It's been one of those challenging weeks. Fortunately, I've never been one to seek solace in a bottle. I go to the bookshelf instead.
This time, I rummaged around a bit before pulling out two volumes that have been quietly waiting to be noticed.
The first, “Ancestral Blueprints,” is a reflection on individual heritage, collective experience, the historic commission of injustices, and what that means for us personally, and for the society in which we live.
“We are descendants of immigrant and indigenous, colonizer and colonized, enslaved and enslaver, with a steady opportunity to recognize our common bonds,” writes Bellingham psychotherapist Lisa B. Iversen.
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She has worked with many clients whose individual struggles with shame, grief, or fear seemed to mask a deeper anxiety over, or detachment from, something she calls “ancestral maps.” Iverson describes these as the experiences that have shaped each family over generations, and she goes on to point out how these maps collectively have guided our culture in both good and bad ways.
America’s history of immigration, for example, has depended on self-reliance – the ability to leave family and homeland behind to strike out on one’s own. But that temperament also inclines us toward isolation, compulsivity and individualism, perhaps at the cost of the collective good.
Iverson makes another assertion based on our country’s long-sanctioned history of slavery: Even today our culture is ingrained with the mind-set that some groups of people are superior to others.
Using an approach called Family Constellations, Iverson has developed a practice that invites her clients to become more aware of their own family’s back stories and then to consider how these stories, pieced together, form a collective inheritance from which all of us can glean wisdom, learn compassion, and choose direction.
This is a thoughtful and intellectually stimulating book, but it is packaged in an ill-advised format. It’s as if the book mistakes itself for a Web site. Set up with sidebars featuring testimonials from those who have done Constellation work, the book takes on the flavor of an infomercial.
That’s a pity.
The other book I read recently focuses more specifically on the quest for personal change. Olympia author/artist Sophie Lumen has created a lovely small book for women who are seeking gentle ways to change their lives.
“Feed the Beauty: White Rose” grew out of her own experience as a somewhat lumpy woman approaching middle age and dissatisfied with her life.
Sick of repeating the diets that didn’t work, she finally realized that what she was hungry for wasn’t food. Instead, she turned to painting and writing as a way to fulfill herself.
This is a very personal book about healing. I don’t think everyone will find inspiration in the same things that Lumen does. But its message of really paying attention to what you think and do is a powerful one.
The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Northwest. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.