Last night I went to a friend’s house for dinner and I found myself going off on a proper binge of negative thinking. In real life, in the NOW, I was sitting in her kitchen, eating spaghetti and half listening to Sunday’s episode of The Voice. I was warm and with a friend and had actually done a good day’s work. All was well.
And yet in my head things were not well. I was spinning off into ‘Your blog is sh*t, what the hell are you doing with your life, when are you going to earn proper money, people think you’re an idiot, why are you drinking, you’re not meant to be drinking etc etc…’
At one point my friend asked me if I was OK, that I seemed sad, and I copped out and said, ‘Yeah, all fine, just tired.’ Bloody hell, the number of times I’ve said ‘I’m tired’ when I mean ‘sad, frustrated, scared…’. I didn’t say any of that because in my head I was imaging her thinking I’m a stupid, self-indulgent cow who should get on with things. Like she does. Like the rest of the world does.
While all this was happening, I kept trying out the Power of Now techniques in my head – ‘Be here now,’ I kept telling myself, while looking around her lovely kitchen and taking deep breaths and trying to feel my feet (ha! – Tolle recommends going into the body when your brain is going off on one).
‘Do you have any problems right now?’ I asked myself and of course the answer was ‘no’… but still there was a battle going on in my head.
I was wedded to my negative thoughts – I wasn’t going to let them go – they were too familiar, like an old pair of jeans that look like crap but you won’t let go of. The truth was I was almost getting a perverse pleasure out of my ‘poor me’, doom and gloom narrative.
Tolle says that this is our ego. He says that most of us think having a big ego means that you are full of yourself but that actually, it can be the other way around too:
He says: ”Every ego wants to be special. If it can’t be special by being superior to others, it’s also quite happy with being especially miserable. Someone will say, “I have a headache,” and another says, “I’ve had a headache for weeks.” People actually compete to see who is more miserable! The ego doing that is just as big as the one that thinks it’s superior to someone else. If you see in yourself that unconscious need to be special, then you are already free, because when you recognize all the patterns of the ego…’
He defines the ego as a false sense of self we’ve constructed based on our past, our family. It is solely a product of our thoughts.
This ego thrives on being different to others (either better or worse), thrives on conflict (my constant imagining of people thinking I’m crap is a kind of silent conflict going on in my head…). It wants outside validation (praise or a new car, house, job etc to show it’s better than everyone else) and is threatened when that doesn’t happen (hence my fear of writing a crap book, of not being a ‘success’ – all that is ego).
But most of all the ego hates anything that threatens the status quo.
“The mind, conditioned as it is by the past, always seeks to re-create what it knows and is familiar with. Even if it is painful, at least it is familiar,’ says Tolle.
I would rather stay in my negative thoughts, no matter how unhappy they make me, because they are who I think I am. They are the story I’ve been telling myself for as long as I can remember. I get a kick out of the ‘poor me, I’m messing up, victim’ stuff. It’s my identity.
If I lost that identity, who would I be? Just another person, the same as anybody else, bobbing along from day to day. Where’s the drama in that? I wouldn’t be special anymore.
I think this is why self-help books often don’t help in the long term; we want to change without really changing. We keep going back to our old ways, our old selves, because it’s too scary not to.
Tolle says that stepping away from our egoic mind literally feels like death, so your ego (in the form of your crazy, manic thoughts) will do all it can to keep you in the same old loop.
According to Tolle, our ego wants us to feel separate from the people around us, while the ‘truth’ is that we are all part of the same consciousness, the same life force, we are the same Being. We are all One.
Does any of this make sense?
These are all deep concepts and I don’t think I’m articulating them very well – my brain can’t quite get hold of them, they’re slippery. Sometimes I believe this whole ‘we are one’ thing and other times I don’t really know what that means. But I do get the ego stuff and can see how big a part it plays in life.
So what to do? As ever, just keep being aware. So the fact that there was a crazy battle going on in my head last night – between the silly stories I was telling myself, and my ‘deeper’ self that was saying ‘these are silly stories’ – is progress. I guess. Slow progress but progress…
But enough about me and my GIANT EGO.
What stories are you wedded to about yourself? Which mental loops do you find yourself in time and time again? Are they around money? Weight? Romance? Your childhood? Are they angry stories or sad stories? Stories about how people think you’re stupid or will leave you? Can anybody relate to any of this? Has anybody managed to conquer the voice in their head?
Bueller, Bueller, Bueller… ?