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by Naomi Drew, M.A.

For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness.- Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of life’s greatest stresses is being in the presence difficult people. Negative people can sap our energy and affect our mood. Hard as we may try not to be affected by what they do and say, we often get hooked anyway. Meeting anger with anger or nastiness with nastiness creates more of the same. In the words of an African proverb, “The fly cannot be driven away by getting angry at it.” So, if reacting in anger doesn’t work, what does? Read on to find out.


One of Serena’s co-workers was extremely negative, so every day was an opportunity to practice her detachment skills. Here, in her own words, is what she did:

“I started by reminding myself that in every moment I can make a choice. I can either let this person affect me or not. So every time I was in his presence I would consciously step into the role of observer. I would hear his words, yet very deliberately detach myself from them. By keeping myself in the role of observer, this person’s words and actions started losing their capacity to affect me. What helped was an image I would use: I would picture a stream of light pouring into me and I would keep my focus there. The visual image of light helped me avoid being drawn into a negative reaction. I would imagine the light protecting me and separating me from him even if he was standing next to my desk. The more I did this, the easier it got. Over time I started to see that even though I couldn’t control this person’s behavior, I could control my reaction to it. I started to feel more relaxed, happier. Realizing that I didn’t have to let this person’s mood affect my day was very freeing. I also realized that if I could do this with him, I could do this with anybody.”

Serena told me how she was able to apply this process in other situations, including with her kids. Stepping into the role of observer, and focusing on the visual image of protective light helped her detach from, rather than react to, another person’s negative behavior. She started finding herself more able to choose a response, rather than getting hooked.


Close your eyes and imagine the light of the sun coming into your body, filling you with strength and calmness. Imagine the light surrounding you like an invisible shield. Now bring into your mind’s eye a picture of the person you get hooked by. Picture yourself calm and grounded behind your shield of light, detached from whatever that person is doing or saying. Imagine yourself calmly watching this person, unaffected by his or her behavior. Imagine sending out some of your light and surrounding this person with it.


The next time you feel yourself getting hooked, consciously step into the role of observer, then do the following five things to maintain your cool:

  1. Take slow deep abdominal breaths.
  2. As you’re breathing deeply, repeat a calming statement like, “I have the power to remain calm.”
  3. Picture light coming into the center of your chest. Let its warmth soothe you.
  4. Even while the other person’s talking, keep breathing slowly and deeply, focusing on the image of light and your calming statement.
  5. Choose your words carefully, before you speak.

Using these strategies is like pouring water on a spark before it bursts into flames. It’s what real power is all about.

Naomi Drew is the author of Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids and five other books. For more information or to schedule a workshop, go to



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Copyright Naomi Drew, Jan., 2007. All Rights Reserved

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