Difficult People Can Be Messengers for Our Unhealed Parts

Friday, January 29, 2016 · 2 Comments

Teal Swan

We all have difficult people in our lives, it’s part of the human experience. Typically, we tend to see them as a nuisance, someone I have to put up with, or even avoid. This also comes with it’s suffering. I’m not familiar with the author of the quote above, but the message is worth being curious about.

What if we could change our perception to seeing the difficult people in our lives as messengers or teachers that arouse something inside of us that needs to be cared for or loved?

If we do this, might we become less reactive toward ourselves and other people and inevitably won’t this give a chance for more relationships to improve? Might it be easier to let go of bitter grudges and move toward strengthening mindfulness, self-compassion and forgiveness? This isn’t Pollyana, it’s a practical approach that can help us focus more on what matters in life.

But consider this, if relationships improve, might that support communities, regions and countries to improve?

Is it possible to set off a spark in this way that leads to not only the healing of our being, but the healing of humanity?

Whoa, that’s a bit too large to swallow perhaps, so let’s just begin with today and ourselves.

Today, try this…

Let it be our intention going forward to regard people who trigger negative emotions in us as “messengers for the unhealed part of our being.” They are arousing something inside of us that is reaching out for self-love.

What if we just began practicing this in the same way that we practice riding a bike or playing piano? Is it possible that our brains will begin to memorize the procedure and it can start becoming automatic?

Can we get the neurons to fire together in this way and will they eventually wire together?

Try this out as an experiment and allow your experience to be the guide.


Elisha Goldstein

Author of Uncovering Happiness and co-author of MBSR Every Day

Adapted from Mindfulness and Psychotherapy


  1. Monta Breeden
    February 1, 2016 at 3:07 am

    I listened to your interview with Ashley Davis-Bush this morning then went to your website and read the quote by Ted Swan as well as read you comments. I am thinking about the triggering-people in my life and, yes, I think that they are indeed messengers and it is so clear to me now that when I encounter them or think of them and our last encounter and what that experience brought up in me it is very much the unhealed part of me that surfaces. Awareness, mindfulness is the first step in the healing process; once the wound is healed it can lend to a better relationship with my trigger-people until they are no longer my trigger. This could lead to a whole new way of interacting that could affect our communities in a very positive way. Practice.

    • Elisha Goldstein
      February 1, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      Thank you Monta!

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