My reputation as a leading authority on women’s development, assertiveness training and interactive communication was established by my first book A Woman In your Own Right (Quartet 1982) which was translated into twelve languages, becoming and continuing to be the core textbook for assertiveness trainers throughout the world. In 2012 a new and revised edition was published in celebration of its 30th anniversary.
My second book, The Mirror Within (Quartet 1985) arose from my work in the 80’s and 90’s as both a psychosexual counsellor and facilitator of sexuality workshops for people wanting to explore the topic personally as well as professionals wanting to be better equipped to deal with sexual concerns arising from their clients or patients. My belief all along has been that most interpersonal problems can be addressed effectively if individuals are given clear information and permission to ask awkward questions in a context which lacks judgement but gives affirmation.
One thread connecting all my work is my deep commitment to equality: another is to the avoidance of aggression. Difficult Conversations (Piatkus 2004, translated into thirteen languages) is a practical self-help guide to help individuals communicate in challenging intimate, social or work situations: how to handle conflict even in contexts of hierarchical power without provoking aggression or damaging the relationship.
From Personal to Social Transformation
Over the past decade I have become increasingly concerned about the environment, climate change and the general lack of ecological awareness. I felt the need to add a wider perspective to what had long been my psychological focus on inner realities by increasing and broadening my social and political understanding. I decided to study environmental science for an MSc and was later invited to extend my research for a PhD into what makes people ‘green’. The focus of my research was to understand better why some individuals feel close to nature and care about the harm we are doing to the planet whereas the majority do not? If a sense of connection to the natural environment is important to making green ethical decisions, does this mean that children currently growing up without any contact with the natural world will never see any real meaning in the environmental agenda?
One activity which has been consistent throughout my working life is teaching: initially at primary and secondary levels within the public educational system and, for the last 35 years, training adults within academic and medical institutions, in corporate contexts, for local government, mental health and counselling agencies and for private concerns. This has taken place in Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Hungary, South Africa and Japan.
Discovering what unites us as humans across cultural boundaries is key to my future plans. An example of human interconnection is the experience of emotion. I have always maintained an interest in the impact of emotion on the way we think, act and communicate which has been integral to everything I have taught: the assertiveness and sexuality programmes I designed many years ago both included an emphasis on honest expression of our emotions. This year I hope to publish Reconnecting with the Heart which addresses what feelings are, where they come from, how to understand the links between emotion and bodily symptoms; how we can increase empathy, enrich relationships and communicate feelings – even difficult feelings – effectively.
A second example of what connects us is the widespread disillusion among many citizens of many countries in relation to their political representatives. I believe it is possible to locate ecological problems within wider social and political issues of inequality, dishonesty and relentless consumerism and I am interested in looking at ways in which citizens can be enabled to participate more effectively in creating a sustainable world.
A further connection running throughout between my professional and personal focus is my passion about the importance of equality and non-aggression. With inequality and aggression even more pronounced phenomena in our world, my commitment is more than ever to finding ways in which we can work together to regain and retain the more traditional values of compassion, simplicity, community and honesty – in the home, the workplace, in all our relationships and in society at large.