Terrible People: Teachers In Disguise

Terrible people

While going through life we meet many people. We prefer to avoid those who challenge us most. These ‘terrible people’ make us feel uncomfortable or upset, causing feelings of unease and perhaps even fear and pain.

The people who make us feel uncomfortable – or worse – usually don’t do so on purpose. They are usually unaware of the feelings they cause inside of us. Think of someone at work, in your family or in your neighbourhood who you would rather not see at all. Avoiding them is a smart way to not having to deal with the uncomfortable. But often we cannot avoid these people because we have to work with them, we are married to them, we are raising them or are being raised by them, or are otherwise dependent on interaction with them.

Teachers in disguise

‘Terrible people’ usually have something to teach us, even though they probably aren’t aware of it, and even though we don’t want to learn anything from them because we disapprove of them and/or their behaviour.

Theirs = ours

That which we find terrible about someone, is usually something we disapprove of within ourselves, and prefer to avoid in ourselves. Therefore we don’t want to see it in someone else. We disapprove of certain behaviour in others because we don’t want to deal with these things within ourselves. These things may be similar to, or stirred by, the specific behaviour of someone.

Choosing for improvement, doing what you can

I sometimes don’t feel like ‘working on myself’ at all. But when I do, I think the following exercise is the best exercise for self improvement and life improvement. The first time I used it, it helped me to set myself free from a ‘terrible person’ whom I had a love relationship with long ago. This person cheated on me and kept on hurting me, until I practised this exercise. Years later until today, I use this exercise whenever someone or something upsets or hurts me – it works every time:

1. Take someone you disapprove of – a ‘terrible person’ – or something you really disapprove of in someone – a ‘terrible thing’.
2. Concentrate on this ‘terrible person’ or ‘terrible thing’. Now ‘distill’ it – go to the core of it, choose one word or one short sentence for it.
3. Now say this:

– ‘What I recognise in … (fill in terrible person’s name), is … (fill in terrible thing he/she does)’
– ‘This is my … (terrible thing)’
– ‘What I am going to do with/about that, is … (fill in what you are going to change about yourself/your behaviour)

4. Repeat 1, 2 and 3 until you feel fine about the ‘terrible person’ and about yourself.


You have taken ownership of the situation that irritated, upset or hurt you. You have taken responsibility for your sense of discomfort. You have had the courage to look at it within yourself. You have allowed it to transform by choosing what to do with or about it. You have liberated yourself from it.


Chances are that you will not encounter this behaviour around you anymore. The ‘terrible person’ and ‘terrible thing’ may completely change in your perception. Because you faced and transformed it within yourself, you don’t need to face it again. You have taken the opportunity the teacher in disguise was offering you. The teacher will not need to present itself or the same lesson again – other things can now happen, you can move on, and so can the ‘terrible person’ and the ‘terrible thing’.

For your happiness,
With kindest regards,

Miriam Aziz

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