‘Near enemies’ are the opponents of our desired states of mind that are often sneakier and harder to spot than the more obvious ‘far enemies’. For most of us, near enemies are more of a problem.
For example: the far enemy of love is aversion and taken to extremes this can end in resentment or hatred. But few of us feel real hatred. (In fact, in loving kindness practice (Metta Bhavana) the third person we work with is sometimes described as the ‘enemy’ but this is often downgraded to ‘difficult’ or ‘irritating’ person for this reason.) But the near enemy of love is described as attachment or craving, sometimes clinging; we need that person more than they need us perhaps and we end up with that kind of needy possessiveness that can look and feel a lot like love, but really isn’t. Unconditional love, love without attachment is the ultimate aim. So what if we need them more than they need us—we love them just the same!
Other near and far enemies are:
Hope: hopelessness/despair (far); excessive optimism (near), a Pollyanna mindset perhaps, nothing wrong with that as long as we recognise it for what it is. Not everything goes right all the time.
Wisdom: imprudence/recklessness (far); Intellectualism/cleverness (near).
Kindness: mean-spirited/cruelty (far); lacking a sense of personal boundaries (near) i.e. intruding when it might be better to keep one’s distance.
Acceptance: denial (far); passivity or resignation (near) i.e. the ‘anything for an easy life’ stance.
Compassion: mercilessness/ruthlessness (far); pity (near) maybe seeing someone else’s suffering in a distant, abstract way and not truly connecting with the other person so we feel superior in some way. The Germans would call it schadenfreude.
Creativity: a disconnect from our authentic self, plagiarism (far); procrastination, derived from the Latin verb procrastinatus, literally, to put off until tomorrow (near).
Worthiness: feeling ourselves to be undeserving (far); self-entitlement (near).
Success: giving up before we start, the fear of failure paralyses us (far); not being able to relax- we always have to do a bit more, or we let the best be the enemy of the good (near).
Emotional self-sufficiency: co-dependency, not being able to operate on your own (far); deliberate over-independence and ‘fear of getting close’ (near); this can result control freakery.
Self-control: no control and addictions (far); rigidity, lack of adventure/ spontaneity (near).
It is something we can all play around with. Pick any emotional state and imagine what the far and near enemy might be. It can tell us a lot about how our minds operate.