It seems like a large number of guys in the community are discovering the work of Eckhart Tolle (who wrote The Power of Now and Awakening to Your Life's Purpose). What many people don't know is that Tolle's writings are in essence a more easily digestible version of A Course in Miracles (ACIM).
Anyway, today I was thinking about all the different forms the ego takes in our lives. There are only two emotions in the world: love and fear. The ego is every form of fear.
So here are the eleven egoic patterns that I see, and practical ways I've found for disentangling myself when I get caught up in egoic energy.
Btw, it's easy to know when I've let myself get caught up in it -- by how I FEEL. Our feelings are incredible guides. ACIM says:
"Attack in any form has placed your foot upon the twisted stairway that leads from Heaven. Yet any instant it is possible to have all this undone. How can you know whether you chose the stairs to Heaven or the way to hell? Quite easily. How do you feel? Is peace in your awareness? Are you certain which way you go?"
Certain feelings are always associated with the ego: anger, jealousy, depression, resentment, hate ... and so on. These feelings are valuable though as signals. Marshall Rosenberg compares them to lights on our dashboards that indicate to us when we are not going in a direction that is likely to get our needs met. These dark feelings become way less scary once you've learned to clear them with techniques like empathy and EFT.
Eleven Egoic Patterns and How to Disentangle Yourself
These eleven things are ALWAYS the ego. No matter how pretty the packaging.
1. Judgment and criticism
Jesus said it a long time ago: "Judge not lest you be judged." There is no form of judgment that can be defended. It always boomerangs right back on you. People who believe in judgment are living in their own personal worlds of pain.
One way to deal with it: call it out. A friend was judging my choices the other night, and I just called it out. I didn't get upset because judgment no longer seems real to me. At the same time, I have no interest in having judgment-based conversations.
The power of detached observation is phenomenal. I said "I'm hearing a lot of judgment in what you are saying, and I'm wondering if you realize all the ways that my choices are bringing happiness to me and others." Later when we had both calmed down, I said that it felt to me like he was judging first and asking questions later and that "I prefer understanding to judgment any day." By calling it out, we both were able to look at it clearly and let it go.
2. Right/wrong thinking and needing to "be right"
If someone is right, someone else is wrong, and you've automatically got conflict. Do you really want to go there? Rumi said it beautifully: "Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." It FEELS so much better to stay fluid and open.
Two ways that I use to get out of right/wrong thinking are empathy (dropping into my heart to feel what might be alive in the other person leading them to say what they are saying) and reminding myself of phrases like "different strokes for different folks." Sometimes I end up shifting altogether and realizing that I'm actually more in harmony with the other person's viewpoint. Often when they feel my acceptance of their view, they will shift toward my viewpoint.
The word "should" implies judgment. But its perniciousness is actually deeper than that. What should really means is "part of me thinks I 'should' do this but another part of me doesn't want to." So there is conflict. It can be inner or outer conflict or both.
EFT is really powerful for dealing with shoulds and inner conflicts generally. If you tap on the parts that want to do different things, they tend to harmonize spontaneously into unified intent. This is a great way to eliminate procrastination (which is usually a result of "shoulding" on oneself ... I should be doing this but I don't want to so I'll procrastinate instead).
It's really just a form of judgment. Not worth it. Ever. And it does not matter if the person gossiped about ever learns about it. As soon as people start gossiping, their energetic vibration drops through the floor.
How to deal with it: If you've eliminated judgment and criticism (see #1), then you won't do it. You lose the urge cuz it just doesn't feel good anymore.
When other people gossip around us, there may be a temptation to join them in order to have a sense of inclusion. I highly recommend doing just the opposite: what I'll do is say out loud that I don't feel comfortable talking negatively about people who are not around and that it feels better to me to focus on people's positive attributes.
As for negative behavior, if we do feel the temptation to gossip, chances are it's time to have a non-violent communication conversation with the person our resentment is targeted at.
When you focus on positive aspects of everyone in your life, decline to gossip, and address negative behaviors directly, you become a person that others can trust.
5. Labels and enemy images
I already wrote about this one, and you can read all about it by clicking HERE.
I sometimes still struggle with this one, but avoidance is really a form of fear. Therefore it is of the ego and needs to be eliminated. Doesn't matter if we are avoiding a person, an awkward situation, a place, or a memory.
How to deal with it: Every day we expand our comfort zone a bit more. EFT can be used to minimize the discomfort. Move toward our discomfort and then get present with the feelings that arise. Or as that one book says, "Feel the fear and do it anyway."
Another fun way to deal with it: Do something completely unexpected. The ego thrives on routine. When we do something outrageous, anything outrageous, we interrupt the cycle and the ego doesn't know what to do. Think of the protaganist of the movie Office Space, how he wakes up one day and responds in a completely different way to his boss and girlfriend. He gains his power back because he has broken the egoic cycle. I like to call the surprise element "Ego Interruptus." The more outrageous or unexpected the better.
7. Co-Dependency and Blame
What does co-dependency mean? The simplest definition I can come up with is when a person puts responsibility for her feelings and actions on another person. It's a very quick way to give away all her power and destroy her relationships (not to mention her peace of mind). An easy way to catch oneself is to notice statements such as "You did this to me" or "You made me feel awful." No one EVER has the power to make us feel anything.
How to deal with it: No matter how icky I may feel, I remind myself it's never the other person. Sometimes it's easier to think of any negative feelings as egoic energy that isn't really specific to the person I'm interacting with -- somehow that feels less personal. Non-violent communication gives us a language that erases co-dependency. EFT supports that NVC language by helping to dissolve the egoic energy that is creating the negative emotions.
8. Focusing on short-term outcomes
It can be very distressing when we make a request and another person says "no." Along with avoidance, this has been another one of my sticking points. Recently though I've found a couple of ways to detach from outcome more and more of the time.
One is just pure faith. I'm pretty convinced at this point that we are living in a virtual reality (i.e., the Matrix) that has a happy ending for everyone. If that's true, then whatever happens was meant to happen and couldn't happen any other way. This brings me a lot of peace. It makes short-term outcomes seem inconsequential.
What flows from this is a little thing that I do now on a regular basis. If someone says "no" to my request, I immediately say to myself or out loud (with full authenticity), "you know, in the big scheme of things whether we do x, y, or z really doesn't matter all that much." Immediately I see the truth in this and feel much more relaxed. Then I am free again to engage in authentic connection. Usually I find myself feeling genuinely curious about what is going on for the other person that led them to say "no." So we connect. And because I got my pride and stubbornness out of the way at the outset, I'm not feeling attached and anxious.
ACIM has a great quotation about this:
"Anything in this world that you believe is good and valuable and worth striving for can hurt you, and will do so. Not because it has the power to hurt, but just because you have denied it is but an illusion, and made it real. And it is real to you. It is not nothing. And through its perceived reality has entered all the world of sick illusions. All belief in sin, in power of attack, in hurt and harm, in sacrifice and death, has come to you. For no one can make one illusion real, and still escape the rest. For who can choose to keep the ones that he prefers, and find the safety that the truth alone can give? Who can believe illusions are the same, and still maintain that even one is best?"
Nowadays I try never to focus on the thing (the goal, the specific outcome), and only to focus on the quality of my connection with the other person.
9. Competition and comparison
Any form of win/lose thinking is of the ego. It's hard for me to even talk about this one anymore because competition has become so uninteresting.
How to deal with it: Lately I find that if someone "takes" anything from me or seems to "one up" me in any way (which is always an illusion, btw), I feel so much amazingly better if I just move immediately into the space of "please take it, I'd like you to have it." Then I'm relaxed. And there is nothing in me for them to fight against, so they relax too. What fun is there in winning when your "opponent" immediately puts up the white flag?
"Perhaps you think the battleground can offer something you can win. Can it be anything that offers you a perfect calmness, and a sense of love so deep and quiet that no touch of doubt can ever mar your certainty? And that will last forever?
"Those with the strength of God in their awareness could never think of battle. What could they gain but loss of their perfection? For everything fought for on the battleground is of the body; something it seems to offer or to own. No one who knows that he has everything could seek for limitation, nor could he value the body's offerings. The senselessness of conquest is quite apparent from the quiet sphere above the battleground. What can conflict with everything? And what is there that offers less, yet could be wanted more? Who with the Love of God upholding him could find the choice of miracles or murder hard to make?"
10. Planning and/or living anywhere outside the present moment
I've written about these topics in the ACIM context here and here. As ACIM says,
"A healed mind does not plan. It carries out the plans that it receives through listening to wisdom that is not its own. It waits until it has been taught what should be done, and then proceeds to do it. ... It is secure in certainty that obstacles can not impede its progress to accomplishment of any goal that serves the greater plan established for the good of everyone.
"A healed mind is relieved of the belief that it must plan, although it cannot know the outcome which is best, the means by which it is achieved, nor how to recognize the problem that the plan is made to solve."
What to do about the temptation to plan: The best I've come up with so far is to stop caring about particular outcomes and just focus on listening to what my intuition tells me to do from moment to moment. Of course I still make some plans, but when they get cancelled, I just let them go completely. In fact, often when they get cancelled, I get curious because more and more it means the Universe has something planned for me that is WAY more fun than what I was planning. Someone will call me out of the blue or an event will appear and it's obviously something I'm meant to attend.
Letting go of planning is fun cuz it brings the elements of surprise and spontaneity back into my life.
The ego likes to make up lots of elaborate stories to keep its true nature hidden.
"The reason this course is simple is that truth is simple. Complexity is of the ego, and is nothing more than the ego's attempt to obscure the obvious. You could live forever in the holy instant, beginning now and reaching to eternity." - ACIM
This again is the Course's version of The Power of Now. The ego is complex. Love is simple. Connection is simple. Being is simple.
It sure feels good to be simple :-)