In The Dance of Intimacy, the bestselling author of The Dance of Anger outlines the steps to take so that good relationships can be strengthened and difficult ones can be healed. Taking a careful look at those relationships where intimacy is most challenged--by distance, intensity, or pain--she teaches us about the specific changes we can make to achieve a more solid sense of self and a more intimate connectedness with others. Combining clear advice with vivid case examples, Dr. Lerner offers us the most solid, helpful book on intimate relationships that both women and men may ever encounter.
This sensible self-help book draws on family-systems therapy in recommending thoughtful ``self-focus'' for women stuck in difficult relationships with either mates or families. Emphasizing that ``a truly intimate relationship is one in which we can be who we are, which means being open about ourselves,'' Lerner ( The Dance of Anger ; Women in Therapy ) highlights the importance of women defining themselves, their needs and limits, rather than reacting to anxiety unthinkingly--either by emotionally distancing themselves from problems or by overreacting. A staff psychologist and psychotherapist at the Menninger Clinic, Lerner illustrates her points with case studies from her family as well as her practice. To explore what unhelpful patterns of behavior may be passed down from past generations, she advises creating a genogram, or family diagram, going back to a person's grandparents or earlier. Lerner's book presumes at least an acquaintance with professional jargon but should be accessible to most readers of pop psychology. (Apr.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 28, 1997
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Excerpt from The Dance of Intimacy by Harriet G. Lerner
The Pursuit of Intimacy: Is It. Women's Work
I was cleaning my attic when I came across a poem I wrote during my sophomore year of college in Madison, Wisconsin. I vaguely recalled the brief attachment that inspired these lines -- a steamy start which turned into an unbridgeable distance before either of us knew what was happening:
Once you held me so hard
and we were so close
that belly to belly we fused
passed through each other and back
to back stood strangers again.
Neither the poem nor the romance was memorable, and my words certainly did not capture the anguish I felt when an initially blissful relationship failed. But I was reminded of what intimacy is not. And also what it is.
"All beginnings are lovely," a French proverb reminds us, but intimacy is not about that initial "Velcro stage" of relationships. It is when we stay in a relationship over time whether by necessity or choice-that our capacity for intimacy is truly put to the test. It is only in long-term relationships that we are called upon to navigate that delicate balance between separateness and connectedness and that we confront the challenge of sustaining both-without losing either when the going gets rough.
Nor is intimacy the same as intensity, although we are a culture that confuses these two words. Intense feelings-no matter how positive-are hardly a measure of true and enduring closeness. In fact, intense feelings may block us from taking a careful and objective look at the dance we are doing with significant people in our lives. And as my poem illustrates, intense togetherness can easily flip into intense distance-or intense conflict, for that matter.
Finally, the challenge of intimacy is by no means limited to the subject of men, marriage, or romantic encounters, although some of us may equate "intimacy" with images of blissful heterosexual pairings. A primary commitment to a man reflects only one opportunity for intimacy in a world that is rich with possibilities for connectedness and attachment.
Whatever your own definition of intimacy, this book is designed to challenge and enlarge it. It will not teach you things to do to make him (or her) admire you. It does not provide guidelines for a love-in. It is not even about feeling close in the usual and immediate sense of the word. And certainly it is not about changing the other person, which is not possible. Instead, it is a book about making responsible and lasting changes that enhance our capacity for genuine closeness over the long haul.