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‘Do be my enemy for friendship’s sake’ (Blake)
Rosemary Gordon Montagnon, France Editor from 1987 to 1994
Abstract: The author explores our psychological need for enemies and the contribution this makes to overt conflicts in the external world. Enemies serve as an opposite from which we can differentiate ourselves, either as an individual or as a group; they help us to define our physical and psychological boundaries. Enemies provide a target and an outlet for our aggression and also for the projection of the shadow. They also provide the stimulus to individuation, through the heroic encounter with the enemy in the unfamiliar world outside the home, particularly in adolescence. The psychic integration of ‘self’ and ‘enemy’ is explored as the outcome of individuation. Key words: aggression, concept of identity, individuation, psychological need for enemies, shadow.
And there is a prayer the Abyssinian person addresses to God: ‘Don’t, please, deny me an enemy’.
What led me on to my theme and my thesis—that men and women need enemies—was not, at first, my clinical experience with patients, but events in the world outside the consulting room, and in particular the events in the Balkans, and, in its most dramatic form, in Yugoslavia. As it appeared to me, hardly had the people freed themselves from the big enemy, the Soviet State, than they looked around for a new, a smaller and a nearer enemy, the persons, the people next door, close by. Of course, this is a simplified view, a simplified perspective of these events. No doubt there had been rumblings of distrust, dislike, rivalry and competition for many years before, with their roots in history. Nevertheless the rapidity, the urgency and the violence of these recent eruptions provoked me to reflect and to explore my own field of study, the human psyche, for some more light, some more understanding than history and politics alone can provide. My thoughts about ‘enemy’ and ‘enmity’ lead me first and foremost to the concept of ‘identity’ and to the establishment and the protection of identity. When I speak of ‘identity’, of personal or social identity, I denote by that term
0021–8774/2005/5001/27 © 2005, The Society of Analytical Psychology
Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
Rosemary Gordon Montagnon
the fact that a person—or a group—and I will say more about that later—has certain particular and characteristic qualities and also a certain continuity, a certain cohesion over time that marks him/her as separate and distinguishable from others. A mother, for instance, even from the earliest age, was special and different from all others; in other words, they had from very early on a quite distinct and personal identity. However, the concept of identity extends beyond this natural individual specialness to a much more interesting and vital quality that has considerable psychological consequences. It is a person’s awareness that he or she is not only truly distinct, separate and different from all others, but also that he/she is a whole, a unique and relatively indivisible individual. This awareness, this consciousness of one’s own selfhood is indeed the basic goal of the process that Jung has termed ‘individuation’; the development of this capacity to realize and to experience one’s separateness, one’s wholeness, one’s uniqueness (Jung 1934/1950, para. 490). Having spoken up to now of ‘personal identity’ only, we must also look at and examine ‘social identity’, that is the experience of identity through identification with one’s race, nation, religion, class, gender or with particular social and ethical norms. Obviously there is a real problem in the kind of relationship made between an individual’s personal and his social identity or identities. Clearly some sense of social identity, that is of belonging to one or more social groups, is inevitable, is even necessary but is or should be compatible with the experience of personal identity. But where the experience of personal identity is weak, fractured, vulnerable or unreliable then reassurance may be sought through submergence of one’s personal identity in the social identity. For it is through identification with a social group that a person’s sense of control and of power, and his belief that he has indeed special characteristics and a definable existence is buttressed, confirmed and assured by the identification with a social group, a nation, a class, a work group, a sports club or even a street gang. But, and this is my contention, the experience of identity, whether personal or social, is deeply enmeshed with and dependent on the existence and the experience of boundaries and this experience depends so much on, and is so enmeshed with and so relevant to, the idea and the actual presence of the other, of ‘the enemy’. Looking up the synonyms for ‘enemy’ I found that they lend weight to my ideas. Thus, ‘antagonist’, ‘adversary’, ‘opponent’, ‘contender’, ‘contestant’, ‘competitor’, all reinforce the sense of ‘otherness’, and of ‘opposition’, of struggle, of separateness. Indeed the presence of an enemy makes and reinforces awareness of boundaries, of being different, distinguishable, recognized and recognizable as an ‘other’. An enemy is naturally suspected of wanting to test and to challenge the boundaries, of wanting to storm them, to overturn them, to deny them, to ridicule them or even to melt them. The existence of an enemy forces one to be and to remain forever vigilant in relation to one’s
‘Do be my enemy for friendship’s sake’
boundaries, and fully aware and conscious of who and what one really is and what one really values in oneself and for oneself. It is the enemy who keeps us aware of the danger of losing oneself or even forgetting who and what one is. It is the enemy who keeps us alert and on our toes, ready to defend what one values. In the words of an Abyssinian prayer: ‘Don’t please deny me an enemy’. My interest in this theme takes me on to the theme of the shadow. This is a concept Jung developed to define and to denote that part of ourselves— thoughts, memories, feelings, actions—that we would rather not know about and would rather not have to acknowledge as belonging to us. It is that part of ourselves that is so painful, so shameful and so frightening. Many of the contents of the shadow belong to our personal history, to our own past that we have split off from what we recognize as ourselves and that we have pushed into the dark and obscure side of ourselves by repression, that unconscious, deliberate mechanism of forgetting. But the shadow, as Jung has described it, also contains primitive forces and processes issuing from the collective unconscious, that have never yet been conscious (Jung 1959, paras. 13–19). Clearly the presence of the shadow, the recognition that it exists in ourselves, that it is part of us, this awareness is uncomfortable, is heavy and burdensome. It imposes on us a constant vigilance in order that we should not be suddenly surprised by it, be in its grip and find ourselves acting out what we have already condemned. But, what is also distressing is the fact that awareness of our shadow disturbs our sense of identity, our confidence that we really do know who we are and what we can expect of ourselves. The discomfort of living with this shadow can be alleviated, if not totally undone, if we can actually unburden ourselves of it by projecting it, by investing it and pouring it into somebody else. And who else would be more appropriate for this particular psychic transaction than the enemy. Investing him/her with our shadow qualities makes him even more truly detestable but also frightening. The enemy becomes the person we must really oppose, and who facilitates that delicious sense of righteous indignation. Another use of enemies in relation to our various psychic processes is as targets for our aggression; aggression is ‘a fundamental and ineradicable characteristic of all social mammals including man’ (Stevens 1982, p. 227). Human aggression, whether regarded as a basic constitutional and innate force or as a learned and acquired reaction to frustration is indeed a general, observable and undeniable fact. It demands acknowledgement and an arena in which it can be exercised and enacted—but in order to express themselves fully and satisfyingly they need ‘the other’, the ‘enemy’, the ‘antagonist’. I believe that aggression—a word that etymologically means ‘to move forward’, ‘to step towards urgently’—is separate and distinct from destructiveness. Its roots are located in and nearer to Eros, the life force, than to Thanatos, the death force. For as Stevens remarked, ‘without aggression survival would be impossible, but survival also demands that aggression be constrained’ (ibid., p. 227). Aggression is thus compatible with the ethologist’s
Rosemary Gordon Montagnon
view of it; but apart from its protection and defence of physical survival it is also needed to ensure self-cohesion and self-maintenance, now and in the future. In order to practise and exercise we need a partner, the enemy. Not all aggression has a consciously recognized enemy but all experience of aggression is inescapably a search for an aggression-worthy object. The presence of an enemy ensures a certain amount of internal cohesion as well as pleasure and pride in one’s own qualities, characteristics and distinctness. There is the amusing and thought-provoking essay by William Hazlitt, ‘On the pleasure of hating’.
Nature seems made up of antipathies: without something to hate we should lose the very spring of thought and action. Life would turn to a stagnant pool were it not ruffled by the jarring interests, the unruly passions of men. (William Hazlitt 1778–1830)
The enemy is often recognized and marked out as the enemy by being different, looking different, speaking differently, in different ‘tongues’, and by behaving differently, dressing differently and adhering to different aesthetic or religious or political norms. So here is somebody to whom, so we believe, we may express anger, rage, contempt and to whom we may act more or less violently with impunity and the absence of guilt. Politicians have of course always known about the need for enemies. They have known that in order to make, to create or to maintain internal peace, accord, agreement and unity they must designate and find an enemy or enemies, either outside their group or else inside it; the enemy will then be named ‘dissenter’, ‘deviationist’, ‘fifth columnist’ or the ‘intruding foreigner’. This particular strategy, this manoeuvre, is well caught and satirized by Orwell in his novel 1984, in which the leaders themselves create the archenemy, ‘Emmanuel Goldstein’; the masses are taught to hate him, to fear and to detest him. And in his novel Animal Farm the dominants, that is, the pigs, lead the anti-human battle cry, ‘Four legs good, two legs bad’. The experience of one’s aggression gives one a feeling of vitality, of being energetically alive; there is excitement, there are thrills. A depressed patient, who frequently expressed and even acted out her anger and her hostility towards her analyst, ends the last session before the summer holiday by saying, rather sadly and rather wistfully, ‘I shall miss not having you around to tease and torment; I will have no-one to be nasty to’. Here, as in the case of the shadow, the enemy can also be thought to be inside one—a weakness whether physical or psychic—an unruly part of oneself, an achievement one is determined to better; all these can very well engage and rouse one’s aggression. The idea of competition with and against oneself has often been encouraged and fostered by liberal and peace-loving educators, that is, self-competition.
‘Do be my enemy for friendship’s sake’
This brings me directly and logically to another archetypal figure that also depends on the existence of enemies, the figure of the hero. Jung saw it as the task and the aim of the hero to work for, and to effect, separation from the cloying cosiness and dependence on mother, on home, family, childhood and all that is familiar (Jung 1956, para. 459). Instead the hero must wander into the unknown, the strange, the new, the unfamiliar. He must prove himself there to be strong, brave, resourceful and perhaps even a cunning conqueror. But we must remember that in order to be or to become a conquering hero there must be somebody or something there to conquer—an adversary, a contestant that is an enemy. Awareness of how difficult it is to leave home, mother and childhood, and how daunting to venture into the unknown and face there the encounter and the battle with the monsters is often shown and expressed in the various hero myths. The power of this archetypal personage, the hero, and the influence it can exert on the feelings, strivings and activities of an individual tends to be particularly prominent during adolescence. Adolescence is indeed one of the most important stages of transition in the human life cycle. It is at this stage that a person has to prepare to leave home, to ‘set aside childish things’; how he must plan, prepare and work towards laying the foundations of his/her own life style in terms of career, profession and the making of his own family and future progeny. It is well known, and no secret that, at least in Western society, adolescence is the age of strong aggressivity and rebellion. Of course, the hero archetype is present and functions also at other stages of the life cycle and there are indeed other periods of transition. Nevertheless adolescence seems to be a particularly important period of transition, making a particularly powerful impact both on the individual adolescent as well as on the people around him/her. It is thus not surprising that most societies have instituted—mainly for its adolescent boys—initiation ceremonies, ceremonies that are often arduous, painful, even cruel, demanding from the individual courage, persistence, the capacity to bear pain, a readiness to learn and absorb, submission to the social rules and the elders, and acceptance of the group’s decision as to who is considered a foe, an enemy or a friend and ally. Obviously since this is such an important feature and achievement for the hero, there must be somebody or something there with whom he can engage in battle. Once more an enemy is required for the potential hero to engage with, so that his relationship with the heroic image, the heroic figure, can become embodied in a socially acceptable manner. The absence in our present culture of such initiatory ceremonies or the devaluing or even ridiculing of the figure of the hero is very likely to tempt the adolescent nowadays to create his own ceremonies, his own tactics, his own hero figure, so he can prove to himself that he is indeed courageous, masculine and sexually potent. But this may lead to far less socially acceptable rituals, and to far less socially approvable methods of confirming his manhood, both to himself and to others. The enemies he then chooses as targets will lack a general social consensus. Delinquencies,
Rosemary Gordon Montagnon
crimes and arbitrary and random acts of violence may then become substitutes for what the society has let go of, has suspended or even suppressed. Then there is the opposition between the conscious part and the unconscious part of the psyche, a thesis that is basic to Jung’s concept of complementarity and compensation, that is, the inherent dynamics of the psyche. These are concepts essential to Jung’s general thesis that the psyche is a dynamic system, that energy depends on the presence of at least two opposing forces and that, therefore, opposites are the ineradicable and indispensable precondition of all psychic life. The experience of challenge and opposition is of course relevant to the figure of the hero; and as I have already mentioned this unconscious archetypal figure, the hero, though particularly dominant in adolescence, yet belongs to all human beings, men and women, all their life. Admittedly it is more present and pervasive in some persons than in others and it will exert a more powerful and controlling influence in some stages in life and in some personal crises. Consequently, the hero’s particular association with challenge and opposition will be felt by everybody at some time in their life. The enemy—the challenger whom we have to oppose and fight—helps us to recognize and to confirm our own aims, goals, our own space, our own being, thoughts, values and beliefs. In fact, enemies can vitalize us, they can make us feel energetic, full of life and they can provide us with, as it were, a sense of our own raison d’être, with a sense of the possible meaning of our life and why it is worth living. An enemy tends to dispel lassitude and depressive moods, when we are roused sufficiently to engage in battle to win. These are the powerful dynamics in the psyche that propel societies into war. Conclusion I have argued that enemies fulfil a number of functions for us, but are they necessary in order to have a personal or national identity? By threatening the boundaries of our identity, enemies can heighten our experience of these boundaries and our determination to protect and to defend them, but it is not only through a defensive response to threats that nations become strong or we as individuals become ourselves. In order to become oneself one needs to experience the ‘Other’, but it is when the unconscious ‘Other’ within ourselves is denied that we then seek enemies to sharpen our sense of having a personal and distinct identity. Enemies are useful to us in acting as recipients of our own shadow qualities, of those thoughts, feelings and actions we regard as bad and therefore unacceptable as being a part of ourselves. Although enemies provide temporary relief by serving as recipients of shadow qualities, without owning these unconscious aspects of ourselves we remain unevolved, incomplete and impoverished. In terror, aggression and war, the internal enemy is projected and internal conflicts are enacted in the real world. In this paper, I have concentrated on
‘Do be my enemy for friendship’s sake’
the positive value and function of the enemy but we also have to remember the pain, grief, cruelty and suffering that enmity can and does create when we find a target against whom to unleash our aggression. But as I am ending this paper and survey my arguments, it occurs to me that by juxtaposing ‘self’ and ‘enemy’ we have only reached the second phase in the dialectical process of thesis and antithesis which, if all goes well, should lead on to the third and final phase, the achievement of synthesis, that is when the qualities of thesis and antithesis join up and combine and so make something—or somebody—new, enriched and more evolved. In other words this, the third phase, corresponds to Jung’s coniunctio (Jung 1963). Such completion of the dialectical process in the case of ‘self’ and ‘enemy’ is perhaps more likely to be achieved if projections outward of, for instance, the shadow, are reduced, and if the encounter between thesis and antithesis happens and is worked out inside rather than outside our psyche. Of course the emergence of a new ‘self’, the result of transformation and synthesis, will not necessarily lead to the absence of all enmity. There will no doubt quite soon arise new enemies; like a phoenix the new, perhaps superior and more evolved enemy will rise from the ashes of the earlier enemy and so launch a new cycle, a new dialectical process. TRANSLATIONS OF ABSTRACT
L’auteur explore le besoin psychologique que nous avons d’avoir des ennemis et comment cela contribue à amener nos conflits dans le monde extérieur. Les ennemis servent d’opposés dont nous pouvons nous différencier, soit en tant qu’individu, soit en tant que groupe; ils nous aident à définir nos frontières physiques et psychologiques. Les ennemis fournissent une cible et un but à notre agressivité et aussi à nos projections d’ombre. Ils donnent aussi de l’énergie à l’individuation par le biais de la rencontre héroïque avec l’ennemi dans le monde étranger, qu’est-ce qui est hors de la maison, en particulier dans l’adolescence. L’intégration psychique de ‘soi’ et ‘ennemi’ est explorée comme étant un des résultats de l’individuation. Die Autorin untersucht unser psychologisches Bedürfnis, Feinde zu haben, und wie dieses hilft, unsere Konflikte in die Außenwelt zu bringen. Feinde dienen als Gegensätze, von denen wir uns differenzieren können, entweder als Individuum oder als Gruppe; sie helfen uns, unsere physischen und psychischen Grenzen zu bestimmen. Feinde und Feindinnen bieten ein Ziel und ein Ventil für unsere Aggression und auch für die Projektion des Schattens. Sie bieten auch eine Anregung zur Individuation durch den heroischen Zusammenstoß mit dem Feind oder der Feindin in der unbekannten Welt außerhalb unseres Zuhauses, insbesondere in der Adoleszenz. Die psychische Integration von ‘Selbst’ und ‘Feind’ als Resultat der Individuation wird untersucht.
Rosemary Gordon Montagnon
L’autrice esplora il nostro bisogno psicologico di avere nemici e il contributo che esso porta nel superare i conflitti nel mondo esterno. I nemici servono come un opposto dal quale noi possiamo differenziarci, sia come individui che come gruppi; ci aiutano a definire i nostri confini fisici e psicologici. I nemici ci forniscono un bersagli e uno sfogo per la nostra aggressività e anche per la proiezione dell’ombra. Forniscono anche uno stimolo all’individuazione, attraverso l’incontro eroico con il nemico nel mondo non familiare fuori casa, in particolare nell’adolescenza. Viene esaminata l’integrazione psichica del ‘sé’ e del ‘nemico’ come risultato dell’individuazione. La autora explora nuestra necesidad psicológica de enemigos y el aporte que esto hace a la apertura de conflictos en el mundo exterior. Los enemigos sirven como opositores desde los cuales podemos diferenciarnos, como individuos o como grupo; ellos nos ayudan a definirnos en nuestras limitaciones físicas y psicológicas. Los enemigos nos proveen de un objetivo y de una salida para nuestra agresión y también para la proyección de nuestra sombra. También nos estimulan para la individuación, a través del encuentro heroico con el enemigo en el mundo desconocido fuera del hogar, especialmente en la adolescencia. Se explora la integración psíquica de Self y enemigo en el devenir de la individuación.
Hazlitt, W. (1778–1830). ‘On the pleasure of hating’. In An Essay. Jung, C. G. (1934/1950). ‘Conscious, unconscious and individuation’. CW 9i. —— (1956). ‘The battle for deliverance from the mother’. CW 5. —— (1959). ‘The shadow’. CW 9ii. —— (1963). ‘The conjunction’. CW 14. Orwell, G. (1945). Animal Farm. Harmondsworth, Middx, UK: Penguin Books, 1956. —— (1949). Nineteen Eighty Four. Florida, USA: Harcourt Brace. Stevens, A. (1982). Archetype. A Natural History of the Self. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
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