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One Antidote for Seething and Trembling

Over the holidays, we had a chance to visit some old friends at their new Mixed Martial Arts facility just north of Toronto. We had a great time catching up while our boys tore up their massive gym (there's just something that works about letting kids loose in a wide open space covered with premium gym mats).

Being thoroughly wowed by what they've built over many years of back-breaking effort, we grilled our friends for details on how much time and effort goes into running their club and caring for their students.

As we shared love and war stories from our livelihoods, it occurred to me that one life experience that all of us share is encountering bad behavior every once in a while. Make that extremely bad behavior, the kind that is almost comical because of how evil it is.

It wouldn't be appropriate to cite a specific example, but I'm thinking of situations where someone knowingly lies, either behind your back or directly to your face, even if this causes you significant emotional stress or financial loss. Vague, I know, but I'm guessing that most of us know what this feels like?

Let me be clear in sharing that I detest confrontation. I have as much ego and pride as anyone I know, and in my own fantasies, I am an über athlete. Somehow, and I still don't know how it happened, Michael Chang ended up living out the narrative that had my name on it. Winning the French Open at 17 years of age? That was my cake, and he mistakenly ate it in my place. But I digress.

When the spittle starts flying and fists start shaking, inside, I am a rabbit, not a lion. So over the years, I've learned to let things go, often in the name of being compassionate, though I strongly suspect that it's fear that fuels me to give benefit of the doubt in some cases, not compassion.

Here's the thing: I know that it's normal to seethe and tremble when we encounter someone who's looking to hurt us and doesn't show even a hint of remorse about his or her efforts. I don't think we can shut this type of seething and trembling off - the capacity to agonize in this way is part of what makes us human, right?

But let's remember that there is always a price to be paid for emotional stress. So while it's normal to feel threatened by someone trying to hurt us, it's in our best interest to figure out how to restore harmony within as soon as possible. Not in a Pollyanna sort of way where angst lingers below the surface, but through substantive meditation on and embracing of some immutable life principle that makes it natural to radiate with peace.

Here is one such life principle that works for me, one that I believe can work for just about anyone:

For every instance of someone intentionally trying to hurt me, there are many more of people being thoughtful and generous with me.

Okay, so maybe this isn't really an immutable life principle that has held true for all of human history. Then again, maybe it is.

It's certainly been true throughout my life. For every person who has intentionally tried to hurt me in some way, I glow with memories of hundreds of people - friends, family members, acquaintances, clients, and even strangers - who have shown me kindness, even when I didn't do anything to deserve it.

I've lived in Ontario, Illinois, California, Alaska, and Seoul. The overwhelmingly obvious observation that I can make from my time spent in these parts of our world is that most people are good. Most people, though carrying wounds and stressors, want to be happy and see others happy. Most people are willing to lend a hand to someone who really needs it.

And this is the truth that I suggest we draw comfort from in times of stress. Yes, what this person is trying to do to me right now really sucks, but what about the countless people who have blessed and supported me? To think about, really think about those who have lifted us up is a powerful antidote for despair, more powerful than any antidepressant, I want to believe.

Call this a trick, or call it an essential life tool for minimizing periods of emotional distress. I've found it to be a highly effective way of taking my focus off of evil behavior and re-directing my energy onto people and experiences that support my health.

Of course, we can't always ignore bad behavior, especially when we're obligated to address unresolved conflict. But after fairly and honestly taking care of "administrative" work, I believe we can quickly feel free again. Free to enjoy another day of fresh air with our loved ones, free to be of service to those around us, and free to learn some Jiu-Jitsu for those who really need a beating. To be absolutely clear, this last part about Jiu-Jitsu and handing out a beating is a joke, my way of trying to lift a few spirits out there through solid belly chuckles.

If you have any mental rituals that you engage in to help yourself get through times that can cause full body trembles, please consider sharing with the rest of us via the comments section below. Many thanks and peace to all.


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I memorize Scripture from the Bible and quote it to myself, often turning it into affirmations from God. For example, "I am weak, but I can do all things though Christ who strengthens me." Or, "This is the day the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it." My husband and I started doing this together when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006, and we did it throughout his 2 1/2 years of fighting the disease. I have continued to do it since his death in 2008 and firmly believe it has helped me to cope with his loss, and to learn to find joy in life, even though I constantly ache from his loss. I find Scripture to also help me when faced with frustrating situations and people.

Dear Dr Ben Kim
Thank you for always sharing good stuff. What you just shared really resonate with me. There are many situations where some can be really mean in their intention. As i encounter this situation, i take a breath and pray that some human angel will always be there. In many occasions, i know that i come across beautiful people more than not.

I was brought up as a catholic but i find affirmations in the universal teachings of compassion. A wonderful person named Thich Nhat Hanh mentioned that anger is energy of love that is not properly channeled. He wrote many beautiful poems and books. One that may be practical for many of us is called The Art of Power.

Blessings to you and your beautiful family

Hi, all,
and thank you Ben for this forum and your wonderful posts!

I use Emotional Freeing Technique to deal with immediate issues of fear, anger, total body stress overload, etc. It's never failed me yet. When one is in full fight/flight/freeze mode EFT is great because the body-heart-mind-spirit is already fully tuned into what the issue is and no words are needed. Just tap and accept, tap and accept and very soon one's nervous system calms and releases much of the trauma that it would otherwise store. Once the initial response to the situation is dealt with and settled, one can turn to more specific things:

Even though that ______ wants to _______ and I just want to ______ I deeply and completely accept myself.

I have been getting a lot of practice with this lately as my Mom is going through probably terminal cancer and my sister and I are at odds with each other emotionally, though luckily we both love her unconditionally and are still able to work together to see that she gets the best care possible. Still, sometimes we want to strangle each other!!! Sadly, she is not keen on EFT but I work on my self and that helps me at least get through this incredibly difficult life situation.

When EFT has taken things down to a dull roar (if it hasn't settled things completely for me) I turn to Tapas Acupressure Technique and that does the rest.

And I always use Reiki whenever I feel any need at all.

Free videos to follow along with:
Reiki attunement for a great price and with an amazing teacher:

I hope any or all of you will take a peek at these pages and these wonderful tools that can revolutionize your life in the most positive and cost effective way.


A well-known professor of health sciences and sociology once gave his advice on this subject. "When faced with an angry person who seems out of control, look at the person as though he/she were completely psychotic" (not mentally engaged in the real world)..."and imagine that you are the only sane person in the room." I have used this mental technique in two situations over the past twenty-four years when I encountered individuals who were so angry they were trembling and totally unable to contain their emotions when faced with conflict. It worked instantly, like magic, each time.

I am going to try this. Engaging or having to defend yourself in an angry persons negative plight is self defeating resulting in a depletion of energy that is a complete waste of time. I have never been afraid of confrontation growing up standing for what I believed which also made me vulnerable in getting wrapped up in others needs and problems which is possibly the reason we would chose to resist it. I have also learned that I am not obligated to participate in confrontation that has nothing to do with my own needs. There is a big difference.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." ~ Siddh?rtha Gautama Buddha

That is very insightful. I will remember that! Renee :)

Thank you Dr. Kim. As usual, you have offered us some very practical advice along with your gentle humour. I will have to try this - I tend to seethe internally and then, in my mind, play it over and over at which time I have the devastating reply to gob-smack my opponent. Alas, I never have those witty quips ready at the time . . . thanks again!

I think that your strategy could work in the case of fights with spouses/loved ones. You could think of all the good things s/he's done for you and not the one thing that made you upset. I heard of this in a class on relationships - try to think of the persons good character traits when you're feeling really overwhelmed by one that is bothering you. I have a chair in the corner of the room that is my chair. When times are very stressful, or if I've had a very hard day, I go and sit in my chair. Its sort of my Island of sanity - reserved for me. Thanks for your wise advice. All the best. Jen

I agree with Dr Kim totally. The most important thing that after you use the technique best suited for you and the situation you must get rid of all negative vibes. The more you feel bitter and not let go, the more miserable you will feel. Take the decision put it behind you and get on with your life with positive vibes...This is the trick I use and has helped me alot.

When you brood and seeth without solving or putting the situation behind you, you will get depressed and pay for it yourself mentally and physically.

So concentrate on positive vibes and let go of the negative ones.

Wish you all good luck and happiness

I found your article very comforting and could identify with it very strongly. I too have seen a fair bit of the world and seen how many more good people there are than bad. Recently, my family has had a run of 'toxic' people issues and it has been hard to keep perspective on the situation. I am going to borrow your life principle and have it in the forefront of my mind.

Thank you for your thoughtful words; your timing is impeccable!

I saw the heading "Seething and Trembling" and HAD to read it. I have Graves with my hyperactive thyroid I sort of LIVE there . Graves Rages are no myth and they take me by surprise so that I don't even recognize myself sometimes.
What works for me is, (don't laugh please), I tell myself that my emotions are like little birds stuck freaking out, locked inside a room, that room being my chest. When I am ready to burst, I imagine FLINGING OPEN A WINDOW and I (mentally) swing my arms wide, opening that window and all the birds rush out. Then when that the last little bird has flown, I take a deep breath and close the window.
For some reason that really works for me.
This was all good stuff to read, Dr. Kim and folks....thank you all and Happy New Year.

This almost sounds like clearing your aura. Glad it works for you.

Hello Dr. Kim, Thank you for all your wonderful information and insights. I connect with my higher source. I simply breathe in and imagine my breathe entering my heart center. A peacefulness immediately calms me as I am now spiritually connected, emotionally I settle down, mentally I focus on spirit helping me and physically I sense this profound inner peace. It gentles my entire being. I breathe in with alignment and balance and then simply be. I love your way of thinking of all the wonderful people in your life. It shows love and appreciation and gratefulness. These energies uplift our soul/selves. Even bringing smiles and laughter as quickly as possible that is from the heart makes a huge difference too. I have been known to call my husband and hold onto him when my energies are really out of whack. He grounds me. So hugging helps too. Love and Gratitude.

Excellent and inspiring thoughts! I'm going to experiment with
your method. Thank you!

The attitude I try to adopt when someone is purposely hurtful or
negative with me is a three-step process:

a) My present negative emotions are as temporary as the wind.
Even through a high wind storm, I shall weather it with courage.
b) This situation/person may be an important lesson for me. Since I cannot KNOW whether or not it is, I'll assume that it is. Therefore, I act and feel AS IF I have freely chosen it.
c) Whatever feelings I now have are moving through my BodyMindSpirit
and I will soon return to strength and radiance.

Doing this used to be exceedingly difficult for me. But the more I've practiced these three steps, the more successful I've become. As in building muscles, the workout makes us stronger, quicker, tougher, and more confident. This attitude transforms attack and potential harm into personal growth. Dross into Gold!

Thanks again for a stimulating post.

Solange Milan - California

Hi, I very much enjoy your articles and general health information. Today's article about people who knowingly hurt others by evasion, lies, subterfuge, etc., is very important, I believe, because it brings a subject to the table that few seem to fully understand.

In my private practice as an integral pyschotherapist, clients will often tell me that they do not like confrontations because they consider themselve "peacemakers", and yet, when they behave in this "peace-loving" way, they do not feel good about themselves. In this small observation, lies, I believe, the core of the problem.

Simply stated: if you do not show yourself that you love and care for yourself when others do or say the unacceptable, i.e, when they cross boundaries in unhealty ways, your inner core suffers, the way your child would suffer if you did not care for it when attacked in some fashion. It comes down to a question of self-love. People find it hard to confront others because doing so creates great fear on an inner level, generally because of something that happened when they were a child and were dependent on the love and care of others - even if the "something" that happened was only in their perception, or relatively minor (i.e, not major abuse). So they learned to accept what was not necessarily good, and did so in order (on some subconscious level of thinking) to ensure that they would continue to be cared for. As adults, the confrontation brings up that childhood fear of disapproval and rejection.

To make a long story short, the “cure” for this dislike or fear of confrontation is to first understand the connection between it and lack of self-love (because it was never properly learned to love the self), and then to begin to practice “confronting” in situations that are not as stressful as others. For example, a haughty maître d’ at a restaurant that has served you unacceptably cooked food, might be a good place to start by returning the dish. Once a small practice of confronting has begun, the individual notices how much better he/she feels each time it is done, and then notices much more clearly how “bad” he/she feels (particularly in the solar plexus, where a clenching may take place each time a confrontation is avoided), and recognizes that by avoiding the confrontation (which often is just a question of saying to the other person: “this is not acceptable”), they are continually giving themselves the subliminal message that they do not love themselves enough to do this. (Also see my articles on boundaries and love of the self).

Cheers from sunny Spain!

Gabriella Kortsch, Ph.D.

Very well put Dr. Kortsch. I agree that confronting fear by honouring and stating one's feelings is very important, both in learning to maintain boundaries and in confronting and de-conditioning the fear. However, there are also physiological consequences to seething and trembling.

While fear is a normal part of the fight-and-flight response to apparent danger it can also be conditioned so that the flight and flight response is triggered by things that are not actually dangerous. When ancient man was confronted with a sabre-tooth tiger, the fight and flight response was short-lived since the man either escaped or was eaten. Sabre-tooth tigers have long disappeared from the world, but an angry parent, spouse, boss, or stranger can trigger the same response.The upshot is that in some people the fight and flight response never subsides completely so the body never returns to homeostasis - the muscles remain tense and engorged with blood that has been diverted from the gut and other areas. The immune system is lowered and stress hormones raise the blood pressure.

The consequences can be chronic pain or fibromyalgia from chronic muscle tension, irritable bowel sydrome, and hypertension (among others), and long-term the lowered immune system may lead to cancer. The use of cognitive approaches as described by Dr Kim and some commenters are useful but may not always be enough to stop the seething and bring the body back to homeostasis. EFT may be enough as it targets the emotions, but each individual will have to see how peaceful they feel after using their approach. Tony Robbins calls emotions 'a call to action' since they are sending important information, not about the other person but about ourself and how we feel. So, Dr Kim is right, we need to find a way to msake ourselves feel peaceful, but as you pointed out that may involve some form of confrontation of the other person as well as our own fear.

Jennifer Gait MSc. Chronic Pain Relief Coach

Dr. Kim,
I like your column of helpful and useful information and good recipes too! :-)

On this particular topic I am reminded that the person doing the nasty deed upon us is just unloading THEIR stuff which actually has nothing to do with me. I often pray for them because they are the ones needing help.

Your take on this is commendable and seems to work best for you, but I sometimes feel better if I write down my feelings about this person - everything - all emotion and manner of strife. Then I tear it up into little pieces - allowing it to be dissolved in that wiping the slate clean. It is a very cleansing process because emotion is a human component and not a spiritual one. This feels really good to me and allows me to then carry on with my day.

Please keep up the good work you do. There are many who appreciate you.

Thanks to you Dr Ben for your selflessness in sharing your thoughts and ideas with a view to helping others who may need such help. Such selflessness is rare in our world and must therefore be commended.
As to coping with anger and Threat, one thing has been helpful to me and that is prayer. The Idea is that when faced with danger, being aware that a supreme being is behind me helps me not to overfear and therefore cope. Remembering the bible admonition in Philipians chapter 4:6,7 has equally proved helpful.

Thanks once again for a beautifully written, inspiring and heart-felt message.

I would like to add that there is a technique called EFT, which is a simple exercise you can do in any stressful situation which ALWAYS works, to reduce and even banish emotional pain so you can take charge of yourself, and the situation, again.

It is based on tapping with your fingers on certain meridian points,
- the ones used in acupuncture. I've used it many times to great effect on myself and on my kids and it works FAST.Gary Craig, who invented it, put out a free EFT manual for anyone to learn. He feels it is too valuable a tool to be used just for making money and that everyone in the world should have access to it. I agree! Just google free eft manual. Free, simple and it works.

Thank you soo much for all your awesome words of wisdom.I don't know if I really have the ability to think about the good when I am mad but I am certainly going to try. What I usually do is try to remind myself that nobody deserves the right to make me feel like crap! I feel i should be able to control my anger and by giving in to it just gives the other person power over me. NO, I say!
Anyway, I'd also like to say your article was very amusing and I love reading anything that will make me laugh out loud. I mean that in a good way.
Thanks Dr. Kim

I have truly appreciated reading Dr. Kim's tips on dealing with "unhealthy" people and situations, as well as all the heartfelt comments.

Many years ago I heard the Bing Crosby song "Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep). The song begins with the line "When I am worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep". This little song, which sounds like a lullaby, has carried me through many crises with its simple, yet profound, message.

Dr. Kim's advice that we consider the many people who have helped and loved us, rather than the one who has wronged us is another way we can count our blessings!

Many blessings to you and your family!

When I encounter someone who is intentionally unkind, I use something I learned from Dr. Steven Stosny of CompassionPower. I realize this is from their own emptiness and self-loathing, fear and pain, or ignorance, and from that understanding I can choose to offer compassion for their hurt. Their unkindness is not about me, it is about them. From this position, there is a possibility of finding a solution. A welcome serendipity is that by offering them compassion, I increase compassion for myself. This is a reminder of a lesson from the greatest teacher of all, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."

The following passage is from Practical Quantum Physics by Katie Garnett, Ph.D.:

"Quantum physics says that as human beings we have the ability to reinvent ourselves. We are filled with a quantum soup of chemicals generated by our thoughts which cause the release of chemicals that then cross the barrier of the membrane of the cell and from there affect the change or creation of new DNA programs.

What you think is what you get. If you think negative thoughts, you release neuro-peptides; if you think positive thoughts, you release endorphins.

Once you have released these chemicals and changed your DNA, you strengthen those programs by continuously 'feeding' them. You think a thought, you release chemicals, you create programs and those programs are reinforced and supported by your continuous thoughts along the same paths.

How many programs would you guess you are running in your DNA? If you could unravel the DNA from all the cells of your body and stretch it out it would reach to the sun and back again 150 times. And you have 100,000 chemical responses in your 100 trillion cells every single second. To improve on that miracle, make new choices. Release new chemicals into your body, letting your body send those messages down into your DNA and change your programming. No one is 'stuck' with old programming."

Thanks so very much for your own good work and for sharing it so generously.

Thanks for the article, and it is so true. My antedote when someone is coming down hard on me, etc. is to constantly repeat in my head/heart: "Lead Me Beside the Still Water....Thank You Lord" It magnificently works every time!

I do exactly what you suggest in this article when faced with mean people but you articulate it so well. These encounters are, as you point out, very rare - remembering that helps as well. When I can, I simply avoid these negative people. When I can't - usually when a family member is involved - it's much harder. So I took to acutally writing down a list of all the wonderful people I know and then a list of the negative people who I can acutally feel wish me and my family harm. Thankfully, one list way outnumbers the other and I have an objective way of putting it in perspective, which helps reduce my stress.

Thank you for your insightful, honest articles. I found your website recently when I was researching Pt Barrow Alaska (I don't know why!) I was just very curious of how life up there is like. You wrote a great piece which led me to read others and now I am following your website! Thank you!

Hi Dr. Kim
Thanks for sharing this. I will remember this. Luckily, in my whole 57 years, I haven't had many people in that kind of state interacting with me. In general, I like to do exercise, brisk walking, bicycling up a hill until my lungs and heart are really getting a workout, but not too extreme.
I have put this in my "Keepers!" file..... the Pink Glove Dance from St. Vincent's Hospital, Portland, Oregon..... raising Breast Cancer awareness. The song is "poppy", but I love all the different kinds of people, old and young, dancing away inside their hospital workplace.... the janitors, food service workers, doctors and nurses and administrators...young and old. If you haven't already seen this, hope you enjoy. It gives me more zest for life, on behalf of those who are faced with something as scary as breast (or other) cancer.