Dear Therapist,

I’m in my early 20s and just finished university. I’ve moved into a house share with a group consisting of old friends and friends of friends and am having trouble adjusting to what feels like a lot of conflict in the house.  

We try to operate as a household and frequently share meals together but when conversation turns to anything beyond the superficial I end up feeling angry or at the very least frustrated with one or more of them.  

They seem judgemental of me, and I suppose I, in turn, am judging them. It’s starting to feel like we are dividing into warring camps which is not how I want to live. I’ve thought about moving out but then I’ve never been one to run from problems. Any suggestions?


Living in House Share Hell

Dear Living in House Share Hell,

I’m so glad you wrote.  

Many of us appreciate the danger that intolerance and divisiveness pose on a macro level. And yet most of us have yet to really tend to these on a micro level.  

Your house share – while not comfortable at the moment – feels a good place to start. I’d highlight our usual inclination is to spend the bulk of our energy focused on others – either individuals or groups – and how their thinking and actions are the problem. We spend far less time addressing our own role in propagating the divide. I encourage you to look at your own actions and judgements and see how you might show up differently in your interactions with housemates.  

A few suggestions:  

1. Listen with the intent to understand the other rather than to change them

All too often we enter communication with the goal of winning the person over to our position rather than staying open, curious and willing to take in new information. Real listening is a willingness to let the new information change you. Often, it is our doggedly fixed positions that don’t allow for this which leads me to a second suggestion…

2. Cultivate a tolerance for complexity

When we are stressed – and let’s face it, we’re a pretty stressed out species at the moment – we over-simplify. We become unable to hold the tension of opposites, paradoxes and ‘grey areas’ in ourselves, and in others.  

In psychological terms, ‘splitting’ is viewing everything in black/white, right/wrong, all/nothing terms. We do this automatically and unconsciously to defend against painful or difficult emotions. Can we instead check our need for certainty, and set an intention to stay open to the ‘messy middle’? This necessitates my third suggestion… 

3. Tend to internal discomfort

We have become quite intolerant of difficult emotions and view anything that provokes these as a problem. We try to shut down the outward trigger rather than building the capacity to sit with and move through the dis-ease activated within. 

We can all benefit from increasing our ability to tolerate the discomfort. A few deep breaths to regulate the nervous system. Some space that enables us to catch ourselves and ask ‘What’s happening here?’ while acknowledging, ‘I don’t like it.’ 

If we can remain present and curious, even when things feel pretty intolerable, we can remain available for connection.

4. Separate beliefs from identity

All too often we conflate the two. A specific view or belief is a thing we can disagree on and discuss. When we judge the whole person as wrong or bad, we – and they – have nothing to work with. This is a big one. In order to help, my next suggestion…

5. Look for common ground

All too often we think differences make us fundamentally different. Can we remind ourselves that just like me, this person is trying to take care of herself in what can feel like difficult times. Just like me, he is likely feeling scared and unsure in a pretty scary and uncertain world.  

Grounding ourselves in commonality and connection means we will feel safe enough to tolerate difference and engage in conflict constructively.   

6. Study up on what civil conversations look like

There are very few good models of these in our daily lives, and all too many examples of downright uncivil or intolerant exchange.  

Good resources include: Better Conversations, A Starter Guide ( and Non-Violent Communication (  

Can you view your current living situation as important personal work with a potentially larger ‘ripple effect’ in our wider society? Part of an intentional practice of putting ourselves in the face of differing views on a regular basis, and in the real world where there is time to explore and contextualise these views. Face-to-face where we can appreciate on a visceral level that the opinions, while different from our own, come from a fellow human being; one worthy of our attention and consideration.   


Do you have a question for Dear Therapist? Send it to [email protected] with Dear Therapist in the subject line and Charlotte Fox Weber or Kelly Hearn will get back to you.