Remember that catch I mentioned last time?
Well, I have come to trust the following: The formula for getting to my True Self can feel like a paradox. Until I let myself go through the process of blaming, I can’t seem to get on the other side of blaming. Until I let myself go through the process of judging, I can’t seem to get on the other side of judging. Until I allow my anger (or any so called “negative” emotion) to become a teacher for me, until I go through it, I can’t really seem to get on the other side of it. In fact, I’m going to take it one step further. I believe that blame, judgment and negative emotions actually come around to help me. In other words, they aren’t the problem. Instead, they are often pointing to thoughts that I am believing that are causing my stress.
Put another way, trying to avoid a problem or emotion or spiritualize it away, will not yield the access to my True Self that I’m looking for. Even the Big Book of A.A. says to inventory fears, angers and resentments…it doesn’t say, “Don’t feel them.” It says to inventory them…go through them. And not to worry…we are in good company as we go through our issues. Every great person in history who has ever served our world in some positive way has participated in self-examination to be able to transcend their difficulties. It is the way.
All of that is well and good but I happen to know from my own experience with GROWTH that to go through the process to get to my True Self, I will inevitably come in contact with my ego DUN, DUN DUNNNN!
There’s always been something a little bit painful about bumping up against my ego. And sometimes, that has been just enough to keep me from doing my work of going through, thus prolonging my suffering. Until, that is, I started to look at my ego in a different way. And although I still suffer at times, I don’t stay there nearly as long! And that’s good stuff!
Here’s how I choose to see it:
My ego’s motive is survival via attachment. That’s just how it is. Something had to have the job of latching onto thoughts and becoming attached to them, so the ego volunteered. What could its motive possibly be? Basic Survival 101, of course. The only reason the ego latches on to certain thoughts is because it perceives something in its world as a threat. According to the ego, attachment will protect it. My ego is not inherently defective. We all need an ego to help us survive in this world. It’s kind of that part that is ever vigilant and stubbornly on the lookout for things to attach to…some good and some not so good…all for protection from threat…that’s all.
The other point I like to make is about the brain, in general. The brain requires a lot of energy to function. Therefore, the brain is always looking for the MOST EFFICIENT way to go about things. So one of the reasons it will get stuck in thinking patterns is because the neuro-passageways for those thoughts are already formed…therefore, the brain can be more efficient by not having to exert energy to make new ones. However, I’ve decided that that is simply not a good enough reason for me to stay stuck in the world…just because my brain wants to avoid firing in a different new direction to conserve energy. Nope…not good enough for me. Life is too fabulous for me to go around uncomfortable because my brain values the known efficiency of a thought rut over new possibilities!
And while we’re on the subject of thought ruts, have you ever heard the expression: “I am not my thoughts.” Or “Just because I can think a thought does not make it true.” I love these expressions because the trouble comes in when we believe every thought that our ego/brain sends down the pike and then we begin to live based on those beliefs. The Big Book of A.A. alludes to this concept on pg. 66 when it says, “In that state, the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, had the power to actually kill.” I would change it slightly to read, “In that state, the wrong-doing of others *and/or OURSELVES*, fancied or real, had the power to actually kill.”
Fancied or real — that’s the part that gets me. A thought does not even have to be true for my ego to attach to it.
In other words, as a result of believing some of the thoughts that we get attached to, we can really cause harm. This is not just a concept for alcoholic/addicts to face. All humans are susceptible to this. NO GROUP IS IMMUNE TO THIS PHENOMENON. Remember the Direct TV commercials?
For example, way before the guy in the following commercial ever gets angry, I am willing to bet he is attached to certain thoughts … roll this tape please.
Now in the case of the practicing alcoholic/addict who believes all of his/her painful thoughts, they can abuse alcohol and drugs so badly that they destroy themselves or others. But in the case of the little religious grandmother who believes all of her painful thoughts, her blood pressure can increase so much (hypertension being a silent killer) that she can have a stroke. Or in the case of the extremely conscientious career firefighter who survived a wildfire that his fellow firefighter did not, his thoughts can cause so much stress that he suffers a heart attack. In the case of the disgruntled cable customer (above), his painful thoughts have caused him to end up in a roadside ditch! LOL!
((By the way, if a thought is NOT causing any pain or stress in our lives, there’s no need to inquire into it…after all, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Chances are we have no fight with reality related to a thought that brings peace.))
Back to the ego…we talk about the dangers of the ego in A.A. a lot. Alcoholism and drug addiction is a heavy, heavy subject. As with other diseases, people can and do die. I am not making light of that fact…in fact, I’m sharing my personal experience of attaching to my own painful thoughts in order to, hopefully, benefit lives. Believe me. I have looked at my ego in the, “I-have-to-be-so-serious-about-this-that-I’m-going-to-explode-mode.” And I have to be honest, I’m done with that approach. It’s just way too heavy for me. I’m in this thing for the long haul. Yes, living a life beyond the confines of my ego IS my truest goal. That being said, my very next goal is to make it as fun as possible. That’s all there is to it!
So in my quest to see my ego in an easier-to-approach way and to have fun with my process, my body has led me directly to a children’s story by Dr. Seuss. I adore the work of Dr. Seuss. And so, I have adopted some characters from him that help me work with my ego much more readily.
The characters are called “THE ZAX” … roll this tape please.
One of the things I love about the story of the Zax is that there are two of them and they look exactly like each other…like two sides of the same person. For me, this is a perfect visual. It’s as if one of the Zax represents my rigid, fixated ego and one of the Zax represents my happy, joyous and free True Self. What I love about this analogy is that, either way, it keeps the responsibility of the painful thought or belief solely with me.
In other words, the pain and stress created by our thoughts is NOT about the circumstances of our lives, it’s about what we make those circumstances
mean. The circumstances matter, please don’t get me wrong. They matter. However, if allowed to, they can become a decoy, if you will. I know this because in my life, even with a wonderful circumstance, I have been able to assign the most painful meaning. What I’m trying to say is this: Ultimately, the source of my pain (AND healing) is me, nothing else.
A personal example: Going into my freshman year of High School, I was voted “Most Likely To Succeed” by my fellow classmates. What a wonderful thrill! Although it came as a total surprise, I was very flattered and really tickled pink! However, soon into my freshman year of High School, I realized that High School was a lot tougher than Junior High had been. I actually remember feeling like I was sinking, like I was in way over my head, and that, somehow, I had not been properly prepared for the demands of High School. So HERE’S what I made the seemingly wonderful circumstance of being voted Most Likely To Succeed mean for me: “People expect me to be really smart. It’s NOT okay for me to ask for help, ever. People should be impressed with me at all times. People think I should have my act together. People would not approve of me if they really knew me. I’m struggling, so that means I’m stupid. I’m inadequate. Something is wrong with me because I’m not living up to those expectations.” AND ON AND ON AND ON! I remember feeling very, very alone. That’s the year I started drinking and using drugs.
What I know today is that I was the source of those thoughts…sure there may have been factors in my life that contributed to them (our family dynamics, my personality type, the school I went to, etc, etc)…and if I don’t compassionately take those things into consideration, it makes me feel crazy…HOWEVER, to the extent that I can accept responsibility for being the source of my own painful/stressful thoughts, is the extent with which I can disentangle myself from them…my work is to face off with myself just like those cute little Zax’s are facing off with each other.
So if you’d like to work with a coach who has learned to work with her own inner stuck and stubborn Zax (thank you Dr. Seuss), and who does NOT see the ego as something to be feared, and who insists on having FUN and living happy, joyous and free sooner than later, you’ve found her!
With love and gratitude,
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