You’re sitting across from your friend, who’s telling you a story about the one that got away.
A fish? A job? A partner?
In your mind, you’re thinking, “oh come on, cut the bullshit.”
But when have you ever said that to yourself?
We’re all guilty of it, making up stories to keep ourselves from recognizing our own faults. Oh, don’t worry. It’s nothing to get your knickers in a knot over.
We all have comfort zones and we like to snuggle up inside of them, like a warm fleece blanket on a Canadian winter day.
My blanket is even electric.
Untethering your soul
It’s this book I’m reading, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer. It has me thinking about the way our egos create stories about your lives and keep us safe in our comfort zones.
Honestly, I have a love-hate relationship with this book. I love the information I’m getting from it and I’m hungry for it. It’s another way of saying what I teach my clients.
It is, however, forcing me to be introspective and requiring me to be incredibly honest with my own life.
That’s something I love helping other people do, but change is chaotic, messy and sometimes scary. Like you, I sometimes just want to run in the other direction.
Take, for example, this new diet I started yesterday. On recommendation from my naturopath, I dove into a hormone regimen and an anti-inflammatory alkaline diet.
I’m committed to this. I have all the prescriptions and vitamins ready. My husband is supportive and helped me clean out the kitchen. He’s even committed to finishing off the homemade blueberry peach pie.
Except that, up to yesterday, I’ve been eating everything in sight, everything I’m not supposed to have on this diet.
I’ve been telling myself, I’m prepped and I’m ready… but the truthful story is I’ve been panicking that it will be so hard, that I’ll be deprived. So I stocked up on my favourite comfort foods, like red licorice, ice cream, fabulous mouth-watering homemade tasting pizza, popcorn and I could go on … all so I could remember what they taste like. Seriously, it’s like I’m leaving the planet or something!
The great storyteller
That’s my ego. It’s telling me stories that I don’t need to make this change.
It’s fighting my determination to eliminate the sugar by telling me “it’s OK to have just one glass.”
But if I go off the diet regimen at any point, it changes my alkaline levels and I have to start all over again. So am I all in or not?
The ego, Sigmund Freud’s brilliant contribution to the world of psychology, controls our sense of self. It helps us organize our thoughts and protect us from the assault of reality.
It is continually talking and making up stories or excuses about our life events, and we convince ourselves that the story is the truth.
Singer’s book is helping me understand how my ego is speaking. When I’m letting it drive the bus, I’m taking a backseat and it’s controlling my story.
I’ve keep reminding myself that it’s just 30 days! My ego, however, drives the story of WHAT IF!?
What if I do it for 30 days and it works? What if it does reduce, or eliminate the inflammation from my system? What if I regain my full energy levels and feel healthy, sleep better and have some of the answers I’ve been searching for – for years!? Does that mean I have to let go – give up all of my comfort foods forever?
Enter drama queen stage right.
The drama queen in all of us
Over the years, my drama queen has had many starring roles. Full stage, spotlight and the soliloquies of her life!
Have you ever been jealous of someone for the promotions or praise they keep getting at work?
Is he luckier than you, instead of more qualified? Does he suck up to the boss, instead of work harder than you do?
That’s your ego creating a story that the person doesn’t deserve it more than you do. That’s your ego keeping you from the change you need to make to get that promotion or praise.
The story our ego creates becomes our identity. We get caught up in the drama, rationalizing why we got passed over and protecting us from having to accept our faults. Our ego will continue to adjust the story to match our perceived limitations.
Instead, we should be asking:
- What do I need to change? Do I want to change? Am I willing to change?
- How can I increase my opportunities to advance?
- Is the promotion really what I want?
- Can I let this go and stay focused on what I do best?
Hear your ego talking
Change is not easy. You’re stirring the pot of chaos and intentionally taking your life off course.
You don’t need to go into full disruption mode, though.
You do need to start recognizing this dialogue with your ego. It is going on all the time, telling you stories and making assumptions.
You can hear it in self-doubt, jealousy, anger, defensiveness, frustration, comparison, judgment and justification. That’s when you know it’s time to get more conscious and honest about the events in your life.
According to Singer, if a hammer falls on your toe, all your awareness will focus there.
“If there’s a sudden loud sound, again, all your awareness will focus there,” he says. “Consciousness has the tendency to focus on disturbance, and disturbed energies inside are no exception. These disturbed energies will draw your consciousness to them.”
It’s time to stop following your thoughts. Just let them go … notice and observe rather than allow your thoughts (your ego) to drive the bus.
Let’s say you’re out for a walk and you notice a house with a lovely landscaped yard and pool with wraparound deck. You hear your inside voice say, “I would be in heaven if that was my place.”
As you continue walking, you no longer see any other sites, because you’re fully engaged in the conversation of “I want that kind of home, but I don’t earn enough. Maybe if I had got a degree I’d have a better paying job; if I hadn’t travelled, I would have been able to save and had that kind of home. If I really wanted it bad enough, I could ask for a raise or maybe I should start looking for another job? But if I was to change jobs, what would I do? What am I qualified to do? At this point in my life, I don’t think a career change is a good idea. Maybe I could get a second job and hire a landscaper at least that would be moving in the right direction.”
By now you’re experiencing distress in some form. You followed the thoughts and created a story.
You could have simply seen the lovely yard as you walked by, noticing it as a thought passing by rather than following it down the rabbit hole.
With practice, we have the power to disengage and bring ourselves back to centre. If you find yourself handing the keys over to your ego, try to:
- Breathe deeply
- Go for a walk (or run)
- Practise yoga
- Read a book
Every time your ego pops, it takes away your focus. Just taking a break can help you regain your presence and silence your ego.
When we become conscious of our ego and stop rationalizing our own misgivings, the ego stops being in control.
“Eventually you will see that the real cause of problem is not life itself,” Singer writes. “It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes the problems.”
And that’s when we get to call bullshit on ourselves and start living the lives we want.