. (Definitely, there are men who have this same emotional pattern, but this book focuses on women’s experiences.)  Whatever, your pattern — hold back or not — observation is a helpful first step.

Another technique or directive from this book, that I find very helpful (and it is often a trigger for anger) is our desire to change another person. This pattern of trying to fix others comes from a place of over functioning. The healthier approach, if one desires change, is to change oneself. If you’re like me, that takes your breath away. “What? Me? Change?!” Dr. Lerner presents many examples in her book of women who stopped trying to change another person in their life and changed themselves instead. This takes introspection and courage. As with the first technique it requires that we notice that we’re in a pattern of trying to change another person, then making a conscious effort not to try to do that any more, and then, finally, changing ourselves in a meaningful and healthy way. Ironically, of course, because we are in a relationship, the other person often changes as well.  Maybe not in the exact way that we would have prescribed, but as a reaction to the way we’ve changed.

If you’re looking to refine your steps in the dance of anger, I highly recommend Dr. Lerner’s book.

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Working with Grief through Reiki and Connection

Recently a client who was filled with grief said to me, while she was lying on the Reiki table, “You know I really don’t believe in this.” I reassured her that it is not necessary to believe in Reiki for it to work. I then asked her what she had heard about Reiki. She said, “That it is relaxing.” Then we had our ground for agreement: Reiki is relaxing.  I went on to say, “When we are relaxed:

  • we heal more quickly
  • think more clearly
  • act more mindfully
  • and we’re more creative.”

She nodded her head in agreement and said, “I think stress is worse for your health than eating junk food.”

This type of conversation reminds me of this quote from my Creative Grief Coaching Certification program:

Learning process of grief

When we trust and believe we are more resilient, resourceful, and creative. Furthermore, trusting and believing open us to the possibility of connecting with others.  Through connection we turn our backs on shame, which is an emotion often tied with the grieving process and can cause us to be stuck in our grief.

In the Creative Grief Coaching program we have been exploring shame. It is the topic of Brene Brown’s book, “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t),” which is filled with heart-opening stories from her extensive research on shame. The stories are often very easy to relate to and heart breaking, at times, too. As we connect with each other we find that, “It isn’t just me. Other women experience the same challenges with their bodies, relationships, and money.” Through this connection we can overcome fear, blame, and shame and work creatively in our grief process.

Reiki is a wonderful tool for our lives as we work with grief and seek ways to relax and connect.  With it we can find the way to open our hearts and connect with ourselves, others, and the universe. We can heal faster, think more clearly and creatively, and act more mindfully.