“Your Stuff is Never My Fault”

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This is from Jim Well's Website

Click to check out Jim Wells thoughts on the
"Response to expression of hurt, frustration or other feeling of distress."

“It has been helpful, I have found, to encourage anyone who says, “I feel unsafe,” “I feel attacked,” “I feel hurt,” “I feel frustrated,” “I feel worried,” "I feel offended," or “You’re making me feel…,” to continue that sentence with ownership of the internal feelings. I encourage openness to dialogue about the feelings, whether feelings of threat, hurt, frustration, worry, or some other feeling of distress.”

“I encourage anyone who hears those phrases from another, to shift to the interview mode (reflecting back what was heard along with gentle questioning for the purpose of better understanding). This gentle interview mode is essentially an invitation to the reactive one to share what is going on in them.”

“I further encourage anyone who hears those phrases to carefully refrain from anything like taking responsibility for the other's reactivity; to avoid saying anything like, “I am sorry,” “I didn't mean that,” “You misunderstand me,” or “There is no need to feel that way,” until long after the reactive person has felt fully validated in their distress.”

Adapted by Jim Wells from personal correspondence with Al Turtle.

The Center For Creative Balance, in North Carolina, is dedicated to helping find balance in an unbalanced world.


Another Version

I have found it useful to go right to the core foolish belief and replace it.  Here is a handout. (Click here for full size.)  Look at each sentence.



  1. These two sentences (lines 1 & 2) are critical to both caring and to setting correct boundaries.  Get rid of blame and self-blame right away by rejecting it.  And at the same time remind yourself that this is not a cold act of distancing yourself. 
  2. Shift into the posture (line3) of an assistant and inquire how you can help your friend with their troubles.  This is an invitation both for them to share more, but to also share from position of being responsible for their actions and reactions. 
  3. When they speak, listen and mirror anything they say. (line 4)  If they are in distress, what they say may be pretty wild.  Just mirror it. Let them talk it out. Be there for them, but stay in the assistant posture.
  4. When they speak (line 5), I think it is a good idea to carefully listen for any thing or action that you can do.  Consider it.  See if you can find some act you can feel good about doing. Do it. 


I remember a time when I was coming downstairs and I miss-counted the steps.  I fell heavily and twisted my ankle.  I yowled.  My wife, and several animals in the house, came to see what was going on.  I yowled some more.  Sandra said, “Sounds like it hurt a lot.”  I yowled.  Sandra said, “What would you like me to do to help?” I yowled, “Fix it! It hurts!”  She responded, “Yes I can hear that. And sure you want me to fix it.  But is there anything I can do?”  I said, “Um.  Get me some ice for it.”  She said, “Ok,” and went and got a cold pack.  Handing it to me, she said, “Can I do anything else?”  I said, putting the cold pack on my ankle, “Um.  No. I can’t think of anything.”   She said, “Ok.  Well I will be in the next room ironing, if you think of anything,” and she left.   

Simple, but just right.  

For a more in depth look at this topic check out my papers on the Power of Passivity and Passivity: In the Foundations.


“Your Stuff is Never My Fault” — 2 Comments

  1. Al. This is Bill Shafer (yes the Edson one.) My wife and I are beginning to taste of your wisdom. The little I’ve sampled gives me hope that a bigger bite will be very helpful as we, even after 47 years of marriage, are struggling with some issues. More accurately, I’m struggling; of course my troubles bring both of us to the table. I look forward to continuing reading, and perhaps partaking of some of your courses.

    I know you are a blessing to many. Thanks for your contributions.

    I look forward to chatting with you.

    • Hello Bill, It’s a long time from 1964. Good memories.

      While I was practicing, I met quite a few couples who had been together for many years and yet something had pushed them to dig further. I recall thinking that they probably had solved lots of problems, but had left the tricky ones for last. I’m sure we could chat and figure things out. Just drop me an email.

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