Third force blind

Race in the United States. Family secrets. An argument with my husband. Irritation with my friend. A frustrating habit that repeatedly gets in my way.

These all have something in common. They are fraught with inner and outer conflicts which seem insurmountable when I’m in the thick of it.Unsettling. Rattling.

When I discovered the Law of Three from the teacher, Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault, it changed my view of conflict. I’ll try to explain it without confusing either one of us. It begins by recognizing we’re “third force blind” which means all we can see are the opposing views. (Brene Brown describes this as “I’m right. You’re wrong. Shut up.”)

The third force actually brings the opposing views into relationship with one another.

Consider the three forces. 

1st force: Affirming (what you see as right and good)
2nd force: Denying (what you see as wrong and bad-what you fight against)
3rd force: Neutralizing or Reconciling (what you can’t see unless you slow down and stop splitting things into good and bad and see instead that there is a relationship between good and bad)

These three things have to weave together for a new possibility to emerge. They must be in dynamic relationship and you must demonstrate relationship in movement between the three parts.

Confused? Keep reading.


Recognize that the resisting force is legitimate. We can’t have the new awareness without a problem. As humans, we tend to resist problems or challenges. Yet, the Law of Three says if we take out active resistance, we don’t discover the new awareness that offers a creative solution or a new way of seeing things.

So, don’t place attention on trying to cancel out the resistance. Without the opposite, nothing is moved. Don’t fight against it. Don’t say it’s the problem. It’s the catalyst.

Think of challenging people and situations in our lives as resistances who were/are catalysts for a new way of seeing. Consider how personality habits have actually been the cold bucket of ice which broke a trance

3rd Force Blind

Most of us are 3rd force blind…we don’t recognize the Law of Three so we don’t know how to work with these opposing forces cooperatively. Instead, we work in a state of identification and cling tenaciously to our familiar opinions.

In a ridiculous tug of war, we pull at opposites and stay trapped in old ways of thinking.  Thus, dynamic relationship is compromised when it is the relationship itself which births a whole new way of seeing things.

Human beings cannot mediate the 3rd force when we’re in a state of identification. This means we can’t cling to one view. It’s a Road to Nowhere.

Someone has to step back, watch and observe and not get trapped in splitting between perceived good and bad. Someone has to be a grown up.

Letting go of our view offers a possibility of seeing what has been sitting in front of you all along.

A conscious person becomes a midwife of the 3rd force. Only when conscious can you see and create the dynamic trinity configuration that allows a new possibility to emerge.

This is exceedingly practical. So, if we step back and let go, we are less emotionally attached which shuts down our ability to see.

When  I’m attached to “I’m right, you’re wrong, shut up,” or “You’re right. I’m wrong. I’m a pitiful excuse for a human being,” it paralyzes me. If I can insert a “Pause” and breathe, it frees up some energy so I can look at the situation and see the three forces and work with them.

Law of Three is alive and organic like a Celtic trinitarian not in which all three perspectives are in relationship with one another.

Consider this in a triangle…the 3 forces are the three points on the triangle. The new arising is the center of the triangle. The triangle in the center is the empty space of possibility and the birth of a new creation.

Examples of the Law of Three:

Here’s a few metaphors to demonstrate the 3rd force and the new “creation:”


Wind blows the sail (1st force)

Water offers resistance (2nd force)

Now you have wind and you have a sail.

Then the boat will sail, right? No.

There has to be something that puts these two in relationship: the helmsman. You need all three.

The helmsman reconciles the 1st and 2nd force to birth the sailing of the vessel (3rd force)

Conflict Mediation:

You’re stuck in a conflict. There seems to be no way out.  Here’s how you can apply the Law of Three:

Speak from interest and curiosity rather than arguing a position (1st force)
State others’ position as clearly or more clearly than your own (2nd force)
Create opportunities for mutual gain wherever possible (3rd force)

Niehbur’s Serenity Prayer

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (2nd force)
The courage to change the things I can (1st force)
And the wisdom to know the difference (3rd force)

An ancient story

An old story: An adulteress is about to be stoned. People ask the Master: “This woman has committed adultery and the law says she must be stoned. What do you say?”

If he says “yes,” to the stoning, he violates the law of Love that he’s been teaching (1st force)
If he says “no” to the stoning, he violates the law of the tradition which has some pretty clear rules (2nd force)
He bends down in reflection and draws in the dirt at his feet. After a few moments, he says, “He among you who has done nothing wrong, cast the first stone” (3rd force).

The Power of Now

We’re not meant to worship the Master. Rather we’re meant to embody this level of wisdom and openness to Love through cultivating the capacity to live in the present moment.

Notice how the Master teacher shifts states before he responds. He shifts into a state of Presence which allows him to drop tenaciously held identifications and allow a solution to emerge on its own. The solution was there all along. These people needed to be invited into their own brokenness in order to see another.

Meditation and/or contemplative prayer are “strength training” for accessing the power of Now as each time we surrender thoughts and gently return to the breath, we are witnessing our fixated perspective and freeing energy for something more creative.

So don’t waste energy and time demonizing the personality or fixated thoughts.  They are a gifts that point us to our habits and an invitation to shift us back into the present moment where there is more available energy.

When observed, the personality is a lubricant that can foster a capacity to recognize the dynamic trinity of the three forces.

Conflict is not something to obliterate and avoid. It can be a catalyst.

Personality is not a mistake. Having an ego is not a problem to be solved. It actually is a resource bank of raw material for spiritual maturity. We’re human. Our humanness is rich compost to help us grow up. The planet needs grown ups.