Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dance of Deception by Harriet Lerner

Dance of Deception by Harriet Lerner is the third book in the three-in-one collection that includes her classic Dance of Anger and its follow-up Dance of Intimacy.  This third book is a departure from the previous two in that its primary focus is still on relationships but goes beyond the immediate faimilial ones to include professional, cultural, and societal relationships as well. It is the theme of inclusiveness, wrapped up in a strongly feminist psychological perspective, that undergirds this particular text within the volume.

Naturally, Lerner encourages the reader to be honest with other but she tempers this advice with observations from her personal and professional experience where being brutally honest is not always the best choice and even confesses a confusion with the idea of ethical dishonesty or situational truth.  Should a woman who has said to a couple of strangers that she works in a hospital correct the misperception that she is a nurse by clarifying that she is actually a doctor?  Lerner is often clear in what she believes is best but she is perhaps strongest when she dares to be less than confident.    Her lack of absolute confidence is most evident in her knowing that she herself is unable to always be assertive and feeling threatened at the idea that she is not adequately inclusive in her white-middle-class-educated-woman perspective of feminist cant.

Because the book isn’t primarily about familial or marital relationships, it is less intensely focused, for better or worse.  Some of Lerner’s readers may be put off by this while others will find it a refreshing change.  I fall into this latter category and was relieved not to read whole chapters about triangulation and under-functioning/over-functioning.  While both are certainly referenced in this book, because of its broader emphasis the issues the typify the variety of relationships are larger and carry far-reaching implications that Lerner can only begin to explore in the under 250 pages of this book.  She quotes from and recommends other books making her book an excellent and accessible introduction to the psychological importance of honesty and how personal integrity can define and even determine all of our relationships.

This book is one of the Fifteen in 2011 books and also part of my Books I Should Have Read By Now Challenge.  

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