In one of the groups I attend, Kathy introduced us to the concept of “Near Enemies,” something I had never heard of before. She found it in a mystery book written by Louise Penny, a part of the Gamache series. A recurring character in the series is a former therapist, Myrna, who left her practice because most of her clients didn’t really want to get well. She now owns a new and used bookstore and gives Inspector Gamache insight into human behavior and motivation.
It piqued the interest of all of us. Kathy emailed me several links and I dug deeper and I thought you might find it interesting, too. Apparently, it is fairly well-known in Buddhist circles.
“Near Enemies” is a psychological concept. Two emotions look the same, but one parades as the other and is often mistaken for the other … it is hard to tell one from the other, even for the person feeling it. But in reality, they are opposites. One is healthy and the other unhealthy … “sick and twisted” according to Myrna.
Below is a table I created to illustrate the differences:
|Love (want the best for the other)||Attachment (live through the other; takes hostages)|
|Loving Kindness (wishing well toward all beings)||Conditional Love (selfish, sentimental attachment; at its worst = ill will|
|Compassion (recognize the suffering of others and wish them to be free of it/empathy)||Pity (feel sorry for other & superior to them; at its worst = cruelty)|
|Equanimity (absorb pain, move through it, & let it go; balance in the midst of the experience; even-mindedness; serenity; treating everyone impartially)||Indifference (appear cool, calm, & collected but withdrawal based on fear and not caring; at its worst = paranoia)|
|Empathetic Joy (rejoicing in the joy of others, even if it’s not your own)||Comparisons (more than/less thinking; at its worst = jealousy)|
|Optimism (hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something)||Arrogance (an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities)|
|Self-confidence (trusting in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment)||Megalomania (delusion about one’s own power or importance; at its worst = domination over others|
I read this morning’s daily meditation from Richard Rohr, “Wisdom is Loving,” through the lens of Near Enemies. Rohr, one of my favorite spiritual teachers, speaks of mature religion and says that a challenging insight is that only Love can be entrusted with Wisdom or Big Truth. All other attitudes will murder, mangle, and manipulate truth for their own ego purposes. Sounds like Near Enemies to me. I added to the chart:
|Wisdom/Big Truth (humble attention to the heart; beautiful, healing, soul-evoking goodness; deep inner knowing of oneness; transforming)||Rational Intellect (ego inflating attention to acquiring facts and information; distorts truth for own self-aggrandizement)|
What do you think? Near Enemies???
Pondering: Moving Beyond Thinking to Humble Attention to the Heart
Lest I be guilty of taking in this new information in an ego inflating way, I need to ponder … and share with you the things I carry in my heart around it. Here goes:
This topic came up during our group discussion about the state of our country. Unease was expressed about the book we are reading seeming to promote a lack of concern for social justice issues in favor of just being mellow and happy. It was in this context that Kathy introduced us to the concept of “near enemies,” noting the difference between indifference and equanimity. What looks like indifference (just being mellow and happy) may actually be equanimity.
Hmmm! Because of my concern about the direction of the leadership in our country, I have moved outside my comfort zone and become involved in politics. Here are some of the things I’ve done:
- served for a time as a precinct captain
- rallied around issues I care about
- attended political meetings
- joined a political action group
- petitioned to end the practice of gerrymandering in our state
- educated myself about history and politics
- entered into conversations with those on the other side of the political divide through Better Angels, an organization working to end polarization
- trained to be a Better Angels workshop moderator
- helped to organize a Better Angels workshop here in Dayton
So, it is clear, I haven’t been indifferent. But have I maintained equanimity? If I am honest with myself, I have some work to do. According to the Enneagram types to which I most relate (Perfectionist and Romantic), equanimity and serenity are my growth challenges. What can I learn from this book?
I have been particularly pessimistic about our future as a democracy related to recent events involving our judiciary and the overreach (in my opinion) of the executive branch. Has my lack of optimism morphed into arrogance … as though my involvement and that of many others I admire should be making a bigger difference that it seems to be? Do I need to refocus on what I can do … miniscule as that may be … and be happy that I am doing something to make a contribution?
And most painful to admit, I recognize within myself jealousy of others who have in their lives what I lack … a tendency to compare myself with others which leads to better than/less than thinking. Ouch! To my credit, I did recognize this as coming from an immature, unhealthy place within me and I did seek the help of a healer to transcend it. And, to be honest, jealousy still rears its ugly head inside me … I do try not to foist it on others … and I do recognize it as another growth challenge. I do work to embrace more fully Empathetic Joy.
A recent Dove chocolate wrapper had this message: “Always make your past self jealous.” 🙂 Thank you, Erin M. of Kentucky. What a perfect way to channel my jealousy in a healthy way … to fully embrace Empathetic Joy.
I am definitely a Work-in-Progress.