Congratulations to my friend Harriet Lerner whose groundbreaking book, The Dance of Anger, just passed the “3 million books sold” mark. I wouldn’t have the career I have today had I not read this soul-shaking book. Harriet’s work fundamentally changed how I thought about my relationships, how I understood my own anger, and her career has long served as an inspiration to me.
It took five years to get The Dance of Anger published. I’m so grateful that Harriet stayed strong and committed to sharing her wisdom. Harriet, your work changed my life and the lives of so many of the people whom I love. Thank you!
To celebrate, here are three of my favorite quotes from Harriet’s work:
“It is not fear that stops you from doing the brave and true thing in your daily life. Rather, the problem is avoidance. You want to feel comfortable so you avoid doing or saying the thing that will evoke fear and other difficult emotions. Avoidance will make you feel less vulnerable in the short run but, it will never make you less afraid.”
“Those of us who are locked into ineffective expressions of anger suffer as deeply as those of us who dare not get angry at all.”
“Everyone freaks out. Sometimes the best we can do with fear is befriend it. Expect it and understand that fear will always reappear. Eventually it subsides. It will return. The real culprits are our knee jerk responses to fear and the way we try to avoid feeling fear, anxiety and shame. Don’t get me wrong, wanting to feel better fast is a perfectly natural human impulse. It is healthy to seek relief when you feel hopelessly mired in the emotional soup.
Calming down is an essential first step to accurately perceiving a problem and deciding what to do about it but the last thing you need to do is shut yourself off from fear and pain – either your own or the worlds. If there is one over riding reason why our world and relationships are in such a mess, is that we try to get rid of our anxiety, fear and shame as fast as possible, regardless of the long term consequences. In doing so, we blame and shame others and in countless ways, we unwittingly act against ourselves. We confuse our fear driven thoughts with what is right, best, necessary or true.”