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Response-ability - freedom from suffering

When couples come to therapy, many share their goal of wanting to communicate in healthier ways or reducing the intensity or frequency of conflict. Most have little trouble pointing out the ways their partner is contributing to their misery.

Many have less insight into - or willingness to look at - the ways in which they are doing so.

For most of us, it is easier (especially in the heat of the moment) to point the finger at the other. It may appear less painful than looking at ourselves; than facing the impact of our words; than acknowledging our flaws; than engaging in the work of undoing years of adaptive behaviours that no longer serve us. The reality however is that our relationship is letting us know these aren’t working.

When we remain other-focussed, we punish our partners for not showing up as we believe they should; we contribute to their feelings of not being enough; and we dodge personal accountability.

“You can use everything that happens in your life

as a process of empowerment,

or … to entangle yourself”


The source of much of our suffering can be found in the ways we look outward - to events and people - to measure up to our desires and expectations. So long as our gaze is outward, we miss the meaningful psychological and emotional freedom in responsibility.

Responsibility, or response-ability, speaks to how able we feel and how willing we are to respond - rather than react. Instead of getting swept up in a tsunami of negative thoughts, feelings and assumptions (or forgetting our partner has an inner experience of their own) - we can step into response-ability and find freedom in choice. We become observers of our thoughts and feelings and can be mindful and intentional in our responses.

Start to notice the ways your thoughts hook you into stories that don’t serve you. Observe how your feelings take you on wild rides. Acknowledge how your reactions are part of the ‘problem’ between you.

Taking response-ability for your part fosters profound personal growth and reclaims the potential in your relationship.

“Your vision will become clear

only when you can look into your heart.

Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakes”

Carl Jung



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