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Being Responsible Works

Taken from:
Saanich News April 27, 2005

Paul Beckow M.Sc. R.P.C.
Individual couple and Famliy Counsellor

We have been talking about conflict in relationships. Differences. Upsets. And how human beings react in the face of conflict.

I am convinced that there is nothing more important to master in our relationships than how we are with one another when we have our upsets, disappointments, hurts etc.

For the most part, when facing conflict we are inauthentic in a variety of ways. We will hide our upset. We will complain to friends to seek agreement. We make up all sorts of “stories” to ourselves. We sulk or withhold.

We can be aggressive, and blame and judge our partners. We use our feelings of upset to try to create fear or guilt in the other in attempts to force them to change. Some of us avoid and withdraw from relationship.

These protective styles of reaction destroy the good will and connection in our relationships. They wear couples out.

In my last column we explored what it would be like to be an assertive communicator - straight- forward and clear, communicating our views or wants without judgements or doing any harm whatsoever to another. This is a senior skill.

In this column we will explore another possible way to be in the face of conflict. It’s a pathway seldom practiced and perhaps not understood by many.

And that is: To be responsible.

When I say “responsible” I don’t mean guilt or blame. So I’m not saying “accept the blame” or make it “your fault”. I don’t mean that at all.

Further, no one HAS to be responsible. You choose to be responsible - if you wish. It’s a choice you make.

In a conflict situation, most of us seem so focused in on being right, on avoiding blame or fault, that we rarely discover the freedom and power there is in being responsible.

Yet being responsible works. In fact, it is really quite amazing how it works. It is the first step that returns power into our own hands.

So what does this mean? Be responsible for what?

I am talking about being responsible for the feelings you have in reaction to others and to the events in your life.

This begins when we take our moments of upset and relate to them in a different way. We examine our experience of upset not as information about what’s out there, but as information about ourselves.

We are looking for the foothold to our freedom within. We can do this by being curious about ourselves - inquiring, exploring - asking questions such as:

Why am I reacting to this, this way? What am I attached to here? What do I believe to be true that creates the upset I’m having ?

And -here is the big one - what am I making it mean ?

It’s the meaning that determines how we react. And human beings add meaning to everything. This is the way things that happen become so personal and significant. This is the way we become sensitive, hurt, or offended so easily. We fill events with personal meaning. Our thoughts are filled with personal meaning ! This is the nature of our first-cut reactions.

Take for example , “ He is late for dinner ” If being late for dinner means “he doesn’t care about me” you will have a certain kind of experience and take certain kinds of actions. If his being late for dinner means “that his work is a little crazy right now”, you will have another kind of experience and take a different set of actions.

The story we make up or the meaning we give to things that happen creates our experience. Knowing this we can shift and choose meanings that preserve our ease and well being. If we wish.

By assuming responsibility for our own experience we can learn to transform our upset, to really take care of ourselves. We can then respond freely and effectively to what’s really happening to us.

Responsibility. This is the way home. If you want to master relationship this skill will make all the difference.

Paul Beckow is a certified individual, marriage, and family therapist. If you have a relationship, personal issue or concern, he can be reached by phoning the Victoria Family Institute at 721 2477 or contacted through his web site at www.paulbeckow.com

For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.

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