Reconnecting with the Heart: Making Sense of Our Feelings Paperback – Abridged, Audiobook, Box set
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About the Author
Anne Dickson is a freelance psychologist, writer and trainer and is recognised as a leading authority on women's development, assertiveness training and interactive communication. Her first book A Woman In Your Own Right (Quartet, 1982) was translated into twelve languages, becoming and continuing to be the core textbook for assertiveness trainers throughout the world.
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Here is step-by-step travel in the subject with a writer who knows it from the inside and wants us to know it too.
Through frameworks, concepts, and some illustrations by Elizabeth Kurtzman (see an amusingly vivid depiction of boiling point on p169), the author informs, guides, (usefully italicising for emphasis) and gives numerous examples to illustrate the point. There are suggested exercises to do privately or with a trusted friend (more fun) and helpful notes on this in the appendix. Many vignettes stay in the memory eg, on the subject of our essential needs being met or unmet, there's seven-year-old Stephen's birthday party and the humiliation and punishment he receives for what is an excited, spontaneous question on greeting his friend. In Moving from Distortion, there's Luke, a man who was addicted to casual sexual encounters and his meeting with a young prostitute whose tears were a catalyst by which, 'for the very first time he started to question what he was doing' and began his work in challenging that addictive behaviour.
The writing on anger with its clear distinction from aggression is invaluable. There's key information too on the 'indispensible concept' of Restimulation (this word isn't even in the 'Word' dictionary on my computer). My copy of her book is full of pencilled underlining and I know I'll be reading it more than once. I've done some of the suggested exercises such as revisiting a childhood room and making a retrospective journey and made some unexpected discoveries and realisations.
The analysis of the body-mind connection includes the laying out of the entire emotional cycle - its biological basis; the process of perception and arousal; the activity of neurochemicals; build up, release and resolution when we allow ourselves to follow the natural sequence and is likened to the process of sexual arousal and shows how body and mind are inextricably linked.
Using the acronym DREAD to sum up the negative status of emotional life - Denial, Rationalisation, Evasion, Accumulation and Distortion - with information on each, the author does not leave us stranded but offers an alternative approach, DANCE - Discernment, Acknowledgement, Naming, Catharsis and Evaluation - whereby we can begin to move to the uplands of rich emotional connection and balance within ourselves and in relation with others. She makes the important distinction between catharsis and dramatisation, contrasting display and genuine catharsis. The discomfort with catharsis found in some therapies is shown simply in a vignette where the little girl, who had seen her father killed, was on the point of tears only to be told by the therapist "It's ok, you don't need to cry." and moved quickly on to something else; in effect not only disallowing the child's natural release of grief with its inherent healing but also giving her the tacit message that tears were not to be shed.
The final chapters - 'Emotion and relationship'; 'What if ..?' are also moving and a telling reminder of the 'little brain' in the heart. We are told that 'yielding to the wisdom of the heart requires a courageous step into the unknown'. Thanks to this author we can be less afraid to take it. The heartfelt gauntlet is softly laid down, as she says 'This means nothing less than making an ongoing commitment to be fully human.'
Reconnecting with the Heart deserves to be a classic. I'd like to see a chart of the author's 'A-Z Alphabet' hung in every schoolroom, boardroom, therapy room and kitchen as part of our right to have an "Education in Emotions".
Anne Dickson's work on assertiveness and sexuality made a major contribution to psycho education for both the general public and clinicians. With Reconnecting with the Heart she has done it again and don't we just need a book about emotions
The book guides us with intelligence and love along the path of emotional learning - the rewards will benefit us all.