It’s taken me a long time to realise the magnitude and impact of the enemy within me. To appreciate just how profound this proverb is.
If I rewrote it in my own words I would say ‘when there is no inner critic or self-judgments within me, nobody else can really hurt me’. It doesn’t mean I would not, or don’t, feel hurt or disappointed at things other people say or do, but what hurts me the most in these situations is usually the story I make up. How personally I take other people’s behaviours and actions. Rather than either seeing the vulnerability that sits under their behaviours, understanding they are doing the best they can and/or accepting that their behaviour says more about them than it does about me and respecting myself enough to not keep going back to ‘the butcher for bread’.
In our online Compassionate Self-Awareness Program, we explore into the concept of the ‘Two Arrows’. Tara Brach, one of our favourite teachers, talks about the ‘Two Arrows’ we all experience during challenging times. The ‘First Arrow’ is the hard time; a break up, a regret, a defeat, an injury, a fall out with a friend or an illness. All part of being human. Challenging times are inevitable. Pain is unavoidable. However, we’re often responsible for shooting a ‘Second Arrow’, which adds more pain.
The first arrow may be someone doing or saying something that has me feeling hurt. And rather than simply sitting with that first arrow, being curious about it, having a conversation about it with that person or setting a boundary, I tend to fire the second arrow very quickly.
The ‘Second Arrow’ of pain is self-inflicted. The ‘Second Arrow’ is our reaction to the pain of the ‘First Arrow’. It’s the way we behave and react emotionally to our pain. I discovered I have a choice (sometimes! Sometimes it catches me way to quickly!) too shoot the ‘Second Arrow’ and add more pain to my problem or I can learn how to ‘be with’ the pain of the ‘First Arrow’, and leave it at that.
For me, this ‘Second Arrow’ is often self-criticism and self-judgement and negativity. This is my ‘enemy within’. The part of me that can annihilate myself much more than anyone else ever could or would. I can really feel it at play in my life at the moment. I am going through so much change and it is very unsettling for me. And within it I feel so sensitive, so vulnerable, quite fragile, especially when I perceive a threat or an ‘enemy outside’. But in truth, most of what is unsettling me is the enemy within. My own self-talk, my fear, my shame, my unworthiness.
I am learning though that the ‘enemy within’ needs love. Mine. It needs kindness, compassion, understanding and care. And firm compassionate boundaries around my negative stories and self-talk.
I really appreciate that when there is no enemy within I am at my most confident, calm and connected. I am at my most courageous and authentic. I thrive. I still have a way to go before there is no enemy within me, but I feel grateful to have begun a new kind of relationship with this part of me. I am getting to know it and as I do it loses it’s power. It settles. And I can show up with more ease to all that life brings my way – both the good and challenging!
With great warmth