10 Golden Keys for Dealing With Difficult People

Do you have someone in your life who seems to make life intolerable? Do you find yourself avoiding this person, or thinking badly about them, or feeling poorly about yourself at the mere thought of this person? Dealing with difficult people can upset the mind, body, and emotions, causing stress, anxiety, and can even lead to headaches, insomnia, and poor health. Find out what you can do to alleviate stress, find contentment, joy and happiness, and deal with difficult people comfortably in your daily life.



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The Benefits of a Healthy Romantic Relationship

Couple Heart Balloon LoveWhat is Emotional Health?
Holistic health has many components. The components are physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health. Emotional health is a very important aspect of holistic health. It pertains to people’s emotions and feelings about the world around them and the events that take place in their lives. Emotional health is defined by Dr. Doris Jeanette as “the degree in which you feel emotionally secure and relaxed in Continue reading

How to Overcome Barriers to Forgiveness

What Barriers Stand in the Way to Forgiveness?

Holding HandsIt’s hard to let go of the suffering caused by someone else’s wrongdoing. What barriers stand in the way of forgiveness, and how can we overcome them? We all know how painful it feels to suffer hurts, betrayals, or abuse-and to have this pain harden into lasting grudges or resentments.

Forgiveness is essential, even when there is good reason to resist.

Indeed, study after study has suggested that being unable to forgive past wrongs can wreak havoc on our mental and physical health. Forgiveness is the practice of letting go of the suffering caused by someone else’s wrongdoing (or even our own). It does not mean excusing, overlooking, forgetting, condoning, or trivializing the harm or jumping to a premature or superficial reconciliation; it doesn’t necessarily require reconciliation at all. Instead, it involves changing our relationship to an offense through understanding, compassion, and release.

Two decades of social psychology research have repeatedly demonstrated the psychological, physical, and social benefits of forgiveness. True forgiveness repairs relationships and restores inner well-being.  Yet we often find it hard to let go, forgive, and move on. According to research, even when we can feel compassion and empathy for the person who harmed us, we can remain stuck in fear or hostility for days, months, even years.

Why is something so good for us so hard to do?

Friends huggingThat’s the questions Williamson at New Mexico Highlands University and Marti Gonzales at the University of Minnesota have explored through research on the psychological impediments to forgiveness. In a recent study published in the journal, Motivation and Emotion, Williamson, Gonzales, and colleagues identify three broad categories of “forgiveness aversion.” Traditionally, ideas for helping one person to forgive another have implied either expanding one’s empathy or compassion for the offender or “distancing,” not taking things so personally. But their research on forgiveness aversion suggests another approach: Forgiveness comes not necessarily by appealing to kindness or compassion but by addressing the victim’s fears and concerns. Williamson and Gonzales’ research suggests how to work with perceived risks to forgiveness and to move toward forgiveness in a safe and genuine way. Below is a brief tour of the three barriers to forgiveness, along with ways to overcome them, drawing on clinical research and clinical experience with hundreds of couples and individuals.

Understanding these barriers to forgiveness can be very useful to anyone who has ever struggled to forgive-in other words, most of us.


Barrier #1: Unreadiness

woman and man fightingThe first block is “unreadiness,” which Williamson and Gonzales define as an inner state of unresolved emotional turmoil that can delay or derail forgiveness. People can feel stuck in a victim loop, ruminating on the wrongs done to them by another person or by life, and be unable to shift their perspective to a larger view, to find the meaning, purpose, lessons, and possibilities for change from the events.

  • Who is most likely to experience unreadiness?

Williamson and Gonzales found that people’s tendencies to be anxious and ruminate on the severity of the offending behavior reliably predicted an unreadiness to forgive. People showed more reluctance to move toward forgiveness especially when they held a fear that the offense would be repeated,

  • How can we overcome the barrier of unreadiness?

Williamson and Gonzales’ research validates the folk wisdom that “time heals all wounds” and establishes the importance of not rushing the process, not coming to forgiveness too quickly. Certainly the passage of time is an important factor in helping people get some distance from the initial pain, confusion, and anger; it helps the offender establish a track record of new trustworthy behavior and helps the victim reframe the severity of the injury in the larger context of the entire relationship.

  • Tips to Overcome Unreadiness

1. Recall the moment of wrongdoing you are struggling to forgive. “Light up the networks” of this memory by evoking a visual image, noticing emotions that arise as your recall this memory, notice where you feel those emotions in your body as contraction, heaviness, churning. Notice your thoughts about yourself and the other person now as you evoke this memory. Let this moment settle in your awareness.

2. Begin to reflect on what the lessons of this moment might be: what could you have done differently? What could the other person have done differently? What would you differently from now on? When we can turn a regrettable moment into a teachable moment, when we can even find the gift in the mistake, we can open our perspectives again to the possibilities of change, and forgiveness.

Barrier #2: Self-Protection

Sibling RivalryThe second block to forgiveness is “self-protection”-a fear, very often legitimate, that forgiveness will backfire and leave the person offering forgiveness vulnerable to further harm, aggression, violation of boundaries, exploitation, or abuse.

  • Who is most likely to experience self-protection?

People who have experienced repeatedly harmful behavior, and lack of remorse or apology for that behavior, are most likely to resist forgiving the offending party, according to the research by Williamson and Gonzales. In fact, they found that even the strongest motivation to forgive-to maintain a close relationship-can be mitigated by the perceived severity of the offense and/or by a perceived lack of sincere apology or remorse. Refusing to forgive is an attempt to re-calibrate the power or control in the relationship.

According to their study, one of the hardest decisions people ever face about forgiveness is: Can I get my core needs met in this relationship? Or do I need to give up this relationship to meet my core needs, including needs for safety and trust? The ongoing behavior of the offender is key here. If the hurtful behavior continues, if any sense of wrongdoing is denied, if the impact of the behavior is minimized, if the recipient’s sense of self continues to be diminished by another, or trust continues to be broken, or the victim continues to be blamed for the offender’s behavior-if someone experiences any or all of these factors, then forgiveness can start to feel like an impossible, if not a stupid, thing to do.

  • How can we overcome the barrier of self-protection?

“Victims may be legitimately concerned that forgiveness opens them up to further victimization,” write the researchers. “Intriguingly, when people perceive themselves to be more powerful in their relationship, they are more likely to forgive, perhaps because they have fewer self-protection concerns in their relationships with their offenders.”  

In other words, people sometimes have understandable fears that offering forgiveness will be (mis)interpreted by the offender as evidence that they can get away with the same behavior again. People very often need to learn they have the right to set and enforce legitimate boundaries in a relationship. Forgiveness can also involve not being in a relationship with the offender any longer or changing the rules and power dynamics for continuing the relationship.


  • How to Set Limits

Older man and woman hugging1. Identify one boundary you’ve been reluctant to set with the person you are struggling to forgive.

2. Clarify in your own mind how setting this limit reflects and serves your own values, needs, and desires. Reflect on your understanding of the values and desires of the other person. Notice any common ground between the two of you; notice the differences.

3. Initiate the conversation about limits with the other person. Begin by expressing your appreciation for him or her listening to you. State the topic; state your understanding of your own needs and of theirs.

4. State the terms of your limit, simply, clearly, unequivocally. You’ve already stated the values, needs and desires behind the limit; you do not have to justify, explain or defend your position. State the consequences for the relationship if this limit is not respected.

5. Negotiate with the other person what behaviors they can do, by when, to demonstrate that they understand your limit, the need for it, the benefit of it.

6. At the end of the specified “test” period, discuss with your person the changes in the relationship if the limit was respected, or the next step in consequences if the limit is not respected in the next test period. You may have to repeat this exercise many times to shift the dynamics in your relationship.


Barrier #3: “Face” Concerns

Forgiveness - Daughter and motherThe third block is “face” concerns  – what we might call the need to save face in front of other people and protect one’s own public reputation, as well as avoid threats to one’s own self-concept-i.e, feeling that “I’m a pushover” or “I’m a doormat.”

As social beings, we’re primed to not want to appear weak or vulnerable or pathetic in front of other people. We will protect ourselves from feeling inner shame in many ways, which may include a reluctance to forgive. Researchers have also found that hanging on to a grudge can give people a sense of control in their relationships; they may fear that forgiveness will cause them to lose this “social power.” If our concerns about saving face foster a desire to retaliate or seek vengeance rather than forgive, we may need to re-strengthen our inner sense of self-worth and self-respect before forgiveness can be an option.

  • Who is most likely to experience face concerns?

People who feel their self-worth has been diminished by the offense, or who experience a threat to their sense of control, belonging, or social reputation, or even feel a need for revenge, are more likely to experience the face concerns that could block forgiveness. “To the extent that victims fear that they may appear weak by forgiving, and are concerned with projecting an image of power and interpersonal control, they should feel more averse to the prospect of forgiving,” write the researchers.

  • How can we overcome the barrier of face concerns?

Very often people who have been hurt by another need to recover their own sense of self-respect and self-worth to create the mental space where forgiveness looks like a real option. We need to develop and maintain an inner subjective reality-a sense of self-that is independent of other people’s negative opinions and expectations of us. Good friends, trusted family members, therapists, or clergy can be very helpful in functioning as a True Other to someone’s True Self-they’re figures who can help generate a more positive sense of self.

Forgiveness is not easy. It takes sincere intention and diligent practice over time. But overcoming reluctance, even refusal, to forgive can be facilitated by understanding these specific aversions to forgiveness, and by implementing strategies to address these barriers skillfully.

  • How to See Yourself

How to See Yourself1. Sit comfortably, allowing your eyes to gently close. Focus your attention on your breathing.

2. When you’re ready, bring to mind someone in your life in whose presence you feel safe. This person could be a dear friend, a therapist, a teacher, a spiritual figure, your own wiser self.

3. Imagine yourself sitting with this person face-to-face. Visualize the person looking at you with acceptance and tenderness, appreciation and delight. Feel yourself taking in his or her love and acceptance of you.

4. Now imagine yourself being the other person, looking at yourself through his or her eyes. Feel that person’s love and openness being directed toward you. See in yourself the goodness the other person sees in you. Savor this awareness of your own goodness.

Happy elderly couple kissing5. Now come back to being yourself. You are in your own body again, experiencing the other person looking at you again, with so much love and acceptance. Notice how and where you feel that love and acceptance in your body – as a smile, as a warmth in your heart – and savor it.

6. Take a moment to reflect on your experience. You are recovering a positive view of your own self again. Set the intention to remember this feeling when you need to.



Williamson I, Gonzales M, Fernandez S, Williams A, Forgiveness aversion; developing a motivational state measure of perceived forgiveness risks,Motivation and Emotion, June 2014, Volume 38, Issue 3, p 378-400, SpringerLink, Retrieved: 6/29/2014


Linda GrahamLinda Graham  has submitted this article as a Health and Wellness Educator volunteer writer for the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. This article first appeared on the Greater Good Science Center website on May 13, 2014.   Linda is a psychotherapist in full-time private practice in Corte Madera, CA and a long-time practitioner of vipassana meditation. She integrates modern neuroscience, mindfulness practices, and relational psychology in her nationwide trainings and in her local Deepening Joy groups. She is the author of Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being, which won the 2013 Better Books for a Better Life award and the 2014 Better Books for a Better Worlds award. Linda publishes a monthly e-newsletter, Healing and Awakening into Aliveness and Wholeness, and weekly Resources for Recovering Resilience, archived at www.lindagraham-mft.net.   The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization.  For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.

Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.



12 Health Benefits of Sex

Couple feet in bedIf you are eating right, getting plenty of sleep and practicing safe sex, sexual activity can be very healthy for mind, body and spirit. Research has shown that those who have a sexually active life, are generally healthier and happier. Here are some of the benefits backed up by research:

    1. Increased Immunity – According to a  2004 study by Charnetski and Brennan, published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), “Sexual frequency and salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA),” frequent sexual activity might boost immunity.  The saliva of 112 college students was studied in three groups of college students. Those who engaged in sex frequently (three or more times a week) had a higher level of salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA), than the two other groups who engaged in sex less often (1. less than once a week or 2. once or twice a week). Frequent sexual activity may result in increased immunity. 
    2. Releases Anxiety –  Professor Stuart Brody, Ph.D., conducted a research study at the University of the West of Scotland. The study revealed that people who had sexual intercourse at least once over two weeks were better able to manage stress.  Endorphins and oxytocin are feel-good hormones that are released during sex and activate pleasure centers in the brain. If you are looking for a way to release stress and anxiety, sexual activity creates a natural chemical bodily reaction that eliminates or reduces anxiety.


  • Improved Bladder Control

Bladder ControlThe muscles used in achieving orgasm are the same muscles used in bladder control. Frequent sexual activity can strengthen muscles of the pelvic floor and  help women and men avoid incontinence and premature ejaculation. You can strengthen these muscles by practicing Kegel exercises.  If you not certain how to flex these muscles, the best way to discover the muscles it to practice stopping the flow of urine. A Kegel squeeze is performed by drawing your lower pelvic muscles up and holding them up high and tight.



  • Lowered Blood Pressure
    Blood pressure cuff
    A study by Brody, Veit and Rau,  showed that sexual intercourse among cohabiting partner subjects, resulted in a greater heart rate variability (HRV) and a lower resting diastolic blood pressure (DBP) in  51 healthy adults aged 20-47 .  The diastolic blood pressure was not lowered  when sex was practiced alone or  with the  group of  non-cohabiting subjects.  Researchers looked at the bonding created between couple pairs as an important role in lower blood pressure levels. Those who lived together and knew one another well had lower blood pressure after sexual activity. 
  • Burns calories – Canadian researchers at the University of Quebec studied 20 couples aged 18 to 35.  They were instructed to have sex once a week for a month and jog on a treadmill for 30 minutes. The study showed that at certain points during sex some of the men were actually expending more energy than they did when on the treadmill. 
  • Relieves pain
    Brain and Oxytoxin
    Sexual activity increases
    oxytocin. Research consistently shows that oxytocin increases emotional connection, increases a sense of calm and well-being, and reduces the effects of stress (as measured by lowered blood pressure and cortisol), which results in relaxation and reduces the perception of pain. Orgasm also releases endorphins, a natural opiod painkiller that reduces the awareness of pain and creates a feeling of euphoria.  Studies have shown sexual activity to help reduce or block back and leg pain, menstrual cramp pain, arthritis and headaches. One study found that sexual activity can lead to partial or complete relief of headache in some. 
  • Antidepressant
    Orgasm produces natural body antidepressant chemicals such as serotonin,  phenyl ethylamine (also found in chocolate) which activates the brain’s pleasure center; and endorphins, one of the body’s natural opioid feel-good chemicals.

    Pain Drugs in Brain
    The brain produces more than 50 identified active drugs. Some of these are associated with memory, others with intelligence, still others are sedatives. Endorphin is the brain’s painkiller, and it is 3 times more potent than morphine.


  • Prostate Cancer Reduction A 2004 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed data on 29,342 men and found that those who had 21 or more orgasms a month were about 30% less likely to develop prostate cancer than those who had about 4-7 orgasms a month.However, more research is needed in this area before research can be determined to be conclusive. Critics of the study say that there were other contributing factors. 
  • Induces Sleep Hormones are released after orgasm. Prolactin creates a variety of physical responses, including sleepiness. Prolactin suppresses the effects of dopamine, an arousal hormone. Animals injected with the chemical become tired immediately. Intercourse orgasm releases four times more prolactin than masturbatory orgasm, according to a recent study. Researchers found that the hormone oxytocin, released during orgasm, also promotes sleep and is known as the “love hormone” as it results in a “feel-good” emotional bond with your partner. 
  • Increases Self Esteem Researchers have found that the chemicals released after orgasm increase self esteem, reduce stress and elicit feel-good hormones. Those who engage in sexual activity more frequently are better able to cope with stressful situations that require confidence boosting, such as public speaking, according to the research of Professor Stuart Brody, Ph.D, of Scotland. 
  • Live Longer, Healthier Life

    Sexual Activity by Age



Researchers have found that the more often one engages in sex, the more likely they are able to live a healthier longer life, and/or vice versa. The healthier one is, the longer they are able to engage in a healthier sex life. In a study entitled, “Sex, health, and years of sexually active life gained due to good health: evidence from two US population based cross sectional surveys of ageing,” researchers Stacy Tessler Lindau, Associate Professor  and Natalia Gavrilova, Senior Research Associate concluded:“Sexual activity, quality of sexual life, and interest in sex were positively associated with health in middle age and later life.


  • Increased Emotional Love Bond Senior loveStudies show that the hormone oxytocin is increased after orgasm and creates a chemical reaction in the brain resulting in the feeling of an emotional bond of love between sexual partners. This allows partners to better experience compassionate, caring, emphatic connection with one another. 


Charnetski and Brennan,”Sexual frequency and salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA),” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)

Brody, Veit and Rau, “A preliminary report relating frequency of vaginal intercourse to heart rate variability, Valsalva ratio, blood pressure, and cohabitation status,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)

Julie Frappier, Isabelle Toupin, Joseph J. Levy, Mylene Aubertin-Leheudre, Antony D. Karelis Energy Expenditure during Sexual Activity in Young Healthy Couples, Public Library of Science, October 24, 2013


Jean E. DartThis article is written by Jean Voice Dart,  M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University.
 Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.”  She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance.  The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3  nonprofit health and wellness education organization.  For more information about  the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.


Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.