[Editor: Pamela Boyce-Simms, at Buddhist Quaker, has graced us with another jewel of critical thought and practice about how we see and react to ‘the enemy.’]
When people behave in harmful, aberrant, and grotesque ways, it’s extremely difficult to see them through any lenses other than those of subjective, righteous indignation. We feel as though seeing a heinous “enemy” as anything other than an external threat which must be summarily eliminated is tantamount to a weak, naive, kumbaya sell out.
We may be intellectually aware of the truism that what we resist persists. We may know full well that a problem cannot be solved, nor an adversary permanently vanquished, using the same level of thinking, wrapped in the same emotions, executed with the same behavior that generated it in the first place.
Yet the need to be right, the need for one upmanship, to best, silence, or annihilate the opponent can be so overwhelming that it makes any other response feel feckless and counterfeit. Caught up in the intensely seductive drama of trauma our field of vision is narrowed, we “see red” and we feel fully justified in retaliating in kind.
Subjective Matrix Response:
The enemy or adversary is perceived as separate and “other” so therefore we:
fight back with the intent to visit as much or more pain upon the enemy as we have suffered at their hand,
feel righteous and justified in attacking back,
fear losing control and/of being hurt again so we ward off helplessness, powerlessness by fighting and joining the “struggle” to ensure that our needs are met and we’re not dominated,
feel relative lack and deprivation which generates survival anxiety, competition, and victimhood that leads to blame,
succumb to hatred and envy.
We’re all one human family so therefore we:
will ourselves to try and love one another, and prioritize getting along,
turn the other cheek, stand down when wronged or hurt, and seek compromise with the aggressor at all cost,
try to understand why perpetrators do harmful things and with that broader understanding, learn to tolerate them,
take the morally superior high road,
outpicture the martyr archetype at the extreme end of this spectrum.
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