Us: Transforming Ourselves and the Relationships That Matter Most - Lisa Oz
“Just as a note becomes music through its combination with other notes and a point in space defined relative to other points, so we manifest ourselves through our interactions with those around us.” – From Us

I’ll be honest: when publisher Free Press sent me Us by Lisa Oz (unsolicited—I hadn’t even heard of it before it arrived), I thought “Here we go…another wifey trying to cash in on her husband’s popularity and assert her place in the mass media as a viable entity apart from his persona.” To add to my prejudgment, I wondered “And why in the world is she scowling on the cover? Way to sell books…”

But I decided to give Us a chance, mostly because I happen to like Dr. Mehmet Oz…

Well! Consider my snobby reviewer stance blown away entirely when I reached page 10. Yes, page 10!

Why? One of the first concepts she tackles in Chapter 1 is the importance of knowing ourselves. She asserts quite rightly that all of your relationships have one thing in common…you. “You are the fundamental unit of every partnership, friendship, romantic entanglement or antagonistic encounter you’ve ever had”, she writes. “And since you’re the only part of your relationships that you actually have any control over, working with *you* is a pretty good place to start.”

And start she does with a psycho-spiritual personality system that I’ve been studying for almost a decade and found to be valuable—a tool called the Enneagram. Of possible origins with ancient Sufi mystics and employed by the Desert Fathers, this system categorizes individuals into 9 personality types that have central core fears and ways of coping with them (that are rather predictable), as well as ways to “wake up” to each ego trap and realize our core Essence.

“The Enneagram?”, I thought. “This cookie must be deeper than I suspected…”

Frankly, I continued to be surprised, delighted and excited through the rest of the 204-page text of Us. Lisa proves to be a transparent, authentic, reasonable, knowledgeable, grounded, and inspirational sage cloaked in the guise of a flawed housewife, mother, spouse and friend.

She doesn’t shy away from cringe-worthy admissions (she’s a stellar gossip, a paranoid Type 6, has an icky ear-wax condition and acts like a manipulative control-freak, for example), so the reader never gets the sense that she’s speaking from atop a cushy mountain. In fact, she weaves nakedly honest anecdotes around the best spiritual, psychological, holistic, and self-help traditions extant—teachings that I’ve studied for years and found to work in a profoundly transformative way for myself, my family and my clients.

Although she doesn’t always name the influence (perhaps she doesn’t know it), the author threads Myss’ idea of Woundology (trading on suffering to get what you want), Byron Katie’s The Work, Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Therapy (RET), as well as valuable offerings on ego transcendence, mindfulness, present-moment awareness, detached observation, surrender, alternative medicine, conscious breathing and embracing/transcending suffering. Strands of Emanuel Swedenborg, Jesus, Richard Rohr, Rumi, David Bohm (holographic universe) and Buddha interlace in this book, as well.

I’ve highlighted many thought-provoking and inspirational passages in Us and thought I’d share a few with you:

• “But while most of what happens to us it outside our control, the one thing we actually determine is how we choose to respond to life’s events. There is nothing inherent in any situation that necessitates a specific reaction from us.”

• “We all act the way we do because of certain core beliefs and the thinking patterns they generate. We do what we do because it allows us to live consistently with those beliefs—at least in our own minds. As long as those thoughts stay the same, our behavior isn’t going anywhere—no matter how hard we struggle to change.”

• “When it’s our loss or pain rather than someone else’s, then suddenly even the existence of a benign Creator comes into question. For some reason we think that if there was a God, he couldn’t let tragedy strike us. Which is ridiculous. What kind of faith remains solid while millions of children starve to death but goes out the window the day we are diagnosed with cancer? Of course the only possible answer to the lament of ‘Why me?’ is ‘Why not me?’…We are not exempt from the reality of pain.”

• “Creative energy flows in the direction of focus, so you’ll get much better results and generate a positive shift in the relationship if you concentrate on making constructive change in your own life instead of dwelling on negative traits of your partner.”

• “You can behave differently from the way you were conditioned to. You don’t have to react to situations based on how you felt as a four-year-old. It’s not easy, but it’s also not impossible.”

From conscious parenting to marital bonding, relating to family members to being a friend, identifying your authentic self to compassionate living as a citizen on this planet, Us traverses the winding, rugged, glorious, frustrating and liberating terrain of relationships. As Lisa notes, “What we believe, who we are and who we can become are all manifest through our dealings with others. Our behavior is the only realm measure of our character and 90% of the time our behavior involves someone else.”

An able, insightful guide, Lisa Oz exudes “walks the talk” realness, refusing to shy away from painful realities or glaring societal problems. Yet, in Us, she also shares perceptive depth, encouraging examples, practical exercises and illuminating wisdom for improving our relationships—to our partner, our children, our parents, our siblings, our neighbors, our body, our spiritual core/God…but perhaps most importantly, our relationship to our Self.

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