Should You Keep Your Enemies Close?

Sometimes, those you consider to be enemies are nothing more than the reflection of certain aspects of yourself that need healing. Keeping them close can be a valuable opportunity for self-knowledge.
Should You Keep Your Enemies Close?
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

No doubt you remember the famous phrase that states you must keep your friends close but your enemies closer. It’s a statement that’ll go down in history thanks to the well-known film, The Godfather. It also contains a valuable message. However, obviously, if it’s to have some kind of meaning in your own life, you need to decontextualize it and define the meaning of ‘enemy’.

In your day-to-day life, you might come to perceive different people as enemies for various reasons. We’re not talking about those who deliberately and continuously harm you. Indeed, it’s better to stay away from them altogether in order to look after yourself. We’re referring to those individuals who arouse a certain sense of rejection or feelings of antipathy in you for no real reason.

You might justify your animosity toward them by claiming that they’re egotistical, rude, ignorant, or false. Nevertheless, in reality, you can learn about yourself from these people.

Girlfriends arguing about insensitive people

Other people are mirrors

You have to keep in mind that the person you dislike may be someone’s husband or best friend. Indeed, we all see different aspects in the same person. In fact, your interpersonal relationships function as a mirror and show you aspects of your own personality. Furthermore, the more intense the feeling, the clearer and sharper the reflection is, whether for good or bad.

The people you love and with whom you feel a greater affinity probably show you the kinder side of yourself, and your virtues. On the contrary, your enemies bring to light your shadows, your resistances, and those aspects that you must work on in yourself, no matter how unpleasant they may seem to you.

To take this valuable opportunity to get to know and improve yourself, you have to keep an open mind and be humble and honest with yourself. First, ask yourself what bothers you about the person. Write it down.

What part of them is in you?

Then, ask yourself what part of them is in you? How do they relate to you? You may be facing a particularly unpleasant person who you see as brash, arrogant, or self-centered. Consequently, you automatically think that they have nothing to do with you because you’re kind, polite, and respectful.

Nevertheless, it may be that the reflection of this person displeases you so much because it reflects a side of your personality that you don’t allow to come out. For example, perhaps you’re excessively rigid, restrained, and formal. That might be because you don’t have enough confidence in yourself to act in a more free and uninhibited way. Therefore, the feelings of rejection that this person generates in you are the signal for you to analyze this aspect of your own life.

On the other hand, you may feel animosity toward a colleague who always leads and calls the shots. The one who’s dominant and doesn’t take into account the opinions and needs of others. Ask yourself in which situations in your life you’re acting in the same way. Maybe, while in the workplace you’re extremely different from this individual, perhaps in your relationship with your partner or with your friends you’re equally authoritarian and not too empathic.

Two women arguing.

Keep your enemies close to keep evolving

Perhaps this all sounds crazy to you, but if you adopt the habit of analyzing these situations carefully, you’ll begin to obtain valuable information that’ll make a lot of sense. That’s why you need to keep your enemies close, because they can serve as inspiration and learning.

You don’t need to become a boaster, but maybe you do need to work on your self-confidence. Furthermore, perhaps you should review the way you treat the people around you in case your behavior resembles that of the enemy that you reject so much.

When you find yourself before someone who moves you internally, even in a negative way, don’t run away. Nor should you react uncontrollably with hate and resentment. Instead, stop for a moment and analyze what the situation is teaching you. When you begin to work on those aspects in yourself, when you begin to shed light on your darkness, your rejection of the other will decrease significantly.

Finally, you don’t see reality as it is, but as you are. You don’t see in others what they are, but what you project onto them. Take the opportunity to grow through your enemies.

Image courtesy of John Finn

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With No Hatred Within, There Are No Enemies Outside

Having enemies may be more related with how we confront situations in our mind than with the circumstances which objectively happen to us.



  • Noguchi, Y. (2010). La ley del espejo. Comanegra.
  • Yépez Rivadeneira, P. E. (2019). Rigidez cognitiva y malestar psicológico según el nivel de educación en adultos que reciben atención psicológica (Bachelor’s thesis, Quito: Universidad de las Américas, 2019).

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.