Carlson Model of Responsibility

By Su Carlson

In what feels like a hundred years ago now I designed the Carlson Model of Responsibility. It came to me after an emotional trauma with a family member, while in Australia. I have used it on an almost daily basis since and it has saved my sanity time and again. It has allowed me to understand myself in any given situation, but more importantly, to understand the position of anyone other than me, in that situation. It has released me from overthinking and given me back so much wasted energy, which previously would have taken me down a destructive rabbit hole.

Emotional in Australia

I found myself after the emotional trauma in Australia’s beautiful Great Barrier Reef. I was in shock, devastated by the situation I had left and alone on a boat of many tourists who had, like me come to snorkel with fishes. We were instructed by the ship’s crew to stay with our “buddy”. I had no buddy and that left me feeling more lost. Nonetheless I pass by this way once so I was prepared to experience the reef to it’s fullest and was determined to go away with something new.

I found myself floating above a large circular plate of light pink fingers, inhabited by many micro shoals of tiny fish, who in a blink, disappeared from sight as soon as I moved. I was transfixed and waited for them to reappear. As I waited, floating in that warm, meditative state, like an unborn child in the uterus, I heard a weird noise. I realised the noise was coming from my snorkel and it was me making the noise. I was sobbing. I was bereft, alone, bobbing about in an ocean, thousands of miles from anyone who loved me. But, far from feeling self-pity I had an epiphany. I realised that in the grander scheme of the vast universe, I was an insignificant dot and counted for nothing.

I was an insignificant dot and counted for nothing!

The Way of the World

In about three generations no-one will remember me, no-one will mourn my passing, no-one will know who I was or what I did, or even care. This is the way of the world. Even if I build an amazing monument, write a life changing book or become famous, no-one will really give a damn about Su Carlson. I realised in that moment, that I was free. I can stop worrying about what others think, let go of needing others approval and live my life for me and only for me. Wow!

Released from the judgement of others and allowed to put me first I came back to the UK and vowed to change my world and I did. I immediately ditched those who didn’t behave respectfully, who I’d remained loyal to, and started to work for what I wanted for the rest of my life and put me first for the first time in my life. I had my kids young and had never known an adult life without someone else’s need coming before my own. Now my lovely girls were amazing women, I was able to concentrate on what that meant for me.

Carlson Model of Responsibility

Imbued with a new energy I realised that the only responsibility for feelings, actions and thoughts that I had to take into account were my own. The Carlson Model of Responsibility was born. Now all I had to do was formulate the graphic and explanation. That took a while to create, but since that day it has been used globally by psychologists, counsellors, clients, friends, family and anyone who wants a different way to be in their world. It is simple to understand, employ and use in everyday situations. It has been reported many times that it has transformed lives. I am delighted to know that out of a tragic incident, I was able to flip my experience into something that has enabled others to see their world differently and release toxic energy and move into transformation.

I use the Model as the foundation of all the work I do as a Personal Relationship Coach. It enables a client to see themselves differently and to let go of the deconstruction of thoughts and actions that may have taken up days of thought energy trying to see sense, when the situation isn’t theirs to figure out. As an energy psychologist I now look at the energy of the feelings involved to understand myself more. It’s not complicated. Using the model keeps it simple. I love the rule of KISS- Keep It Simple Simple.

Arc of Responsibility

By pulling an Arc of Responsibility about yourself (like sweeping your arm in an arc in front of you) you ask a question. Is this me? A simple question with just two answers. If I cause the situation I accept it and own it, then apologise. An immediate apology will always diffuse toxic interactions. If it’s not mine, I push the others Arc of Responsibility towards them (push your arm away from yourself) and do nothing. That’s it basically! If it’s not mine I don’t have to do a thing. I don’t have to fix it, make it better, feel guilt, or even think about it. It frees so much wasted energy thinking about it. I am then able to ask myself more questions so that I learn more about myself in terms of what energy was I in. Who was I (Parent, Adult, Child)? What was I (Victim, Rescuer, Persecutor)? How did I get here? What do I want as an outcome? How do I get that? I never ask why. Why begets more why’s, never answers. You cannot know why someone was mean, why someone was rude, why someone didn’t do their job etc.

By removing why, we move thoughts from questions to solutions.

There is even a small section in the model which demonstrates how to be when the conflict is with a loved one, a colleague, or someone in power. This takes the conflict to resolution quickly. What do we gain from wasting energy being angry or upset at something we cannot control or will never understand? When we can be let go of the conflict we can learn more about ourselves in resolution.

The Model


By practicing this on a daily basis, I quickly changed my life into a more positive, fulfilling experience and have never looked back or wasted precious energy on things I cannot change. My life really is more simple because of the Carlson Model of Responsibility.

Su Carlson

Personal Relationship Coach

You can find out more about Su and her work on the Carlson Coaching website and on Facebook