Intention to ‘Break Enemy’s Will’ Can Produce Unwanted Results

Senator McCain said the purpose of war is to break the enemy’s will. This in opposition to President Obama’s decision to have a short military involvement in Afghanistan. My mind jumped to the ways in which I’ve witnessed less overtly violent will-breaking in other situations, namely in families and in the workplace.

Okay, here’s my point. If you have two armies going at it on an isolated military field that’s one thing. It’s horrible enough, and maybe war should never happen in a world as civilized as we could be in almost 2010. But fighting a war against a few among a civilian population means we can lose their good will from fallout from the drones, errant bombs, etc.  The same thing happens in families where there’s a bully. Even if only one person is singled out to be bullied, the others witnessing the bullying are being abused too. Now we get to the workplace. “Break the enemy’s will” becomes “carry out strict rules” or “run a tight ship.”  These expressions aren’t necessarily abusive but when overdone they can be. When applied to one or more employees unfairly they can have a demoralizing effect on the others. Collateral damage, whether it’s rage, bullets, or second-hand smoke, can occur in many situations.

When my first child went to kindergarten many children hadn’t had preschool and didn’t behave well. The teacher reacted by screaming at the whole class for most of the day, at least that’s how it seemed to me. I felt my son was being abused having to listen to this. He must have wondered what was wrong with him that he should be screamed at this way.

Writing “The Career Within You,”, we interviewed a few people who had bosses who seemed to  regard their employees as enemies. I’ve known professors and teachers with this attitude toward one or more students, too. I’ve also seen a completely broken will. After I gave my highly spirited dog to a relative who lived in another town, unknown to me he beat it into submission. The dog’s personality was unrecognizable the next time I saw him.

In this blog, I’ve talked about physical will-breaking and emotional abuse as it occurs in jobs and at home and how it impinges on those not directly involved in the conflict. This has implications for all nine career types. For example, some types have thicker skin than others and aren’t bothered much by criticism, but a sensitive type who is caught in the middle can be shattered by it. In another example, some types are extremely generous and expansive. The more uptight types in their presence can feel uncomfortable by comparison.

In conclusion, in Senator McCain’s experience in the Viet Nam war,  North Viet Nam itself was considered a vile enemy.  Except for the fact that he was being held there as a prisoner, would he have been happy obliterating the country? One would think he knows that maintaining a sincerely friendly relationship with the Afghan people is to our advantage.


What Does My Cartoon Say About You?

Big fish

What was your first thought and/or feeling when you saw this cartoon–and your second and third if you had them? Stop a minute to recall your reactions and perhaps write them down.

Did you think literally–that the big fish was indeed a fish and would protect the small fish if they behaved themselves? I think we’ve all heard of fish who hold their babies in their mouths. The humor of the cartoon is based on incongruity of one of these parent fish acting like a human. Was what the fish said a happy surprise to you, a gruesome surprise or somewhere in between? Don’t tell me it was no surprise at all; that would bruise my cartoonist’s ego and I’d have to look for a shark to eat YOU (just kidding. My sometimes morbid sense of humor is part of my personality.)

Was one of your first thoughts, “How can that fish tell those little guys what to do with his mouth full?”

Did you take the cartoon as an anti-imperialism cartoon, with the big fish poised to gobble up some poor, defenseless countries, and the shark another big country waiting in the wings for its chance? This person would be using the intuitive preference rather than the more literal sensate one in the MBTI system. Learn more about the MBTI personality types by clicking on the “Happy Introvert” cover at and reading about introverts there or all 16 types in the Happy Introvert book.

Or did you think of the big fish as personal kind of bully–someone in your office or family who protects you but demands obedience in return? Possibly you feel trapped and abused by more than one such bully in your life. Someone who is tuned in to feelings more than thinking might tend to react this way. Circumstances is also a consideration.

Beyond the broad content, what do the expressions on the faces of the shark and the big fish say to you?

And what about the pacing of the words? That’s a big part of the cartoon,  too. The sort of musical part. They start out rather comforting and relaxed: “Come in and I’ll protect you.” The middle part: “but….. you have to do what I say” is a command but we don’t know what the command is. And lastly, the PUNCH line is percussive and threatening – boom, boom, boom! “OR I’LL EAT YOU MYSELF!” You might  hear it as a mild warning or an announcement of definite doom, depending on whether you see the glass half full or half empty.

How you react to my cartoon says a lot about your personality. The more mindful of your feeling reactions to cartoons and to every experience you have, the more you’ll get to know your true self. That often means subtly examining how much you like something. For example, how do you feel differently about the three kinds of characters – the little fishes, the big round fish with the startled expression, and the shark with the goofy expression?

I’d like to hear if this was interesting to think about. If you come up with a neat caption for my cartoon, I’d like you to tell me that, too.

11-18-09 There are some interesting new comments on this article on Facebook. One person thinks the fish could be an Enneagram Achiever or Asserter, which I agree with, and sees the cartoon in a sociological way.