Know Your Inner Enemy

Four quotes about our darker side.

We all have a darker side, Most evil comes from desperation of one sort or another. Charles Brenner, MD and psychoanalyst, believes all dark behavior stems from pain or fear of pain. Sounds reasonable to me.

However, things are never that simple. Complexity arises because each person hurts or fears hurt differently. We can understand a person who steals to eat or to feed a child when no other recourse is available. We understand less about the smaller slings and arrows all endure that can fuel rage, desperation, and evil acts.

Jerome Kagan, my number one psychological guru, notes that once our survival needs are met, we humans are most fearful of rejection by those important to us. That fear leads to many types of behavior. We develop heros, we cheer for; villains, we boo. We seek approval more constantly than we seek love.

Therein lies one of the problems: when we fail to get approval with our good behavior, we turn increasingly to acceptance of our shadow sides.  Sooner or later a few of us accept we are the bad guys. If you study the two Columbine killers, you will understand what I mean.  They clearly had given up trying to be good and that freed their darker sides.

Even that is too simple, however. For many who do evil believe they are doing good. Hitler justified his hatred; the terrorists of today do the same. Even protesters on the side of right can and do burn and destroy.

Finally, there is the hurt turned to anger, that cannot be contained. This explains domestic violence, work place violence. The hurt may not even be the victim’s fault, but found fertile growth in the angry person.

Self awareness is one of the hallmarks of Emotional Intelligence, and that means knowing your shadow or dark side means we are  less likely we to  act with desperation and find we regret what we have done.

The pain that leads to desperation is often tied to the secrets we keep because we fear being shamed. So think about what you most fear others will see as shameful in your thoughts or hidden behaviors.

Then do a major reality check. One: thoughts are not deeds.

Two: most deeds we have been taught are shameful are cultural beliefs. Think homosexual behavior. Think the Big M – masturbation, behaviors that are deemed shameful by many, but harm no one.

Three: check your shame against the most agreed upon evil acts. Murder, physical torturing people or animals, child molestation, and slavery. Then shame is warranted. For all other acts it is a signal to not do something or to make amends when you did.


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These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.

Easy Emotional Fitness Exercises (
The five components of Emotional Intelligence ( Intelligence (

Emotional Fitness Tips for Parents  (
An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents(


I am resuming efforts to post Daily, but in doing so, will try to limit most  posts a smaller  size, using mainly Poster Coaches, Jokes, or exercises. I will not post on Shabbat or Jewish Holidays unless I can manage to do one ahead and schedule it.

My PDF eBook Cross-Train Your Brain is still free but the end is nearing as Defang Fear In All Its Disguises is about to go free as a PDF. So if you have not downloaded it Cross-Train, do so now. It will soon cost a pretty penny.


This post was inspired by the WordPress Daily Prompt “Shadow” Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate?Here are the steps to get started.


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