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People with whom I have shared this letter invariably ask me two questions.The first is, of course, What did Cora do when she got the letter? In one sense that question might mean, Did your strategy work? because after all we would prefer to get our way as well as have good relationships—we don’t really want to have to choose between the two.All sorts of situations that can be interpreted as crises of scarcity continually occur in the various orchestras I conduct, but now I recognize the specter of need and frustration as it appears.And I remember Cora.Once you have a new distinction, you have it forever.You can take almost anything and turn it into a strategy.Yet, from the way I felt, the lightness and wholeness, my complete lack of attachment to the outcome—I know it wasn’t.The perception of dependency arouses fear and leads to repeated breakdowns between us, which become the basis for the appearance of barriers and problems throughout life.So, in everyday life, when bad things happen, we have a spectrum of response that includes guilt, blame, regret, helplessness or resignation, the sense of injustice, righteousness, and anger.But each of these responses actually takes us on a detour, into an eddy or a whirlpool, away from what we might call the living stream.Two 100 Percents Make a WholeA man discovers his wife is having an affair and is devastated, because she did it and because she lied.In his pain, his response is to withdraw, get angry, blame, and reassess his choice of mate.She has become the liar, the abuser, the stranger, and he struggles over whether he can and should treat her as someone he can talk to or whether she deserves to remain the enemy.He gets his friends on his side.Meanwhile things move ahead, and life passes him by.If he were to adopt the practice of being the board, he would start by asking himself the question, How did this get on the board that I am? and if he is disciplined enough to stay in the game and not revert to the fault model, he will see something new that will empower him.If he looks long and deep enough, he will be able to tell the story with such understanding and, yes, compassion that a new world will open up for him.This was the one thing that was not supposed to happen.He had made every attempt to let his wife know that infidelity was something he could not tolerate.And furthermore, they both agreed that honesty was the rock foundation of their relationship.But, he asks himself, why was betrayal such an issue before it happened?Why had he made such a point of it?He thinks of plenty of minor examples of betrayal in his life, starting as far back as when his mother left him at kindergarten in spite of his highly vocal objections.In fact, he realizes, one of the initial reasons he was attracted to the woman he married was that she seemed like a person who was not likely to oppose or betray him.She was accommodating and sensitive to his needs.He trusted her 100 percent.When they fought, as he presumed all couples do, she accused him of not valuing her work.This was true—he realized—he was not really that interested in her marketing job.Yet he did his best to listen.He felt that, by being a good provider and caretaker, he was all one could ask for in a husband.In this moment of reflection, he noticed how resolute he had been in dismissing her independent experiences and desires.Does this mean that by ignoring things that were important to her he drove his wife to having an affair?That it was his fault? No, certainly not, and furthermore, it is not the game we are playing.Can he claim total responsibility for the breakdown that occurred in their relationship?How might the same story look from his wife’s point of view, if she were to adopt the practice of being the board?Instead of justifying her actions by blaming him for not taking her seriously nor giving her the attention she deserved, she asks herself, How did it happen on the board that I am that I did the very thing I promised—and really believed—I would never do?
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