Peter’s couple therapy blog

Relationship success part 4 – agency

The most decisive moment in history is the identification of ‘self’ as opposed to ‘Nature’. At this point people become responsible for their own fate and they become afraid. The ‘fear of freedom’ begins at the point of recognizing one’s own responsibility for one’s own fate. Fromm

Live well in your place

Live well in your place


Free will gives us more choices than any other life form on the planet.

That liberty is an enduring power and a burden of responsibility.

It requires something nature packs too little of into our genes – prior experience in its use.

Young couples have too little life experience to acquire moderation in the exercise of this liberating power. Most children are born to inexperienced parents. Grandparents used to fill the gap. Nature has not caught up with their moderating influence.

We call that moderation wisdom.

Nature appears to have distributed the elements of wisdom randomly. Perhaps she cannot know which seemingly hopeless gamble on wisdom opens to another millennia of evolution, and so like any smart investor, spreads the risk.

Wisdom can be described as the exercise of power with each of these traits in balance: dignity, humility and discipline; kindness, compassion, endurance, and justice. These seven come from the kabbalah.

Observers in all mystic traditions of all religions have noticed those random moderators, collected them over many generations and crystallized them into self-moderating precepts.

All religious systems teach almost exactly the same principles. Not so with sectarianism.


At the moment of realisation that we are responsible for our own fate, there begins the demise of the idea that ‘my nature made me do it’ or ‘it’s just human nature, we can’t help it’ or ‘boys will be boys’.

And here begins liberty’s hoorah! – I am free, free to think for myself and free to plan for my own life.

Free to love and free to hate, or not.

This is called agency.

Some folk deny agency and hand it over to a higher power – temporal, spiritual and genetic. But agency we have.

It is nature’s gamble that survival’s free-will can win out on willful self-destruction. Mix a bit of light and a bit of dark with water and you have us. It’s an experiment in contradiction.

In the shadow of this first dawn of freedom is coiled our fear of freedom.

This fear has self-limiting offspring: fear of success, fear of failure and that crazy, self-destructive fear of nature’s diversity – fear of difference.

From these fears arise all the isms – racism, sexism, class-ism, etc. Each is self-defeating and yet each persists despite evidence of its extravagant wastefulness.

We know diversity raises the intelligence of a group.

We eat from the vine of hybrid vigour.

If a person knows they won’t be interrupted, they think faster and say less.

Yet we silence difference and as a consequence, think poorly and waste time.

We fear difference collectively and separately and so dumb down and starve our selves for lack of cross fertility.

Slowly, neuroscience is getting it that the brain is more like a plant than a machine – not hard wired like a computer circuit but rooted like a herbaceous tree.

We may yet catch up socially before we kill the root system that supports all of us in mind.

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