The Blessing of Difficult People. (It’s Not What You Think.)

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As you begin healing family karma there are two kinds of people that you’ll meet: allies and adversaries.

There will always be people who cheer you on as well as those who challenge you. There will always be people who get what you’re up to and those whose minds are nailed shut. Both are inevitable and both are blessings. Huh?

It’s easy to love the allies. They’re clearly on your side. They cheer for you. They pitch in. They affirm your choices and direction. It’s harder to love the adversaries. Yet, both need to be embraced. Both need to be befriended.


Because allies and adversaries are mirrors. They each reveal different aspects of your soul.

Allies reveal those soul energies, inner qualities and perspectives that you’ve already embraced and integrated. Allies reflect and reinforce those energies. That’s why it feels good to be around allies. They amplify your connection to those aspects of yourself that you already appreciate, accept, and embrace. In the presence of allies, you feel affirmed.

Adversaries offer a different reflection.

They reveal those soul energies, inner qualities, and perspectives that you’ve yet to embrace and integrate. Adversaries reflect and reinforce the unresolved and unredeemed aspects of your soul. When they raise questions, cast doubt, and challenge your assumptions—you feel threatened, off-balance, on the defense.

Adversaries amplify the aspects of your soul that are under-appreciated, perhaps denied, and certainly un-integrated. In their presence, it’s easy to get defensive.

Defensiveness is a red flag. Defensiveness points to the places in you that are not fully integrated. Your own inner tensions are mirrored in the tensions that you experience in relation to your adversary. The key words here are that you experience.

The tensions are in your experience.

And it’s this experience that needs to be transformed if you’re going to engage with the inevitable adversaries wisely and skillfully.

(I’m not denying that there are people out there who object to your choices, disagree and even oppose what you do and stand for. I’m saying that encountering such people is inevitable. And that for you to encounter them skillfully, you need to attend to the tension-in-you that they reflect.)

The person-out-there is not your primary challenge.

The primary challenge is within you. Facing, embracing, and transforming the primary challenge establishes a foundation for working with the conditions around you creatively. But you can’t do this when you’re caught in defensiveness. Your capacity to perceive the inner challenges is obscured when you’re defensive.

Defensiveness turns your attention away from the primary challenge.

And focuses you on controlling, convincing, defeating, eliminating the external adversary. Which you may be able to do . . . temporarily. But doing this is just a distraction from the primary work.

Until you face and resolve the inner tension that the outer adversaries reflect—adversaries will keep appearing on your path.

Their purpose is to heighten your awareness and turn your attention to the un-integrated perspectives, qualities, and energies within you. Because as you integrate the un-redeemed dimensions of your own soul – you are able to more fully, powerfully, and playfully engage with the world.

The wonderful thing about your primary challenges is that they are in your experience.

They’re not out there. They’re in you. So you don’t need to be in a room with your adversary to do this primary work. You can do deeper, more effective and more transformational work when you focus only on your own experience.

Here’s how: Set aside 10 minutes of sacred uninterrupted time.

1) Settle your body in a comfortable meditative posture.

2) Call to mind one of your adversaries. Use their image as soul bait—to get call forth your inner tensions. Focus on their image, remember an event, replay their voice just enough to active an inner reaction.

3) Then shift your attention away from the story and into the body. Physically locate the source of defensiveness in your body. Gently, gently turn the light of loving awareness to that place in your body. Recognize that you’re approaching a point of vulnerability.

4) Use the breath as a medium for transmitting awareness and blessing. As you breathe in – feel the tensions and sensations at that place in the body.

5) As you breathe out send a gentle wave of appreciation, acceptance, and blessing to that place. Breathe in and be aware of the sensations.

6) Breathe out and radiate acceptance and blessing.

Remember that you’re not trying to change, reform, improve, or fix what’s there.

You’re simply connecting to it with awareness, acceptance, and loving kindness. These are the qualities that will, breath-by-breath, untangle the inner tensions.

In this process emotions may arise—let them. And infuse the emotions with acceptance, appreciation, and blessing. Greet whatever arises as a friend – and bathe it in blessing.

When you’re done, sit quietly for a moment. Then re-enter your daily life. As you work with your primary challenges and inner tensions, allies and adversaries still appear. This isn’t a magical formula for getting everyone to think like you.

It’s a method for recognizing and transforming your own defensiveness. Defensiveness isn’t something you need to control, suppress, or even get rid of.

Defensiveness is a call. It’s your soul waving a red flag and calling, “Over here, over here. Please bring your loving awareness over here.”

The energy, perspective, and creativity you need to move your life and dream forward is hidden underneath the defensiveness. You don’t have to figure out why you’re defensive. Just return to the body. Feel into the place where the vulnerability resides and infuse it with loving awareness.

The more you practice with infusing the vulnerable, un-integrated places in your body/mind with loving-kindness—the more your relationship with outer adversaries changes.

When you meet the inevitable challenging person on your path—you won’t meet them as an adversary.

You’ll recognize them as teachers. As people who, by blocking your path, are helping you to stop and discover the places within your own mind and heart that you were going to leave behind as you headed towards your dream. But your dream really needs all of you.

Allies remind you to celebrate those parts of you that you’ve already embraced. And adversaries remind you to widen the circle of your heart and expand the horizon of your vision to include those parts of you that are hidden in your most vulnerable places.

What do you think? Are adversaries mirrors? How do you transform your experience of adversaries?

Share your wisdom in the comments below.



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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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Eric Klein

Eric Klein is one of the few people on the planet to be both a bestselling leadership author and lineage holder in a 5,000 year old yoga tradition. His work translates the wisdom traditions into practices and principles for people who want to bring greater spirit, meaning, and authenticity to their work and lives. His award-winning books include You are the Leader You’ve Been Waiting For, Awakening Corporate Soul: Four Paths to Unleash the Power of People at Workand To Do or Not To Do: How Successful Leaders Make Better Decisions. His signature online program The Meditation Habit integrates neuroscience, behavior change technology, and spiritual practice. Learn more at his website.

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anonymous Mar 23, 2015 10:28pm

Thank you for this! You are my favorite writer here on ej. I really enjoy all your posts and resonate with them.
Thanks! 🙂

anonymous Aug 8, 2014 1:59pm

Thank you. Brilliant. Thought Ethan and Kristy were bang on as well. Nothing clichéd about mindfulness, deep reflection and lovingkindness. Non-reactivity has to be carefully cultivated, but is the way to peace.

anonymous Aug 7, 2014 10:32am

Thank you. Much needed practice for this morning. Much needed reflection.

anonymous Aug 6, 2014 9:05pm

Wow, something other than the cliche, dump the people who don't make you feel happy all the time. Bravo.

anonymous Aug 6, 2014 8:36pm

Well stated! This article has appeared at the right time for me. I am working on understanding defensive behaviors and how I am challenged by them. Most of my defensive behavior stems from my childhood. My father could be a harsh and unyielding man, prone to never accepting responsibility for his own actions. He always blamed others, specifically, me. I got SO tired of being blamed for things I didn't do, and being called a bad person. It did a lot of damage. Having the knowledge that he was an alcoholic, pain medication addicted, paranoid schizophrenic, with a chronic illness…made me able to forgive him. That person wasn't my "real" dad. Accepting him and forgiving him has been a big step in my healing process. Sometimes, my buttons get pushed, but I now understand my former reaction to that type of situation.

anonymous Aug 6, 2014 11:23am

Rachel, I feel you! My narc parent was hard to get thru too. It is my Soul and my Inner Good Parent that can see him, his infant self and have compassion for his pathology, his being stuck only in adoration and needing constant narcissistic supply, needing it so much that he was completely undone by any individuation, inside and outside of himself, shattered, enraged. My suffering was rooted in my attachment to getting adoration, love, being seen by him. My soul's path seems to be that I opted to not get loved by anyone external to myself, until I can become an adoring, present, loving, supportive, individuated self. This is where having an active relationship with Divine Source helps as a bypass to the human failings of my pathological parents. I absolutely had to reject, with passionate anger sometimes, the lack of love I so did not, do not, deserve. Under my lack of appreciation, gratitude, was a bunch of misplaced entitlement, once I began to effectively source my Soul's Love. Namaste

anonymous Aug 6, 2014 10:27am

Thank you, its exactly what I was needing to read in this particular moment ;). A very wise trueness we have to apply 🙂

anonymous Aug 6, 2014 12:00am


I gave up reading when I tought abouth my narcissistic mother. Promise to give it a second chance, but at the moment I've tried and felt like Jack the Ripper. The allies part was easygoing. Had a wonderful wonderful grandpa. 😉

anonymous Apr 19, 2014 6:47pm

Thank you. This approach via bodily awareness gets right to the heart of the matter. More and more it feels like the body has the answers. This approach lets the analytical side, and the idealistic spiritual side have a rest, yet still feel psychological and spiritual benefits. THank you!

anonymous Apr 19, 2014 6:33pm

I love this and it has helped me realize what is going on with two people in my life. It is very very awkward and uncomfortable. I don't like these people, however they are in my life. Now I know what to do so I can stop having conflict and anxiety. Thank you!

anonymous Apr 19, 2014 5:27pm

I love this. Thank you.

anonymous Oct 2, 2013 2:06pm

excellent! (like, like) 🙂

Among the people in my life, I tend to be the one that people go to for answers when they've reached problems they can't resolve alone. Most often, I'm the one to break the reality of the situation to them–to highlight where, why, and how things went wrong–and almost always as well, it points back to themselves.

The result of that reflection can vary; the conversion process from unconscious to conscious ran manifest a huge range of responses–sadness, anger, suspicion, even happiness and joy–it's pretty hard to predict. However, one thing I can predict is that if the response is generally negative or exceptionally challenging, then almost invariably that person will start by externalizing (or projecting) a large portion of whatever cognitive dissonance they experience onto myself–a sort of knee-jerk reaction to a perceived attack.

It's often fairly hard for them initially to accept the notion that I'm simply looking to help: to construct, not deconstruct. The self preservation portion of the ego/identity desperately seeks affirmation, and as equally desperately avoids (even attacks) whatever it finds contrary to itself.

In the midst of painful revelation or self-reflection, it's often hard to objectively identify those 'challenging' people who are interested in supporting and helping versus those who are purely destructive—because they can often engender the same response: pain.

You said "…And focuses you on controlling, convincing, defeating, eliminating the external adversary."

I would argue that there is no external adversary, just the conceptual illusion of one. The adversary is inside. The perceived 'adversary' is really just a mirror that only reflects the unconscious. That's a funny visual hah:) –a mirror that only reflects what you don't see. I think this is what you're saying later on, but could maybe use some clarity 🙂

It may also be that those 'inevitably challenging' people that you meet in life are also those who care the most about your welfare, and it's probably worth taking the time to distinguish that there are several types of challenging people.

Great article!!

You said "Defensiveness is a call. It’s your soul waving a red flag"–amen.