relax the enemies withinWith the world getting smaller and smaller due to the internet, we all know to some degree the many wars that are currently being waged. But how about the wars that get waged in us all the time? It’s as if we perceive enemies within us trying to take us over. I remember one time I was working within an organization and there was a depression course being listed for patients and the marketing for it said, “Kill your depression for good.”

What? Pour negative energy into your depression? Doesn’t sound like a good cocktail.

There is an African Proverb that says:

“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”

This is similar to Thich Nhat Hanh’s saying:

“Peace in ourselves, peace in the world.”

I think it’s helpful to consider that all parts of us, the parts that feel afraid, anxious, depressed, addicted, secure and insecure make up who we are. None of these are enemies, but instead, my vulnerabilities that need quite the opposite of aggression.

However, our nervous system reads them as enemies, because we are wired to try and get away from anything that causes us pain. So our minds go on an ambush of rumination to try and fix or get away from the pain.

And then this causes more suffering, makes us more vulnerable and sensitive to the people around us.

When we’re able to befriend our own pain, there’s less of a knee jerk reaction to judge and fear the people around us. Why? Because we feel more secure in who we are.

The next time you feel these uncomfortable feelings arising:

  1. See if you can recognize your reaction of wanting to get away from it.
  2. Find where you experience this feeling in the body.
  3. Imagine cradling the feeling while also imagining being cradled.

This is not a path to a quick fix, but rather a new way of being with yourself in this life.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Photo by The Italian Voice, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.



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    Last reviewed: 7 Jun 2011

APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2011). Feeling Vulnerable? A Mindful Strategy to Relax the Enemies Within. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 30, 2015, from


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