Very often we are our own worst enemy as we foolishly build stumbling blocks on the path that leads to success and happiness.” – Louis Binstock (American Rabbi)

We have probably all used the expression “They are their own worst enemy” at one time or another, but infrequently apply it to ourselves and admit “I am my own worst enemy.” Part of the disparity results from the fact that it is easier to recognize in other people, what we can’t see in ourselves sometimes, that is, “The Enemy Within.” Just as Yin and Yang are not opposing forces, but represent complimentary opposites of our duality, so “The Enemy Within” is part of us too and participates in a dynamic balance that makes us who we are. Let me explain with some examples, and then follow up with a little discussion in this direction.

Yin and Yang duality

There is an episode of Star Trek, from which the title of this blog is taken, where a transporter malfunction splits Captain Kirk into two separate beings. One is kind, gentle, compassionate and easy going. The other is opportunistic, selfish, domineering, and aggressive. The science fiction aspects aside, this is clearly an allegorical representation of the traits that make us human, but delineated into those that are considered symbolic of our positive and negative aspects. As Mr. Spock observes, “Being split in two halves is no theory with me, Doctor. I have a human half, you see, as well as an alien half, submerged, constantly at war with each other… I survive it because my intelligence wins out over both, makes them live together.”

There is the classic example of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde“, representations of good and evil with opposite moral viewpoints. It explores the duality of human nature and as Jekyll himself asserts, “It was on the moral side, and in my own person, that I learned to recognize the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both; and from an early date . . . I had learned to dwell with pleasure, as a beloved daydream, on the thought of the separation of these elements.

There is some parallel in these examples from popular culture and literature to Sigmund Freud’s concepts of the id, ego and super-ego as a structural model of the human psyche. I don’t wish to delve into these psychological aspects too much, but the overall theme here is that inside each of us there are complimentary and contradictory aspects that must find a way to live in harmony such that our overall demeanor produces some balance within us and reflects how we behave towards others. In the case of Captain Kirk, the separation of his gentle side from his aggressive side resulted in a purely ‘good’ Kirk (with no power of command), and a purely ‘bad’ Kirk (with the loss of any compassion). Each side needed the other in order to fully function as one complete, well-rounded being, with a rational center to maintain the balance. In a sense, we must love ourselves in all its complexity, both good and bad.

Kirk embraces his Enemy Within

While I would never advocate a life based on pure rationality (Mr. Spock), neither would I advocate one based on pure feeling either (Dr. Jekyll). Each has their strengths and weaknesses. Compassion and aggression are a tandem pair too, working together in balance. It seems important to me not to allow one half of ourselves to dominate our being. This does not mean it’s sometimes ok to be one way or the other. It’s easy to get mad, let rage or frustration take over and say or do hurtful things. It takes some discipline in life to achieve a balanced being. I suppose this is starting to sound rather Zen like, but this approaches my Yin and Yang thought perhaps. We don’t have to be our own worst enemy sometimes and it is avoidable if we recognize  “The Enemy Within” and understand our dual nature. Spend a little time in self-reflection and think about what this means to you. The duality of our nature is worth thinking about. It is not just black and white as good or bad, but shade and light as Yin and Yang.

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