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The Unknown Third Way

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”


You probably think you know what I am talking about; think again...

Before I clearly distinguish the "third way" and the benefits of learning to go down that road, answer for yourself each of the following questions.

  • If you discovered that your spouse or lover was having sex with someone else, would you be curious and interested to learn about how your wife or husband was trying to take care of themselves by doing that? Would you be interested in exploring how you might have contributed to their behavior?

  • If you found that your child was being bullied at school, in addition to feeling compassion for your child, would you also explore with your child both how his or her behavior might have contributed to the situation as well as getting curious with your child about how the bullies might think and feel that their behavior was needed or justified?

  • Whether you are a liberal, conservative, libertarian, or whatever, are you either curious to understand how others who disagree with you see what you may not be seeing and/or do you take their stance as nothing to defend against?

  • Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic, or atheist, can you feel a connection with and empathy for those who don't identify as you do just as well as you can with those who do?

  • If you occur to someone else as racist, are you curious about how your beliefs or behaviors occur as a threat to them?

  • If someone occurs to you as racist against you or others, are you similarly curious in a non-defensive way?

  • If someone occurs to you as insensitive, unfair, cruel, disrespectful, or stupid, do you see it as an opportunity to learn and understand the underlying "shoulds" that reside inside those pejorative assessments that are automatic for you?

  • If you think of yourself as a positive person, are you also positive towards those who are negative?

  • Are you righteous about other people's righteousness when it doesn't align with your own?

  • If you notice an upset or disagreement with anyone or a sense of withdrawal from another person is your first thought to see if you could work it out with a Partnership Conversation?

By answering the above questions, you will get a good idea of what I mean by the third way.

How could I take care of myself or protect myself and those I care about if I use the "third way"?

A great question. And, to the extent that you live inside the HOGAB, it will seem to you that righteousness is the only way that you could do that.

I know that the only way that my mother felt she could take care of herself by leaving my father was to blame my father. Otherwise, in her own mind, she could not justify leaving him.


Anything but the third way leaves you inside the HOGAB, often with no other options but ones that cause suffering, both for you and others.

The third way involves boundaries and knowing when and how to set them and maintain them.

It also includes learning to live without expectations (which are disguised shoulds and should nots).

It requires that you clearly know that your #1 job in life is to take care of yourself.

It requires your willingness to be 100% responsible for the quality of your relationship with everyone.

It includes that you are willing to accept that you are powerless in many circumstances.

You can take care of yourself, you can "protect yourself," using the third way. And, almost always you will be taking better care of yourself this way than with toleration, defensiveness, attack, or withdrawal.

It requires courage. It requires being clear about what's your business and what's not your business.

We have such an addiction to justify taking care of ourselves and others by making ourselves right and making others wrong. As long as we're inside the HOGAB, it can look "very wrong" to take care of ourselves or others unless we are able to frame ourselves or others as the victim.

One reason that my mother suffered so long in her marriage with my father, even though it was obvious to her that she would be better off without him, was it would look bad. Five years earlier, when my mother had decided to leave my father, she told her mother about her plan. When her mother replied, "You can't leave him. He needs you," her heart sank into despair and she stayed with him for five more miserable years.


And, even when she did finally leave him in 1984 (instead of 1979), the only way she was able to do it was to frame him as the bad guy and herself as the victim...even though she admitted she let him do all the things she was blaming him for "doing to her."

The only alternative to the third way is to live inside the win-lose, lose-win, and lose-lose world

By setting boundaries, by making requests, by saying "no" when you need to say "no," by using the Partnership Conversation and other methods to support mutually selfish relationships, and by embracing the necessary risks involved with living a great life, you can ensure that, at least from your side, all your relationships are great. This is the third way. It's the life outside of the HOGAB.

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