[Monday Message] The Paradox of the Negative Ego

Here’s a paradox for you:

It seems to be immensely difficult for most of us to not take things, or even life itself, personally. It’s challenging to wrap our minds around the idea that it’s not about us. If each person is the center of their Universe, and they are, the everything a person does is in some way about themselves. Not anyone else.

And yet, the belief persists. Part of this is a control issue, generated of course by the Negative Ego. If something is about me, I have some control over it. If my partner’s bad mood is my fault, I can fix it. If my chronic illness is because of choices I have made, I feel much more control over the situation. The fact is, though, that the only things I have control over are my actions and reactions, and even thinking that I should have control over anything else makes my life unmanageable.

This is not to say that the negative ego likes to take responsibility for things that it should. On the contrary, the negative ego likes to scattershot blame away from itself as much as possible. If others are to blame for the situation I find myself in, then I don’t have to do anything to change or grow or progress.

You see, the Negative Ego is a holdover from when sabre tooth cats roamed the earth. It was the operating system that said “don’t leave the cave and you won’t get eaten.” It served us well at the time, as evidenced by the fact that we outlasted the sabre toothed cats.

The Negative Ego is still our main operating system in our society, which is problematic on a number of levels, not the least of which is because its message is fear based. See, it is convinced that if it isn’t in control, we’re going to die. Any time we do something like embark on a path of spiritual growth, we are attempting to use a different operating system, and it goes into survival level fear. It gets louder and louder, trying to distract us and throw us off. So, again, if others are to blame, then I don’t have to do anything to change or grow or progress.

This is the paradox of the negative ego – we will take everything we can get away with personally, until it comes time for action; then we will do our best to make it someone else’s responsibility.

It may help you to know that fear is the illusion of the absence of the Divine. It’s a fiction. It is noise generated by the Negative Ego, designed to distract you from growth.

When we get spun out about what stories the Negative Ego is telling us, meaning we have lost perspective and are taking those stories as fact, it’s like we have weasels running rampant in our minds, making nests, rearranging things, hiding useful items, chewing through wiring… Our mind, an oftentimes useful operating system, is no longer able to separate fact from fiction. In those moments, it is not our friend, and it certainly isn’t useful.

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”
-Macbeth, William Shakespeare

Today’s exercise is twofold:

  • First, do your best to not take a single thing personally today. Even if someone directly insults you, remember that this is a reflection of what is going on for them and has little if anything, to do with you. Nothing that happens today is actually about you, except for what you yourself do.
  • Secondly, every time you have the impulse to lay blame, pause. Stop and hold still. Take a deep breath in, pause, and exhale fully. Do this three times. Now, methodically, identify the verifiable facts of the situation. Don’t analyze, interpret, or extrapolate; don’t judge; stay out of the motives of others. The verifiable facts are what you can see, smell, hear, taste, or touch. What someone has told you (without interpretation); what you can see happening (without interpretation). Not what you think that means. Any interpretation is generated by your mind. Set that aside for now. Yes, sometimes the analytical part of your mind is useful, and right now it is doing you a disservice.
  • Once that is done, you can ask yourself, “What can I do to effect positive change in this situation?” By doing this, you move out of the problem and into the solution, and you take your power back from the paradox, the illusion, the Negative Ego.

    This post is part of a new series called Monday Message, based on that day’s reflection from 365 Days to Enlightenment (authorized versions are currently out of print, working on a new edition). Check back next Monday for another one! You can also sign up for the Daily Message on my mailing list if you’d like to receive a new reflection every day. I also often post them to Instagram, if that’s a medium you enjoy.

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