Friday, October 13, 2000

Book Review: The Anatomy of Peace

The Anatomy of Peace
by The Arbinger Institute
Genre: Self Help, specifically about Peacemaking

The Arbinger Institute is a sort of think tank that applies its research and consulting to the subject of peacemaking. I've been interested in their work for a while and find that the ideas they promote resonate with me. This is a self-help book, but it is presented as a story. The creative writing aspect of it is not its strongest characteristic, but that's okay. It teaches the concepts in the setting of a fictional group of parents who have just dropped off their troubled kids at an intensive outdoor intervention camp. The parents have to have some training with the camp staff so they can prepare to support the kids after their experience in the wilderness. The teaching is clear and the concepts are presented in an organized way, but sometimes the dialog and characterizations are a tiny bit cheesy. They are designed to be representative of a wide cross-section of people, so the concepts can be shown as applying to everyone. I get that, and I learned what the book has to offer, so the choice of style worked.

So, beyond a bit of criticism for the presentation, I really believe what this book teaches. I believe it with all my heart, and I think that if I can internalize it and learn to apply it, it really will help me in all my relationships. There were several moments of deep personal recognition of struggles that I have. Fortunately, these moments were eased by practical, useful pointers to new ways of thinking about my "way of being." Which brings me to another head's up. Just like any set of skills, whether it be skiing, knitting or car mechanics, this one comes with its own vocabulary. Some might dismiss it as psychobabble, as I did at first. What I've found however, as I've thought about and really tried to use the concepts taught is that using the language of the book actually helps me to build the new habits I want to build. The new words help me to sort of short circuit my usual habits.
I found the book most applicable to my family relationships, but really the concept of how to relate to others with a "heart of peace" is something that can be used in all situations. I thought of dealing with teachers at school, the staff at the doctor and dentist offices, and many other times when I've found myself not so peaceful.
If you are interested in a new way of thinking about looking at others, especially people you have struggled with for any reason, this could be a really useful book for you.

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