You Feel Like My Enemy, Do We Even Know How to Be Allies?
As I sit here I want to pass on what a dear friend is sharing with me. It is too good to keep to myself. The other day while sitting in our Hesed growing group, I asked our dear friend, what can I do when my brain is stuck on seeing my husband or others as enemies? He responded right away, remember when you were allies. My first question was, what is an ally? An ally is someone who says, I am in this with you, you are not alone. I want to face whatever comes by your side and I want you by my side. Well, it was apparent that my brain was seeing my husband as an enemy because I could only find a few places in 27 years of marriage that we were allies. My brain was in enemy mode, in the amygdala, that asks the question is this good, bad or scary depending on the answer should I fight, flight or flee? My brain was saying bad, scary, bad, scary, it could not remember the good, allies. When my brain is in this place I don’t feel like myself. I am tracking fear, I am not chasing joy. I am predicting every horrible thing that can happen with my husband or whoever feels like an enemy in that moment. I can’t bring to mind places we are allies because my brain is stuck. What do I need at this place? One thing for sure my brain doesn’t need is denying or dismissing the problems or situation. That only feels invalidating and brings no comfort to any involved. Being allies does not mean there isn't a problem - even a huge problem. It is just that that huge problem is being sustained when we live like enemies. The problems are probably being passed from generation to generation while we are in enemy mode.
Jim Wilder states in Renovated, “A direct return to being relational (leaving enemy mode) is provided through encountering people who do not feel like enemies in the moment. The smiling face of someone I love- like a child, lover, dog, or grandchild- brings me back.” (p. 85)
After being in our Hesed growing group, I reached out to the friend who said, remember when you were allies because I could not get out of enemy mode on my own. I needed to connect with someone who is glad to be with me even when I was in enemy mode, no pretending or hiding in shame. This brought me back. Once I was back I was able to write a list of all the places we were allies. In five minutes I came up with 39 places. Isn’t that wonderful? My brain was able to sync with someone who did not feel like an enemy in the moment and brought me back to who I am and put my brain back on line.
Why is this especially relevant right now? As a country we are at a critical point. We know hatred, passivity, shame, fear, disgust, dismissiveness, hopeless despair or rage. As I sat and visited with a friend I was aware, our country is in enemy mode and we need to find a way out. How do we learn to be allies? It is easier to see problems, that doesn’t require a relational brain, using your whole brain. Only seeing problems requires you to operate at the lowest level of brain functioning. At level 2 of the brain, we can see what is bad and scary but can easily get overwhelmed, not be able to think in a cohesive relational way and stay in the fear, anger, shame, hopeless despair, etc. It is harder to find people who have solutions that are helpful and restorative. The Black Community needs the White Community to step up and be allies. The problem is, I don’t believe we really know how to be allies. We are asking, what can we do and I am not sure either of us know how to remember when we’ve been allies. Our brain knows how to stay in fear, anger, hopeless despair of the bad, scary but do we know how to get to using your whole relational brain to remember when we were allies? Who is showing us the way? As I noted earlier, who are we encountering who do not feel like enemies in the moment? Where are our elders who can help us not just be allies but to love our enemies?
“But I have not yet learned to love when I am in enemy mode, only to get out of it. If an attachment person who loves me also loves my enemies, then I can learn to love those enemies too. Learning to love enemies is learned from people who love enemies. ” (Wilder, Renovated, p. 85) This friend from my Hesed growing group loves both my husband and me. He helped me come out of enemy mode with my husband. I felt love and attachment when I think of when/where we have been allies. This is why I am so passionate to share what I am learning as I have spent too much of my life in enemy mode. I’m not proud of this, it is just true. Enemy mode will continue to prevail if I am not honest with myself and others, denying the huge problems that do exist in relationship, but being more aware that blaming, making others bad does not solve what is very broken. What is one step you can take today as this is a new skill, returning from enemy mode, that takes a lot of practice to learn? Will you start here with me, Lord, who feels like my enemy today? Lord how do You see my enemy/enemies and what do You want me to know about loving him, her, them?
As I asked the question earlier, where are the elders? Jim Wilder is one and he maps out a path to loving our enemies. Are you curious? A solution that Jim offers is on page 85 of Renovated and I plan to share more of this on my next blog. Until then I’d like to leave you with the question my friend asked me, when were you allies? I’d like to take this to the time we are living in. To my white friends, when have you felt like a black woman or man was your ally? To my black friends, when have you felt like a white woman or man was your ally? Tell that story to another friend. We need to remember when we have been allies. Otherwise our brain gets stuck in a most horrible place where everything feels bad and scary and nothing feels good or safe.
You can find more information on returning from enemy mode and Jim Wilder's book, Renovated at Life Model Works