I Didn’t Pass The Three Gates…

Steven Barnes
4 min readJan 26, 2024

I recently had a person try some verbal dominance games, and responded with counter-attacks. The difference is that a “defense” is like a block, but a counter-offense is simply denying target so that they miss, and then striking to a target of my own choice, in my own time, with an intensity that is my choice, not theirs.

That night, I had a dream about someone talking to me politely, luring me close enough to stab me. So I interpret that as my unconscious mind verifying that, indeed, this had been an attack, and that I’d been appropriate to respond as I did.

That’s my instinct: DEFEND MYSELF. That is the primary biological imperative.

But…that’s not all I am. I ached a bit for them. Why? Because many comments were made that suggested their world view was one of the most negative I’d heard in a long time. No love, no faith, no real hope, just a commitment to protecting their intellectual position.

They had “awakened their kundalini backwards” and the results were, as was predictable, catastrophic, in health and love, at the very least. Only the “head” was really alive.

Sigh. I reached out to a mutual acquaintence and asked some questions about this person, and verified that they were perceived as problematic, but had real health challenges, and apparently no deep human loving connections.

At that point I regretted lacking the clarity to see that:

  1. Nothing they could say or do could hurt me. I was in no danger at all.
  2. They were, in an unfortunate way, attempting to reach out.
  3. Their need for “significance” was massive. They were trying to establish dominance, yes, but it was because they feel like they are falling off the edge of the world, and are flailing, asking for connection in the only way they knew how.

Really, had I been wiser at that moment, I’d have viewed them like a child flinging poo. And missing. What was there to be fearful of? Nothing. And yet I’d reacted with anger. Ugh.

That was on me. And I realized that if I’d just stuck with the Three Gates, even though I didn’t have the data to make it “logically valid” at the moment: once I dug in, later, it was obvious that the Gates would have shown me the very best response.

  1. It is TRUE that I have the right to defend myself. It is also true that I was under no threat.
  2. It would have been KIND to respond with humor and love, even if they could not receive it. They were missing their target…as they have in life itself: the meaning of life is to be joyful and of service.
  3. What would have been the USEFUL outcome? Something that increases the net amount of love and joy in life. Decreases the amount of net pain. Did I do that? No. Because I lied to myself and responded as if I was under threat, I didn’t have the wisdom to see there was a better way.

If I’d just trusted the Gates, trusted that no matter WHAT I was safe, and therefore capable of making the loving choice, I’d not have had the queasy sense that I’d kicked a puppy. I need to be a better man.

We’ll discuss the incredible value of the Three Gates this Saturday on FIREDANCE, and I hope you’ll join us!

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Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts. www.lifewritingpodcast.com.