“He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.” ~ Edmund Burke
Just because it’s easy to theorize about learning everything we need to know about ourselves from what irritates us in others, doesn’t mean it is in practice. There is one step beyond the mirror. One step beyond the rational.
One step beyond the abrasive nature of acquaintances and insensitive comments from family members, one step beyond there is something more, something deeper that means karma is at work and that it’s going to be a difficult one to get out of… those rare individuals who we love and feel eternally connected to who, unfortunately, antagonize us to distraction.
There’s a reason why there’s one in every story. The antagonist is usually the epitome of everything we despise but who pushes us (in our desperate attempts to avoid our shadow selves consuming us while we react to them) to those peaks and troughs that are the stuff of intensely felt and authentically expressed life stories.
Much like the art of story for the sake of entertainment, the antagonist reaches in and yanks out the hero lurking within each of our souls. Our antagonist, despite being the devil in disguise, breathes into us the opportunity to become extraordinary, whether it is to be a tale of triumph, or one of tragedy.
The ‘Evil’ Antagonist
“Remember that when you meet your antagonist, to do everything in a mild agreeable manner. Let your courage be keen, but, at the same time, as polished as your sword.” ~ Richard Brinsley Sheridan
The archetypal Villain or Nemesis is, like any antagonist, always acting on their own strict set of moral codes and the greater good that they perceive to apply to everyone. Those who appear to be threatening society, the crowd or the family unit are usually set upon by the ‘good’ parties… but how can we be so sure that they deserve it?
At the heart of every antagonist is suffering; an escalated problem or misunderstanding that has pushed past the boundaries of reconciliation and become revenge.
Sounds like the stuff of story, but how close have you ever been to ringleading or simply playing along with the downfall of some perceived enemy?
As social creatures humans have the tendency to draw together their own stories and conclusions, often bringing down someone who could’ve benefitted more from loving compassion and an attempt to understand their suffering rather than condemn them for it.
In a world where the binary opposites of good versus evil is prevalent in most plots and cultural narratives, it can be all too easy to forget our humanity and chug at this fear-inducing teat of locating the threat and calling for the pitchforks. Next time you feel threatened by a supposedly ‘nasty’ character, take a step back and ask yourself if there is a more loving way to approach them.
The Subtle Antagonist
“…You find your genius by looking in the mirror of your life. Your visible image shows your inner truth, so when you’re estimating others, what you see is what you get. It therefore becomes critically important to see generously, or you will get only what you see; to see sharply, so that you discern the mix of traits rather than a generalized lump; and to see deeply into dark shadows, or else you will be deceived.” ~ James Hillman, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling
But I don’t see what’s wrong with them, are you sure it’s not all in your head? The maddening exclamation of the witnessing party, one who has no idea how much this person rubs you up the wrong way and in fact goes to great lengths to minimize the drama. They are, of course, probably right.
You are making a big deal out of it, but what you need to do, rather than neutralize and ignore the antagonist at work, is to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes them drive you so absolutely crazy.
It will probably be a story of love. Either you recognize something within them that you desire, or perhaps you wish they loved you more. Perhaps you are their antagonist and they are misinterpreting your treatment of them as aggression or jealousy or any number of other ‘negative’ interactions. It’s time to grow up and become responsible for ourselves.
You could be the one to change everything. You could make this person’s day, week, year, even decade. By reaching up into the higher love and reacting to them with great care, you could solder your name onto their heart forever and break the unwelcome bonds that are binding you to them; the past, present and future could ring out with the wedding bells of karma rejoicing at the gracefulness of your disconnection.
Karmic freedom feels pretty darn good. In fact it’s resplendently blissful. Your soul craves it – do it justice and disconnect yourself from gossip and complaining. Soar above the problem and see it for what it is. The subtle antagonist is usually the petty antagonist, but could become destiny and darkness if you let it.
When You Become The Antagonist
“A stage play is basically a form of uber-schizophrenia. You split yourself into two minds – one being the protagonist and the other being the antagonist. The playwright also splits himself into two other minds: the mind of the writer and the mind of the audience.” ~ David Mamet
The time has come to begin really melting the lines between what we believe to be good, and what we believe to be bad. Many times in our lives – especially if we chose it – we become the antagonist. It can be a life-calling.
A dangerous one, sure, but a transformative one all the same. You become a catalyst for change, you become the person who fights their own demons whilst reflecting back to everyone theirs. That’s not to say that you need to seek it out. Many an empath and sensitive light being probably has exactly this as their work; threading out the details and questioning the depths of the soul.
When did you stop believing in others? When did you decide to shut the world out and be the bad guy? Is this a role you have been playing for centuries? Is it about one-up-manship or tired tales of greed? Don’t you think it’s time to stop competing and holding onto your superego of survival?
Times are changing, and we must change too. The person who hurts you envies you. They are scared of themselves, terrified of being seen by the world, flaws and all. Let’s ride out together and embrace the whole. We wouldn’t be complete without each other.
To chose antagonism means to bravely step up and open the cupboard under the stairs with the acceptance that you’ll be bumped over the head and stuck with cobwebs. It’ll be a dark night, but in each jar of shadows we can reach out safe in the knowledge that it’ll be a release of the old.
So step up and break those karmic ties with style. It’s time to find your antagonist, near or far and give them a cosmic hug, for they could just save your soul. Once and for all.