I have just finished working in Koh Samui and during my stay there, caught up with a friend I had met in Greece a couple of years ago.
She is an interesting lady, a psychologist and Buddhist meditation instructor amongst many other things and has spent most of the last 10 years living in Bhutan. I have never met anyone quite like her and during our time together, I learnt a lot, particularly about my ego.
Yes, the good old ego. Probably about the most destructive force on the planet and yet most of the time we are completely unaware that it is there. I thought I was fairly egoless until this lady reminded me of its presence and how very much alive it is!
The ego is who we think we are. It is made up from our beliefs about the world which we have gathered by our own personal experiences and is influenced by our language, culture, family, friends, country, religion and beliefs. It is almost like a set of rules by which we unconsciously live by and will die in order to protect it. When someone challenges our ego, the first feeling we tend to experience is anger because we defend our ego in exactly the same way we would fight to protect our body, family, friends or country.
During our conversations, she would often challenge me on things that I said or believed and although I didn’t show it, I would often feel my anger rising within. I could easily have defended what I had said but instead, chose to keep my mouth closed and listen to her thoughts and comments. I am not saying that I passively agreed with everything she said, God no! But put my ego aside, listened to what she was saying and then questioned whether or not I believed it was true.
One thing she commented on was how many generalizations I used when talking about topics as though the things were accepted by everyone in the world as true, when in fact, they were merely facts that I believed were true. I am a hypnotherapist, a life coach and a meditation instructor, I know these things and I often point them out to my clients and then completely forget that I am doing the same thing!!
Isn’t it so much easier to notice other people’s faults rather than our own?
The reason it is important to question our beliefs is that if we are not happy, then there is something at fault in the way we percive the external world.
The world is the world. If we are not accepting the way it is, it means that we have a misconception about it. It is not the world that is at fault, it is our ego’s perception of it.
But in order for us to change our perception about it, it means that we have to accept that we have been wrong for so many years.
This is a painful process when it is pointed out to us, because this ego, this way of thinking is almost a part of our very personality.
I mean, let’s be honest now. Who likes to be criticized or told that they are wrong?
Nobody! It almost feels like a personal attack. Part of our brain can often feels like we are being belittled or that the person criticizing us feels they are better than us. As a result, anger kicks in.
Anger is the emotion that we experience when we need to defend ourselves. It produces a host of fight or flight responses in the body and we start to think with the irrational, animalistic part of our brain that is called the limbic system. This is activated when we feel threatened and as a result we act without thinking. It is a very important we use this part of the brain when we are feeling physically threatened, but we must become aware of its presence and only use it when we need to.
When the ego defends itself, a big problem that we experience is that we do not listen to what the other person is telling us. The result is WE DO NOT LEARN ANYTHING NEW.
If we wish to develop ourselves, we must learn to listen and become impartial to what other people say. This is the only way you will begin to notice the faults in your personality or ways of thinking and start to change.
We must learn to listen openly to what people say and trust our own judgement on matters. Thinks, question and analyze what people are saying to us and rather than becoming angry or upset by their comments, listen and ask yourself if what they are saying is really true.
If it is, great, accept it and use the new information in your life to make permanent and positive change.
If you listen to the facts, scrutinize them and find them not to be true then reject them. But do not reject ideas before you have carefully and impartially listened to them first. Otherwise you will never change.
The Ego is a powerful force. Although it is suppose to be there to protect us, it also responsible for all the pain and anger we experience in life. Knowledge is power. Learn to understand your ego and the beliefs that are holding you back in life. Listen to what others are saying and question your beliefs. It is painful but it is the only way you will successfully develop yourself and change for the better.