Leggo My Ego

I’ve spent the last month of my life in and out of a wrestling match with my ego, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned. “Ego says, ‘Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace.’ Spirit says, ‘Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.’” I begin with this quote from Marianne Williamson as a window into what I refer to when I say “ego.” The ego wants certainty – it wants to know; it’s also what makes you think, “What about ME? This part of human nature is not unique to me, to you, or to your crazy uncle. I have been experiencing the ego’s sneaky influence and how tempting it can be to speak, act, and think from this place. Even though I wouldn’t consciously choose to think about things that make me feel uneasy, the ego LOVES to do this. It eats this stuff up. Its fuel is fear. Its fuel is worry. My intention with this post is to call out all the ways the ego can get in our way and diminish well being, and quality of life. I also write to hopefully help you avoid wasting time and energy on taking things personally, being offended, and wasting time and energy worrying about things you can’t control. In the two specific examples below I share how I’ve faced the ego’s storms and have been able to move through them to find peace. I don’t claim to now be immune to the “ego pings” I describe. But with a relentless commitment to no longer live at the mercy of my ego, I have come up with a few solutions to share with you, should you ever find yourself feeling something similar. As a side note: I have also not mastered the solutions I offer. But I have been practicing them and can say that it feels SIGNIFICANTLY better to put them into practice than stewing in silence, or saying something that makes the ego feel GREAT but that I later regret. These “ego pings” are in the context of romantic relationship, which I realize are showing me that I still have things to heal about myself in relationship. To be clear, I am getting to know someone after having been single for about a year and a half.   Ego ping #1: She hasn’t responded to my WhatsApp message, and it’s been hours. I can see her online and she hasn’t listened to the audio I sent her. Another example: she hasn’t acknowledged what I shared in my audio or responded to the question I asked. The disempowering story I tell myself: I must not be important to her. I don’t matter. The ego at play: Because the ego wants confirmation that YOU are the most important, when it sees evidence that appears to suggest otherwise, it seeks to affirm that it’s right. In this example, I’ve witnessed myself thinking, “She doesn’t care about me… I’m not a priority in her life.” The leads me to then go looking for all the other evidence I can find to support this – other examples where she put something or someone else before me. For instance – she says she wants to hear my voice, but she hasn’t listened to my audio or called… she must not actually mean it. And on and on the ego will go, if I let it. These are all symptoms of the ego’s sneaky way of looking for proof of distance or disconnection in relationship. I’ve watched it actually say things… I’ve heard words come out of my mouth that literally create distance between me and someone I love. It’s absolutely fascinating to witness. Because my commitment is to be compassionate and understanding and to not live in a world where I take everything personally, here’s what I’ve found can short-circuit the ego’s evil plan to create disconnection. The solution I apply: The game of “Catch and Release.” This is all about awareness. It’s about witnessing what’s running the show in your own mind. This can seem difficult at first… tough to discern whether a feeling of disconnection or upset is actually there to tell you something – or whether it’s a pattern from a previous experience or relationship rearing its ugly head. Catch and Release works like this: when I experience the ego ping… when my heart starts racing… when I want to say something that I imagine may not be too nice to receive on the other end, I first say to myself: STOP. What’s happening here? Is there something that needs to be said? Or is this me feeling sorry for myself or being needy? Am I making this all about me? It’s about CATCHING the ego in the act. Catching it red-handed looking for evidence of disconnection – and then letting it go. Releasing these disempowering stories and thoughts so that I can focus my energy and attention where I actually want it to go. Ego-generated thoughts will hang around as long as you let them, and sometimes even when you let them go, they keep coming back like the fly that keeps buzzing your head. But it’s in this game of Catch and Release where you can gain faculty with RELEASING the thought that distracts and does not serve you or your relationship.   Ego Ping #2: She’s on her cell phone too much / I can’t believe she’s texting when we’re trying to have a conversation. Why is this important to me?  Because I believe the gift of presence is the greatest gift that one human being can give to another. When I give in to the temptation to let my ego respond in the above scenario, I stop the flow of our conversation, sometimes even mid-sentence. In a few cases, if we are walking together, I’ve started walking faster than her so she can see that I’m annoyed. It’s embarrassing to admit, as I don’t think of myself as a passive aggressive guy, but that’s exactly what this ego response is. If you’ve been in a relationship for a while, you’ve probably encountered these scenarios more times than you can count. You likely have a way you deal with this and have had already had a conversation about it with your partner. But as this is in the context of getting to know someone, I am given a choice of the precedent I want to set in this relationship. Do I need her to pay attention to me all the time? Or is there a middle ground that we can find such that we can respect each other in conversation, while also allowing for some flexibility when we’re together? The disempowering story I tell myself: If I were to ask her to stop texting or say, “Hey, I was in the middle of sharing something with you… is it essential what you’re doing right now?” She’s gonna think I’m demanding, controlling, or insensitive. Or maybe, great, is this what I have to deal with this guy? Why is he so needy? The ego at play: But if it bothers me, and I don’t say anything, resentment builds. And I’m miffed until she says, “What’s wrong?” Almost as if I want her to pick up on that I’m upset. This is asinine. Yet I still catch myself wanting to do this. This is 100% ego – fortunately when remembering “Catch and Release” I can be aware of it and choose to either let it go, or address it in conversation. The solution I apply: Ask the question, “Am I making this about me when it doesn’t need to be?” When I have this ego ping, it is my responsibility to…
  1. a) Not make it all about me (For example, maybe someone related to one of her upcoming meetings is asking her something that has implications on the meeting, and she needs to respond timely)
  2. b) Have some compassion since most of us are constantly connected to our phones nowadays, and
  3. c) Ask myself: in the big picture of things, am I making this more important than it needs to be? We’re all familiar with the phrase “pick your battles.”
I see this as my responsibility and my opportunity to put this ego-ping reaction in check and thereby alter my pattern response. Yet this isn’t the complete picture. If I don’t communicate with her what works for me in situations like this, and if we don’t have a baseline agreement of sorts for what happens when we spend time together, resentment grows. In other words – a break in the connection, a wedge between us that is the OPPOSITE of what both of us have expressed we are interested in. Solution #2: Establish expectations; create a mutual agreement for both of you in scenarios where there is a potential for misunderstandings or upsets. Yes – the ego is part of human nature. It’s not going anywhere. But with a commitment to live free of its shackles by catching and releasing it, you can then live in spirit – which is to say – your natural state. Free to choose your responses, words, and actions. Please reach out to me if this sparks any questions or comments about the ego or how to work through it.