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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings


Allow me to demonstrate the special technique of shadowboxing

In 1995, GZA, of the Wu-Tang Clan, dropped an album entitled Liquid Swords which contained a song called “Shadowboxin’” and featured group member Method Man. The track used a sample from the kung fu movie Sholin vs Lama in which the antagonist states to his opponent:

Allow me to demonstrate the skill of Shaolin, the special technique of shadowboxing!

Shadowboxing is defined as the activity of sparring with an imaginary opponent as a form of training. Additionally, and as in regards to the current post, it can be described as the action of making a show of tackling a problem or opponent while avoiding any direct engagement.

An imaginary shadowboxing scenario

To illustrate the concept of shadowboxing, I invite the reader to imagine the following scenario:

The nations of the United States (U.S.) and Mexico have a complex history of conflict with one another. In fact, if expanded upon in any meaningful way, the intricate details of past events between these countries would occupy far more material than I’m prepared to provide.

Therefore, for the sake of discussion and with your permission, let us agree that there have been bloody battles of the distant past, precarious diplomatic relations of the recent past, and delicate sociopolitical issues relating to the current relations of these two regions.

Additionally, let’s presume that from an international trade, sociocultural, and an armed forces perspective, Mexico is allied with the U.S. Essentially, we aren’t overtly at odds with one another to the degree whereby either nation state considers the other an enemy.

If you concur with my crude assessment thus far, let us also agree that the same allyship may not be described in relation to the U.S. and China. Again, there is far too much history than I’m willing or able to cover herein, so I encourage the reader to grant a number of assumptions.

Regarding trade, social and cultural, and military matters, China may not currently be defined as an enemy of the U.S. However, I don’t think it’s inaccurate to propose that it could reasonably relate to an opponent of our nation—given the aforementioned areas of consideration.

Suppose that our Mexican allies were to strike a deal with our Chinese competitors. Hypothetically speaking, Mexico agrees to allow Chinese intelligence and military assets within its borders, thus drawing nearer to the territory of the U.S.

Let us imagine that China’s tactical weaponry (shorter range), troops, and other armed forces threats are transferred into the region of Mexico. As well, a number of the U.S. expatriates reside in Mexico and China’s actions encroach upon the area these expats occupy.

Given the tense diplomatic relations between China and the U.S., President Biden urges Mexico not to allow China to continue presenting as a potential threat to U.S. interests. However, Mexico ignores the plea and China continues its actions.

As time passes, the buildup of Chinese forces begins to present what the U.S. deems as an existential threat to U.S. expats in Mexico and to the U.S. as a whole. For instance, China’s tactical weaponry could be used to decimate a number of populous areas within our country.

When diplomatic measures eventually fail, Biden decides to invade Mexico. From an international perspective, this act of aggression may be widely frowned upon, because it appears as though the U.S. unjustly attacked its neighbor.

Due to the U.S. invasion of Mexico, Mexico calls upon nations friendly to its cause and elicits support from various countries. This backing takes the form of billions of dollars, military weaponry, training for Mexican troops, and other means.

Let’s suppose that India sides with Mexico. Though no active duty military personnel are said to join the fight, various other forms of aid are funneled south of our border so that Mexico and China can defeat the U.S. Such behavior relates to a show of tackling an opponent while avoiding any direct engagement (shadowboxing).

The scenario provided herein obscurely relates to the proxy war taking place in the Ukraine. Whereas the Ukraine is represented by Mexico, the U.S. by Russia, China by the United Nations, and India by the U.S., each of these represented entities are arguably plunging the globe into World War III (WWIII).


Opening his third verse on “Shadowboxin’,” Method Man states, “When my mind start to clickin’ and the strategy is mastered, the plot thicken,” which I value as an invitation to interpret perceived occurrences. This, I do with Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

Using the ABC Model, I understand that there isn’t an Action-Consequence connection at play in regards to the reactions of my fellow citizens whose mouths thirst for blood in relation to the Russia-Ukraine war. In essence, people with whom I disagree don’t cause my unpleasant reaction to their sentiment.

Rather, the Belief-Consequence connection better explains my emotional, bodily sensation, and behavioral response in this regard. In the simplest terms, I upset myself.

While any form of irrational belief that encompasses demandingness, awfulizing, frustration tolerance, or global evaluations may contribute to such a reaction, I think that should, must, and ought-type narratives relating to rigid demands most represent my unhelpful beliefs.

As an example, believing something like, “U.S. citizens shouldn’t fervently support the death of nearly 500,000 people in the Russia-Ukraine war,” isn’t entirely helpful. This is because regardless of whether or not others share my moral code, many people support the conflict.

Likewise, maintaining, “U.S. officials mustn’t interfere with peace talks,” isn’t useful, because there are people who clearly disagree with my principled position. Perhaps even you dissent from my stance.

Additionally, saying to myself, “The U.S. ought not to send over $75 billion to fund the war in Ukraine,” isn’t productive, because that money has already been sent to fuel the proxy war. Therefore, self-disturbing demands such as mine aren’t helpful to the emotions, sensations, and behaviors produced by these moral appeals.

As Method Man suggests in “Shadowboxin’,” the plot thickens when I understand the relation between my unproductive beliefs and unpleasant consequences of these assumptions. I can engage in a form of sparring with an imaginary opponent to train myself out of self-disturbance (shadowboxing).

This is accomplished by disputing irrational beliefs so that I may achieve a more effective new belief. Suppose that after shadowboxin’ with myself, I conclude, “While I wish U.S. authorities wouldn’t plunge our nation into WWIII, I have no control or influence over the matter.”

What is the consequence of this effective new belief? I’m disappointed, not angry or fearful. This is a realistic outcome for me when contemplating the potential for global conflict.


I imagine some people will read what I’ve written herein and label me a “Putin shill.” Sincerely, I’m unbothered by this sort of playground rhetoric. I’m not pro-Russia or pro-Ukraine, and those claiming otherwise don’t speak for me.

Contained within the imaginary shadowboxing scenario of this post, I’ve provided a plausible correlation to the reasoning that underlies the conflict currently taking place in Ukraine. Virtue signaling with the presentation of Ukraine colors while your hands of covered in blood from donations to war will earn you no respect from me.

Rather than concerning myself with those who lust for death while fueling the military-industrial complex, I engage in shadowboxin’ as a means to keep from upsetting myself regarding the behavior of others. Using this special technique, I’m disappointed by the U.S. role in Ukraine, not upset.

For those who have made it this far in the post, thank you for allowing me to demonstrate the special technique of shadowboxing. If you would like to know more about how to use this technique, I may be able to teach you.

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


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