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Want to Transform Enemy Images? Start with Selflove

Have you ever felt hurt?

Like to the core of your being? Your spouse said or did something that you heard as if there is something wrong with you? That you are not worthy of love? That you are inadequate?

When you hear a message of wrongness, it is understandable to withdraw, stonewall, and protect yourself from more hurt. You disconnect, and in your suffering you shift blame by building an enemy image of your spouse. You find proof of what’s wrong with them , how unlovable they are.

It won’t help. You won’t be more lovable by making your spouse less lovable. Why? Because when you blame, you turn away from your own compassionate nature. Compassion means being able to see their core hurt in their words and actions. When you can not see that your spouse is disconnected from their core value, because their pain is too overwhelming, you have lost touch with an essential part of what it means to be human.

If you build an enemy image of your spouse, you are stonewalling yourself, not your spouse.

You turn away from your innate desire to relieve suffering, to help and listen. Losing your connection to your compassionate nature, makes it harder to feel good about yourself it is selfalienating.

Selfworth is where your power is. Not in what your spouse says or does, but in how you respon .


> When your spouse says or does something that is painful for you, turn toward yourself . Focus on your breath. Connect to your inner beauty, by listing three compassionate things you did for yourself or others . When you see the goodness in yourself, you can give from your fullness, rather than emptiness.

> Find someone who can listen to your pain, without adding blame. A friend who accepts your experience and conveys that you matter. Nonviolent Communication Practice Groups and mindfulness communities can help with empathy and compassion.

> Empathize with the core hurts and precious needs of your spouse . If you are still triggered by your experience, find support for your trigger. Again, compassion communities can help.

> When you are grounded in love, peace, and harmony, turn toward your spouse. You can do the Begin Anew process by starting with appreciation, followed by sharing something you regret, and ending with what you wished they had done differently.


You owe it to yourself to move to a place of compassion and empathy. You can never turn away from yourself. You’re the one waking up with yourself, going to bed with yourself. You suffer when you lash out from your anger, sadness, fear, disgust, and contempt. Learn to accept these feelings as part of what it means to fully be human. Take care of them by reconnecting to your own basic goodness. Then reach out to your spouse to learn what you both might do differently.

Let me know how this landed for you


Elly van Laar

Elly van Laar specializes in helping couples in divorce maintain mutual respect. For 20 years, Elly has helped individuals, couples and organizations deepen compassion and empathy skills, bridge differences, and find solutions that benefit all parties. Elly is a speaker and blogger on Nonviolent Communication, mindfulness, and conflict resolution. Elly… MORE >

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