Transforming Enemy Images Through Self-Compassion

ASK DR. DONNA

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What is an enemy image?

It is an image in our head -- a negative picture or story we tell ourselves about another's actions and intentions. It is any negative judgment or label or stereotype we use when another's behavior has not met our needs. If you approach a person as an enemy, they won't hear you -- even if you shout.

Many times we have thoughts of revenge when we feel hurt. We think we want the other to hurt in the same way that they have hurt us, but what is it we really want and need at those times? Underneath our pain lies a deep need for empathy. We want the other to know and to feel our pain.

Empathy is not about sympathy or pity, nor is it about giving in or giving up. It is an emotional understanding and is just one step of the negotiation process, because if we want to educate others about our needs, it is helpful to connect with theirs first.

Here lies a formula for successful negotiations: Connection before correction, or empathy before education.

In this way, they no longer see us as an enemy, nor we they.

Instead, we see the others' humanness and we understand that they have needs that they are trying to get met by their actions. Although we may not agree with the strategy they have chosen, we can empathize with their needs and then show them a different way to get their needs met that will also allow us to get ours met.

1. Remember: We are all human beings with the same universal needs.

2. See the "enemy" as a human being with needs and be conscious that the other person does what they do in order to get their needs met.

3. Educate them about a different strategy that can meet their needs and also meet our own with more efficiency and less cost.

Try it.

I have recently heard it said that when the power of love becomes greater than the love of power, then there will be peace.

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