PodcastDr. Hariett Lerner, author of “The Dance of Anger”

September 15, 2013by Frank Love0

Podcast Episode:
Ladies, do you consider yourselves peacemakers, nurturers, or the steadiers of rocked boats? I’ll bet it can be draining. If you’re married, and finding yourself occasionally getting angry. We are going to discuss your Dance of Anger and Marriage Rules … on this edition of Frank Relationships.


Guests: Dr. Harriet Lerner
Date: September, 16, 2013

Frank: Ladies, do you consider yourselves peacemakers, nurturers or the steadiers of the rock boats? I’ll bet it can be draining. If you’re married and finding yourself occasionally getting angry, we’re going to discuss your dance of anger and the marriage rules on this edition of Frank Relationships.

Welcome to Frank Relationships where we provide a candid fresh and frank look into relationships with goals of acceptance, respect and flexibility. I’m Frank Love and you can find me, my blog and my various social media incarnations at franklove.com.

Once again, I’m joined by my super duper co-host, Dr. Gayl. She recently participated in a triathlon, that I told her I was going to come to–

Dr. Gayl: And you didn’t.

Frank: And I missed it. I ended up going out of town. Sorry I missed you. What’s up, doc?

Dr. Gayl: What’s up? What’s up? What’s up?

Frank: Could there be a painful or costly break-up in your future? Well, according to most relationship statistics, the answer is likely yes, but that doesn’t have to be the case. In my new and now available book, How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship, I reveal what couples and individuals can do to create a more fulfilling partnership or to end relationships that aren’t working in a friendly manner without suffering the emotional, financial, and family ruin that major break-ups can cause.

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Now we come upon today’s guest. She’s one of the world’s most respected voices in the psychology of women and family relationships. She’s the author of 11 books, published in 35 languages, including The Dance of Anger, A New York time’s bestseller that has helped rescue men and women from the swamps and quick sands of difficult relationships.

She hosts a blog for psychology today. I read that, every month. I get the subscription.

Dr. Gayl: Do you really?

Frank: I really do–and for the Huffington Post, and has recently released another book. It’s called, Marriage Rules, a manual for the married and coupled up, new solutions to age old and modern problems. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to welcome to the show, Dr. Harriet Lerner. How are you?

Dr. Lerner: I’m well and glad to be with you.

Frank: Alright, off the top, why did you write a book called, The Dance of Anger and what’s up with the subtitle, A Woman’s Guide? Men got problems too.

Dr. Lerner: Yep. All humans have problems. I was working a lot with women as therapists and I noticed that problems with anger were at the bottom of so many of the reasons the women were seeking help, like low self esteem, depression, downward spiraling relationships. So, I wanted to write about anger and also anger, especially when I started writing The Dance of Anger, anger was really taboo for women.

Women really were taught to be the nurturers and the soothers and steadiers of rock boats and to hold relationships in place as if our life depended on it. Society really discouraged women from being angery. Women were supposed to be–

Frank: Dainty.

Dr. Lerner: Guilty, guilty. Dainty but also guilt–women were taught to water guilt like a little flower garden. So, women felt guilty for leaving their children when they work and leaving their work for their children, guilty if they didn’t work, guilty if they didn’t have children. And if you’re busy feeling guilty, you’re certainly not going to feel angry.

Frank: And tell me about how low self-esteem results in anger. You said that low self-esteem, depression and downward spiraling relationships. The first and the one that stood out the most for me in wanting to excavate a little bit is the low self-esteem piece. Please share with me a little bit about that.

Dr. Lerner: One of the problems that women had and have actually–have with anger–there are two sets of problems. There are two ways that women mismanage anger and both cause low self-esteem. One is that we are really nice ladies, meaning we give in, we get along, we don’t rock the boat, we avoid anger and conflict–

Frank: Yeah, that’s definitely–

Dr. Lerner: At all costs.

Frank: That’s really the women in my life. Yeah, right.

Dr. Lerner: You being a little sarcastic there, Frank?

Frank: Yes, I am.

Dr. Gayl: He is.

Frank: Especially this one to my–what is it?

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Frank: My right. Yeah, real nice and non-confrontational.

Dr. Lerner: I see. That’s Dr. Gayl that you’re–

Frank: Yes. That’s Dr. Gayl I’m taking a shot at.

Dr. Gayl: Of course.

Frank: We take shots around here.

Dr. Lerner: Right. I’m going to mention two ways that women mismanage anger and both cause depression and low self-esteem. One is the nice lady culturally prescribed, avoid anger and conflict at all costs. It’s not just anger and conflict that’s avoided in this category of mismanaging anger, we may avoid making any clear statement of self. I see it differently. This is how I see it that would rock the boat.

That does cause low self-esteem, because self-esteem requires that we can define who we are. We can say “This is what I think. This is what I believe. This is what I will and will not do. This is the ground I walk in.” Self-esteem requires that.

Then, the other way that women mismanage anger that causes depression and low self-esteem looks like the opposite, which is that a lot of women get angry with ease, but getting angry is getting nowhere and even making things worse. Women is caught up in an endless cycle of society and complaining and blaming that go nowhere and she may even begin to look like that stereotype of the nagging, bitchy woman. And her complaints may be very legitimate.

In other words, she does have something to be angry about, but she’s voicing her anger in a way that only elicits other people’s disapproval rather than really getting her and supporting her. That’s causes low self-esteem and depression too, when you’re voicing anger in a way that other people start to write you off.

Frank: I see kind of what you’re saying, is there’s a very hard and a very soft and that neither is necessarily the better way to do things, but there’s a middle ground. Is there any accuracy in that?

Dr. Lerner: Yes and the interesting thing about the very soft and the nice lady and the very hard, so-called bitchy woman is that they look really different. In other words the woman who always accommodates and gives in and goes along, obviously looks really different than the woman who’s always fighting, complaining and blaming. But really–

Frank: They’re the same.

Dr. Lerner: They are two sides to the same coin. Yep, right. They’re exactly the same thing, because after all is said and done–

Frank: Anger is at the bottom.

Dr. Gayl: And their needs still aren’t getting met.

Dr. Lerner: Their needs aren’t getting met. Exactly, that the woman is left feeling helpless and powerless and her needs aren’t getting met and nothing changes, because if you’re silent on the one hand or you fight ineffectively on the other hand, you’re really protecting the status quo, because nothing is going to change.

Frank: Who did you write this book for? Is it for men or women? Is it for women to take a look at themselves or is it for men to take a look at the women in their life and say, “Hey, it’s your fault–”

Dr. Gayl: You mismanaged anger.

Frank: Yeah, “You’re not dealing with this woman effectively,” and she’s mad. Or are you saying to women, “These are some things that I want you to look at about yourself and work on?”

Dr. Lerner: That’s a really interesting question. When I wrote, The Dance of Anger, the subtitle is A Woman’s Guide.

Frank: There’s the answer to my question in some ways.

Dr. Lerner: Well, it’s not the answer to your question–

Frank: Okay.

Dr. Lerner: Because in fact, men read the book as frequently as women do now. It didn’t hurt, The Dance of Anger that Oprah loved it and recommended it to both men and women. And I would hope that men would read, The Dance of Anger, not to better understand the women in their life, but really to better understand themselves, because in the end humans are more alike than different.

Frank: Yes. Here, here.

Dr. Lerner: So, men are going to find themselves–men don’t read relationship books. I hope that men will read your new book, but really women–

Frank: Thank you.

Dr. Lerner: Tend to buy books and relationships much more than men. Men buy the books about moving up in the business world.

Frank: Yes. Yes.

Dr. Lerner: I think all of us, men and women, need all the help we can get. And part of the reason that men started reading, The Dance of Anger, is their therapist told them that they had to read it.

Frank: That they had to.

Dr. Gayl: If they first get to their therapist, right?

Frank: So, yeah. That’s interesting.

Dr. Gayl: Exactly, exactly. You’re right, because we have a saying that when men get into therapy, they get in with the wife’s footprint in the seat of their pants.

Frank: So, the interesting piece is that, number one, for men, it would be, they would have to be in therapy first to get told to read it by the therapist. And then on top of that, they’d have to at some level agree to read it, because if the–

Dr. Lerner: Exactly.

Frank: Those are a few barriers.

Dr. Lerner: Exactly.

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Frank: How do–

Dr. Lerner: Because I’m a therapist and I’m a very straight shooter as a therapist and I would often recommend something. Whether I’m recommending a book or recommending someone experiment with a specific behavioral change, and of course it’s up to the person–

Frank: Yes.

Dr. Lerner: And it should be up to the person.

Frank: To do it.

Dr. Lerner: Because in the end we have to be the best experts on our own self. It’s up to the person to do it right. Exactly. And it’s hard. It’s so hard to change.

Frank: You said something I found interesting, which was, “I see it differently.” You were talking particularly about the nice lady, but where she’s often unable to say, “I see it differently.” And you know, I find people on the other side of the coin having trouble to say, “I see it differently,” too. So for the nice person, they’re unwilling to say it, because they don’t want to seem different or stand out or to establish their ground around the issue. And for the harder person, they’re unwilling to say, “I see it differently,” because it just simply makes it clear that “I see it differently, but I hopefully, I also respect that you may see it differently.” How do you promote that on both sides? Or do you promote it on both sides and do you agree with what I just said?

Dr. Lerner: I not only agree with what you just said, I think that it is the most difficult and the most important of all human challenges that the greatest right that we have as human beings, is the right to be different. And humans have so much problem appreciating and respecting differences. We all want to sit huddled in a little village–

Frank: Kumbaya circle.

Dr. Lerner: Just like us, think like us and feel like us and believe like us and vote like us. It takes a lot of maturity to recognize that people are different and we see the world through different filters. And being different doesn’t mean that one person’s right and one person is wrong.

Frank: Yes.

Dr. Lerner: For example, if I’m feeling under stress and the way that I handle that is I want to talk about it, I want to process it, I want to have a big conversation about it and the way the other person handles stress is they really seek more distance and aloneness and they want to go out and sit on the tractor–you know I’m talking to you from Kansas here. We so quickly assume that the other person’s way is wrong, So, this ability to say, you know, “I see it differently, let me tell you how I see it,” without trying to change and fix the other person, without trying to shape them up so that they see it just like us, this is so difficult. Whether we’re talking about marriage or the political scene.

Frank: Yes. Yes.

Dr. Lerner: And I remember Frank, one of the most difficult conversations I had with my mom–this was about 10 years ago and this sounds so simple, is I said to her, “I said you know mom, you and I see the situation with dad differently and it makes sense that we see it differently, because you’re his wife and I’m his daughter.”

Frank: Yes.

Dr. Lerner: “But we do see it differently and let me tell you how I see it.” That sounds like a simple thing, but this particular conversation was very brave. And what was so important about it, is I didn’t try to convince her to see it my way. I didn’t come in a tense, “And I know what’s best kind of way and you’re all screwed up, you’re not seeing the truth and I have the corner and the truth.”

I was able to very calmly say, “We see this differently. Let me tell you how I see it. What is it like for you mom, that we see dad so differently about this thing?” This is tremendously hard work. It takes a lot of practice.

Frank: It is the very cornerstone, I believe in–

Dr. Gayl: Any relationship.

Frank: Effective–right, effective longevity in relationships. Any kind of relationships, like Dr. Gayl just said.

Dr. Lerner: Exactly, exactly.

Frank: Yes.

Dr. Lerner: Whether with your child, your partner, someone working with you; the ability to say what you think and feel and believe and to not have to fix the other person. That’s–

Dr. Gayl: And also Dr. Lerner, not feeling guilty about it too. As you spoke earlier that women often have this underlying feeling of guilt.

Dr. Lerner: Yes, and I would put that a little differently.
Dr. Gayl: Okay.

Dr. Lerner: That would be great, if we could take a position and stick to it and not feel guilty. Let’s say that we would be able to say, “You know mom,” or “You know,” to your sister your friend, be able to say, “You know, I’m tired and I’m exhausted and I have to say, ‘no’ to this. I can’t take care of this all by myself and this is what I can do. This is what I can’t do.” It would be great if women could say that and not feel guilty.

Frank: Dr. Lerner–

Dr. Lerner: If that-

Frank: Can I–let me–

Dr. Lerner: Yeah.

Frank: Right there. It’s fascinating to hear you say that talking to mom. Generally, when we’re having these conversations, we’re talking to a man–saying that to a man, but you’re actually sharing an experience talking to another woman. Now, the principle applies both ways, but I so appreciate hearing it just from talking to one sex to the same sex, because it kind of, it takes the “sex” dynamic out of it for just a moment. But please continue.

Dr. Gayl: But you know what? It makes sense, because I still feel that way now as an adult, Dr. Lerner. Even things as common as like hair or hair color or “What you want to do tomorrow with your future or with your career,” having to explain that to a mother in more difficult, I think, than it is going into it than the father figure.

Frank: What about a male–a boyfriend or husband, that sort of thing?

Dr. Gayl: I still think it’s more difficult explaining it to a mother, because–I’m not a mom, but I know my mother she’s more overprotective than other people are and she has a different bias.

Frank: Excuse me, Dr. Lerner–

Dr. Lerner: And also Dr. Gayl, the mother-daughter relationship is so important and mothers and daughters have a great deal of trouble with differences. That is a big challenge in the mother-daughter relationship. So, it can be very difficult to say to your mother, for example, “You know mom, I realize that you would never wear your hair this way or you would never dress this way or you wouldn’t be having your kitchen this way and I know that we’re different, but I’m a grown up and I need to do this in my own way.”

Frank: In my own time.

Dr. Lerner: Now, going back to your point about “don’t feel guilty about it,” in my experiences as a therapist, when you make a change and you begin to define a new position, and you say, “Mom, you may be right. It’s not a matter of right or wrong, I just need to do this my way. I realize it’s not your way and that you’re going to feel guilty.”

So, the challenge is not that you’re going to eliminate the guilt, because I don’t think it’s realistic. The challenge is that when you bring your best self into a relationship and you take a position and you say, “Look mom,” or whoever, “This is how I see it and this is what I need to do,” that you’ll feel guilty and you do it anyway. And then when the other person says, “You’re wrong, you can’t mean it. How can you wear your hair that way? You’re going to kill your mother. This is terrible. You’re dad’s going to be so upset–”

Frank: Right.

Dr. Lerner: That you can say, “It sounds like this is really hard for you, but this is how I do it.” That you can stay with calm eye statements and–

Frank: Yes.

Dr. Lerner: And eventually guilt will subside. I have been a therapist for over 40 years now. I’ve never seen any woman die of guilt. Eventually it’ll subside.

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Back to guilt for a moment; guilt is not just something we experience, but it’s also something–and you primarily as you said, write about women, but I have my way attempting to bring it back to the middle in terms of talking about both sexes.

Dr. Lerner: Absolutely.

Frank: I see guilt is also used as a tool. Often we want to guilt other people into doing what we want them to do. How do you discuss that? So, we talked about guilt as a feeling, what about guilt as a tool?

Dr. Lerner: If other people are using guilt as a tool–and I don’t think people do these things intentionally. I don’t think other people sit around in smoky rooms with maps and pins–

Frank: “I’m going to guilt her into–”

Dr. Gayl: Right. “I’m going to make her feel guilty.”

Dr. Lerner: Yeah, “How can I manipulate this situation?” I think that the challenge is when other people are doing their thing. They’re trying to make you feel guilty or they are bringing you down in some way or operating at your expense. The challenge, because usually for example, if I’m in that situation, a fog may descend upon my brain and the challenge is always to be clear.

If your mom says, for example, “How can you go and visit your dad? How can you do this to me,” or “How can you do this with your brother after he betrayed me,” that you can get clear about what your beliefs are, about how to be your best self. And you might ultimately be able to say, “I’m sorry mother that this is bringing you pain and I know that a lot of painful things have happened between you and dad or between you and Sam, but I just can’t pretend like I don’t have a family member and this is what I need to do and I’m really sorry it’s hurting you, because it’s not my intention.”

It is not useful to say to the other person, “You’re just trying to guilt trip me.” It’s just not useful to give an insult back. And while we’re on the subject of guilt, one of the things that I talk about in, The Dance of Anger too is there is good guilt and there’s bad guilt.

I’m talking now about how women feel guilty. When our behavior is not in keeping with our deepest values–when we do something that violates our own values, it’s really good to feel guilty. It’s important to feel guilty, because that’s our moral compass, that we can shape ourselves up.

But the kind of guilt that women are taught to cultivate like a little flower garden, especially for mothers, that probably all women–that’s just not useful and it keeps women in a small place and keeps them from speaking out and moving into the world and so forth. So, there’s good guilt and there’s bad guilt.

Frank: Okay. You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’re talking with psychologist, speaker and author of 11 published books, Dr. Harriet Lerner. Her latest books are, Married Rules and The Dance of Anger. Please tell our listeners how they can find out more about you and your work.

Dr. Lerner: The only thing listeners need to know for Harriet Lerner is that, “Harriet” is spelled with two r’s and one t. So, the best place to find me is my Facebook page–just facebook.com and write in “marriage rules,” the name of my latest book. Although, the Facebook page covers anger and everything or/and follow me on Twitter @harrietlerner.

Frank: Okay. Your book wasn’t an instant success. As a matter of fact, it was rejected for five years. Did that make you angry?

Dr. Lerner: Oh, it made me angry. It made me depressed. It’s really an interesting story, because The Dance of Anger, which became a New York Time’s bestseller, with millions sold and lining off the shelves–The Dance of Anger, was rejected for five years and–

Frank: Wow.

Dr. Lerner: And just so–

Dr. Gayl: And how did you handle that, Dr. Lerner? How did you handle that anger?

Dr. Lerner: It was really very painful. I think it was hardest for me was that I knew that it was a good book. So, there was a time when it was hard for me to even walk into a bookstore, because I would walk into a book store and I would see on the shelves, all of these self-help books. And in truth, I didn’t think that many of them were very good.

Frank: Couldn’t hold a candle to yours, right?

Dr. Gayl: I’m certain–right?

Dr. Lerner: Yeah, I don’t think they could hold a candle to The Dance of Anger and I couldn’t understand. I just didn’t understand why the book was being rejected by every publisher on the planet for five years.

I could have wall papered the biggest room in my house with rejection slips and I don’t exaggerate. I was very down. Sometimes I would feel very sad and sometimes I’d feel depressed and some times I’d feel angry like, “This isn’t right. It’s not fair.”

The other thing I should add, this is why I could light a little candle for myself, is I wrote and rewrote, The Dance of Anger on a typewriter.

Dr. Gayl: Oh wow.

Dr. Lerner: For five years. This was right before the computer. And all that our listeners don’t even know–

Frank: Right–don’t even know what that’s like.

Dr. Lerner: Right. And my editing tools were scissors and Scotch tape.

Dr. Gayl: Oh, no.

Dr. Lerner: I don’t know if you guys are old enough to remember carbon copies and–

Frank: Yep.

Dr. Lerner: Cutting and pasting.

Frank: Yep.

Dr. Lerner: So, when The Dance of Anger finally saw the light of day, I thought no one was going to read it except for my mother and my five best friends. So, it’s really a remarkable story.

Frank: I’m curious–

Dr. Lerner: That it’s become such a classic.

Frank: Who changed? Was it you or the publisher that changed or made the most adjustment in order for the book to come forth–by being published?

Dr. Lerner: Yeah, that’s a really interesting question. I think both, because I was rewriting the book over a five year period–

Frank: Okay.

Dr. Lerner: Everyday. Actually, some of my ideas were changing. Ironically, I think it’s a better book that it took five years to be published. So, that’s part of it. When I first started, I think part of the reason it was rejected is that women’s anger was so taboo. No one wanted a book on women’s anger.

The publishers thought no one would buy a book on women’s anger. They wouldn’t want to put it on their coffee table. They’d want to put in a brown paper bag, because people might think, “Oh my God, she’s one of those angry women.”

Frank: I can relate to that.

Dr. Lerner: So, they think on one would buy it. Right. Uh-huh, go ahead.

Frank: I get all kinds of comments about the title of my book, How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship. And people are like, “Whoa, that’s contraband. I can’t go in the house with that.” And I say to them–

Dr. Lerner: Right, right.

Frank: “These are conversations that you have with your partner. This isn’t something to hide. I want you to discuss what’s in this book with your partner, please,” and–

Dr. Gayl: Wow. That’s good.

Frank: And sometimes it resonates and sometimes it doesn’t. But I can certainly relate to what you’re saying.

Dr. Lerner: Right. And I have to admit that if my husband were to come home tomorrow with your new book and the title is about exiting gracefully from a relationship we might have to have a little conversation there.

There’s a little bit of luck–not a little bit, there’s luck in getting a book published or completing any really difficult project. It takes talent. It takes perseverance. But there’s also luck. And what happens is that one young editor decided to take a chance on, The Dance of Anger and did a small printing and it was really remarkable, because word of mouth–even before Oprah discovered it and I went on her show–word of mouth got The Dance of Anger going. So, I’m very, very grateful.

The other thing taught me, if there are any writers out there– and I think we’re all writers in a way.

Frank: We are really–and all poets–

Dr. Lerner: We are all writers, right.

Frank: Yes.

Dr. Lerner: My experience trying to get, The Dance of Anger published, taught me that the line between a best selling author and someone who can’t get published at all, is a very thin line indeed. That there is this element of good luck and sort of where you are in history and that sort of thing, so I’m very grateful and I’m so grateful to the millions of readers of The Dance of Anger, who keep it going.

Dr. Gayl: Dr. Lerner, how does sadness play a part in anger?

Dr. Lerner: How does what?

Dr. Gayl: Sadness.

Dr. Lerner: Sadness?

Dr. Gayl: Uh-huh.

Dr. Lerner: That’s a very interesting question. Do you have some thoughts about it?

Dr. Gayl: I do. Yeah.

Dr. Lerner: Tell me. Tell me.

Dr. Gayl: I do. I think that oftentimes people or what I’ve witnessed is that people will repress their sadness, because it’s easier to exert anger or display anger than to be vulnerable and discuss what makes you sad or why you are sad.
Dr. Lerner: That’s such an important point. I’m glad you brought that up and it’s one of the reasons why anger is such a tricky emotion.

Dr. Gayl: Right, because you don’t know, “Is it truly anger or is it–”

Dr. Lerner: Exactly, exactly. And where I see that most frequently, for example, is when there’s a loss. A parent dies and often there has been a lot of intensity before the parent dies and who’s doing what? Who’s taking care of an aging parent? Who’s stepping up to the plate? Who isn’t? And the parent dies and then you see relationships fly apart and sibling relationships fly apart and they’re fighting over who gets the golf clubs and–

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Dr. Lerner: Who has behaved badly. And there’s loads and loads of anger and bitterness, often leading to cut off. And really, going back to the point that you’re making, is that the grief and the sadness and the loss is too difficult to feel, so the people fight. They fight and they distance and they cut off. They fight.

That’s a very, very important point. Sometimes you see the opposite. With women you see the opposite too, where say a woman is talking to her boss and she wants a raise or she’s been treated unfairly and she starts to cry and says that she feels very hurt and what you see are her tears. When really, she’s angry.

Frank: Right.

Dr. Lerner: She’s afraid. She has a legitimate complaint and protest and she transforms that anger into tears. So, it’s all very tricky and mischievous, since one emotion may be disguising something deeper underneath it. Really important point.

Frank: I want to go back to just talking about you being an author, really quickly. Do you have any encouraging words that you can offer the audience about being a writer and shopping for a publisher?

Dr. Lerner: Oh boy, encouraging words that shopping for a publisher, being a writer. Well, in terms of being a writer, my advice would be to write–that writer’s write. That’s what it means to be a writer and when I was writing, The Dance of Anger, I was really disciplined. I would get out of bed in the morning and I would go to the computer–well no, actually with, The Dance of Anger, I would go to the typewriter and I would write.

The most important thing is to write and to not show your work to people too early. Sometimes when people start to write, they show it to friends or they show it to someone very early and they get some discouraging feedback and it’s like that really just stops them. I think at some point you need to get feedback about your work, but not–

Frank: While the creative process is still emerging.

Dr. Lerner: Right. Not when the creative process is still emerging. And also when I show my work to someone I give them instructions. Like if it’s fairly early on, I would say, “Look, I don’t want to hear any discouraging thing. I don’t want to hear anything negative, but if you can put your pen to this and improve it a little or give me some feedback, I would like that.” So, the most important thing is to write and to protect some time to write.

Frank: Okay.

Dr. Lerner: And for most people they write better in the morning, even if they think they’re night people, but not everyone. In terms of a publisher, if you want to go the way of a standard publisher, it is really important to get an agent and that’s a challenge in itself.

Frank: Okay.

Dr. Lerner: A lot of people today are self-publishing and they’re doing pretty well with that. They’re doing an ebook on Amazon and they’re self-publishing. I think it’s free to do something on Amazon online. The thing about publishing a book or writing is that you might believe that when it’s out, when you’re done, when the book sees the light of day, then your work is finished. But it’s more like a baby, because when it’s out, that’s when the work starts. You need to promote it. You need to get the word out. You need to find a way to let people know about it and that’s quite a job in itself. I’m sure you know about that.

Frank: I do know. Yes, ma’am.

Dr. Lerner: Yeah. How are you getting the word out about your book?

Frank: The first thing we did and are doing is asking bloggers and other authors to review it. But the major thing–the first step was the authors. So, sending it out to notable authors. And I would like to–before we get off the line, see if I can send you a copy.

Dr. Lerner: Absolutely, absolutely.

Frank: The other was bloggers. So, we’re asking bloggers to review it. Whether it’s a good review or bad review, but I do generally want to know what colleagues think of it. And then we’re going to move into radio interviews–things of that nature. It’s a step. It’s a series of steps. And as you said about me, I’m sure you know all too well.

Dr. Lerner: Right, exactly. And when I wrote, The Dance of Anger, there was no electronic media and I don’t think the word “blogger” existed. It didn’t, nor Facebook or “What’s your URL,” or “How can people reach you?” And what I had to do for example with, The Dance of Anger, also with The Dance of Intimacy and the books that followed, is my publisher sent me on a book tour and that was pretty grueling of three weeks and a different city every day and getting on a plane and “Where am I?”

Frank: Yes.

Dr. Lerner: “And who am I?”

Frank: Yes, yes.

Dr. Lerner: The book tour was pretty grueling way, too.

Frank: I kind of am looking forward to it. But I hear the same thing, the grueling piece. But it comes with the territory.

Dr. Lerner: Right.

Frank: We do what we love. We do what we got to do.

Dr. Lerner: Right, exactly.

Frank: I’d like for you to put on your therapist hat. I’ve got a question that has nagged me for many, many years and it’s basically, how do you balance the use or lose dynamics? Say with the physical body, for the most part, if we don’t use our skills or our ability–even the ability to walk, we sat around all the time, the ability to get up deteriorates.

Dr. Lerner: Exactly.

Frank: And how do you balance that with the desire to kind of do what you want to do, if you want to sit around all the time? Which is the right thing to do, because ultimately we do want to do what we want to do? Do you have any thoughts about that? You’re the first person I’ve asked on this show, something of this nature.

Dr. Lerner: Well, in relationships, usually what we want to do is what we have always been doing. In other words, we really naturally want to preserve the status quo, even if the status quo is painful, even if you’re in a relationship with a lot of distance or a lot of fighting, people will tend to do more of the same. Like if you’re pursuing a distant partner and you’re mad about it, do people stop and practice something new, no?

People will keep doing the same thing or at least one’s lifetime. So, you like sitting–your natural thing, you’re going to want to sit. And it’s interesting, because even rats if you put them in a maze, they’ll began to very their behavior, if they hit a dead end a few times. But in this regard, we behave less intelligently than laboratory animals, so we keep doing more of the same. It’s very interesting. I really like the image of–and what you said about, if you just sit, your muscles are going to start to weaken, because you’re not using them and that really is a very interesting way to think about relationships.

In relationships we need to do an exercise. We need to practice, because anything worth doing means that we sort of move against our own resistance.

Frank: Yes

Dr. Lerner: We push ourselves and we practice whatever it is that we have to practice. We might have to practice listening. Just listening with an open heart rather than being defensive. We may have to practice not pursuing, whether it’s our son or a husband for more closeness.

We might have to practice not enabling or over-functioning and bailing someone out. And anything worth doing requires practicing something that really doesn’t come naturally.

Frank: Yes.

Dr. Lerner: I think all my advice in The Dance of Anger and Marriage Rules, in a way is inviting the reader to try out a new you, to practice doing something differently. In terms of your question, I think every person has to figure out their own balance, because sometimes when we just feel like sitting and we just feel like resting and we’re not in a place to push yourselves or do anything different, we just need to sort of coast for awhile, sometimes it’s important to really respect that.

Frank: Yes, you’re right.

Dr. Lerner: And to not let anyone else push you. Your friend might say, “Leave him already, leave this guy. Do this, do that,” and it can be a great act of courage to say, “I’m not clear about this yet and I am not ready to–”

Frank: Yes.

Dr. Lerner: Do anything. I’m just sitting.” And then, at other times and I think there’s a lot of intuition here and being very patient with yourself. At other times you might need to say, “I feel like sitting,” of course and “I’m scared to death to take a new position, yet I really need to say to my partner,” or whoever it is, “You know, this needs to change, because if this continues, this kind of rudeness or talking to me in this way– if this continues, I can’t feel good about myself or you or the relationship. So, I need to tell you this.” I think in terms of your very good question, no one else can know when you need to sit and when you need to get up and have courage and do something different.

Frank: Nice, thank you. I’ll get up now, off the couch.

A few months ago, we had the pleasure of having Nana Kwenaba Brown as a guest on the show. His organization in Nyama healing services is now inviting you to his Saturday, October 19th couples relationship enhancement workshop in Silver Springs, Maryland.

This workshop has helped hundreds of people over the last 10 years and many couples have returned for a second and third visit. It’s for the young and old and is excellent for young couples moving towards commitment and marriage or older couples in need of a tune-up.

Those who come will receive effective communication skills, techniques and strategies for conflict resolution and decision-making; recommendation for identifying establishing and conducting the three important couples meetings, comprehension and techniques or forgiveness and apologies, wonderful exercises for renewal of sacred sensuality and much more. For more information, go to nyamahealingservices.eventbright.com or contact Nana Kwenaba Brown at 202-294-4471.

And you’re listening to Frank Relationships; we’re talking with Psychologist, speaker and author of 11 published books, Dr. Harriet Lerner. Her latest books are, Marriage Rules and The Dance of Anger. Please tell our listeners how they can find out more about you and your work.

Dr. Lerner: You can find The Dance of Anger or Marriage Rules, anywhere including online like Amazon or any bookstore. And to find out more about me you can follow me at Twitter @harrietlerner and on Facebook. Just go to Facebook.com and type in “marriage rules.” And that’s a place where I give a lot of relationship advice–not just about marriage rules but The Dance of Anger and intimacy and connection and all that.

Frank: Okay. We have talked a lot about, The Dance of Anger, but we haven’t really talked about, Marriage Rules. Please, can you tell us about that book?

Dr. Lerner: Marriage Rules, actually it was inspired by a book about eating. It was inspired by this book, Food Rules, I was reading by Michael Pollen and that is a great book. He has 64 really simple rules about healthful eating and they’re really fun to read and things like don’t buy cereal that changes the color of the milk–really smart things. And I was reading Food Rules and I suddenly got inspired. And I thought, “I can do this for couples and marriage. I’m going to write Marriage Rules.”

I wrote it in a very simple fun, easy format of rules. There are different rules. Rules about fighting fair, rules about dialing down the criticism and how to connect with a distant partner, and I have one chapter called, “Forget about Normal Sex.” Sex rules, etc, etc. I have a chapter on, “Knowing your Bottom Line,” which is a really hard thing in marriage.

Frank: What is a bottom line?

Dr. Lerner: We all do a lot of complaining and blaming and the bottom line is where you take a position that is not negotiable under relationship pressures. The bottom line is a place where you do not compromise your deepest priorities and values and beliefs in the relationship.

All relationships require compromise and give and take. We don’t get what we want. But when a person has no bottom line, it’s sort of anything goes, then the relationship, whoever it’s with is going to spiral downward. So, teaching people how to have a bottom line is a theme in both, The Dance of Anger and Marriage Rules and it’s very, very complicated in Marriage Rules–

Frank: Okay.

Dr. Lerner: To know the difference between just complaining and complaining and having the bottom line position. The other thing about, Marriage Rules, is I wanted to write a book that just one person could make use of, because although it takes two people to couple up, it takes only one–

Frank: One to split.

Dr. Lerner: One to split, but also one to make things a whole lot different. And very often, I mean I can tell you as a therapist that of course it’s ideal for two people to want to work on a relationship. It doesn’t work that way. Very often there’s just one person who has their motor running for change. So both The Dance of Anger and Marriage Rules, both books are very useful for one person to read.

Frank: In Marriage Rules you talk about talking straight and fighting fair. Give us a little bit on talking straight.

Dr. Lerner: Talking straight and fighting fair, that sounds like the challenge of a lifetime. When we’re feeling angry and intense, we get into a lot of the nonproductive complaining and blaming and criticizing. It’s interesting when people are married, we treat our dry cleaner better than we treat our husband or wife or partner. People do not bring their best self into marriage. They just don’t.

Marriage is a very difficult relationship and it’s like a lightning rod that’s going to attract intensity for many other problems you’re dealing with. People come home. They take it out on their partner. Talking straight is and fighting fair really requires a lot from us, including calming down, including making wise decisions about how and when to say what; knowing how to exit from a site when it’s escalating, because couples go very quickly from zero to 100.

Frank: Yes.

Dr. Lerner: And–

Frank: Or 100 to zero.

Dr. Lerner: Well, usually they go from zero to a 100. To go from a 100 to zero, would be a goal, so one thing one has to learn is to be able to say to one’s partner, “Listen, I’m here to talk with you about anything. I’m your partner, but I will not continue this conversation when you’re in your debate mood or when you’re treating me rudely. So, I’m out of this conversation and come back and talk to me when you can treat me with respect.”

It’s important to know how to exit a conversation that’s at your expense. And a bottom line means that your words and your actions are congruent, so that when you say to someone, “I need you to treat me with respect or I can’t be in a conversation,” you need to exit the conversation, rather than sitting there crying and–

Frank: Right.

Dr. Lerner: Saying this thing. There’s so much involved.

Frank: No mixed messages.

Dr. Lerner: Right. That’s a hard one. No mixed messages. How difficult it is to keep our actions congruent with our words.

Frank: Yes. You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’ve been talking with Dr. Harriet Lerner. One of our nations’s most trusted and respected relationship experts. She’s a psychologist, speaker and author of 11 books–11 published books, including, Marriage Rules and The Dance of Anger. The Dance of Anger has sold more than two million copies and has been translated into more than 30 foreign editions. Last time, please tell our listeners how they can find out more about you and your work.

Dr. Lerner: You can find The Dance of Anger and Marriage Rules in any bookstore or online like in Amazon and follow me and my relationship advice on Facebook–facebook.com/marriagerules. It not just about marriage–my advice there. And follow me on Twitter: @harrietlerner.

Frank: Along today’s journey, we’ve discussed anger, writing and getting published, particularly once you’ve been rejected and marriage rules. I hope you’ve had as much fun as I’ve had discussing The Dance of Anger and the rules of marriage and publishing and writing and lots of other good stuff.

As always, it’s my wish for you to walk away from this conversation with a heaping helping of useful information that’ll help you create a relationship that’s as loving and accepting as possible. Let us know what you thought of today’s show at facebook.com/relationshipflove, on Twitter @mrfranklove or at franklove.com.

On behalf of my producer, Phileta Legette, my assistant producer, Anayza Stewart and the man on the boards, Jeff Newman, keep rising. This is Frank Love.


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