I've been reading "Add More ~ ing To Your Life: A Hip Guide to Happiness" by Gabrielle Bernstein. Gabrielle writes that the ego is the nasty voice of fear. She goes on to quote A Course in Miracles which refers to ego as "quite literally a fearful thought." I got it, but needed to dig a little deeper. My background is in psychology and behavior modification strategies and thought both statements were accurate, but didn't quite tell the entire story. Ego is all about "the other." "The other" can be our body, family members, romantic partners, colleagues, friends, acquaintances, magazines, sorority sisters, society or any other thing outside us. We can be vulnerable to what these people, places and things tell us about ourselves and as such the ego can become a reflection of that. For example, if your significant other thinks you're great and treats you accordingly chances are you feel pretty great about yourself and soak up the positive attention. Conversely, if your peer group suddenly turns against you and begins to make disparaging remarks you start to wonder what's wrong with me. Let's take it a few steps further. It's a recession and ego tells you there are no jobs to be had so you won't be hired and will lose your home. You break a freshly manicured nail and ego pokes at you and says you don't deserve to be pretty. Maybe you've applied to the executive MBA program, but aren't accepted. Ego says you're not smart enough. You're not receiving any attention and ego is feeling neglected and encourages you to go get some attention without regard for it being positive or negative. Uh, oh you got married, have the spouse, the kids, the car, the gated community and the image, but wake up and find it's not what you really wanted. Ego laughs and says, but it's what I wanted. You're hired, but only if you move across country. Ego laughs because you let fear keep you from your dream job. You think you're really smart and have all the answers, but ego leaves you with egg on your face. Or your last two relationships have failed. Ego whispers in your ear you're not good enough, you'll be single and alone....FOREVER. Essentially, ego finds its strength in past hurts, disappointments and our continued reliance on "the other." The good news is that the ego is fake.
The ego is not real. It's not our true and authentic self. So, how do we find the real center? How do we change our thinking? Well, it's hard work. I didn't realize that I was moving away from ego until that ugly voice in my head didn't show up one day. In the past things such as lost keys, broken nails, a flat tire, lunch forgotten at home, horrendous traffic, a bad hair day, not getting the guy, poochy stomach, multivariate statistics, lack of attention from friends, a heart felt message that goes unacknowledged or burnt toast could send me over the edge. It happened because I was invested in an identity that was rooted in "the other." Eventually, I discovered that in order for me to REALLY be happy, I had to leave all that in the past. I had to move outside my comfort zone, leave some people behind and stop making the experiences of others my own. It took some conscious effort and some time. First, I had to address the grief and anger I had surrounding multiple deaths and being left behind by one of my most important others, my best friend. This meant pastoral counseling. Yup, I had to go talk it out. Second, I had to let go of the folks who were contributing to those nasty little voices in my head. One an old love and the other was someone that I've known since elementary school - another best friend. I haven't had a real conversation with this person in nearly two years. Last, I had to cast out my mother's voice (sorry Mommy if you're reading this). On more than one occasion she's said don't get married and don't have any kids. I adopted that thinking as my own for some time. Who knows who I might have missed on the path by making her experiences my own?