How to take a punch (and it’s not what you think)

by Molly Cantrell-Kraig on October 6, 2011

In an earlier blog post, I made reference to times when you may be rocked back on your heels (figuratively speaking). This week, I experienced one of those times. It was a psychological blow, made more damaging because it came from someone and someplace unexpected.

But that’s okay. It’s part of the ebb and flow of the dynamism of life. However, it got me to thinking in tangents, which lead to boxing analogies. Sucker punches are direct hits that are unexpected. However, I think that if we maintain a mindset of the “conditioning” of a boxer, we can absorb, redirect and process the fallout from taking a punch. We can use the energy (and subsequent lesson) to make us stronger and better.

The other thing about boxers? Unlike many other sports, there really is no “I” in team. The boxer IS the team, for all practical purposes. His (or her) sinew, brain and acuity are the resources in the ring and it is from his or her own reserves that the desire to win comes. While pugilism is a savage ballet, it is also a test of reflexes, endurance and sheer will. These are all qualities of independent people.

Oxygen cures everything. Don't forget to breathe!

So. How does one “take a punch” and live to see another day in the ring? While researching, I Googled the phrase and determined that, with a few adaptations, the literal and figurative preparations are relatively similar:

Relax mentally. One of the phrases that I drilled into my kids’ heads as they grew up: “Bad things happen to people to panic.” Relaxed people can respond more quickly; more fluidly and with more precision than someone who is freaking out. When you catch that psychological blow to the gut, train yourself to relax first, not react.

Strengthen your spine. (Technically, the advice given in the Google result is “neck,” but spine is more apt in this instance). People who have a backbone won’t fold at the first “punch.” Make sure that you are secure in your self (your definition and appreciation of same). Be confident that you know who you are and what you stand for. You can withstand a LOT more slings and arrows (mixing metaphors; I know) if you have some iron in that spine.

Practice. This doesn’t mean that you figuratively kick sand in the face of every bully on the beach. It DOES mean that you should seek input from people who may probably disagree with you. Having this “speed bag” of negation and criticism peppering your spirit will train you to absorb or deflect subsequent impacts accordingly. Sift, sort…keep those feet moving and your head in the game.

Breathe. Oxygen cures everything. When the cells quit getting this vital nutrient, they start to freak out. Your brain seizes up and your panic centers start running the show. Breathe, baby. In through the nose; out through the mouth. Every breath is a chance for you to fuel the cells and to think.

Keep your mouth shut. Breathe first, talk second. When we’ve been caught off guard by an attack of any sort, our first natural reaction is to lash out. Bad idea. Better to breathe, think and then respond. Once it’s out of your mouth, it can’t be stuffed back in.

Roll with it. You WILL get “punched.” Disappointments are going to happen. The secret is to understand the inevitable but to walk through life “open” anyway. At the risk of adding too many analogies to the mix, this step reminds me of Aikido and its philosophy of redirecting energy. Tense things are brittle and break upon impact. Pliant and flexible things bend.

Keep your balance. Acknowledge the hit, but don’t let it crumple you. Hear what is being said. Experience the feeling fully. Identify any truth within the “punch” and assimilate it into your memory. That said, understand that you are in control of your footwork and your carriage. This is where your conditioning comes in. Draw upon your reserves of successes. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself physically (ie. try to limit habits that may weaken you and instead bolster your strength by relying on habits that build your strength).

Hang in there. You can do it. You are strong. You have it within you to do great things. (I couldn’t resist. I’ve actually run these steps.) Are there times in your life that you’ve sustained a “hit” and come back stronger? Tell us about it.

NOTE: This post is NOT about domestic violence and is in no way intended to support, condone or minimize the effects of violence against women and children. If you are in an abusive relationship and need help, please visit or call the Domestic Abuse Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).


Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1g or @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive Foundation) or “Like” us on facebook.

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