September’s Book of the Month is…. “The Dance of Intimacy” by Harriet Lerner. It’s amazing it took me this long to get to the 1989 feminist therapy classic considering how hungry I've been for more voices like hers. I kept seeing it on the bookshelves of my mentors and thinking some day I should get around to it. I’m glad I finally did. I hadn’t realized that it would be SO relevant to the daily struggles of the people I work with. The Dance of Intimacy digs deep into all the same challenges that the best writers and therapists are still discussing today. And it does so from a refreshingly feminist lens. Specifically, the book helps us work through major concerns in all the most important relationships in a woman’s life – including those with her parents, intimate partners, and other family members.
What really drew me in were the stories about women who found themselves over-functioning in relationships. In one case it was a woman with a father who suffered from alcoholism. In another, it was a woman whose sister was dealing with suicidal ideation. Lerner discusses how we can get stuck in the helping role, and how that ends up trapping all of us. She speaks so thoughtfully about setting boundaries and finding your “bottom line”, though, from her perspective, it’s not about cutting people off. It’s about creating enough space within the relationship for something different to emerge:
“Emotional distancing can be an essential first move to ensure our emotional well-being and even our survival. We all know from personal experience that a relationship can become so emotionally charged that the most productive action we can take is to seek space” - page 55
Her stories have definitely given me more to think about. So often, I’m an advocate for moving away from the relationships that harm us. Lerner invites us to remember the continuum of options we can experiment with, which may be especially helpful for those relationships we’re not quite ready to say goodbye to.
A compelling read.
I'm a psychologist, activist, and writer. I believe in sharing our stories and wisdom as a tool for our own healing as well as the healing of those around us. For this reason I've chosen to share what I'm learning, as well as guest posts from other people who've been there.
About the Blog
This space will provide information, stories, and answers to big questions about some of my favorite topics - boundaries, burnout, trauma, self compassion, and shame resilience - all from a feminist counselling perspective.