· From a certain point of view
our real enemy, the true troublemaker, is inside.
~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Humans often see Otherness or difference as dangerous and threatening. This happens in a macro and micro way- countries see other countries with different economic or social structures as a threat, political parties see others as the enemy and religions often have no tolerance for other religious beliefs or philosophies.
It also happens in our day to day life: if someone disagrees with us they become wrong, bad, the enemy. Political differences often bring up strong feelings of Otherness and therefore danger. In our personal relationships, a Beloved may be transformed into the Enemy in the blink of an eye.
The true enemy or troublemaker lives within each of us. We project onto others the parts of ourselves we find intolerable: bigotry, anger, lack of tolerance, judgement, hate, hurtfulness, criticism, betrayal, an inherent sense of worthlessness or lack of value, the list could go on and on.
The "safest" way, from the perspective of an unexamined defense system in the psyche to get rid of these uncomfortable feelings in ourselves, is to see these qualities in others and reject or criticize them, or even try to kill them off. The more vicious our rejection or judgment of others is, the more likely it is an inherent and disowned part of ourselves.
The path to Wholeness, and to more peace internally and externally, is to examine and own these disavowed "shadow" aspects of ourselves, to be curious about them and take responsibility for them. As we begin to get to know our inner Troublemaker, it will begin to make way less trouble!
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley