Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Ego and Mindfulness

If you haven't read my previous post, you should do so before reading this.

What really is the ego? What do we mean every time we say someone has a big ego? Is the ego bad? Why is this even important?

As simply as possible, the ego is how we perceive ourselves, more so at the unconscious level. As mentioned in my previous posts, it's who we believe we are; all our traits, characteristics from inside out. In many ways, it's a reflection of who we actually want to be but already deep down think we are.

Hurt. Ever felt that before? 99.9% of the time hurt comes from a challenged ego. When you were a kid, did you feel hurt when you parents didn't buy you a particular toy? You cried, didn't you? It hurt. You never asked why, you just accepted it and let that hurt be masked with a secondary emotion: anger.

Now, think about it. Why were you hurt? Because you didn't get the toy? No, you never had the toy your whole life you never felt hurt until this point. So why? Because you feel your parents don't love you? Close, but not quite there yet.

You were hurt because your ego was challenged. You thought that because they didn't buy you that toy, they didn't love you which you believed meant that you were not worthy of being loved. Your ego was bruised because you thought you were not worthy(which you are actually). It can sound stupid now and it's not age that makes you see it as stupid, it's simply because you are not in the situation. You face similar situations but in different areas of your life now that you're older.

So when person A says person B has hurt him, what really has happened is person B has done something without the intention to hurt but in the process has challenged person A's ego and person A reacts by being hurt. Person B didn't actually hurt person A, person A is hurt because of his own ego.

Here are 2 facts about your ego:
1) It distorts reality
2) This is the good news: It isn't real. It's an idea, a concept.

Now we get to the interesting concepts that you will need to read very carefully in order to catch it.

Your ego distorts reality. It is like a filter between what is really out there and how you perceive it. Take for example you decide to meet someone at 5pm. The person is 45 minutes late and now you're thinking, "I mustn't be important to this person that's why he/she isn't making an effort to be on time."

Reality: The person fell down on the way and had to get the wound dressed and is now limping to where ever you are.
Your "reality": I'm not important enough for someone to show on time to meet me.

Now maybe someone being late isn't your thing, isn't your trigger point. Maybe you're always late so you never get to encounter this and this may sound stupid to you. But it certainly happens to a lot of people. And it may not be this specific scenario, but it most probably happens to you too in its own form; whatever really "gets to you". Just do some reflection about anytime you had "negative" emotions. Think hard enough and you'll see it.

Now, this may sound really stupid to you, even if it does happen to you. The reason it still happens is because the thought process is so fast and unconscious that we almost skip it and move straight to what comes next: the emotions - Hurt, anger, anxiety, whatever. If you were aware of your thoughts, your ego, the distortion, it would sound so stupid to you, you wouldn't feel that gush of negative emotions. If you were aware, we call that being mindful. That is a big, big part of my self-development/inner work - mindfulness. Take this as the very tip of the iceberg of what mindfulness is and what it can do for you, I'll dedicate another post to mindfulness.

When someone is egoistic he is usually self-centered and narcissistic. Well, that's what everyone's ego is, regardless "big" or "small". The filter distorts reality to write stories and scripts as they happen FOR or TO YOU. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Things don't happen to you or for you. They just happen. It is the ego that is so self-centered and narcissistic that sees the world as revolving around the ego itself, ie YOU. Now, nothing wrong here, no need to feel bad or beat yourself up if that's you. Recognize it, recognize it's not your fault(not everything is about you remember?) and work on it.

Needless to say a big ego and a low self-esteem is a formula for not disaster but really, Armageddon. Not only will you perceive everything as it is for or to you, but you will perceive negatively to feed your low self-esteem believes about yourself.

So really there are 3 ways to work around all of these. Work on the ego part, work on the esteem part and become more mindful.

Now here's something for you to realise, if you haven't already, about the ego. It's not real. Who you think you are, everything you think about yourself, the person you think of when you say "I", its all garbage. It's an idea, a concept. Realising this is actually considered a form of realization in the self-development and spiritual world.

Again we will use mindfulness to see. Remember how reality was so different from "your reality" in a previous example? Well, reality of who you really are is again different from who you perceive yourself to be. Your ego are the stories you tell yourself. The expectation you lay onto yourself. It is not who you are. You just are... just as how the world just is... you are a part of this entire mechanism we call the universe. The world does not revolve around you, nothing happens to or for you.

Your laptop of smartphone that you're viewing this from... it just is. You are the one that gave value to it and label it as a laptop of smartphone and decided if it's "useful" or "useless". The way you see things, you are constantly looking at it from a perception of self, but the self does not exist. You never see anything for what it is, you see everything for what it means to you as though its purpose of existence was meant to serve you.

Through practice and mindfulness, one can detach oneself from the ego and perceive reality without distortion. Some distortion may be(or only seem to be) harmless, but many of them, proven in the example earlier, can be destructive. For a start, just look at whatever is around you for what it really is and not what it is for you. Stop giving things labels.

Also, try perceiving yourself from a bird's eye view. One that goes higher and higher up all the way until you see the shape of Earth and the other planets and beyond. This exercise should help you realise how you are in continuous motion with the universe, not a separate entity your ego has you believing. Nothing happens to or for you. Everything happens with you.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The solution to all your problems - Inner work & ego

Problems problems problems.. Do you feel like there's always something wrong? Today you feel lousy about being fat, tomorrow you feel sad/angry about your past and the next day all is good except you just lack a sense of fulfillment? Or are your problems more "physical"? Tough times? We all got them.

I've recently embarked on a journey of self-development and I've discovered some really eye opening concepts that makes me realise where most of my problems(or any problem anywhere) stem from. What's crazy is after learning these concepts, I see its real life application everywhere and although I'm reluctant to share this(because its a personal journey), I feel it could benefit a lot of people out there. Also, just a good way to digest my own thoughts by writing(or typing) it down - Something that's part of self-development anyway.

This is a huge topic so I'll be splitting it into many posts(hopefully I don't stop after one or two posts, we'll see). The first big revelation I had about self-development is what it actually is; If you asked me a year ago what self-development is, I would say it's building up character, learning to be a more hard working and driven individual etc.

What I came to realize is quite different; those are very shallow ideas of what self-development is, which in my opinion makes it entirely wrong definitions. Those are the side effects of self-development but not what self-development is in itself.

A better word for self-development would be inner work. As the name suggests, its really about working on yourself from the ground up. Physical attributes, character, behaviors.. these are all the outer layers. They are the indicators and the symptoms for what really lies deep beneath. When you really get to the core of yourself, your esteem, your ego, your psychological wiring, your past, those stuff... those are the inner stuff.

Those are the stuff that are responsible for making you happy but more often than not, because we fail to take care of them, responsible for your problems/suffering.

Through inner work we realise that a lot of our problems are actually our own doing. You start to make sense of what it means to "take responsibility for everything that happens to you". That phrase goes deeper than merely accepting all blames and faults because its somehow going to make you better. No, it's realizing why it really is your responsibility and your sufferings are really your own doing.

Identifying that there is a problem is the first step to fixing it. Most people go round and round in vicious cycles in life never truly ending their problems or suffering, thinking that's life. They don't realise there is a problem to fix and instead treat every downward spiral in life as a tragedy blaming it on others, life and sometimes themselves but in the wrong way and never with the intention to look deeper. Now there's nothing wrong here. If that's you, don't beat yourself up for it or you would be doing exactly what you're beating yourself up for.

Here's an example of inner work: One of the biggest areas that need work for people is the ego. The common understanding of the ego is quite warped. When people hear the word ego they immediately picture this person in their head that is attention seeking and has a lot of "pride". What ego really is, is the "you". Is who you believe you are. All your ideas about who you are from the bottom to the top, from character to looks. It is the "I" you think you are. It is your perception of yourself; who you believe yourself to be.

A lot of people are more egoistic and narcissistic than they themselves realise. I don't mean it in the conventional way where you walk around with such a big ego etc but really in a more subtle way. You see, the conventional idea of ego and humble are really just very shallow ideas. Not everyone deals with a bruised ego the same way. A "humble" person might have a huge ego as well, he just doesn't show it but instead deals with it by keeping it inside. It doesn't make his ego any smaller, it just hides it from plain sight, including his own.

Take for example being rejected by someone. You notice how some people are able to treat it like is: she just simply isn't interested. Everyone has their own preference and not everyone has to be interested in you. Move on with barely a thought.
While you notice some people treat it like a drama show. They are angry, they are hurt, they are sad. And they just can't seem to accept the fact they have been rejected. They get depressed. It appears as though they are so desperate or what not. And all he can think about is the girl.

What really is happening is the second person simply has a big ego and written in that ego is that everyone likes him. He think he is very likable. So by being rejected, he sense of self, his identity, his ego and his very being is being threatened here. And because the ego can be something we unconsciously hold very close to ourselves, its as though his very existence is being threatened. Now he's not who he thought he was, he starts feeling threatened or even anxious and it creates this 'fight or flight response'. Which is where a lot of anxiety and depression problems arise. So when he think his problem is with the girl and that he really likes her or that the he needs her and it seems as though everything is about her... the truth is its all about himself. It's really a "me" problem he is dealing with.

Inner work is identifying problems like these and rectifying it. Easier said than done but definitely doable and worth it. In this case, working on the ego is a start for inner work. The ego is actually such a big and interesting concept that really deserves a post on its own which will be my next post should I choose to continue.

Note: I'm not a master on inner work and I'm going through my own journey. It can take a lot of courage to admit to yourself that you have certain areas that need work or to admit to yourself you've an ego problem etc, but it is well worth it.