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"It's impossible for you to cheat me"

I sound like a cynic who has sealed himself off from the world and relationships and made himself feel safe by not taking any risks or caring about anything, right?

I sound like a cynic that has closed himself off from the outside world and other people and made himself feel secure by not taking any risks or care about anything at all, right? (rewritten by CleverSpinner)

Quite the opposite is true.

The exact opposite is true. (rewritten by CleverSpinner)

I am passionate about having great relationships with people and I take a lot of risks in order for that to be possible. My life would not be as good as it is if I didn't take the risk of others being honest with me and keeping their agreements with me.

I am driven by the desire to build lasting relationships with people and I'm willing to take risks to make that happen. If I didn't take the chance that others would be honest with me and keep their promises to me, my life wouldn't be nearly as good as it is now. (rewritten by CleverSpinner)

But then, you may ask, "If you take all these risks with people, how can you say that it's impossible for anyone to cheat you, disappoint you, or betray you?"

You may then ask, "How can you claim that no one can cheat you, disappoint you or betray you if you take all of these risks with people?" (rewritten by CleverSpinner)

All the following is rewritten by CleverSpinner without me showing you the original like I did previously.

I notice and accept both the risks and the possibilities as well as the limitations of my own knowledge of those risks and possibilities that things will turn out the way that I or others say they will...or not. See trusting less and doubting more.

I've learned to be cautious so as not to indulge in the short-term advantages of expectations, whether they be negative or positive. Check out undoing expectations. Our resistance to fear fuels our tendency to indulge in expectations. Positive expectations ("I know I am going to get that job") make us feel safer in the very short run by blinding us to the possibility that what we are hoping for might not happen. Negative expectations ("No one will ever love me") allow us to enjoy the short-term comfort of feeling safe because we do not run the risk of being disappointed because we have denied the possibility of a desired outcome. Positive expectations also give us the satisfaction of counting our chickens before they hatch - which is another short-term benefit of having positive expectations.

Positive expectations ("being positive and optimistic") are upsets waiting to occur (becoming upset with ourselves, others, or with reality). They also make it less likely for us to get what we want because we haven't allowed and planned for contingencies.

Negative expectations (sometimes also called "being realistic"), especially when we indulge in them more generally ("life is hard," "people are selfish," "it's dog eat dog"), while providing us with the short-term benefits of avoiding the fears of disappointment, make us disappointed in life itself, feeling that "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing." (William Shakespeare) See The Fisherman meets St. Peter.

Yes, some things we can and do take for granted, like the regular rising and setting of the sun.

Other things, we can take for granted in a large percentage of the time, like that turning on the faucet will start the water running.

However, when it comes to what we can trust regarding the behavior of other human beings (and even our own behavior), that varies a lot according to different factors.

An example of how I did not feel cheated

Several times during my 21+ years in China, I would connect with someone where we had a mutual interest in getting to know each other better. As an example, let's say it was with a girl named Wendy.

"Wendy, let's get together for conversation this next Tuesday at 6 pm, okay?" She agreed. 

In the afternoon on Tuesday I got a message from Wendy with a very reasonable excuse as to why she could not keep her appointment with me that day. She asked if we could reschedule for Thursday. I said fine and we rescheduled. 

Was I upset when she canceled our appointment? Not at all. Like anyone who has even minimal life experience, I know that it's possible that a person can break an agreement on occasion (including myself!) and that, on average, a lot of people break their agreements fairly often. I had already accepted this risk with Wendy, which was a greater risk, given my lack of specific knowledge about whether she was worse than average or better than average in keeping her agreements with relative strangers. Consequently, in agreeing to the first appointment, I had already set it up that I could easily do something else if she happened to break the appointment so that I would not be incurring any costs.

But now I have additional information and I update my estimation of the risk I am taking

Given my new knowledge of this one-time changed appointment with Wendy, I don't know if it's rather unusual for her to break appointments and this is a rare exception or a more common occurrence for her. However, given this additional bit of knowledge about her behavior, I adjust my estimation downward of the possibility that she will keep this second appointment to being "less likely" than before I had this knowledge. However, I think the possibility is still high enough so that I am willing to take the risk that she may break the second appointment. I know I can be okay whichever way it turns out.

On Thursday I get another text from Wendy saying, "I'm so so sorry, but..." She has another really good-sounding excuse for why she must cancel and asks me to reschedule for Saturday. 

Now I am not willing to take the same risk again, but...

Although I listened and responded empathetically to Wendy's excuses each time, how good they sounded made no difference in my decisions as to whether or not to continue to go for getting together with her. I only paid attention to her behavior.

I responded to her with, "Wendy, I'd really like the opportunity to get to know you better. However, I've got a problem. I feel nervous about agreeing to another appointment. You needed to cancel twice now. I know you've had good reasons, but now it feels like too much risk that you might need cancel the next one also. However, I've got an idea. If you're willing to play a game with me, then I would be happy to schedule for Saturday. The game goes like this. If, for any reason, you cancel or don't show up for our appointment for Saturday, then you will pay me 100 rmb (about $15 USD). Also, the same applies to me, if for any reason I cancel or don't show up, I'll pay you that amount. Does that sound fair? Are you willing to play this game with me, Wendy?"

Over the years I've had occasion to propose this game to about 15 different people. I remember one person not being willing to play this game. I replied with respect, "I understand. No problem. I guess we won't be able to arrange another appointment. I wish you the best."

For all the others they agreed to play the game. None of them canceled the third time.

"But that was with a stranger. That hardly counts. There was hardly anything at stake," you might be thinking.

Yes, I agree. Now for another true story.

A broken heart is an open heart

In 1998 my friend (let's call her Rosa) visited me one morning in my north Scottsdale apartment in Arizona. We had been good friends for two years. Previously, Rosa had a boyfriend and I had been married. This was the first time, however, that we had visited together when we were both single. 

Although it was originally scheduled for a few hours, we ended up spending the whole day together, getting more and more intimate and finally making love together. Never before I had fallen so quickly and so deeply in love with a woman. 

For ten weeks I was on cloud nine, deeply in love with Rosa who fit me better than any other woman I had ever loved. Then she said goodbye to me. She was happy to continue being my friend. But I knew that just hearing her voice on the phone regularly would prevent me from letting my heart break fully. She understood.

Love is risky. It's so precious and we want it to feel safe. But it's not safe. I entered into that risk with open eyes. I did whatever I could to enjoy it and keep it going. I had an amazing ten weeks with her. And then it ended. I didn't blame her. I know she did the best she could in the context of how she saw herself and her relationship with me. I didn't blame myself. I had done whatever I could. Love is risky.

Fortunately, I had several friends with whom I felt comfortable in sharing intimately about my life. Each day I would call up a different friend (I didn't want to bend anyone's ear too much). I would say, "Please don't try to cheer me up. Please don't coach me or give me any advice. Just listen to me talk about my pain and my fear." My friends were great. Also, I cried every day. Other times I wanted to cry but I couldn't. So I enchanted, expressing the pain in my chest and the fear out through non-sensical, extemporaneous sounds. 

I didn't know how long it would last. About three weeks in I asked myself the question, "If I could snap my fingers and make this pain and fear disappear, would I do it?" The answer was "no." The pain was a clean pain, a necessary pain, a healing pain, a pain that was an expression of my capacity to love and feel so deeply. Even though I could not predict when the pain and fear would end, I trusted that it would.

At the end of five weeks, over a period of a few days, I could feel that my heart was completely broken. I was open for love again in a wiser, deeper way than ever before.

I have always been profoundly grateful to Rosa and the ten weeks we had together, not only for the experience itself, but for what I learned from her and from being with her and then letting go of her.

"But what about when you've been married for 21 years and have three kids and then you find out that your husband or wife has fallen in love with someone else and wants to divorce you. Surely you can't be so hard-hearted to say you wouldn't feel betrayed in those circumstances," I can hear some protesting.

I have never been in those exact circumstances. However, if I were in those circumstances, given my current habit and practice of not indulging in expectations and consistently assessing the risks and possibilities of every choice that I make, I wouldn't feel betrayed. 

When someone feels shocked or betrayed in these types of circumstances, it's because

  • they have not kept their eyes open,

  • they have been taking their spouse for granted,

  • they have been indulging in a lot of shoulds and should nots,

  • they have not been taking 100% responsibility for their relationship with their spouse,

  • they have not created and maintained good boundaries with their spouse,

  • they have dropped out their own Oneself-Others Integrity in having their #1 job be to take care of themselves,

  • and they have not fully embraced and accepted the risks associated with relationships, marriage, and having kids.

Now you can begin to understand why I can say that I am un-cheatable

  • Yes, you can break an agreement with me. I have already allowed for that risk and I might adjust what risks I am willing to take or not take with you in the future.

  • Yes, you can lie to me. I have already allowed for that risk. And I may adjust my assessment of the chances of you lying to me again in the future.

  • Yes, my doctor could make some mistakes and make my health condition even worse than it was before. I have already accepted that risk as part of my best option at the time I decided to trust him on some things.

  • Yes, you could grab my mobile phone out of my hand on the sidewalk and quickly disappear around the corner. I have already allowed for that risk. And I may decide to adjust how careful I am with my mobile phone when I am in public.

  • Yes, you may reject my request to connect with me on Whatsapp because you think I might cheat you. In making my request, I have already allowed for the risk that you may view my motives incorrectly and I don't know your life circumstances that makes your rejection of me reasonable. 

Risk and possibility are fundamentals of life itself. They exist as a function of our limited knowledge at any one time of what we can or cannot influence or control in order to get what we want or to avoid what we don't want. In a fantasy world in which we are a God, knowing everything for sure for now and into all of the future, the words risk and possibility would have no meaning for such a being.

Getting good at the living of our lives means learning to not being at odds with how things are and how things work (undoing expectations). It includes becoming more accurate in our assessments of risks and possibilities and being able to act powerfully and at ease in the face of the uncertainties of how much we know and might not know that affects what we want to have and what we don't want to have.

It means making proactive decisions in the face of our ignorance while also remaining aware of how much we do know. It includes always looking for where we have something to learn or where we might be wrong. 

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