What Is Your Worst Enemy Trying To Tell You?

Everyone knows someone whom they dislike.  Everyone has at least one person, friend or foe, who challenges them and prevents them from doing “business as usual.”  The greatest of these people in your life is your nemesis. 

 

Our nemesis is someone who challenges us so profoundly that we cannot meet their challenge without making a profound shift in who we are.  Because we are often unwilling to make that change, we defend against it.  This gives the nemesis power, because he or she will always be able to use your immobility to defeat you. 

 

Your nemesis may be someone close to you, even someone you love.  If you are a martial artist, it may be your sensei who will always be able to throw you.  The point is that the nemesis cannot be defeated until we surrender something that we consider non-negotiable.

 

Parents will often find that their children act as their nemeses.  Many parents learn to surrender principles they never would have believed they could accept.  They do this because their children bring them face to face with the dilemma they’ve always run from.

 

In fact, nemeses are offering us a gift by showing us something that, should we change it, may greatly empower us.  Meeting the terms of the nemesis results in the gift.  To defeat the nemesis and claim the gift, you must usually own that part of you that resembles them.

 

In my case I knew a stubborn man whose opinions struck me as ill-conceived and irresponsibly argued.  He had, however, a certain elegance in his presentation, a good command of facts that suited his purposes, and a refusal to surrender.  I greatly disliked the way he argued, and because I did not want to engage him on his own terms, in a bloody head-to-head with no surrender, I could never get him to admit defeat, nor could I ignore him.

 

My fear was that, should I decide to adopt his strategies and demolish his nonsense, I would cross a line and become what I despised, aggressive, obsessed with shallow presentation, and in love with winning.  The real gift he was trying to give me, whether he knew it or not, was to recognize that I already had all of these characteristics and was constantly suppressing or failing to acknowledge them.  Everyone knew this but me, of course, and my nemesis continues to help me to see it.

 

Ultimately, once I accept the unacceptable in order to defeat my nemesis, it is no longer necessary to defeat him. I am only drawn to the fight because I want to eliminate something objectionable to myself.  Once I own that I am fighting myself instead of him, there is no fight.

 

From there, the interaction with the nemesis becomes a normal one.  It transforms into a relationship rather than a battle.  In my case, I can either engage or ignore my argumentative partner.  

 

Nemeses are valuable, but they are never pleasant.  I try not to be a nemesis as a teacher.  I would prefer to bring my students to awareness without fomenting a crisis. 

 

Nevertheless, my students will meet their nemesis at some point and, occasionally, it is me.  If they run from me, they will find me again and again in different guises because, by denying a truth in themselves, they see it in others.  We are extremely threatened by the appearance of what we find unacceptable, and so we have a heightened vulnerability to it.

 

Who is your nemesis?  Have you been backed into a position of no surrender?  What do you think you would have to give up to get out?

4 comments

  • Katy

    Katy

    Yet another thoughtful pondering Adam. Great post. I'm going to be a bit of a devil's advocate here. I had a very close mentor who believed that (and this was backed up by research I believe - if you're interested I can find it) ... he believed that people learn the most when they're fairly uncomfortable. He always sought to put us in a place where we were challenged almost to the brink, almost constantly - he wanted to be the nemesis - the nemesis of our comfort and our contentment. I learned a great deal under him. But ultimately, I could not sustain the pace indefinitely, 3+ years nearly burned me out and it left me broken in some important ways. I believe there is some merit in his approach, but it is exhausting and leaves no room for balance in your life. Is there room for middle ground? I don't know. In periods of growth in your life, what abetted the process for you?

    Yet another thoughtful pondering Adam. Great post. I'm going to be a bit of a devil's advocate here. I had a very close mentor who believed that (and this was backed up by research I believe - if you're interested I can find it) ... he believed that people learn the most when they're fairly uncomfortable. He always sought to put us in a place where we were challenged almost to the brink, almost constantly - he wanted to be the nemesis - the nemesis of our comfort and our contentment. I learned a great deal under him. But ultimately, I could not sustain the pace indefinitely, 3+ years nearly burned me out and it left me broken in some important ways. I believe there is some merit in his approach, but it is exhausting and leaves no room for balance in your life. Is there room for middle ground? I don't know. In periods of growth in your life, what abetted the process for you?

  • Darcy

    Darcy

    Words have power. I don't use the words "nemesis" or "enemy" because they give the other person way too much power. They also set you up for an antagonistic relationship rather than one that can be approached and dealt with. I prefer to consider them "challenging people" in my life. Fortunately, I don't have many, but the ones I have are sources of considerable anxiety and potential stress for me. They do force me to be as internally strong as I can be so I am not as vulnerable to their ability to push my buttons. As with many life situations, we have the choice to either work with what we're dealt or to become victims of it...which sounds simple, but isn't always easy!

    Words have power. I don't use the words "nemesis" or "enemy" because they give the other person way too much power. They also set you up for an antagonistic relationship rather than one that can be approached and dealt with. I prefer to consider them "challenging people" in my life. Fortunately, I don't have many, but the ones I have are sources of considerable anxiety and potential stress for me. They do force me to be as internally strong as I can be so I am not as vulnerable to their ability to push my buttons. As with many life situations, we have the choice to either work with what we're dealt or to become victims of it...which sounds simple, but isn't always easy!

  • Cousin Shaz

    Cousin Shaz

    My enemy is my brain.

    My enemy is my brain.

  • Adam Cole

    Adam Cole

    Darcy, thank you for the wise comment. Naming things not only gives the thing you name power, it also gives you power over the thing. In the case of a nemesis, I am already in such a relationship and am suffering from it. By naming it, I recognize it and can deal with it. Choose to name it whatever will help you see it most clearly! Katy, I have had abusive teachers and permissive teachers. I benefitted from and suffered from both. The middle ground is a teacher who is neutral with you - who determines the level of challenge you actually need, versus the amount they want to give you based on whatever's going on in their head. Some teachers only know how to push, and continue pushing until they feel the return push, rather than recognizing the effect they are having on their student. A good teacher will push based on what they notice about the last push!

    Darcy, thank you for the wise comment. Naming things not only gives the thing you name power, it also gives you power over the thing. In the case of a nemesis, I am already in such a relationship and am suffering from it. By naming it, I recognize it and can deal with it. Choose to name it whatever will help you see it most clearly!

    Katy, I have had abusive teachers and permissive teachers. I benefitted from and suffered from both. The middle ground is a teacher who is neutral with you - who determines the level of challenge you actually need, versus the amount they want to give you based on whatever's going on in their head. Some teachers only know how to push, and continue pushing until they feel the return push, rather than recognizing the effect they are having on their student. A good teacher will push based on what they notice about the last push!

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