“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is an ancient proverb which suggests that 2 parties can or should work together against a common enemy. The full quote is “The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The friend of my enemy is my enemy.”

If we apply it to our modern world, can it help us navigate personal and professional boundaries with grace?

In the intricate dance of life, we often find ourselves entangled in a web of relationships — some nurturing, others challenging. Amidst this labyrinth, there exists a profound truth: the adversary of my antagonist, is my ally. But what does this ancient adage truly mean, and how can we apply it to navigate the delicate balance of personal and professional boundaries?

In the realm of human interaction, conflicts inevitably arise. Whether it’s a disagreement with a colleague, a clash of personalities, or a difference of opinion with a loved one, these tensions can leave us feeling drained and disheartened. However, embracing the wisdom of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” invites us to approach these conflicts from a place of neutrality and non-reactivity.

Picture this: you’re in the midst of a heated debate with a co-worker over a project deadline. Emotions are running high, and tensions are palpable. In that moment, it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment, allowing anger and frustration to cloud our judgment. But what if, instead of reacting impulsively, we chose to embody the spirit of neutrality?

Neutral ground is where the magic happens. It’s a place of calm amidst the storm, where we can observe the situation from a place of detachment. Rather than viewing our opponent as a foe to be vanquished, we see them as a fellow traveller on the journey of life — struggling, just like us, to navigate the complexities of human interaction.

I see it with people who have had many children. By the time the last few come along, the parents tend to be more relaxed with the inevitable surge of disagreements among their offspring. The sweet spot is in the wisdom and beauty of hindsight.

A friend was reflecting about this recently, as she’s now a grandmother of many. She is often amused about the different alliances that flimsily morph when they are bound by a common interest such as accessing internet or takeaway food privileges.

But their fickle allegiances to each other can become unstuck, even as children become adults and disagreements escalate from whether to get a vaccination, which political party one supports, to the distribution of inheritance and whether it has been done so in a fair and equitable manner.

Perhaps you find that suddenly, that aunty who was always a conspiracy theorist, is unexpectedly making a lot of sense when it comes to her stance on whether the state should determine whether a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy.

You find yourself exchanging memes with someone that was once estranged from the family for years, while you navigate a season of your life, wondering why your family simply aren’t as progressive as you are, and maybe you’re the black sheep that will lead them to enlightenment.

The plot twist is always at a public gathering when you’re at your most vulnerable, and that same aunty now says something insulting or inappropriate to you. You’re now questioning your life choices and whether they’ve all stemmed from needing approval, to be liked, or a simple inability to self-regulate when you feel conflicted, or disagree with another person’s perspective.

It’s how we forged our petty alliances with our school friends when we were bullied about a characteristic that was outside our circle of control. From a face full of hormonal acne, to perhaps your older sibling always getting arrested, or the unfortunate timing that meant you took longer to bloom among the boofheads that sprouted earlier than you.

In the context of personal and professional boundaries, neutrality is key. It allows us to set firm yet flexible boundaries that protect our well-being while fostering healthy relationships with others. When we encounter individuals who push against these boundaries, instead of engaging in conflict, we can choose to remain neutral and non-reactive.

This doesn’t mean we should passively tolerate behaviour that violates our boundaries. On the contrary, it means holding firm to our convictions while refusing to be drawn into unnecessary drama. By maintaining our composure in the face of adversity, we disarm our adversaries and pave the way for peaceful resolution.

I have a formula that I teach my clients called ‘The Four Thirds’, and if you’ve ever had a session with me, chances are, your reaction will depend on which third you’ve allocated this particular nemesis to. It’s designed to help you manage your boundaries FIRST, before you can step into that powerful neutral state.

But what about when the conflict isn’t between us and another individual, but rather between two opposing forces? This is where the wisdom of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” truly shines. In moments of heightened stress or tension, it’s easy to get swept up in the chaos, aligning ourselves with one side or the other.

However, by adopting a stance of neutrality, we can rise above the fray and act as a beacon of peace and understanding. Instead of taking sides, we seek common ground — finding allies in unexpected places and forging connections that transcend superficial differences.

In both our personal and professional lives, the ability to remain neutral and non-reactive is a valuable skill — one that requires practice and patience to cultivate. It’s about learning to navigate the ebb and flow of human interaction with grace and compassion, even in the face of adversity.

So, the next time you find yourself embroiled in conflict, embrace neutrality, set firm boundaries, and watch as the path to resolution unfolds before you. In the end, it’s not about winning or losing — it’s about finding common ground and forging connections that withstand the test of time.

Until we cross paths this year, I am sending you lots of love,

Patty Kikos

P.S. On the subject of enemies becoming friends and more notably siblings potentially tuning into enemies, I interviewed my friend Lamia about the importance of arranging a will, power of attorney and enduring guardianship.

She’s a partner in a law firm and we swapped many stories about how things can take a turn for the worst if you don’t have your ducks in a row. Lamia is a hijab wearing lawyer, so when she is in chambers, she has also experienced discrimination when people assumed she was the client or an interpreter. SPOTIFY or iTUNES

TESTIMONIAL:

Patty thank you so much for my last few 1:1 sessions with you. NEVER in my wildest dreams could I imagine feeling as strong and confident as I do now regarding my partner. It was so powerful to do the archetypal work we did together. You made me feel safe and “normal” and I realised I had always feared being judged, but you showed me how to embrace these parts of myself. I often reflect on our sessions and still laugh at the things you say. One day, I want to be able to see the world like you do, and be even braver than I am.