Most religions have a concept of the battle between good and evil. An epic conflict between satan and god, doing the right thing versus being a schmuck. The good news, we’re promised, is that good will ultimately prevail; in this world or the next.
Islam has a word for it – jihad, holy war. Fundamentalists use it as an excuse to blow up buses. More liberal interpretations understand it as an “internal struggle”, your war between your good and your bad sides.
Attempts to liberalize Judaism have also required transforming commandments like “erasing the memory of amalek from under the sun” to not mean literal annihilation of a people, but to “destroy the evil that lives within us”.
This attitude is still fucked up, and leads to as much internal emotional damage as full-blown war leaves on a country. Turning a war from a literal one to a metaphorical one, is to transfer violence from one space to another.
The first problem with war, is that good guys die too, either in body or in soul. There is no such thing as waging a war against your “evil inclination” without fostering cold-heartedness or trauma. War gets glorified when it’s for “the right reasons”, but the fact remains that if you spend your time suppressing your “sexual urges” you’ll probably end up suppressing your creativity as well.
The bigger problem with war, is that no side is truly evil. Yes, yes, I know there’s that evil dictator at the top. But there’s also millions of civilians who have done nothing wrong and will lose lives and limbs from mines and carpet bombs. So too internally, all “evil” that lies within is can generally be traced back to unfulfilled core needs, reactions to trauma, and under-developed compassion.
I cannot tell you to end all wars. I know there’s some really important stuff going down in Iraq and you just need to invade. But I can invite you, unequivocally, to end the war inside yourself. That holy war is never holy, and you’re killing all parts of yourself in the process.
Enough kicking yourself in the face to get out of bed in the morning. Enough berating yourself for not having your shit together. Enough forcing yourself to do what you hate doing.
With all due respect to the Jewish Mussar movement (and I have none), I have never seen anyone change through brute force or “willpower”. I’ve seen people crush their psyche to try to be a certain way, with a huge amount of collateral damage.
The ever-present Jewish concept that we have a Yetzer Harah, an “Inclination of Evil”, is a terrible way to go through life. Being free from that alone is enough of a reason to leave religion.
Any change I have ever elicited in myself, or have facilitated in others in my hypnotherapy practice, has always been through peace, not war. Through internal dialogue, seeking to accept and to understand, to contain rather than fight against. Inevitably, unfailingly, the “enemy” was just a part that was trying its best to protect you, and knows no better way to do so.
Something amazing happens when you stop fighting. When you embrace instead of pushing away. When you approach this disconnected part with understanding and acceptance, it dissolves. Literally disappears, melting back into the larger you that is made up of many parts – some which serve you well, some which no longer serve you. It becomes another asset in your toolbox, instead of a gangrened limb that you try to wrap a tourniquet around and chop off.
There is no enemy. There are only parts of you.
There’s a better way. Stop the war.