Posting Essays

Know Your Enemy – Part 2

Update: 23/12/2016
A few years ago I led a meditation group at an elementary school in Washington, D.C. The walls of the school corridors were plastered with homilies: Treat people the way you would like to be treated. Play fair. Don’t hurt others on the inside or the outside. The message that stopped me short, however, was Everyone can play.
 

Know Your Enemy – Part 2

 

Everyone can play is now the precept I llive by. We\r\nmay not agree with one another. We may argue. We may compete. But everybody\r\ngets to play, no matter what. We all deserve a shot at life. Our perception of\r\nothers as enemies is influenced by how we have interacted with them in the past\r\nand how they have interacted with us. Our view of them is seldom an objective\r\nreflection of their qualities but tends to be a projection of our own aversion.\r\nMaybe someone harmed us in the past, so now we are afraid of them. Maybe we did\r\nsomething a person didn’t like, so now they are angry with us. We have a mental\r\ntemplate of what we consider harmful, injurious, and frightening, and, with or\r\nwithout provocation, we project that onto people, turning them into enemies.\r\nWhen someone looks unpleasant or threatening — when they fit our mental image\r\nof a frightening person — then we assume they intend to harm us, and we can’t\r\nwait to get rid of them. And if we can’t get rid of them, we feel frustrated\r\nand angry, which reinforces our view of them as an enemy. The last thing most\r\nof us want to hear is that we might have any responsibility for creating our\r\nown enemies. After all, it wasn’t our car that drove over our newly sodded\r\nlawn. And we’re not the ones who spread that malicious gossip about a loved\r\none, nor are we the one who seemed to take great pleasure in stealing a\r\ncolleague’s clients. But if we are ever to get rid of our enemies, or at least\r\nrender them powerless over us, we will have to own up to our part in creating\r\nthe enmity. Every person has the potential to be unpleasant and harmful, just\r\nas every person has the potential to be pleasant and helpful. Think of someone\r\nyou love dearly; if you look back, you can probably find a time when they did\r\nsomething that harmed you, even unwittingly, or a time when you were angry with\r\nthem or they were angry with you. “Enemy,” then, is not a fixed definition, a\r\nlabel permanently affixed to anyone we believe has harmed us. It’s a temporary\r\nidentity we assign people when they don’t do what we want or they do something\r\nwe don’t want. But whatever others have or have not done, enemy-making always\r\ncomes back to us. A friend who was raised as a Christian once told me that from\r\na very young age, whenever he heard the commandment “Love thy neighbor as\r\nthyself,” his heart would soar. Then inevitably, his next thought would be the\r\ntroubled question: But how? How, indeed. What if you actually hate your\r\nneighbors, or are afraid of them, or simply find them unappealing? What if you\r\nactually hate yourself or don’t find much good about your actions when you evaluate\r\nyour day? What if all too often, when confronted by a decidedly unneighborly\r\nworld, you feel defensive, hostile, cut off, and alone? We can start unraveling\r\nthis response by looking at our conditioning. We have a strong urge to\r\ndichotomize human beings, to separate them into opposing categories.\r\nStereotyping is an evolutionary mechanism designed to enhance survival, a form\r\nof shorthand for getting by in a dangerous world. We try to manage the\r\nmessiness of life by creating an orderly zone of recognizable types\r\ncharacterized by certain traits that are associated, however loosely. Then we\r\ngeneralize our preconceived typologies to all members of a class or group or\r\nnation. The problem is that once we have organized everyone into tidy\r\ncategories, we may be unwilling to look beyond those labels. We commonly\r\ndesignate our own group as the norm, the Ins, while everyone else is the Other.\r\nDesignating our own family or group as the standard, while assigning everyone\r\nelse to categories that are somehow inferior, boosts our feeling of self-worth.\r\nBut it also locks us into the\r\nus-versus-them mindset, virtually assuring us an unending supply of enemies.

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To\r\nbe continued

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From\r\n“Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit and Be a Whole Lot Happier,”\r\nby Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman. © 2013 by Sharon Salzberg and Robert\r\nThurman. Published with permission of Hay

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Sharon Salberg và Robert Thurman – Lion’s Roar

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