Using the ‘Near Enemies’ Wisdom – An Insightful Concept from Buddhism

Near enemies are the opponents of desired states of mind that are sneakier and harder to spot than more obvious enemies. For most of us, these near enemies are more of a problem. 

For example, few of us feel hate, which is the far enemy of love. But needy, possessive co-dependency? That is a lot more frequent. It can look and feel a lot like love, but really corrodes it.

Most of us are a lot more affected by near enemies of happiness Click To Tweet

This post is a short and snappy guide about how to improve your awareness of the so called near enemy states in your thinking. 

What are some near enemies?

Here are some near (n) and far (f) enemies of a few positive states:


Near and far enemies:

Love: Attachment (n); resentment/hatred (f)

Hope: Excessive optimism (n); hopelessness/depression (f)

Wisdom: Intellectualism (n); imprudence (f)

Kindness: No boundaries (n); mean-spirited (f)

Acceptance: Passivity (n), resignation (n); denial (f)

Compassion: Pity (n); mercilessness (f)

Creativity: Procrastination (n); disconnect from authentic self (f)

Worthiness: Self-entitlement (n); unworthiness (f)

Success: Not being able to relax (n); giving up before we start (f)

Emotional self-sufficiency: Over-independence and ‘fear of getting close’ (n); codependency (f)

Self-control: Rigid and no spontaneity (n); no control over will (f)

What do we do with this?

The near enemies teaching has the subtlety to help us liberate ourselves from the ways we get stuck. After-all, freedom begins with awareness. 

Let’s take a closer look at the most common near enemies: 

Attachment

Most of what we think of as love is actually attachment. It is just how we are conditioned to see and experience love.

When we are attached to our love objects, we feel a sense of dependency on that person or thing for being there, and for things staying the same. When we love without attachment however, we are able to love unconditionally.

To love without attachment is the ultimate goal but it takes a lot of awakeness! How do you do it?

You start by practicing mindfulness. And you use your mindfulness practice to notice your desires and aversions, and how they play with your mood.

After a while of doing this, you can begin to observe your desires and dislikes from a place of detachment. You slowly begin to accept the temporary nature of everything. With that, you become peaceful and see yourself as the source of your happiness and contentment.

Excessive optimism

Over-optimism is a cage just like negativity, it’s just a sneakier saboteur! The pain for the optimist is making the same mistakes repeatedly, never developing wisdom from their experiences.

Optimists are good at re-framing and intellectualizing things. It keeps them from accepting their feelings (and as I have written, non-acceptance means that we don’t learning from our feelings).

Enneagram type sevens are the most likely to struggle with this near enemy (which incidentally, is also a psychological defense mechanism).

Passivity

Being overly passive in life gets in the way of fulfilling aspirations. It can be tricky to miss because passivity sometimes appears to be acceptance, which is a desired state.

If being passive is a near enemy for you, then consider developing your personal effectiveness. I believe that the primary habit is learning to be proactive. Alongside that, build your confidence and self-esteem. The key things that have helped me to develop confidence are travelling and personal development.

Entitlement

It can be difficult to spot entitlement in your thinking. It is another worldview that has become insidious.

Entitlement is the near enemy of worthiness, which is a desired state. We need to feel worthy in order to have standards for ourselves and to go after the things we want. But entitlement suggests that you are somehow owed a break too. Live for long enough, and you’ll realise soon enough that you aren’t!

I wrote about how to overcome entitlement here.

Procrastination

Procrastination only happens in the wake of motivation and inspiration – that’s why I’ve listed it as a near enemy of creativity. This can be a good thing to remember when you are despairing of yourself for the millionth time for procrastinating! At least you care enough about doing or achieving something.

All procrastination is fueled by below-radar feelings of anxiety. Practicing mindfulness is key to breaking this habit, as mindfulness helps us not to act on our urges.

I’d really recommend Steven Pressfield’s book, which features on this list of life-changing books, if you are a bit of a procrastinator.

Summary

Maybe like me you find the near enemies teaching a usual perspective from which to consider how you might be making yourself unhappy.