How The Art of War Can Help Your Marriage

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The Art of War, that classic work of Chinese literature, written in from the 5th century BC and attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, is packed with good advice on marriage, although marriage is never once mentioned.

It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the cost of carrying it out.

Before you go to war with your spouse over a trivial thing, you should thoroughly consider the cost of doing so. Sun Tzu makes it very clear that war, even if successful, is costly.

In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.

Maintaining bitterness and bad blood, holding grudges and grievances are like long sieges that deplete your resources. Even if you do win, what you win is no longer worth having.

In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to capture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.

Taking whole keeps as much intact as possible. It gives you something worth having. Destruction only leaves devastation, not only for the defeated, but also for the conqueror.

Authentic victory is victory over aggression, a victory that respects the enemy and makes further conflict unnecessary.

Therefore, one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the most skillful. Subduing the other’s military without battle is the most skillful.

The sage spouse doesn’t attain victory by defeating her partner, but by creating the conditions that make further conflict unnecessary.

Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. If it accords with advantage, then employ troops. If it does not, then stop. A kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.

A marriage destroyed can be brought back into being, but it’s hard. Love that has died can be brought back to life, but it seldom happens. Therefore, don’t put your marriage at risk just because you are angry or annoyed. Feelings will pass. But, if you have something worth fighting about and fighting will solve the problem; then fight only to the extent that it’s advantageous.

He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.

If your partner loses her shit, don’t lose yours.

Use order to await chaos. Use stillness to await clamor. This is ordering the heart-mind.

Instead, keep your wits about you and she will regain hers.

A leader leads by example, not by force.

Fighting does not end fighting. Fighting is ended by making up. Show an example of making up.

Confront them with annihilation, and they will then survive; plunge them into a deadly situation, and they will then live. When people fall into danger, they are then able to strive for victory.

When you attack your partner, she will dig in and defend herself at all costs. Then you’ll have a battle.

Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.

Give your partner an opportunity to stop fighting.

Above all, says Sun Tzu, know yourself and know the other.

Knowing the other and knowing oneself, in one hundred battles no danger. Not knowing the other and knowing oneself, one victory for one loss. Not knowing the other and not knowing oneself, in every battle certain defeat.

Click here to read the Art of War.


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What can you do if your therapist turns out to be abusive? Who can you tell? You can tell TELL, the Therapy Exploitation Link Line. Here’s the link to the link line, so you can tell TELL.

TELL is a resource, referral, and networking organization that seeks to help victims and survivors of exploitation by psychotherapists and other healthcare providers find the support and resources they will need to understand what has happened to them, take action, and heal.

I wouldn’t have known to tell you about TELL had I not been asked to review a book by one woman who turned to that organization for help in recovering from a psychotherapist gone bad. The book is Mending the Shattered Mirror: A Journey of Recovery from Abuse in Therapy by Analie Shepherd. Continue reading


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If you’re interested in understanding human behavior, you could do a lot worse than reading novels and fictional short stories.

The worse thing you could do, I suppose, is to read instruction manuals on how to assemble Ikea furniture, astrophysics, or the nature of chemical reactions, anything in which no human need be present. The second worse thing would be to read heavy handed self help books or even handed psychology texts. The information there is often correspondingly one sided or thin. Reading journal articles about human behavior would the the third worse thing to read. They may help you drill down into specifics, but they all contain far more about statistics and experimental design than any student of the humanities has patience for.

indexFor my money, and to conserve my time, I would go to the fiction section of the library and load up on books that showcase the actions and interactions of people. One of the best of recent books that can teach you a lot about humans is Freedom by Jonathan Frazen. Continue reading

Unbroken Brain

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People have often asked me to recommend a book about addiction. For thirty years, the only one I ever urged people to read has been the Big Book of AA, written eighty yea41wc6kjajil-_sx327_bo1204203200_rs ago, when we knew next to nothing about addiction. I’ll get into the reason why I recommended it in a minute. I’m happy to say that now there’s a better book for anyone interested in learning about addiction, drawing on the latest findings, written by an award winning journalist and recovering addict, Maia Szalavitz. Her book is Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction. Continue reading

The Fractured Republic

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On this MLK Day, after the recent dissentious election, you may be interested in reading The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism by Yuval Levin. Levin has ideas about how we can come together and mend what’s broken.
Continue reading

Therapy and Spirituality

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I recently read and was asked to review Eastern Wisdom Western Soul by Richard Singer. It got me thinking about how us shrinks handle spirituality. There are basically three ways. We can, a) ignore it and pretend it doesn’t matter; b) help the client work through what

they’ve been taught till they arrive at beliefs and practices that work for them; or c) indoctrinate the client in something new. Eastern Wisdom Western Soul is an example of the choice C. I liked the book, but I’m skeptical that it’s the right way to go. Continue reading