Turning Enemies into Noble Friends
Mhmm. Yes. You know them. The people who humiliate you. The ones who make you question your ability to make it in the world. They are the conquerers, the numb and the power-hungry, and they are out there.
It takes time. However, with time, these people (aka haters) can compel you to stand up straighter, stronger, more tender, more resilient, proud to be a survivor/thriver. Bullies help you hone your ability to know where you are safe and with whom. They can help you see the areas where you allow yourself to be weak and tormented. Bullies force you to become your own best friend.
It’s helpful to consider yourself just as destined to meet these haters as you are the positive, caring people in your life. For haters show you what you can grow to forgive, although you may never forget. They show you what’s out there, the unkindness we are all capable of. They show you who to protect yourself from and who to protect yourself from becoming. They prepare you for the series of stressful relationships that will continue to arise as you make your way through the world. They force you to take 100 percent responsibility for yourself.
These people teach you about vulnerability. They prove that you are impacted by the actions of others. They teach you about the necessity of setting boundaries, which you can only learn through failed experience. There are certain people you don’t want to let in your intimate sphere. You just don’t.
There is a phenomenon in psychology known as Stockholm Syndrome. The people who suffer from it grow to form positive bonds with their abusers. The adaptive explanation behind Stockholm Syndrome is that befriending and justifying the actions of a person who controls, manipulates and emotionally or physically tortures you, helps you to survive the situation. Sometimes we are dependent on our abusers for resources. In other situations, we choose to keep ourselves in the line of fire, when really we need to ask:
Why do I stay loyal to that enemy when I can break free?
It is your duty to claim your right to a different experience.
And here’s blind spot. Here’s the flip side:
There are wounds we carry that are entirely unique to us.
There is no way you or I could have endured what we’ve gone through and not carry them. Sometimes, people don’t mean to throw salt on these emotional lacerations when they do. And sometimes, we don’t even know what our wounds are until someone pokes at them.
Your enemies become your noble friends because they make you address the painful memories you’d rather repress and run away from. And yet, by identifying the problem, you can begin to solve it. Emotional pain rarely stems from one isolated event. It usually is the result of repeated incidents when we beat ourselves up or allow others to beat on us in varying degrees.
When you can identify them, you can begin to put together the pieces of the puzzle to better understand your reactions. Then, you can communicate this understanding of yourself to others, so they can learn how to be considerate of your needs. So they can grow. That’s how pain positively transforms you. That’s how pain teaches you how to take care of yourself. That’s how we change ourselves and our culture. You can heal from your memories.
That’s the name of the game.
You have to understand yourself before you can teach others how to understand you. Sometimes all you have to do is explain your experience to a person, and you will immediately witness their remorse. They didn’t mean to hurt you. Thank goodness you said something. You remember how beautiful they are. You fall back into love. However, if you try to communicate over and over again and the other person doesn’t change, they are choosing to annihilate you.
I have a friend who was born mostly deaf. His mother taught him how to speak and it was a miracle. She knew kids in school would wonder why he wore a hearing aid. She knew they would make fun of him. So she told him, “If they attack you once, educate them. If they attack you again, explain your situation once more. If they do it a third time, use your words and fight back.”
There are power dynamics you can’t avoid in this world filled with people trying to plow you over for being different, for having an opinion, for taking up space. You need to be able to stand up for yourself so you don’t get squashed. You need to know how to have a guard. And when necessary, you need the courage to step out of the war zone and cut your losses. You need to remove yourself from the conflict to keep the violence from escalating.
You need outside help when your emotions are too intense to act with dignity. You need a mediator. You need space. Remember that every attack is ultimately an act of defense, and we all do very painful things to others to feel safe ourselves.
You can face off — again and again. Or you can take a leap and see if there are people out there capable of treating you well. This is the silver lining we seek. There is nothing you encounter that you can’t learn from. This is what our enemies teach.