I just composed these key messages of the book so I thought I’d share them.
- Fear and defence are bigger issues for us than we realise. Our behaviour is largely driven by our protective instinct. This means that our primary mode under any sort of stress tend to be to attack and defend. As a result, we often project a hard, aggressive front that is not at all helpful in modern life. This can shield a scared, soft childlike core. If we think of it as a dualistic model, what we ideally want is the opposite – not armour on the outside but a soft front instead – with a strong, well boundaried, core.
- We see power in this way – as dominance of the attacker. Our ideal first move is thus to defend or attack and then to ourselves become the predator. We therefore prize the image of the lion, the eagle, the bear. This is a limiting model because it’s not how power really works. Power is something we all have through the act of living. When we are in fear, we choose to give it up to greater forces. To understand what power really is, and that we all possess it, changes what we can do with it.
- When we defend, we defend our position. It’s difficult to be flexible or to change if we feel we are under attack. We defend our castle. We don’t see things as they are; we see them through our lens. Once we can accept that we are not under attack we can relax. Then we can start to understand others and see that our position is just that; a position, not a truth. There are other ways of seeing things but we hold many big structural assumptions to be truths.
- The jewel here is what we each have at core. We don’t spend enough time respecting ours or other people’s true selves. Once we start to encourage growth from within rather than imposing from outside we start to see something amazing happen: we can self-heal. Once we can self-heal we can help others to do the same.
- Soft is the natural default state. For example, rock is formed from soft flowing materials such as lava, being put under huge stress. Like rock, hard is just soft that has given in to pressure. Soft has strength because it is able to flex without loosing itself in a way that hard can’t. On contact with another, hard can only win or erode, therefore it is unyielding. This is why soft is stronger than hard.
Remember that this is about a movement from hard to soft that is still continuing. It includes lived knowledge of both states. Its not all soft. This book could very easily have been called “Confesssions of an Alpha Male” or something similar.
I also feel that if we are to change our relationship with the world we have to start with the monsters – that we fear – that separate us from it. Soft is a journey.
“Water is fluid, soft and yielding.
But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield.
As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yielding
will overcome whatever is rigid and hard.
This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.”
Lao Tzu (604–531 BC)