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Dealing with Difficult People

The most common question I get asked about my work is: “Do you take your work home?”

The immediate answer is yes, I do take my work home because my work is a part of who I am. But…

I don’t take my clients’ problems home.

This is what people really want to know. People are curious about how I deal with other people’s problems or pain. And this curiosity is symbolic of our need to learn to deal with our own shadows or sabotaging aspects of our psyche.

These are the parts that get triggered in our day-to-day life. Ones that make us angry, pissed off and bloody well-frustrated!

When I first started working as a psychologist in my mid-twenties I used to take my clients’ problems home – even if I wasn’t really aware of this at the time.

I was taking clients energy home without even realising it. In that energy were emotions, thoughts, beliefs and stories that clients held.

These were things that were left in the room. And yet somehow, like fluff that catches on to velcro, some bits stayed with me.

What made the fluff heavier over time was having high expectations of myself. I expected that I had to fix other people’s problems. I felt that I was somehow responsible for people getting better and realising their potential.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was merely a facilitator of change. I was the catalyst for change for those who were ready to change.

I had to learn how to set firm boundaries with myself and clients in order to be a strong catalyst for change.

The many times I tried to fix their problems or take their pain away, my work felt heavy and hard. It drained and disconnected me from my own guidance and wisdom.

After a long windy journey, I’ve come to appreciate and love that my role as a powerful catalyst for change requires me to be present with clients.

Why do I love this now? Because when I’m present our sessions are more energising, uplifting, inspiring…and life-changing!

When we connect to our life-force we invite more life-force into every part of our life. This is when life starts to flow more and we start to get glimpses of joy.

I disrespected this quality of loving presence because I felt that it wasn’t enough. And that I wasn’t enough if I wasn’t pulling tools out of my therapist’s box.

Little did I know at the time, that the most essential part of my work was being powerfully present with my clients – and of course myself.

Presence is the key to unlocking our potential.

When people are given the chance to be heard and to feel safe they can dive deep into their own wisdom and find answers.

“Given appropriate support and the means for release through surrender of ego control, we have an inner radar that knows what issues, in what order and what timing is required for the healing of our psyche”. Grof (2000).

So back to dealing with difficult people and “the how of it”…

When you encounter difficult/challenging people here are a few guiding posts:

1) Become a vessel of presence

Don’t seek to defend, protect, hide or have all the answers. Here, practice makes progress. See yourself in your mind’s eye as a solid tree with strong roots extending into the ground.

2) Be one with your breath

Breathe into your belly and all the way up into your chest – this may feel counter-intuitive at first unless you’re a baby. But this way of breathing allows us to open up and be available to the needs of the situation at hand.

Holding breath in any part of our body is holding out on life and on our trust in the ability to deal with a given situation.

Full breathing equates to presence and this equates to trust and confidence.

3) Detach yourself from other people’s reaction

Come to see other people’s reaction as a reflection of them, not you. Having said that, we can learn a lot about ourselves by how we react to others’ reactions.

4) Communicate from presence

Do not assume the other person knows what you’re thinking. Name the elephant in the room by owning your point of view. For example:

“I feel….” “I think…” or “I’ve noticed..”

This is true for you even if they don’t agree with it.

5) Address the issue in the here and now

Unhook from any dramatic stories or images you may have about the person or what you believe about them based on their past behaviour. Say what?!! I know! I agree. This is the most challenging part about dealing with challenging people. But unhooking in this way allows us to also unhook from our own reactions such as defensiveness which puts us on the merry-go-round of reactive emotions which become bundles of stress in our bodies.

6) Use an anchor point in your body to stay grounded

When dealing with difficult people bring your awareness into your solar plexus region (belly button area) and speak from this place. It’s an area in your body which can feel very uncomfortable at first, but one that can help you stay grounded, focused and present.

So, don’t feel responsible for other people’s lives. Focus on being available, open and centered for responding appropriately to life’s curve balls and other people’s perceived dramas – including your own. 🙂

If you would like to learn how to unlock your presence and finally start to embody who you are, so that you can experience more freedom, ease and trust in your life, then I invite you to have a 1:1 conversation with me to explore what that would look like.

This is for you if you are ready to invest in your own personal development.

In our 45min phone call, we will unpack the biggest sabotages to your presence and power and put steps in place to help you feel more grounded, present and in control of your life. As a bonus, I will guide you through a powerful “Unlocking Your Presence” guided meditation to help you start feeling more present, in your power and on purpose. Schedule your time with me here.

Stay present,

Suzi Petrozzi.

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