In my previous posting, I stated that change is an ongoing process. The acceptance that life is meant to be a voyage of discovering more authentic parts of ourselves, rather than a pursuit of a state of perfection we expect to achieve overnight, will make us much happier. As long as we remain present in life, we would be able to take on the signs that are shown to us to keep us moving forward in our growth. The quickest way to accelerate our growth is to observe how we respond from our ego and then make more empowered choices from a higher perspective.
Observing how we respond and how much hold our ego has on us which determines our response can point us to where work needs to be done. It’s one of those sticky paradoxes though: our ego prevents us from admitting to our weaknesses, yet to get to know that part of us requires us to pay attention to it.
The function of our ego is to protect us from being hurt. Unfortunately, it operates from a primal fear of how we can be hurt that what it perceives as threats to us is over-extended, outside of the appropriate context. Hence, we tend to react to what others do or don’t do, say or don’t say, from a place of fear that we’d be damaged in some way or deprived of something we hold as valuable to us. This fear is not real, in the sense that it is misplaced. When we protect ourselves from this level of fear, we act in ways that cause us more hurt. This is distinct from protecting our personal values and against true violations to what we stand for at our core.
Problems in relationships arise when two people react from their egos. Rather than act in ways that further the relationships and that allow them to grow as individuals, they trap themselves in a low level struggle of pettiness and one-upmanship. When we work on freeing ourselves from the hold of our ego, a lot of our tensions would dissipate.
How do we free ourselves from our ego?
Step 1: Notice your feelings
Begin by taking notice when your ego is pulling you to act in ways which perpetuate your struggles. Observe your internal reactions to a situation. You will feel a tightening – an uncomfortable feeling – as if your inner space is contracting to put up a defensive wall around you in response to feeling angry, resentful, jealous or short-changed. You will recognise this as a defensive feeling.
Mentally, your mind will construct thoughts that are tantrum-like, such as “Who does she think she is?” or “I’m going to show that bastard!” or “He’s going to be sorry!” It speaks in themes of hoarding, revenge and braggadocio. Our automatic response is to impress, lie, manipulate, rob or cause suffering to another – because we feel we’re about to lose out on something. Such response, should we act on it, can be subtle and insidious, with an agenda behind it.
Step 2: Delay taking action
Once you recognise that you’re driven to respond to a particular situation from your ego, refrain from acting on it. This momentary pause in acting on your automatic impulse will give you the space to consider options that don’t result in instant gratifications but in advancing you in your personal growth.
See, we grow by taking risks. Ego-free responses carry a bigger risk than ego-driven actions. The risk I am talking about is the risk of our getting hurt (actually, it’s our ego that is at risk of getting hurt). We take that risk, holding an intention that is higher than the mere protection of our egos – the intention to conserve some core part of us. We take that risk by fully accepting and being willing to put up with temporary discomfort, and in the process our ego heals from our having moved through the false pain it carries.
Step 3: Clear your inner space
When our ego has a strong hold on us, however, it can be quite difficult for us to choose a more loving option. Let’s look at freeing ourselves from our ego from an energetic view.
When you know you’re reacting from your ego, get a sense of where the tightness is located in your body. Next, get a sense of the energetic strands that hold this tightness to your body. You may be able to visualise or perceive in some other way these strands.
Now relax the hold of your ego by mentally dissolving these strands until you feel freed from the strong hold that pulls you to act towards preserving your ego. Once freed, your inner space will expand, allowing more options to appear. In this calmer space, you’ll be more able to choose and take more loving steps that make you grow.
Step 4: Give it away
As you relax your ego’s hold on you and your inner space expands, the energy that is freed from the tension produced by the fear of your ego goes back to you and you’re reconnected to your resources within. You gain a new perspective – rather than perceiving the situation as desperate which drives you to act desperately, you’re able to see other possibilities and consider new options.
At this point, you may choose any action that counters the direction your ego wants you to go. But you can go one step further by giving away some of the energy that’s been returned to you – a loving, altruistic action that may not have anything to do with the situation.
The way to counter ego-pulled actions is to go the opposite way and act as if you are abundant and thus cannot be diminished. The effect of acting big is it leaves you feeling big-hearted – you derive fulfilment from knowing that you’ve contributed to another and not from scoring petty points which leaves a trace of bitterness in your heart. Thus, you turn what had been uncomfortable into an empowering experience.
Often, we fail to grow because we don’t give ourselves that chance. The little actions that we take in response to other people’s actions, when we choose to act contrary to what our ego dictates, we break out of being stuck with a set of patterns that cause us and others pain. As you practise countering your ego’s pull and act in ways that further your growth, you’ll find that a lot of your tensions in life will disappear.