There is much talk in many circles of abandoning the ego. How the ego is the root of all our suffering and the ego causes us to make so many of the bad choices that we make and the ego is the impetus behind our anger/judgment/fear/loathing. This is probably true. I mean if Buddha, Patanjali, Jesus, the Dalai Lama, Shiva, and anyone else whose ever been nominated for the Second Coming of Something all agree on this point, it is worth contemplating at the very least.
My ego has certainly been behind some of my greatest suffering, compounded only by the fact that you also kick you own ass after the fact, because whatever went wrong was inevitably avoidable and you are pissed that you allowed it to happen. It is a dirty, vicious cycle.
Think of the things your ego has encouraged you to do:
- White lies?
- Levy unfair (or fair – ) insults?
- End up in some unintended, barely manageable circumstance?
Perhaps some combination of all of the above.
I’ve been thinking about the ego in a more specific way recently. There is much ego involved in teaching. In fact, I would say most teachers I know are overly ego rich in the first place. I mean, paid know-it-alls, right? Of course, anyone reading this who is a Thinker knows that their best teachers were those who were fully aware of the limits of their knowledge and the reality that much of the world will always lay beyond our ken (major ego defeater.) And in teaching my issue was less to do with knowing it all, than it was being completely consumed by appearing in such a light and being, well, perfect.
Yeah, I know it is bullshit, but the thing is, one can actually convince themselves that perfection is possible and consequently spend huge percentages of their time striving for this impossibility.
That has been the modus operandi of my ego – believing that it could be Perfect. What horseshit. Even more ridiculous is the categorical belief that other people really give a shit about said perfection, like that people are really paying that much attention to you. It is ludicrous. I mean, you are not paying attention to them, right? And why not? Because you are so caught up in your own pursuit of your perception of their perfection, you cannot be bothered to look around at what they are doing and the same goes for them.
It just is not all about you
When I, due to circumstances beyond my limited control, realized this was true a strange thing happened to me: I was set free.
My professional life, and consequently my personal life (because with a job like mine the professional buoyancy contributes much to my personal sanity) took on a relaxed tone that in turn have allowed for huge leaps of faith and some really far-out successes because they Fear of Failure and Imperfection have been mitigated. Not eradicated, I believe there is some benefit to being a little wrapped up in the need for success, but the Fear part seems to have left the building. Perhaps this is confidence. I am not sure, but it has sure made teaching a lot more fun. And yoga. And going out. And, well, everything.
I’ve been struggling to articulate this shift. I have attempted to talk about it before. And in thinking about it, I coincidently (yes, #5 there may be such a thing as coincidence, or maybe not…) was handed an article on Irrational Thinking and Debilitative Emotions (excerpted from Adler, Ronald and Neil Towne, Looking Out Looking In, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, NY, 1996.) The number one fallacy? The Fallacy of Perfection. Welcome to the Land of the Tyrannical Ego. What is this fallacy? It is the belief that you should be able to handle every situation with confidence and skill. And consequently, as you accept that this is possible, you realize that others will not like (or respect you) if you are not perfect. Then there is the Fallacy of Approval. This is the belief that you must have the approval of everyone, and you compromise and sacrifice your own principles and happiness to seek the approval of these nebulous others. I have found that very few people will admit to falling for this fallacy, (where people are much more likely to admit, even brag about, subscribing to the Fallacy of Perfection.) Most people I know say they do not give a shit about what other people think. However, even a cursory glance of their behavior completely belies this declaration. [Overly apologetic for shit that has nothing to do with you in anyway – worrying about whether people you do not even know or like that well, like you. Admit it, you know what I am talking about.]
Some of the other Fallacies that I raised an eyebrow towards included:
- The Fallacy of Should (the inability to distinguish between what is and what should be.)
- The Fallacy of Overgeneralization (belief based on limited information : “I am so stupid, I cannot…” Or “Every…” Or “Never…” statements)
- The Fallacy of Causation (the irrational belief that emotions are caused by others rather than the self. You are responsible for your emotions and have no control over those of others. Hello, epiphany – it is still not all about you!)
- The Fallacy of Catastrophic Expectations (if something bad can happen, it probably will.)
These are not necessarily issues I deal with currently, but I certainly remember them fucking up my flow at different points along my (now rather significant) personal timeline. Allowing yourself the freedom to fuck up and simply Be not only cuts you a break, but it makes the people around you a lot more relaxed too. And then, really, the possibilities not only become evidently endless, but a whole lot more fun. I think it is one of the myriad things that have made this year the year that it has been for me; at some point I let go. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal, or maybe it does not sound like a positive. But I assure you, for this mildly OCD, hyper-perfectionist, only child, it was both.
So, in facing off with that despotic ego I have this to say: Life has been a lot more fun with out you, you giant pain in the ass. I’m giving you a number. And as with #1-5 you can shuffle right off to Buffalo.
See you around, #6.