Cover Image: The Power of Discord

The Power of Discord

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Member Reviews

Society focuses on perfect relationships where there is little to no strain or stress.  The author of this book lays out the case for how imperfect relationships actually give us skills that we need to learn and grow.  I found this to be a really interesting approach and a great read!
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The premise of The Power of Discord centers around the presence of tension or disagreement, and its resolution, are critical in human development and how our relationships deepen. This is a great read to reinforce how important open discussion and connection are in our lives, and very timely with the polarization in our world today.

This is great for background, especially for people who work in child development or education, and for those who are seeking to be parents or caretakers. I would like to see more on how to adapt later in life if early childhood or life changes create more challenges to overcome in a future book. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown, and Company for the ARC. All opinions are my own.
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The Power of Discord is a study of human connection and disconnection. The authors, Ed Tronick and Claudia Gold, demonstrate through scientific and therapeutic studies that by working through conflict and the messiness of every day life, our relationships can be stronger than ever before.

Our earliest relationships have a profound affect on the way we interact with others as adults. It is almost scary how fast infants develop the responses that they carry with them into adulthood. In Tronick's groundbreaking study called the "still-face" experiment, his findings helped researchers discover how infants communicate with their mothers.

In the experiment, a mother and child are interacting, playing as usual. Then, the mother turns away a moment and when she turns back, her face is still and empty of emotion.

The curious thing about the infants' reaction to their caregiver presenting them with a face devoid of emotion is that researchers could already see how the relationship between the two was developing. Infants in a healthy relationship kept trying to get a reaction out of the other person until their caregiver "went back to normal." Infants in a "dysfunctional" relationship, or who were for whatever reason were less connected with their parent, shut down and practiced coping or self soothing mechanisms rather than trying to draw the caregiver out.

Prior to this experiment, it was assumed that infants had little to no communication ability whatsoever.

"When confronted with a stressful situation, (infants) could apply a style of interaction drawn from the everyday exchanges with their caregivers. While they did not yet have the capacity for language or conscious thought, they were able to draw on their countless moment-to-moment interactions to cope with the stress of caregivers' unfamiliar behavior."

I worried, as I read the study, that the children would somehow be scarred by it. Some of the reactions the researchers described were very intense and painful for everyone involved. But the authors assured readers the level of stress in the experiment wasn't something beyond what the children would encounter in their daily lives. Still, it seemed rather unfair to them. It wasn't like researchers could explain what was going on.

Beyond the initial interactions that form the manner in which people craft their relationship styles, Tronick and Gold delve into further issues that may affect how you connect with others like: the pernicious effects of perfectionism and addiction to technology, feeling safe around others, taking responsibility for your connection style, and, the part I liked the most, the surprising way discord makes relationships stronger.

"... it is not simply what happened when we were young that screws us up now. Along the way to growing up and into our adult lives, we continue to create new ways of being screwed up. Only when we have accumulated a whole new set of interactions, when we work through the inevitable moments of disconnection to again find connection, will we grow and change."

Though we learn how to form connections before we even have language, researchers have found that connection styles can be relearned, relationships can be repaired and are repaired, every day, little by little. In countless "mismatch and repair" moments, we teach ourselves that there is nothing broken that can't be restored. It builds confidence in the relationship and trust in ourselves and each other - the building blocks of intimacy.

Highly recommended for readers looking to engage in some introspection about their own attachment style or for those who are curious about how relationships are formed and maintained.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a free advance reader copy of this book.
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The basic principle of this book is powerful. Relationships thrive by overcoming tension, not by avoiding it. If cemented into your mind, this concept will change your life. Healthy relationships are the basis of a healthy existence. The authors do a great job of driving the point home from all angles. 

I will note, there’s a lot of Freud usage as well as a the Big Bang theory, and sprinkled with some Darwin. This is not off putting to me, but it may be to some.
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Ed Tronick and Claudia M. Gold’s, “The Power of Discord” is an eye-opening paradigm-shift that can decrease suffering and increase understanding, compassion, and relational growth. The idea that discord is not necessarily a bad thing and that it can be healthy and essential for growth, development, and rewarding relationships is paradoxically enlightening. Through careful research, brilliant examples, and clear and concise language, they have truly written a masterpiece that can help clinicians and laypeople alike.
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Note: I received an advanced readers' copy in exchange for my honest review of this book! 

You know, I think that relationship books can be written in a really compelling way. Unfortunately, this was not such a book and I was not able to finish it. The advice in the book felt trite and overstated and I just could not compel myself to finish this book. My apologies to the authors.
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