Handling Difficult Situations with People

This blog post deals with a subject which is likely to arise for anyone seriously building a team and a business in dōTERRA, namely handling Difficult Situations with People.

Even those of us who have done a great deal of inner work and who don’t to any significant degree get triggered by the actions of others, are going to have those in our teams who are triggered by us, or are triggered by other uplines, cross lines, or downlines, and are going to have to resolve difficult situations that sometimes have high emotions.



Choosing to be ‘At Cause’ versus ‘At Effect’

I have done a great deal of inner work. The most profound inner work I’ve done has been in my Men’s Community at gatherings and in my Men’s Group that meets fortnightly, and in the Path of Love retreat I attended in 2015.

A mindset that I have embraced through the inner work I’ve done is the one of being ‘At Cause’ of my world, not ‘At Effect’. Below is a diagram that encapsulates the two ways of responding to the world around us in a flowchart:

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 5.44.52 pm

When something happens to us in life there are two ways we can choose to look at it:

  1. I am at Cause : I am at the very least a character in the scenario, and as a character in the scenario, I played my part, and what happened to this point happened, at the very least in spite of what I did, if not perhaps to some degree influenced by what I did.
  2. I am at Effect : The other person initiated the situation, I didn’t do anything wrong, and yet I am being penalised, criticised, or hated upon when I didn’t do anything wrong.

As we see in the flowchart above, if we take the view that we wish to be ‘at cause’ of the world around us, we focus on self responsibility. As a participant or character in the scenario what could I take responsibility for? Was there anything I said? Was there a way in which I was felt? If there are no answers there, was there anything I might have been able to do, that might have taken the scenario in a different direction. We are empowered, and we are able to look at actions we are empowered to take. We don’t like how the scenario has played out to date, and we wish to be the change, and have an influence on where it goes from here. All of these choices that come from being ‘at cause’ lead to a different experience of life, and a more positive one.

In the alternate branch of the flowchart, we consider ourselves ‘at Effect’. We are the victim of this circumstance, and it simply isn’t fair. The other person is being angry when I didn’t do anything wrong, and yet they are the one responsible for this scenario. How empowered are we in this scenario? If we are holding them responsible, then all we can do is ask them to change. My life experience tells me that’s probably not going to go down to well, with someone who is angry in a scenario where you can’t even see that you put a foot wrong. When I make them wrong, I disempower myself from being able to have an influence. I give them space, and wait, and hope they will change. It may happen one day, but it’s clear who’s timeline you are on with this one. This cycle will have a stuck and blocked impact on your experience of life.

Am I Admitting I am Wrong?

At first it can feel like taking an ‘at cause’ view of life is admitting you were wrong, or that you were the one that created the scenario. Any scenario is always more complex than it looks, and particularly in a business like dōTERRA you will deal with people with a great diversity of life experience, emotional maturity, and self awareness.

In any situation there is a good chance that the other characters in the plot have had a part to play, and they may well be in a triggered state, and perhaps may be being what seems like unreasonable.

An ‘at Cause’ mindset is not admission of guilt, it is simply recognising that you can have a far greater healing influence once you see that this is a play with multiple characters, and that what has happened so far is only one outcome amidst an infinite number of possibilities, many of which will be far more favourable to all the parties in the scenario, including you.


One of your best friends in unfolding a difficult situation is humility. I don’t ask you to take out a whip and start lashing yourself, but if you can be open to the possibility that perhaps there are things that you have not perceived, and that perhaps there were contributions you could have made that might have led down a different path, then the energy of humility will generally allow you to engage in a healthy and productive way with the other person. Humility at least allows you to open the door to enquiry, which may help you to understand the other person’s position.

The most important relationship you have is with yourself, cultivating self-love. When you come from humility you position yourself for the highest potential outcome, and you can know within that you are being honest with yourself, and have self respect knowing you were totally authentic.

The truth is too that humility is also important because we are learning. There is so much to learn in this business, and there are layers of understanding that only drop in as we have experiences. We will be learning all the way to Presidential Diamond, and then as we seek to go to Double and beyond there will be more learning.

Soul Advancements

Australian Presidential Diamond Emma Knight coined the term soul advancement as a rite of passage when we go through a rank advancement, and for many ranks it is certainly true.

As we step into leadership in this business we are regularly placed into situations where human dynamics will challenge us. It is as we face ourself, with humility, and recognise that as a leader our job is to take the higher ground that we become a better and better version of ourselves.

Until you have been through a real soul advancement it can sound like some work to do, but not too big a deal, just some of what you have to do on the way to higher ranks. Let me tell you that is not a soul advancement, they are not something that is easy. They are the bathroom floor moment that Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about in her book ‘Eat Pray Love’, they involve heart wrenching emotions, self doubt, and a perilous search for the solution that is hard fought and won. If you are going to succeed in the business you will have them, they are not things that only other people have.

The Secret Ingredient in All Relationships is Love

It is kind of obvious that good relationships are founded in love, or some version of love. What may be less obvious when you are in the middle of an emotional stoush with someone is that the path out of this difficult situation is also love. It can be challenging to call upon love when you might feel slighted by someone else’s anger or hurtful words, that might seem unjustified.

So lets come back to being ‘at cause’ and lets understand that our objective surely is to be at cause of a loving, friendly, and constructive relationship. Surely we want that over the alternative?

There is some upline wisdom that came to my wife PJ and I from our uplines Paul Ovens and Vanessa Jean Boscarello Ovens, which I recall them attributing to a US Presidential Diamond whose name I don’t know. It goes like this “There are only two types of acts, an act of love, and an act that is a cry for more love”.

Until we have lived the life that another person has, until we have walked 100 miles in their shoes, we can’t possibly understand the context in which our actions are felt, or from which they feel what is occurring around them.

What is a little easier to comprehend is that perhaps their life or some situations in their life are lacking love, and that in a scenario an emotional response might be a cry for love. How does it feel now, if you are coming from a place of wanting to be ‘at cause’ of creating a loving relationship, to recognise that what felt like a barb or a slight was only a cry for love, which is what we are seeking to be ‘at cause’ of.

When I look at the people I most respect in the world, the ones who have soul success in having lived a life of great purpose and meaning, and human success in living among others in a way that creates great happiness around them, they all have one thing in common, their dominant emotion and their entire way of being is love. The truth is these people no longer have difficult relationships. The vibration they bring to any encounter is always love, and it is not possible when facing that vibration to do anything other than respond with love.

The greatest thing for your own leadership journey and to create a loving community around you is to embody love in everything you do. We have some great examples of this in our community in dōTERRA Owner and Founder Emily Wright, and in Double Diamond Natalie Goddard.


One of the lessons I learned in my inner work journey is that I am the only one responsible when I feel strong emotions and become triggered where my emotions are urging me like a trigger on a gun to fire off a reaction.

This lesson applies to me, and it applies to all of us. We are responsible for our reaction.

We may not have created the situation that is bringing forth the triggering, and in fact there may have been very inappropriate actions by another party who does not know any better, or has insufficient self control over their own triggering to react to whatever is present more appropriately.

Triggers are by definition a subconscious reaction to a situation. Because they come from the subconscious they are informed more by the past than the situation in front of us. A vast majority of the time they will stem back to subconscious programming laid down prior to age 4.

When we are running a serious business with other people trying to do the same, our wounded inner four year old is not the one you want driving the bus.

Our triggering can very easily take us into being ‘at effect’ where we are the victim, and we want to act out, and respond to the trigger as a victim. Our job is to bring our awareness to the fact that the trigger is old programming, and that we are best served by reclaiming our awareness and moving into an ‘at cause’ frame of mind, with an intent to come from love.

Any time you feel really big emotions that have you feeling like you have been victimised, you are in triggering, and it will not serve you.

Drama Triangle & The Empowerment Dynamic

A really helpful model to understand difficult relationship dynamics is the Karpman Drama Triangle, developed by Dr Stephen B Karpman in 1965 and published in 1968.

The Drama Triangle is the bottom half of the diagram below. It recognises that in difficult situations among human beings there are typically three roles that we can get drawn into. There are good succinct definitions of the three roles of the drama triangle on Wikipedia, which I have provided below:

  1. Victim : The Victim’s stance is “Poor me!” The Victim feels victimized, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless, ashamed, and seems unable to make decisions, solve problems, take pleasure in life, or achieve insight. The Victim, if not being persecuted, will seek out a Persecutor and also a Rescuer who will save the day but also perpetuate the Victim’s negative feelings.
  2. Rescuer : The rescuer’s line is “Let me help you.” A classic enabler, the Rescuer feels guilty if he/she doesn’t go to the rescue. Yet his/her rescuing has negative effects: It keeps the Victim dependent and gives the Victim permission to fail. The rewards derived from this rescue role are that the focus is taken off of the rescuer. When he/she focuses their energy on someone else, it enables them to ignore their own anxiety and issues. This rescue role is also very pivotal because their actual primary interest is really an avoidance of their own problems disguised as concern for the victim’s needs.
  3. Persecutor : The Persecutor insists, “It’s all your fault.” The Persecutor is controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritative, rigid, and superior.

As you can see all of the roles above are coming from an ‘at Effect’ frame of mind. The ‘Victim’ is ‘at effect’ of the persecution of the ‘Persecutor’. The ‘Persecutor’ feels they are at effect of the Victim, and they are only persecuting the Victim because the Victim was in their eyes at fault. Even the ‘Rescuer’ is at effect responding to the cries of the Victim. All roles are dysfunctional, and the roles get swapped as the Victim moves into Persecutor to attack the persecutor for victimising them.


There is a way out of the Karpman Drama Triangle, and it is ‘The Empowerment Dynamic’ developed by author David Emerald who wrote ‘The Power of TED – The Empowerment Dynamic’.

The Empowerment Dynamic exchanges functional healthy roles for the dysfunctional roles described in the Karpman Drama Triangle as follows:

  1. Victim -> Creator
  2. Persecutor -> Challenger
  3. Rescuer -> Coach

My wife PJ and I do a lot of work with the Drama Triangle and the Empowerment Dynamic in our Emotions and Essential Oils workshop.

When we flip the Victim oriented ‘at Effect’ Drama Triangle into the Creator oriented ‘at Cause’ Empowerment Dynamic we deeply shift the way the players in the situation are relating.

The Roles of the Empowerment Dynamic

In the Empowerment Dynamic the Victim has given way to the Creator. The Creator knows they are empowered to be ‘at cause’ of the world around them. They will initiate action to move their world and their experience of their world to a positive place.

The Persecutor gives way to the Challenger. Now instead of the accusation of blame or fault to a victim, they recognise that they are dealing with a creator, and they use healthy assertive energy to draw the Creator’s attention to the dynamic in the relationship that needs attention. Aggression and blaming is replaced with healthy constructive conversation about appropriate boundaries.

The Rescuer moves out and the Coach moves in, recognising that the Creator needs to be empowered to create their own solutions, and instead of physically rescuing them, or telling them what to do, in a manner that is disempowering, the Coach asks questions and helps the Creator to come to their own realisations, and then to take their own action.

If a human dynamic is not going well, then it is almost certainly playing out the Drama Triangle. The question that arises as a person wanting to move to a more constructive dynamic is which role or roles can I apply positively from the Empowerment Dynamic? Do I need to simply be the Creator and initiate action to influence the situation positively? Have I been acting as a Rescuer and it has blown up in my face, and I need to instead be a more empowering coach? Is the other person crossing my boundaries, such that I need to have a positive and constructive conversation being assertive, but not aggressive as the Challenger?

Spiral Dynamics and Human Development

It is important to know when you are dealing with other people that we all have different values, and different drivers.

We are all brought up in different family environments, get different levels of education and with different emphasis, and our physical circumstances in life can create very different drivers. When our life lacks abundance, it can be hard to focus on anything other than feeding ourselves and putting a roof over our head, and we could be forgiven for scarcity thinking when scarcity is our experience of life.

There is an excellent model of human values and systems called Spiral Dynamics developed originally by a Professor of Psychology Clare W Graves and expanded upon at length by one of Graves followers Dr Don Edward Beck who with Chistopher C Cowan authored ‘Spiral Dynamics – Mastering Values, Leadership & Change‘.

Beck’s book is available as an Audio Book and is a fascinating listen. The audiobook is far more interesting and is more a discussion and a great way to hear the material.

Spiral Dynamics examines how the world, societies and communities have evolved and how they think, make decisions, educate, and how they look at family, community, and life.

The table below summarises the different systems of values and development, and contrasts them.


When you get people from different ecosystems of human development it can be easy for differences to turn into misunderstandings. The path out is to understand the other person’s outlook on the world, and to come from love and understanding.

In the dōTERRA business we have multiple generations working with one another, and not in the corporate system of power, control and authority, but in a free flowing community where uplines might be a 25 year old Generation Y Presidential Diamond, and downlines perhaps a 55 year old baby boomer.

Broadly speaking, the baby boomers grew up with Blue Purposeful / Authoritarian parents and grand parents, and as their lives unfolded the Orange Achievist / Scientific values system became the dominant way of thinking.

Generation X were born to Boomer parents, have influenced the world towards Green Communitarian/Egalitarian values, and Integrative / Autonomous values.

Generation Y has primarily been born of Gen X parents, and have influenced the world around them towards Yellow Integrative /Autonomous values, and Teal Holistic / Collective Individualism.

It can help to understand another persons point of view if you understand that they have grown up in a different eco-system of values and beliefs.

I highly reccommend the Spiral Dynamics work to anyone intending on becoming a leader. The truth is that the world as a whole is evolving to the right of the table above. I have made it a mission in my life to evolve to bring more consciousness and awareness to the world and how we do business in the world. We are not doomed to stay in the paradigm we were born into, however it takes awareness to evolve, and not to get stuck, and if we want to lead a team of people spanning many values systems it serves us well to be able to tune in and understand the best of each system.

Downline Challenges

So lets look at some specific challenges we can have in our trees. Firstly where our downline take issue with something we’ve done.

Obviously it is best if we can hold love in our hearts, seek to be ‘at cause’ of creating a great relationship, be humble, ask questions, and listen lots. From that place a resolution is generally possible in a vast majority of cases.

Sometimes however immediate attempts to heal an issue fail. There have been two occasions in our two plus years that we were unable to resolve a situation with downline, and they have then gone to our uplines to address the situation.

It doesn’t feel great when you have downline go to your upline if it involves making a complaint. The truth is though that gratitude is the appropriate response. Good long term relationships are critical to our businesses. When our downline go to our upline, the upline is usually outside the scenario that created the eruption, so they therefore can have a perfectly rational and reasonable conversation with the downline, because their emotional charge is with you, not your upline. Hopefully too, an evolved and wise upline will have your back, and will try and help bring some understanding to the situation in the downline for your side of things, and they will normally try and talk to you to hear your perceptions of the situation as quickly as possible.

It is not easy to be that upline having to give challenging feedback to leaders you love and respect, and it’s not easy to be in the shoes of someone getting that feedback either, but it is important that you and your upline be able to speak frankly and candidly, and to hold onto your solid relationship.

People risks are probably the largest risk in the Direct Sales business. Success relies on engagement, inspiration, and good relationships. If you allow a relationship to deteriorate to the point of hate, firstly it is no longer fun for anyone to endure that energy, and so your downline may quit, or worse people can get to the point where doing you harm is their greatest motivation and damaging their tree to damage your ability to rank becomes their priority. As hard as it is to believe, these situations do happen and we’ve heard of many among those who have been in the business a long time who have had to rebuild entire legs over these kinds of unresolved situations. So your highest priority should be to maintain a happy engaged community and to resolve disagreements with love and being at cause as soon as you can.

The truth is nearly all of us, even experienced Leaders like I was at age 55 having been a Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer in Corporations, including corporations with a cutting edge leadership culture, have not had all of the experiences we will have leading in a Direct Sales business like dōTERRA. If issues are arising in our tree, the best enquiry to make is “Is this situation like the Canary in the Coal Mine?”, where an issue that may become more widespread is surfacing with an n=1 to give me a heads up before my business feels consequences more broadly. Welcome the learning, and welcome the chance to be a humble servant leader who embraces opportunities to heal wounds quickly and without ego.

Upline Challenges

I am going to make an assumption that if you are reading this blog, you are a motivated person, open to self development, and willing to grow, and to challenge yourself.

If you are having challenges with an upline, my first piece of counsel is to move into humility, move into an ‘at cause’ perspective, and seek to be at cause of deepening your relationship with your upline.

If you truly come from that energy, and with an awareness of the drama triangle dynamics, and of shifting the roles into The Empowered Dynamic, there is a very good chance you can find common ground and develop a functional relationship.

It is in your Enroller Upline’s interest to have a good working relationship with you, so it would be a rare upline who is not interested in healing a relationship.

It is also in your interests. When PJ and I have been building our business we have tap rooted under leaders who have been walking towards us, who were enthusiastic, and with whom we had strong trust. Some of that tap rooting has meant we have placed builders who are now Gold and Silver into our other leaders trees. A leader will rarely place enrolments into a tree of someone with whom there is not trust and cooperation.

As a dōTERRA Leader your business succeeds through supporting your leaders to succeed. So a Blue Diamond works very hard to grow five of their personally enrolled leaders in different legs to Gold. Naturally any upline will put their primary focus on supporting the five ranking leaders who they know they can trust. To do otherwise is to introduce risk.

If all efforts, done in good conscience, with love, and an ‘at cause’ mindset fail to heal a relationship with your upline for now, then go further upline and seek support, ideally support from your upline’s upline to help with the healing and to help facilitate discussions. If not then look for the support in terms of learning, development, and inspiration, and hold your heart open for healing long term.

Keep the Channels Open but Respect Boundaries

Whether you are upline or downline to someone who is resisting healing a situation, I urge you to keep the channels open. Continue to be love, to offer love, and to treat that other person well. You are entitled to protect your business from risk, but do so without moving away from an attitude of love. It is amazing how often people come back willing to talk again if you continue to hold love in your heart.

However, often if someone is resisting healing it is because there is not enough trust present in their relationship with you, or where it has devolved to, for them to feel safe.

If they put up boundaries it is important to respect them. Send love from your heart, never speak ill of them, from a distance act with love and forgiveness, but respect their boundaries.

If a situation arises that requires communication, consider using a mutual upline to convey the message or address the issue with them.

We are on risky ground if someone is feeling unsafe, and we cross boundaries as we risk accusations of bullying.

In Summary

I am hoping the theme has been pretty evident in this blog.

The other person is not the problem! I am not saying they are Buddha and totally enlightened, sometimes the other party can be really difficult once a situation has arisen. The point is that making them the problem put’s you ‘at effect’ making you a Victim in the Drama Triangle, and completely disempowering you in terms of being able to bring resolution to a situation.

The problem is that two or more people all of whom want to be loved, and all of whom will have differences in values and perceptions, and all of whom would presumably want good relationships built on love, have perceived something in a situation as ‘not love’.

Our job is to be ‘at cause’ and to become the Creator in the The Empowerment Dynamic, and to express love and humility because we know there is only ‘Love’ and ‘Cries for More Love’.

If we are out of our depth, or if the other party has moved to blocking and won’t receive your love and humility, then reach up for an upline who can help you resolve the tension, or who can at least play mediator when decisions are needed.

There are very very few truly evil people. There are infinite numbers of opportunities for misunderstandings to occur, especially when there are values systems differences. But thankfully there are also an infinite number of better ways that things can be approached with love and humility to bring resolution to a situation.

Humility is such an important trait. You’ll know if you need more of it. If you haven’t started levitating and vibrating off the planet, then you are probably still a human on a path of learning and unfolding, and may still have a little bit more to learn, I know I do.


Ura P Auckland
Diamond Leader with Petah-Jane Auckland-Hall
Writer & Authentic Essential Oil Entrepreneur
Earth Spirit Pathways

Image Attributions:

  1. Angry Eye‘ by hans van den berg under license (CC BY 2.0)
  2. ‘At Cause v At Effect Flow Chart’ by Ura P Auckland
  3. Drama-Triangle-The-Empowerment-Dynamic.jpg by David Emerald (Own work) under license by [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
  4. Spiral Dynamics Cheat Sheet‘ by Kent Bye under license by (CC BY 2.0)

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