08/06/2011 11:11 am ET Updated Oct 06, 2011

When the Blame Game Goes Nowhere

Suppose you are interacting with another person and you come to a place from where you have no idea how to proceed. You are at an impasse. The impasse is the result of something going on in the other person. And you are convinced that you know what it is. What do you do? You might consider using the black box.

But instead, most of us go to a story that has three characteristics. And you are the hero of your story (or the victim, which is just the hero in a different guise). Of course, exactly the same process is going on in the other person. He or she has an interpretation in which you are responsible for the impasse and he or she is the hero (or victim). You are pointing fingers at each other and saying, "I'll change when he or she does." Classic!

In the black box approach you accept the fact that you cannot know another's experience. You cannot know what is going on in him or her. She or he is a black box and you can't see inside. Your ideas about what is going on in the other are stories in your world of experience. The stories you are telling yourself are not facts. They are your stories.

In the end, all any of us have is our own experience. And that is where you start.

How do you experience this impasse? How do you experience the other person? You begin with your body and all its physical and tactile sensations. Include all the sounds and sights, tastes and smells -- all of it. This is not the time to pick and choose. Be open to everything. Include your emotions and feelings -- anger, frustration, fear, pride, affection, confidence, trust, longing, etc., whatever is there, even the feelings that are sulking under rocks or have gone into a closet and locked the door.

Now include the stories. This step is a little trickier because you have to include the stories without getting lost in them. If you stay in touch with your body, such as the physical sensations that accompany the stories and feelings, you won't get lost in the stories. Sit in the whole mess (and it is a mess) of sensations, feelings and thoughts, and come back to your body whenever you get lost.

Some call it intuition. Some call it a hunch. Whatever! The point is that when you do this a different kind of awareness comes into play, a non-cognitive awareness. You may be uncomfortable with it because it's not a rational process, i.e., inference or deduction. You just become aware of something you weren't aware of -- a body sensation, a feeling or an understanding -- and a direction takes shape. Perhaps the direction is a question you can ask, a question you hadn't considered previously. Perhaps it's a recognition that the conditions aren't right for a resolution, so you let go. Perhaps it's something you weren't prepared to tell the other person, but you now see that it is appropriate and necessary.

Now this technique is yours. Use it whenever you wish. Regard the other as a black box, step out of your interpretations, step into your own experience, and do what needs to done.

Faced with the choice of changing one's mind and proving there's no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.

-- John Kenneth Galbraith

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