“Untangling” Couples/Family Dynamics

“Untangling” Couples/Family Dynamics

I just love it when a metaphor shows up in real life in all its glory – slaps me in the face or lands in the palm of my hand…

Untangling these actual, real-life necklaces, the metaphor of “untangling” family dynamics in session just couldn’t be ignored:


  • Too much stress on the system locks everything up!
  • Sometimes you can see the problem knot right from the start, often you can’t
  • Work on whichever place is most ready to move
  • Be patient, and willing to pause and come back fresh
  • Opening up space takes a gentle “massage” of the whole system
  • Focus on all the strands, but know that the change usually happens in one small spot at a time
  • The main work is a lot of observing the same territory over and over, with gentle optimism
  • Consider small pushes along with pulls, movement can happen in more than one direction
  • Don’t drop it in the middle of the work! haha!
  • Small progress can feel like no progress, or moving backward, but it’s not
  • Anything that promotes space and movement is progress, even if you can’t see the end yet
  • Once things are moving, don’t go too fast – hold the spaces open and go gently
  • A misstep isn’t the end of the world – what gets tangled can get untangled
  • Every once in a awhile, loosen the tension on the whole mess
  • Continually look at the whole system from different angles
  • Be aware…pulling on one strand can cause tightness in others
  • When things are moving, keep an eye on every strand to see what’s happening, or new snarls might pop up in seemingly untangled areas
  • Be close enough to work, but keep your distance – you can’t untangle if you become a strand! Or even if you get too stressed while working on it.

Comment below: Can you flesh out that metaphor even more? What therapy metaphors have “jumped out” at you in the past?






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