How Do You Keep Your Ego Feeling Good?
The ego is a funny thing. If you don’t stop to think about it you could believe that it’s actually who you are, as opposed to it just being a part of yourself – your psychological self – that doesn’t necessarily work in your favor. It can be quite insidious in the way it sneaks into your vision of yourself, making you think that what it thinks truly is you, and comes from you. And some of the things this ego thinks (and makes you believe) tell you that you are right, or better, or more important, or more powerful, or more righteous, or more spiritual, or more suitable than others. Such a belief generally blows people up – on some level of false pride – to several times their size.
Let’s say you’re a busy lawyer. Your practice is doing well, and therefore financially you’re secure. Furthermore, you do regular pro bono work, so in the department of feeling good about yourself, you’re also secure. Your relationship with your spouse is doing reasonably well, perhaps better than many others, so on the emotional front, you feel that life is good, and perhaps your son has been accepted at the London School of Economics and your daughter is planning on a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at MIT, so again, on the level of pride, you’re doing well. When you attend your sports club you manage to outplay most of your contemporaries – partially because you kept off the pounds – and socially, well, let’s just say you find yourself on some of the most sought-after guest lists of the city. The charity work that you do keeps you looking good, and in fact, just the other Sunday, the pastor at your church asked if you would consider sitting in on an inter-denominational conference between clergy and lay people.
Let’s think about that a bit. As you feel financially secure, how much of that has to do with the actual funds in your portfolio or accounts, and how much of it with the fact that you occasionally compare yourself to your lesser brethren who toil at their jobs, but reap little benefit? Could we say that they don’t work as hard? Or perhaps they did not prepare as well while they were studying in order to get into their profession. Or perhaps their networking skills aren’t as finely-tuned as yours.
And the pro bono work you do, actually benefits you in more than one way: not only do you get to feel good about yourself because you do such beneficial work for those who could not otherwise afford your expertise, but you get to see – occasionally – how the other half (or 75%) lives, and so feel even better about how you managed to get yourself to where you are.
Lest you are turned off by this person I am portraying as being an individual who is very small-spirited, mean, and petty, let’s at least admit that some portions of what I am relating, does indeed cross our minds on occasion.
The fact that your relationship with your spouse is doing reasonably well, is often also a measurement brought on by comparison. Isn’t it true that your cousin’s marriage is on the rocks? And didn’t you hear the neighbours shouting at each other as they came home last night? What about the statistics in the press? You, or so you can clearly see by looking at your neighbours – in your marriage – are simply doing so much better than that … even though your own marriage actually leaves a lot to be desired.
And those wonderful children of yours – as you compare them to those of your fellow man – you haven’t had a real conversation with your son in several years, and you certainly wouldn´t want your fellow church-goers to know that your daughter had an abortion last fall, but when you conveniently choose not to think about these issues, and cast your eye on the fact that your best friend’s son dropped out of college and is now waiting on tables in Hollywood hoping to get an audition, you feel that warm glow in your solar plexus realizing that your children are indeed going places.
What is at stake here is a question of how much your – and my – ego gets involved when you think of where others find themselves along this continuum of the various areas of your life as compared to you. Think of it: the people in your life may serve to make you feel better about yourself by virtue of their failings or at the very least, their lesser accomplishments or accumulation of any kind. Your ego grows in some fashion, thanks to this.
My purpose today is not to point the finger at anyone – or – if I am doing so, then I include myself in it. Rather, my purpose is to make all of us more conscious about how this happens. A quote from the ‘Course in Miracles’ says: you do not realize how much you have misused your brothers by seeing them as sources of ego support. The ego needs to be made conscious – the more aware you are of yourself – the more you will be able to recognize this impostor of your true self as it sidles up to you pretending to wear your clothes, and hence the more readily you will be able to firmly tell it that there is no longer any room in your life for it; because you have decided to be your own master.
Gabriel’s new book: Emotional Unavailability & Neediness: Two Sides of the Same Coin(2014)
Neediness and emotional unavailability are two sides of the same coin because both are based on a lack of self love, a fear of love and the hurt that love can engender due to the vulnerability that being in love generally evokes. A person may live out one side of the coin (neediness) in several relationships and then – in a new relationship – may find him or herself living out the other side of the coin (emotional unavailability).
Emotional unavailability and neediness do not tend to be deliberate because there is never anything consciously deliberate about the way a defense mechanism arises in childhood. A man who refuses to commit should not blithely be judged as being manipulative or callous although on the surface he may very well appear to be so. Furthermore, the older he gets, the more of a history of this nature he acquires, and hence the more those who sit in judgement reach the conclusion that they are right. The same could, of course, be said about the emotionally unavailable woman. Another case in point: a woman whose neediness may appear as emotionally manipulative, generally also does not behave this way in a deliberate fashion. And again, the same could be said about the needy man.
This book dissects the causes of these defense mechanisms, paving the road – for those who wish to change the inner landscape of their emotional constraints – to live and be able to love more freely.