Escaping Enemy Mode

How Our Brains Unite or Divide Us

YOUR BRAIN IN ENEMY MODE

Our brains are natural amplifiers, easily detecting unfriendly signals and returning them with more intensity.

Enemy mode feels as if, “You are not on my side.” 

We don’t like people being against us.

We don’t like the way enemy mode feels.

We become suspicious, wary, and hostile with others follows. Even with those trying to help us.

Could one brain state explain why we:

  • Hate others?
  • Stop listening?
  • Stop talking?
  • Start blaming?
  • See others against us?
  • Want them to lose?
  • Unfriend them?
  • Post nasty remarks online?
  • Stop caring?
  • Stop loving?
  • Feel alienated?
  • Despise a politician, race, or religious group?

This is enemy mode.

UNDERSTANDING  ENEMY MODE

Our brains can develop a damaging state of mind where we see and experience others as adversaries. Living in enemy mode poisons family relationships, separates friends, and breaks communities apart.

Enemy mode produces relational blindness.

Even someone we love dearly can be seen as an adversary, and in this state of mind we:
  • Want the “enemy to lose”
  • Can’t discern when others are trying to help
  • Recruits others to attack the enemy
  • Feel justified in hating
  • See other people’s motives as “bad”
  • Turns people into objects (not fellow humans)
  • Feel alone, believing no one on my side
  • will often attack or withdraw from allies
  • Sees enemy mode as a strength
“The trouble is enemy mode keeps us from seeing people as fellow humans with value. The consequences are painful and costly.”

THE 3 TYPES OF  ENEMY MODE

Simple

It starts with the feeling someone is not on our side. An uneasy tension develops when relational connection signals are missed, ignored, mistrusted, or feared.

Stupid

A high-energy moment is fueled by “hot” anger. We destroy people and things we value or need. We sober up later realizing this person wasn’t our enemy.

Intelligent

This type doesn’t miss signals or get stupid. “Cold” anger fills the brain with plans of resentment, revenge, hired guns, deception, even more diabolical deeds.

THE QUEST

The grocery story was nearly empty when Jim heard metal hit metal. He turned to see a woman in her seventies repeatedly smashing her grocery cart into the cart of a woman half her age. It was the early 2020s—a global pandemic was raging, and enemy mode was spreading more rapidly than COVID-19. The older woman’s shouting was muffled by the mask she wore. The younger woman wore no mask. The younger woman glared silently, but belligerently, at her assailant. A man in his twenties intervened almost instantly. “Get away from her,” he told the older woman, “she is going to get you sick. Stay away from her.”

All three brains were in enemy mode.

Most shoppers would have recognized the COVID symptoms as a fever and dry cough. Few would recognize the symptoms of enemy mode in the brain as they stared at the banging carts, angry faces, and rapidly escalating hostility that was sucking them into the conflict. Instead, bystanders blamed the conflict on differing beliefs about COVID between the two ladies. Yet, shoppers who were not banging carts also held differing beliefs.

All three brains were in enemy mode.

Most shoppers would have recognized the COVID symptoms as a fever and dry cough. Few would recognize the symptoms of enemy mode in the brain as they stared at the banging carts, angry faces, and rapidly escalating hostility that was sucking them into the conflict. Instead, bystanders blamed the conflict on differing beliefs about COVID between the two ladies. Yet, shoppers who were not banging carts also held differing beliefs.
“Since the Covid-19 pandemic, you could see people becoming alienated at a rapid pace.”
Two leaders working alongside each other saw something unique in the midst of these experiences and knew they had to reveal the unseen processes in the brain that were dividing people so the process could be reversed.

THE AUTHORS

PhD, Clinical Psychology, and M.A. Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary

Dr. Jim Wilder has been training leaders and counselors for over 27 years on five continents. He is the author of multiple books with a strong focus on maturing and relationship skills for leaders. His coauthored book Living From the Heart Jesus Gave You has sold over 100,000 copies and is printed in eleven languages. Wilder has published numerous articles and developed four sets of video and relational leadership training called THRIVE.

He is the founder and chief neurotheologian of Life Model Works, a nonprofit working at the intersection of brain science and theology that is building contagiously healthy Christian communities through equipping existing networks with the skills to thrive. Dr. Wilder has extensive counseling experience and has served as a guest lecturer at Fuller Seminary, Biola, Talbot Seminary, Point Loma University, Montreat College, Tyndale Seminary and elsewhere.

MDiv, Southwestern Baptist Seminary, and Master of Strategic Studies, U.S. Army War College

Rev. Ray Woolridge became the Executive Director of Life Model Works in 2020. He is thankful to partner with Life Model Works to come alongside existing networks to implement Life Model principles in their context. Living the Life Model is transforming how he lives, relates and works. Ray has been blessed by thirty-five years of marriage to his wife, Deborah.

Ray is a retired U.S. Army Brigadier General with forty-three years of military and civilian service with the Department of Defense. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and the Army Airborne and Ranger Schools. His military career culminated as the Assistant Chief of Chaplains, advising the Army Chief of Chaplains and guiding fifteen hundred Army Reserve chaplains and chaplain assistants. Ray served two churches as a pastor. He was the founding pastor for a new congregation in Georgia, and adult ministries pastor for a church in Colorado. Ray is also a certified leadership and life coach.

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Love your enemies

This is the end game, the outcome, to see others rightly and to love those who see you as an enemy.

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