Soul Sessions by CreativeMind

Satya Leaders Series: How to Deal with Difficult People

April 16, 2024 Debra Berndt Maldonado and Robert Maldonado PhD Life Coach Training and Personal Transformation Experts Season 8 Episode 208
Satya Leaders Series: How to Deal with Difficult People
Soul Sessions by CreativeMind
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Soul Sessions by CreativeMind
Satya Leaders Series: How to Deal with Difficult People
Apr 16, 2024 Season 8 Episode 208
Debra Berndt Maldonado and Robert Maldonado PhD Life Coach Training and Personal Transformation Experts

Coming across difficult people at work and in your personal life can be hard to navigate. This episode explores how to deal with difficult people and the opportunities for growth and empowerment in these encounters. 

Drawing from Jungian psychology and Eastern philosophy, this episode covers:

  • The role of projection in conflict and how our ego's defenses can amplify workplace stress
  •  Jung and Eastern philosophies shared view on life's journey beyond the persona toward the true self
  • Techniques for transforming your encounters with difficult people into opportunities for emotional growth and mindfulness
  • The upcoming Satya Leadership program is designed to foster conscious business leadership

    → Register for our FREE 3-day live virtual masterclass for business leaders to uncover hidden inner barriers to extraordinary success here:

    → Download your FREE ebook and explore the 3 hidden forces keeping you from going to the next level in your business and life here:


Interested in Jungian Life Coach Training? Download your free program brochure:

Stay Connected with Debra and Dr. Rob:
Instagram | LinkedIn | YouTube | Facebook | |

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Coming across difficult people at work and in your personal life can be hard to navigate. This episode explores how to deal with difficult people and the opportunities for growth and empowerment in these encounters. 

Drawing from Jungian psychology and Eastern philosophy, this episode covers:

  • The role of projection in conflict and how our ego's defenses can amplify workplace stress
  •  Jung and Eastern philosophies shared view on life's journey beyond the persona toward the true self
  • Techniques for transforming your encounters with difficult people into opportunities for emotional growth and mindfulness
  • The upcoming Satya Leadership program is designed to foster conscious business leadership

    → Register for our FREE 3-day live virtual masterclass for business leaders to uncover hidden inner barriers to extraordinary success here:

    → Download your FREE ebook and explore the 3 hidden forces keeping you from going to the next level in your business and life here:


Interested in Jungian Life Coach Training? Download your free program brochure:

Stay Connected with Debra and Dr. Rob:
Instagram | LinkedIn | YouTube | Facebook | |

INTRO  00:00

Welcome to CreativeMind Soul Sessions with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado, founders of CreativeMind. Explore personal growth with us through Jungian psychology, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience in a deep, practical way. Let's begin. 

Debra Maldonado  00:25 

Hello, welcome to Soul Sessions. I'm Debra Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado. We’re back with another continuation of our satya leader series. We talked about satya as being a Sanskrit word, which means to speak, think and act in truth. We're gonna go deeper into how it works in dealing with difficult people. Have you ever dealt with a difficult person? This is something everyone can relate to. There's maybe one time in your life, you had a difficult person, something we have in common. We're going to talk specifically about difficult people in work, in our work life, in our business life, how we deal with them, why they show up in an empowering way, in a satya way. We're gonna give you some tools to work with them and learn. But before we begin, I do want to remind you, if you're listening to us on iTunes, Spotify, or any of the other podcast services, definitely subscribe, you don't want to miss this and more upcoming series. One more announcement I have is that we wrote an ebook. It's not a full book but it's a pretty detailed book. It’s called The Success Trap: three hidden forces that are keeping you from going to the next level in your business and your life. Even if you're not a business leader, you will find something very valuable in this about yourself. It's all based on Jungian psychology, Eastern philosophy, there's tons of exercises and questions in the book. All you need to do is go to and get your free copy today. Let's begin. This is one of my favorite subjects because I've learned more from the people that caused me difficulty than I had from the people who loved and adored me. I like the people that love and adore me but the difficult people help us grow.

Robert Maldonado  02:29

That's right. If we approach it in the right way.

Debra Maldonado  02:33

Why do we have triggers? Why can't everyone be nice? Why can't everyone do what we want them to do, act the way we want them to act, follow our rules? Why does this happen?

Robert Maldonado  02:45

That's an infinite question. But at the social level, I think it's part of being a human being, because we're social creatures. Part of our work is to fit in. How do we get along with others? How do we cooperate? How do we resolve conflicts? Because in human affairs, there's always going to be conflict.

Debra Maldonado  03:11

What we typically do is we want to avoid those “toxic” people, we want to move away from them. We don't like being around them, maybe we change jobs or fire people that are difficult, without actually having self reflection. When we're seeing someone that triggers us, we always talk about it in Jungian psychology, that someone who triggers you is a reflection of your own inner self, it's a projection.

Robert Maldonado  03:42

Jung worked a lot with what we call projection. Projection is a common universal defense mechanism that we all have. The way we employ it is that the things we don't like about ourselves, both good and bad, or both things that might be considered morally questionable, but also things we're not ready to express, that might be talents and skills, we suppress them. But when they're in the unconscious mind, then we project them onto others. The people that irritate us are the ones that are showing us what is in the collection of unconscious repressed content that Jung called the shadow that we're seeing in them.

Debra Maldonado  04:37

An example from me is that I used to be like “Why is this person triggering me?” I realized this common thread of someone who's demanding. I was like “Why is this demanding so triggering for me?” It was this feeling of I don't do that, I'm more passive, I won't ask. I'm getting better, I'm growing, but when I was younger, I’d never ask for what I wanted. These people are basically acting out aspects of yourself that you don't give yourself permission to act out. The reason why it triggers us is because we don't find it beneficial, or we feel it's unsavory to be that way. We have judgment, that’s why we suppress it in the first place. When we're triggered by someone else, it's like “Why is this quality so unsavory? Why is this quality so terrible?” That's really the key.

Robert Maldonado  05:30

Let's talk a bit about that trigger element, because it's such a powerful thing, it possesses the mind. We have all had that experience where something has a sticky quality that you can't think of anything else.

Debra Maldonado  05:50

That person pushed our buttons.

Robert Maldonado  05:53

Pushed every button on the elevator. Now the mind is stuck on overdrive and just thinking about that. “I should have said this, I should have done that. How dare they? What am I going to do tomorrow when I confront them?”, the mind just ruminates on those things.

Debra Maldonado  06:13

It's such a waste of energy. If you think about the energy, if you remember a time when you felt that way, it's a very defensive energy, it's not creative, you feel very tight, you feel powerless, you feel that the person isn't hearing you, you don't know how to deal with them, they’re out of control. We want to get back our control. We're trying to strategize. “Maybe I'll tell their friend about them, then I'll get even, or I'll fire them, or I'll yell at them.” If we go back to the three responses the ego does, it’s either fight someone, it could fly away, avoid them altogether, or freeze, just do nothing. I find that probably the most beneficial and constructive may be to fight, speak out and tell the person what's going on. I mean, from an ego perspective. But when we avoid or we freeze and don't do anything, what tends to happen — we can all relate to this, especially women don't tell the person directly that it bothers you because you're too nice, but you'll go and badmouth them to your friend, tell them “This person did this to me”, but you're not really dealing with the problem, you're basically just swimming it up, then you are still obsessing about it. They always say person lives rent free in your mind. The ego’s strategy for dealing with this is always very weak, deconstructive, tiring, exhausting, and causes a lot of stress and anxiety.

Robert Maldonado  07:48

That's a good point. It's weak, because the ego’s function isn’t really to grow, but to maintain the status quo. In other words, from the ego perspective, it says “We're doing good enough, let's just maintain the status quo,” meaning let's stay in our bubble, and they can stay in their bubble. But meanwhile, this trigger feels like they've overstepped their boundaries. They're entering into your mind, they're living rent free in your head now. You don't really get anywhere because even if you fight that element, it's still in your unconscious mind, it's going to show up again. Even if you win the argument or the conflict, you are still going to have to deal with it over and over again. The way we work with it at the Jungian coaching level — not at the advice level, not the therapy level, because there are therapeutic ways of dealing with that too. But in the coaching model that uses the Jungian approach to this, it’s a great opportunity because what's coming up is precisely the unconscious content that you need to see. The reason it's unconscious is because you had to push it away, it threatens the persona you've created. Therefore, it can’t coexist with the persona. But the trigger and the individual that's triggering you is doing you a great favor. The trigger is allowing the unconscious content to come up to the surface because you're feeling it, you’re experiencing it. The only problem is that you're projecting it. You think that person is the one that's triggering me but it's really coming from the inside because nobody can make us angry, nobody can make us disturbed, upset without our participation.

Debra Maldonado  10:07

If you're feeling something, it's you.


Are you a high achieving entrepreneur who sacrificed other parts of your life to create success, but feel as though you don't want to stop? But you want to figure out how you can have a full complete life, you want success without sacrifice. We have a new ebook just for you. It's called The Success Trap: three hidden forces that keep you from going to the next level in your business and your life. Get your free copy today, go to and begin an inner journey based on depth coaching of Jungian psychology and Eastern philosophy. You know you don't need just another business strategy. You want to really get to know deep inside who you really are, what your soul wants for your business and your life. This book will give you so many insights that you will be surprised at how it changes your life. Visit, download your copy today, and become a satya leader, someone who lives, speaks, and acts in truth, and really feels aligned with all areas of your life, 

Debra Maldonado  11:31

I was telling you a story before we recorded this, it's really funny. We always say to our clients that the person who triggers you is your best friend. I was telling a story to one of my colleagues of this client that triggered me and I was like “This happened, but you know what, she was my best friend.” She said “Your best friend did that to you?” “No, not literally,” I said, “but we call them the best friend because they gave me so much to learn about myself through that.” Like we always say, when people talk about the unconscious, I don't think everyone gets that it's not conscious. The unconscious isn’t conscious. Especially when we have insights with people, they're like “I don't think that has anything to do with me.” Well, it's not conscious. The only way we can see what's not in our conscious level of awareness is through projection. Our psyche has this beautiful process of projecting what we need out there. We can see our mind in everyone and every experience in our life. If we learn to see that it's a mirror, not a separate experience, that you're trying to battle with you, then you pull back that locus of control. I think that's the key. Everyone wants to get back in control of their life. When you're triggered, it feels very chaotic, like you're trying to herd cats or something. You want to get that control again.

Robert Maldonado  13:06

This other phenomena related to the trigger is that it feels very much like it's out there, that it's the person that is triggering you, or the situation, or the circumstances. What is happening there is that if you buy into the projection, you're losing your power, the locus of control that you mentioned, you want an internal locus of control, not an external one. When you're projecting, you're saying there's an external locus of control that is acting upon me. You're giving your power away. The only way you can take it back is to accept that it's arising from you or that you're participating in it through your projection of unconscious content onto that person.

Debra Maldonado  14:06

A good visual is when someone triggers you, you put them up on a pedestal. Usually, we put people on pedestals that we admire, because that's also a trigger. But we feel smaller than that. It feels like a big problem, or they have power over us. There are some people that are authority figures that can trigger us. They do have some sort of authority, but no one has authority over your mind. You can take control over your mind. Viktor Frankl talks about that all the time in his book. If you're in a terrible situation, you always have the power how to choose that situation and how to deal with it. Next time someone's triggering you, be like “You're putting them up on that pedestal there.” Then you’ll quickly be like “I don't want to put them on a pedestal.” We think we're pushing them below us, that person isn’t as nice as me or not as good as me, or not as kind as me. No, you're making them more important than you. You bring them so much power. The only way to really be free is to reclaim that power. We're going to talk about some Eastern philosophy with this too, because there's really higher ways to deal with difficult people. A satya leader is always speaking, acting, and thinking from truth. When we project, we're not seeing the truth, we're seeing that that person is out there and not in us. When we start bringing back the projection, we start to see who we really are. We have self-knowledge that we can then move forward and do something more powerful.

Robert Maldonado  15:35

But it begins with this acknowledgement. Here's an opportunity. Because if we see it as “I'm doing something bad” or “they're doing something bad,” which is even worse, we're caught up. The emotion, the trigger has got us in its grip, instead of us being able to work with it. How do we untangle ourselves from that powerful emotion? We acknowledge that here is an opportunity for me to work with my mind because I'm seeing my own shadow projected onto this person that's triggering me.

Debra Maldonado  16:15

Step one, take 100%, not 50, not 75, but 100% responsibility for that experience. That's the only way you get power. If you give 1% power to them, they have more power. It's 100% responsibility. Not for who they are or how they're treating you, but what it's pulling from you. Because it's coming from inside you. You're like “I'm responsible for how I feel right now.” 

Robert Maldonado  16:44

This is a difficult one. If you have questions, post them.

Debra Maldonado  16:49

I want to clarify, it's not blaming yourself, this is not blaming yourself at all. Because what happens is that the things we don't want to be, it's like you're a director, and you say “I want to star in my own movie. I need some other actors to play all these other roles, like the victim, the villain, the best friend. I am gonna pass all these scripts out. That's what you do unconsciously. In some way you have invited that person in to irritate you, to make you conscious of this part of yourself that you're not able to integrate. It feels so hard for people to accept that. But once you do, it’s really amazing. You can't blame yourself because it's unconscious, this conditioning is instinctual early in life. It's not like you chose them consciously to irritate you. Your psyche is doing you a favor by bringing these people in, don't you think? It's a gift, even though it's covered up in poop. It's a gift, you just got to dig it out.

Robert Maldonado  17:55

Like Hala says “That thing is not the thing.” Often, that trigger is not really what you're working with. It's the surface element. As we go deeper and uncover the true root of that trigger, we find the true content that's unconscious in you. Making that conscious, what it does, it liberates you from that projection. Therefore, you're no longer triggered from that particular content. It's a wonderful way of working with yourself. What it does, it expands your awareness, your consciousness, your self knowledge.

Debra Maldonado  18:37

In Eastern philosophy, there's an object or system called karma yoga. This is perfect for that.

Robert Maldonado  18:47

A part of karma yoga is this selfless action, which means that you're going to take action. We don't become doormats and just let people step all over us. But we do what we have to do in the moment. If somebody's really aggressive, we're going to defend ourselves or we're going to state our boundaries. We take action, but we're doing it with the deeper understanding that it's not personal, that we're taking the action as part of our duty. That's part of karma yoga, that we have to do our duty. Our part is the role we're playing. If it's a coworker, for example, or an employee, or an employer, we state our needs and our are boundaries but with non-attachment, which means it's not personal. We're not making it about us versus them. We're simply saying this is the way things should work and this is part of my role.

Debra Maldonado  20:02

An example would be, let's say, you’re dealing with a client or customer that's been always complaining and causing problems with your people. We keep our team members safe from abuse or any abusive language or anything like that. Let's say, you had a difficult client that was very mean to your team, not respectful. What you want to do is you approach them out of duty for everyone involved for yourself. It really helps them because if they continue that behavior and no one corrects them, they don't realize it, they're gonna keep doing that and creating more havoc for themselves. It's a really nice way to express that given, it's doing them a favor in a way, but you're not attached to how they respond. Karma yoga is about taking the action, everything goes into the action, it's a higher intent for the action, you let go the results. I bet you that anytime you have a confrontation with someone and just let go of the attachment to how they respond, you’ll act more authentically, like a satya leader. Because when you don't, when you're attached, what you do is it turns into a manipulative, judging conversation. I gotta get this person to like me or not like me, I gotta get this person to act a certain way and change. All that doesn't work, you're just buying into this ego level of conversation. Whether you're in a relationship, or romantic partnership, whether you're at work, these two areas, having that communication, or taking that action on attachment is so powerful. Don't you find that too? It's not like you don't care how they respond, but you're not attached, you just need to say what you need to say. It tends to be more authentic and more real than just trying to manipulate and get them to change or be super nice to manipulate them.

Robert Maldonado  22:12

Again, when you're acting out of ego, you're going to repeat the pattern again. It's wasted time and energy. When you're acting this way with non-attachment, you're doing what you need to do, you might resolve the external conflict as Jung says, that is really arising from the internal conflict or your own unconscious content. Resolving your own internal content or conflict resolves the external conflict. The other one that we learned from Eastern philosophy is self knowledge and self control. Now, this isn’t self control in the sense of I shouldn't eat cookies, no ice cream this week. This is more of what is the nature of the psyche, what is the nature of the mind, what is the nature of action we take in the world, understanding through higher knowledge what it gives you. It gives you an understanding of how to dismantle the power that the action has on you to condition you. When we act with attachment, the actions actually have a conditioning power on us, because again, we're giving our power to external circumstances, we're saying “I’ll be happy if the circumstances arise, I’ll be sad if these particular circumstances come about.”

Debra Maldonado  23:45

Again, it's putting that external circumstance, that person's response on a pedestal above you, because if you give them power— for me, early in life I used to be really nice to get what I wanted versus for some people, arguing does it for them, or causing a fuss gets attention. We act out of these conditioned ways to deal with conflict and difficult people, but it's not authentic, we're still attached, we're still afraid they're gonna get mad. “I'm gonna say this really nice, but not tell them the whole truth, or compliment them first, but not tell them the whole truth.” Then we end up feeling like walking on eggshells, giving them our power, and not fully in our own. The equanimity is another one.

Robert Maldonado  24:36

It's related to equanimity because equanimity says the results are neutral. You're seeing the results as neutral, you're dropping the winning and losing. It's not about winning or beating the other person.

Debra Maldonado  24:53

Or making them feel bad or guilty. A lot of people communicate to me that the other person feels bad that they were wrong.

Robert Maldonado  24:59

That's not the aim of your action. Your action is out of duty, out of respect, out of proper communication, out of creating harmony. You can only do that if you get your ego out of the way. That's what equanimity does, because you're dropping the win or lose, you're not taking it personally, you’re doing it out of selfless action, it's a very powerful way to interact in social settings. Is it easy? Of course, not. It requires discipline, self knowledge, and self control. That's what self control means. That's one of the definitions of yoga. Yoga is a way to manage and discipline your mind.

Debra Maldonado  25:48

Meditation as well. Not just to relax. But you said something really interesting about self knowledge. I didn't really get this until I met you. Many years ago, the idea of understanding the theory beyond the practice, because in this fast paced world, and online, and personal development, what are the tools? I'm going to be non-attached, I'm going to have equanimity, or I'm going to forgive others if they be kind, or practice self control. But to understand why, the philosophy of why, what is consciousness? Why am I here? What am I dealing with? How is my mind working? Understanding that theory and philosophy is so important. In my early days, reading self help, it was all about “Here's the way, here's how to deal with this, keep your boundaries” or with dating books I’d read “Follow the rules, be the certain way.” We all need to question ourselves when we're doing any kind of tools and personal development to really understand it and dig deeper. What’s the theory behind this? Because we can’t just live through tools and techniques, we have to have an undercurrent of philosophy that we're following and are aligned with. That's the soulful stuff that we need to really use this effectively.

Robert Maldonado  27:18

The common denominator between Jungian psychology and Eastern philosophy is the idea of the ego, that the ego isn’t really the center of our being. The ego is a function of our mind. But it arises as a function to give us this self identity, but it's a temporary self identity.

Debra Maldonado  27:47

It’s like an individual experience of this world that we're in.

Robert Maldonado  27:52

It's only designed to help us survive early on and to establish our persona, our self-identity in the social setting. But then we have to grow beyond that. That's what's lost in Western psychology. There is no real psychology except Jungian psychology that teaches us what is that developmental stage that goes beyond the ego. People remain stuck in the ego. They think “All I can do is perfect it and make it a better persona, a better functioning persona.” That's the aim of most people, they're simply augmenting a persona instead of trying to transcend it.

Debra Maldonado  28:38

Using shadow work is another technique for dealing with your emotions or dealing with projections, but there's nothing else after that. The shadow work is just the entry point. You don't want to do that alone, or teach that alone, or experience that alone without going to the next developmental stage. Jung said the shadow work is the apprentice piece. Working with the archetypes and the collective unconscious in that second individuation, away from the ego, is the masterpiece. You don't want to give away the masterpiece, you don't want to just do the apprentice work and forget mastery. That's what this work really does. The reason we came up with satya is because we were trying to find a term that spoke to both Jung and Eastern philosophy. The idea that when you speak and act and think through truth, it’s understanding the higher knowledge, what is consciousness, then understanding our personal psychology, then being able to effectuate that transformation, have that transformation, but actually be effective in the world, do something bigger with our life, live our purpose, feel aligned, have meaning. Satya is the path to have that state of mind. It’s actually very powerful.

Robert Maldonado  30:02

The other common denominator is the self. Both Jung and Eastern philosophy, the aim is movement towards the self. Some people call it the true self, but it’s the essence of who we are. It’s not the ego, it is not the persona, it's not your personality, it’s not what you do, your job, all this stuff. These things are important, we need to work with them and understand them. But the true self is the aim of our life.

Debra Maldonado  30:39

The satya leader. We’ll see you next week for another enticing episode. We hope you enjoy this today. We hope you find a difficult person to work with this week and try this out. Listen to the recording again, take notes and say “Alright, I got it.” I find that a lot of people, when they look for a difficult person, are like “I didn't have any difficult people this week.” When you look for it, it doesn't show up. Be open, this is an opportunity always to know yourself and grow. Every single time that difficult person shows up, I'm like “This is really talking a lot about me. Says more about me than it does about you.”

Robert Maldonado  31:20

To summarize the tools, the first step is to acknowledge that this is an opportunity, to see this irritation, this trigger as an opportunity. Then you can approach the feelings that arise. What is that? Is it anger? Is it frustration? What do you see in the projection? A good question to ask yourself is, what exactly bothers me about this person or what they did?

Debra Maldonado  31:54

What's so triggering? I usually say, what are three qualities they possess in that moment? We know everyone has good qualities too. But you always want to say, what are those triggering qualities and how do I avoid being like that?

Robert Maldonado  32:09

Then you acknowledge that those aspects are part of you or your psyche. They might be unconscious, but you've repressed them in yourself. As you acknowledge those emotions, they become integrated. This is an emotional integration model. What it does, it gets you to re-integrate these emotions into your conscious mind, so they're no longer causing havoc from the shadow by being projected onto others.

Debra Maldonado  32:43

They're not playing out in other people out there. You feel out of control, now you own it, then nothing can bother you. I always say to people, a lot of my single clients, when we worked with relationships early in our career, I’d say “If someone told you you were fat, and you're thin, you wouldn't be affected by it, you'd be like ‘That person's crazy.’” It's the same thing, it’s what you believe about yourself. If someone tells you something that triggers you, there's some part of you that believes it. It's knowing your titanium. If you don't believe other people's opinions of you, you decide for yourself who you are, who you want to be, how you should act. It's such an empowering place to be.

Robert Maldonado  33:29

The third step is complete integration, where now you can decide in a conscious way how you want to fill that space that was taken up by the projection. How are you going to communicate? How are you going to express your persona in a creative, conscious way? It's a very powerful system. When you're ready to do the work, of course, it's useful to have a Jungian coach help you through this process. For people in leadership positions, of course, this is valuable, because you're always working with people.

Debra Maldonado  34:11

We have a program that’s going to be launching next month, called Satya Leadership. If you’re a business leader, just a little teaser. We’re really excited about it, you’ll hear more about it very soon. Take care everyone, have a wonderful rest of your day. Don't forget to subscribe if you're watching us on YouTube, or on iTunes or Spotify. We want you hear us every week if you can. Share this podcast with a friend. Check out the show notes for the information on the ebook. We'll see you next week. 

Robert Maldonado  34:43 

See you soon. 

Debra Maldonado  34:44 

Bye bye. 

OUTRO  34:45 

Thank you for joining us. Don't forget to subscribe to CreativeMind Soul Sessions. Join us next week as we explore another deep topic where you can consciously create your life with CreativeMind Soul Sessions. See you next time.

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