"Events in the world only effect us through our interpretations of them, so if we can control our interpretations, we can control our world" Jonathan Haidt
The EGO is a fickle beast. It can feel like a bi-polar character that lives within the confines of your brain; at times an un-welcomed fear and exhausting visitor, while other times it toots my own horn and makes me feel quite pleased with myself.
It whispers in the morning, "today is going to be great" and then quickly flips the script and says "I am not enough." It then sees a squirrel and yells out "How fun, look at that!" My ego sizes people up and casts judgement, and then humbles me quickly by saying "that girl is prettier than me. That teacher is better than me. That person looks way more powerful than me." My ego pushes me to stand up for myself when I feel belittled or un-cared for, and then it pumps the brakes quickly in fear of being rejected or isolated. This roller coaster ride used to be the catalyst for mental breakdowns and complete lack of trust in myself. It was enough to consume my time and energy all day long until I felt as though I had nothing left.
With a deeper understanding, appreciation, compassion and patience, we can all practice our way into a more balanced and healthy relationship with this impulsive and seductive part of ourselves.
Brass Tacks: WHAT IS THE EGO?
I like to use the metaphor of an Elephant and a Rider to understand the complex relationship in my mind. The Elephant is your subconscious system, and it is wild. True to it's character, it is strong, territorial, and drawn towards instant gratification. A perverse safety mechanism signals an alarm as soon as it senses discomfort or the allure of "feel-good-now" when it becomes clear that it is being pushed to avoid the reward now for something else to come later on.
The Rider, in this metaphor, is your higher-level thinking capabilities. It is the part of your brain that allows you to problem-solve, to sit in discomfort and work through it as a means to an end, and it brings you into a goal-setting mindset to work hard for a reward down the road.
This Rider sits atop the Elephant, and ideally (for the best results in mood and well-being), we want these two to work together in harmony as a team. A skilled Rider knows how to coax the Elephant to do what it wants. It can calm the Elephant down when it gets rattled. It can redirect the Elephant when it goes on a rampage or gets lost. And it can point and guide the Elephant towards a higher purpose, slowly and patiently training the Elephant to be the wisest and best version it can be.
Your EGO, comes from your Elephant. While your self-talk resides in the realm of the Rider, it is deeply connected and affected by the feelings, habits and reactions of the Elephant. Without awareness, and a healthy and balanced relationship between these two major players of the Self, we tend to feel like victims and lack a sense of control in how we show up and how we grow. Knowledge is power! And with knowledge comes responsibility.
Your Elephant has a few basic characteristics and needs. It needs to feel safe, a sense of belonging, and a sense of purpose. It equates survival with high-status positions. Which means, it wants to feel-good-now and will resist delayed-gratification because initially it seems like a threat. It wants prestige and to be important, and gifts our body with happy chemicals when we experience such things.
When we are too attached or focused on the conversation and feelings that our EGO presents, we fall into a wild roller-coaster ride, in search of our next "fix" and highly attuned to our level of status in comparison to others.
In The Heart of Coaching, Thomas Crane dictates this list to describe the character and habits of an EGO-driven person versus someone who has retrained their relationship to serve their higher good.
The EGO trap moves us in the direction of being...
- Self conscious versus self-aware
- Separate versus connected
- Arrogant versus humble
- Controlling versus nurturing
- Cautious versus creative
The EGO trap trains us to...
- Want attention rather than pay attention
- Take things personally rather than remaining detached and free
- Seek approval from others rather than be in self-inquiry and self-love to seek our own truth
- Follow external authority rather than listen to our innate wisdom behind the mind-chatter
- Strive for perfection rather than find pleasure in being in-process
HOW TO RETRAIN THE RELATIONSHIP:
The ideal is to feel balanced and centered in our mind and body. A state in which the ego is no longer at the helm. To be “centered" is to be aware of, and let go of, the ego’s preoccupation with seeing itself as the center of the universe. You are unique, powerful, and special. And so is every other person who has come and gone. Celebrate and love those around you, and remember that others' success is not your failure, and vice versa.
Your EGO keeps you contained in a small box with thick edges. Learn to break free. Expand with each breath and each day that passes. The life of your dreams is waiting to be birthed and you have everything you need already inside of you. It is waiting behind the mind-chatter.
“As the seasons change, so must we. Our old habits don’t have to run our lives; our past doesn’t have to become our future; the momentum of change ultimately leads us toward greater awareness, wisdom and peace” - Dan Millman, The Laws of Spirit
Love to you all, xoxox