Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 14 – Tame That Ego!

Ego-and-Authentic-Self

“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately… you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you.”
Eckhart Tolle

All my life, I was taught that the human mind and its thinking abilities were what made our species great. I was told that this was what made it possible for us to become the dominant species on this planet. This sort of made sense at the time and so I went along with it. Still, in early adulthood, I couldn’t help noticing that for all our thinking abilities and in spite of all our cleverness, the world was in an unhappy state – myself included. Sure, it wasn’t all bad and even I had lots of ‘sunny days’. But it was pretty clear that all our thinking and cleverness was not necessarily making the world a happier place.

The norm seemed to be: unhappiness with the occasional bout of happiness thrown in here and there.

Then, when I started down the path of self-discovery, I was exposed to some new ideas that turned everything upside down for me. I was told that happiness was my normal state of being. Huh? This was news to me!
And that in order to be happy, all I ever needed to do was to stop doing the things I did that made me feel unhappy. Double ‘Huh?’.
AND that the only thing that was responsible for all the fear, anger, jealousy, depression and misery was right there inside of me… a part of my own mental make up. HUH!?

It turned out that the culprit was the rational thinking part of my mind – the part that some refer to as the ‘ego’ (Note: a meaning slightly different to the one given to this term by psychologists).

Although it is demonised at times, it could be argued that the ego is not something that is inherently bad. On the contrary, it is a valuable tool that we have access to in this lifetime. It is what helps us learn, remember and protect ourselves and is therefore essential for living an independent and fulfilling life.

The real problem with the ego seems to be that most people – myself included – don’t know enough about it or how to use it.

  • As with any tool, it is only as good as the skill and the knowledge of the person using it.
  • While it is well suited to some tasks, it is poorly suited to others (we have other faculties such as imagination, feelings and intuition that might be better suited to some tasks).
  • And, as with ALL tools, it needs to be ‘laid down’ from time to time to give it and the user a respite.

When seen in this light, it becomes clear where so many of us go wrong so easily. Because we tend to rely on it so much from such an early age, most of us end up thinking that we ARE our ego minds (this is why it has also come to be known as the ‘false self’). So how would we ever use it as it is meant to be used – when we think that we are IT!?

The truth of the matter is that we are NOT our egos. We are a higher consciousness – what some would call ‘the authentic self’ (or spirit or soul). The easiest way to test out this idea is to sit quietly and direct your awareness inwards to what is going on within you. You will soon realise that there is a stream of thought that is going on inside… that is the ego mind hard at work. You might then wonder “If I am not these thoughts, who am I?” and the answer is that you are the consciousness that is observing these thoughts.

Welcome to the real you!

Understanding this distinction was a real light bulb moment for me. For near enough 40 years of my life, I went around thinking that I was this ego based personality – the product of my past, my conditioning, my beliefs, my attitudes and how I felt I needed to be.

I began to realise that I had been investing the majority of my time and energy in trying to appease this part of me. All the while, I had been neglecting my true and authentic self! Heck, I didn’t even know it existed, let alone realise that it was the ‘real’ me!!!

Equally startling was the realisation that so many of my life’s major decisions had been made based on what the ego wanted for me as opposed to what my authentic self wanted. Considering that the ego’s wants are often coloured by drama, painful memories, fears, prejudices and limiting beliefs, it is little wonder then that happiness and contentment felt so out of my reach at times.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways in which the ego works and why it can sometimes cause problems:

The ego is meant to help us remember helpful information, like how things work… like say maybe how doors and door knobs work (so we don’t have to keep re-learning how to use a door every time we need to open or close one). But instead of merely remembering these things, the ego will also bring up events from the past – things that we would ideally want to learn and move on from. Ego will say things like “So and so did this to you…” and “You messed up the last time you tried to do this…” and so on. You can appreciate that while it is helpful to remember certain types of information, re-living painful memories will often get in the way of our happiness in the present moment.

The ego is meant to keep us relatively safe and so will warn us of danger and do its best to keep us alive. Often though, the ego will learn to see everything and everyone as some sort of threat. It will often keep us in fear in order to ‘save’ us! Arguing, trying to control other people and always needing to be right are examples of some of the other ways in which the ego expresses this form of protectiveness.

The ego loves control and hates to give it up. It therefore does not like the unknown and sees it as a risk. So it will often freak out when we try to do something new. People say that ‘magic begins at the end of your comfort zone’ and that ‘magic is what is on the other side of fear’. Yet the magic begins not at the end of your comfort zone, but at the end of EGO’s comfort zone! And the fear too is felt by the ego.

The ego knows that we humans are social creatures and it wants for us to be liked and accepted… but then it tries so hard to make us ‘fit in’ and be liked, that we soon begin to lose our identity and our individuality – the very thing we are meant to express and contribute to the world. If we end up listening to the ego, we will not only lose our individuality, but more importantly, we lose our sovereignty and become slaves to the will of others.

The ego wants to learn as much as it can so that it can serve us better… but then it goes over the top and tries to rationalise, analyse and categorise everything and everyone!!! Incidentally, this is where false assumptions and stereotypes come from. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it will dismiss, deny and ridicule anything that it cannot understand.

But that’s not all. For most of us, our egos will often engage in complaining, judging, blaming, criticising and playing mind-games. It is the ego that subscribes to social pecking orders and plays the whole ‘I am better than you’ game. These unhelpful traits are not only directed at others – often, the ego will also direct this venom back at us in the form of feelings of unworthiness and inferiority.

Humanity was not meant to live and operate from the lower perspective of the ego. Yet, looking at my own life and the world around me, this seems to be very much what has been going on. It’s like we have been culturally programmed to operate at this lower level of consciousness.

When living life from the ego’s level of consciousness, our day to day lives will be dominated by thoughts of fear, anxiety, jealousy, competition, anger, feelings of dissatisfaction, feelings of superiority and inferiority, and ceaseless mental chatter.

This way of living is guaranteed to deny us the happiness we seek.

I won’t claim to have fully conquered my ego. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a result, I won’t say that I have all the answers. But I CAN tell you that adopting this new perspective has helped me become a happier and more peaceful person.

In terms of actual steps taken towards taming the ego, I can say that the following have helped me – whenever I applied them consistently:

1. Practising awareness – I do my best to remind myself that I am not my mind or its thoughts and to keep track of what the mind is saying and doing;
2. Training the ego – I do my best to stop myself when I realise that I am judging, blaming, criticising, being fearful etc. and guide my thoughts in a more loving, peaceful and optimistic direction;
3. Nurturing my connection to my authentic self – I do my best to stay calm and in a peaceful and loving state so I can project this out into the world and have it reflected back at me. I also do my best to pay more heed to what my feelings and intuition tell me and no longer make decisions based solely on logic. Last, but not least, I also do my best to use my imagination creatively in order to help me discover new possibilities and opportunities.

You will have noted that all of the above explanations start with the words “I do my best to.” I use these words to drive home the point that this is all that any of us can do.

Some days I seem to be better at it than on others, but I can honestly see a gradual improvement in my overall state of happiness as a result. And that is all the proof and incentive I need to keep going.

Related Posts:

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – How I Learned to Be Happier, More of the Time

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Defining Happiness

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 1 – Taking Responsibility for Your Happiness

 Concessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 2 – Staying Committed to Happiness

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 3 – Thinking Positive and a Tale of 2 Frogs

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 4 – Stop Complaining!

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 5 – Practising Gratitude and Appreciation Daily

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 6 – Being Selective about What We Give Our Attention to

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 7 – Spend Time Around Happy People

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 8 – Love Yourself!

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 9 – Have Fun!

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 10 – Believe in Your Dreams and Believe in Yourself

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 11 – Trust and Let Go

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 12 – Live Your Truth

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 13 – Stop Resisting What Is

Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work

A MUST watch for all you fellow ‘happiness addicts’ – this guy is as clued up as he is fun and entertaining. Sheer genius!!

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 13 – Stop Resisting What Is

Awaken

“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”
-Eckhart Tolle

“What we resist, persists.”
-Carl Gustav Jung

Have you ever seen a fly at the window? The fly wants to escape; to get out. It can see what is on the other side of the glass. It wants to experience what is on the other side of the glass. Yet, the glass keeps it apart from what it wants to experience. The fly takes action. The fly works hard. The fly works non-stop. Yet, the fly remains trapped. The harder it works, the more desperate it becomes. The more desperate it becomes, the harder it works… all the while growing weaker. Some die at the window. They die of exhaustion. They die from trying. Ironically, they die from persevering.

Some flies are lucky. They escape. They try something new… they try flying to a new place and looking for a way out and then another and another, until at last, they are free!

Observing these flies often makes me think about how we as people sometimes go about our lives. We might sometimes find ourselves in difficult situations… times when we feel pain or discomfort. We are used to giving all of our energy to fighting against it. Like the fly at the window we struggle and fight and are left feeling exhausted – often without making any real progress. We are lucky. The price we pay is exhaustion (but if we keep this up, it can lead to stress and ultimately to ‘dis-ease’). Yet we still pay a price: our present moment is robbed of happiness and it its place we have stress, struggle, and fear.

We want change. That is a good thing. But there are some things we might do well to remember if we are to fare better than the fly at the window:

  • Sometimes, change may not happen overnight and we need to learn to be ok with that. It serves us to honour the process rather than try to force results.
  • Sometimes, things will sort themselves out on their own and we just need to get out of the way (I see this happen with parenting and relationships a lot).
  • We value perseverance, yet sometimes we need to pause and take time out to find clarity (I once read that perseverance can get you killed – if you keep persevering even when the path you are on leads you to the edge of a cliff). Perseverance only serves us when it is applied from a place of clarity. Taking time out to find that clarity is not only an act of self-love, but it also makes us more effective as problem-solvers!
  • Above all else, we need to stop seeing these things as ‘problems’ and reacting to them in that way. This is the true lesson we can take from the fly at the window. We can’t afford to fall into a repetitive pattern of stimulus and response. As Einstein said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” It doesn’t mean we give up wanting a change for the better. It means we stop giving all our energy and attention to judging and condemning the ‘problem’ and struggling against it. Instead we can choose to stay calm and create the mental atmosphere that allows the solution to emerge. When we move out of the ‘problem mindset’ and from seeing things as they are, we allow ourselves to enter the ‘solution mindset’ and seeing things as they could be. But this requires that we change our focus and often, we need to let go for this to happen.
  • Last, but not least, we can change our orientation altogether and see the ‘problem’ in a new light – as something that is not a problem. Let me explain: I sometimes used to wake up around 3 a.m for no apparent reason. It used to bug me and I would try very hard to get back to sleep. Most of the time, all the trying in the world didn’t make it happen and a good 3 or so hours after, I would start my day feeling tired (more from the struggle than a lack of sleep) and irritated. What a way to start the day!? Then, (fortunately) I heard a talk by Dr. Wayne Dyer where he said how he would find himself waking up around 3 a.m. some mornings and how he felt that it was a cue from God / Source for him to write. He went on to say that this was a time of day where he felt very connected to God / Source, which made it easier for him to write well. So here was a man in his 70’s who, when he found himself waking up at an un-Godly hour, chose instead to say that it was God waking him up so he could write! Talk about re-framing a situation! So when I started viewing my early morning starts in this way, it made me feel a whole lot better. At best, I would get lots of quiet ‘me’ time to write and enjoy. At worst, I would be a bit groggy for part of the day… but it sure beat feeling irritated and miserable throughout the day. It hardly ever happens now, but when it does, it works in my favour! Incidentally, it is Dr. Dyer who famously said: “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change” and this is a great example of how he applies this idea in his day to day life.

So there you have it… the recipe for a problem-free, stress-free life… in just 2 easy steps: 1) stop labelling things as ‘problems’ and 2) when you are faced with a situation that bugs you, go take a nap or do something fun!

Related Posts:

Stress and Knee-Jerk Reactions – How Can We Make it Better?

Calmness and Clarity: A Case for Taking Time Out

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – How I Learned to Be Happier, More of the Time

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Defining Happiness

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 1 – Taking Responsibility for Your Happiness

 Concessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 2 – Staying Committed to Happiness

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 3 – Thinking Positive and a Tale of 2 Frogs

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 4 – Stop Complaining!

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 5 – Practising Gratitude and Appreciation Daily

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 6 – Being Selective about What We Give Our Attention to

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 7 – Spend Time Around Happy People

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 8 – Love Yourself!

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 9 – Have Fun!

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 10 – Believe in Your Dreams and Believe in Yourself

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 11 – Trust and Let Go

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 12 – Live Your Truth

 

The Aluthgama Riots – Turning Tragedy into Hope

Be-a-light-unto-the-darkness

“First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me”
Rev. Martin Niemöller

I was much saddened to hear of the events that had taken place in Aluthgama recently.

Just like me, you too might be shocked and wondering how such a thing could have happened – especially after all that Sri Lanka has been through in the last 30 years.

My heart goes out to the people who have been affected by these acts of cruelty and to the families of those who have lost their lives.

Placing myself in the shoes of the Sri Lankans who have recently lost their loved ones, their homes and their property, I can only imagine that they are feeling shocked, saddened and betrayed – betrayed by the people they considered their brethren; betrayed by the institutions that they looked to and trusted to provide them with security and protection. Their sense of trust in their fellow Sri Lankans would be all but evaporated, along with any hopes they may have had of being treated fairly in the land of their birth.

I for one would not blame any one of these Sri Lankans for also feeling anger – intense, searing anger… anger at the loss; and anger at the betrayal. No one wants to feel helpless and no one wants their loved ones to ever come to harm. I dread to think how this anger might come to manifest itself.

Friends, while anger might seem natural and justified, I know from personal experience that it is not helpful. Anger never provides a lasting solution. Anger makes us do things we later regret. Anger makes us all suffer in the end.

Love on the other hand, always provides a lasting solution. Love always brings with it the gift of peace.

I am not asking you to love the people that carried out these cruel acts. I am not asking you to love the people who stood by and let it happen. It would be wonderful if you could feel love and compassion for these people too, but I know I couldn’t – at least not right now. And I can’t ask you to do something that I am not willing to do.

No, I am asking you to love the people who have been at the receiving end of this thuggery. I am asking you to do whatever you can to let these people know that they are loved. They need to understand that not all people want to treat them in this way. They need to understand that their tragedy and their suffering is also felt by their fellow country men. They need to be able to trust their fellow countrymen again.

We cannot wait on the authorities. We cannot wait on foreign governments or NGOs. In the end, as human beings, we are the ones who must assume responsibility for each other (this, incidentally, is also the best way to change the world…) and to do it ourselves.

Please go there in your numbers. Go there in peace. Let them know how you feel. Do what you can to help. Maybe take some things that might come in useful to them – some clothes and some food items. Perhaps you can make a collection from amongst friends and neighbours and hand it to the local mosque officials to be used as they see fit. If you are unable or unwilling to make the journey, then write a letter. Do something. Do anything. These Sri Lankans need to know you care.

There is no doubt that what has happened is a huge tragedy. We can choose to simply mourn this tragedy and leave it at that or, we could use it as an opportunity to re-write history.

It is all in your hands dear friends. You have the opportunity and the power to write history; to do something future generations will thank you for.

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 12 – Live Your Truth

love

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson

“Now I know what success is: living your truth, sharing it.”
Kamal Ravikant

When I was growing up, I was raised in an environment where everyone around me adopted a certain belief system. School, religion, social norms, and the media all encouraged a certain view of life, ‘reality’ and of ourselves.

As children, adolescents and young adults, we were cast in moulds and expected to conform.

Yet, all the while, I somehow felt ‘different’. I think it is something that we all go through in life, even if many of us don’t actually talk about it.

I did my best to fit in and play along… but did a dismal job of it for the most part. And much of my childhood and early teen years were spent in isolation – through choice. I preferred the worlds I discovered within my books to ‘real’ life.

Then, in my late teens, I felt like life was passing me by, and so I decided to play the game. I bought into the belief system and invested my time, my effort and myself in it. As I got older, I became more and more like the person I was expected to be… and slowly began attracting the perception and trappings of ‘success’.

In retrospect, it seems as if the period from my late teens into my mid-thirties was spent living some cookie-cutter version of life – based on conformity and narrow possibilities. I still made the choices and was seen to be in control of my life and who I was, but those choices were like voting-choices at elections – you get to choose from options that have already been prepared for you – vote for Party A or for Party B. If neither of them fit your beliefs, then tough – just be grateful that you get to vote!

Then, thankfully, my life fell apart.

Having moved to the UK and having settled into what seemed an ideal life – being married to the girl of my dreams, setting up our own home together and establishing a small but thriving legal practice, something happened. I wanted to make sense of life and so I started asking questions that no self-respecting conformist would. And I wasn’t liking the answers.

I won’t go into detail about these things in this post, but you can read a little more about what happened here: My Story.

It is sufficient to say that I no longer wanted the cookie-cutter life and I was waking up to who I really was – The slightly ‘grown-up’ version of the child who lived to read; the person who believed in the magic and mystery of life; the person who dreamed of love, peace, happiness and abundance for all people; the person who wanted to spend his days doing what he loved; the person who just wanted to laugh and play. Needless to say, this didn’t fit in well with the life that I had carved out for myself and so changes had to be made. It was scary and I did get some grief for it, but it was totally worth it!

So what have I learned from it all? And what does ‘living your truth’ mean to me? It means that your life on the outside fully reflects and is congruent with how you feel on the inside (note – not how you think but how you feel on the inside).

The truth of who you are doesn’t mean the circumstances into which you were born, or even where you find yourself now.
The truth of who you are is where you feel called to go. It is what you want to become. This may be something that changes and evolves as you grow, but only you can know this and no one else should decide on it for you.

You are the only person who truly knows who you really are.

I have found through my own experience that it is better to be who I really am and be alone than to be surrounded by a thousand people who approve of what they think I should be. You can choose who to be around and when to be around them, but you can never get away from yourself. So I feel it is better to be happy and at peace with myself, rather than compromise that for the sake of acceptance and approval from others.

For some of us, living our truth means making big changes in life. It might seem scary. The good news is that the fear is definitely worth the sense of freedom and satisfaction that become yours if you are willing to face that fear.

Life always takes care of us and in the end, the fear becomes more about the opinions and reactions of others than about anything of real consequence – or so it has been in my experience.

In the end, it is easier if you don’t expect others to understand your life choices or to approve of them. Many won’t be able to appreciate your perspective and to be fair, they can’t – because they have not lived your life. Some people may be willing to see past what have now become your ‘differences’ and respect your decisions. Some will simply fall away and there is nothing for it but to thank them for the part they have played in your life up to that point and release them with love.

There is a silver lining to all of this – in my humble opinion it is more like a big blooming silver cloud – there will be new people who fully understand and embrace the you that you have become. They will love you for who you are (It is likely that they have been on similar journeys themselves).

Whatever happens with others, the inescapable fact is that the truth of who you really are is where your true power and happiness lie.

And something I have just begun to realise is that living your truth is not only a case of changing your life on the outside to fit who you feel you are on the inside. That might seem like where the bulk of the ‘work’ is to be done – but the biggest changes are the ones that you make from within… the changes where you go beyond your conditioned beliefs and catch up with the real, authentic child of God (or Source or Universe) that you are. For example, I strongly feel that the ‘real’ me is someone who is loving and compassionate and accepting of all… that the real ‘me’ is capable of practising unconditional love for others… but I still get mad at people, I still raise my voice in anger and say hurtful things… yet, I feel that this is not the real ‘me’ but patterns of thought and behaviour that I have chosen to adopt and identify with. I know this to be true, because I always feel bad when I hurt other people and I always feel good when I am loving towards them. So for me, there is much more work to be done and that is a good thing – I have more ‘becoming’ to look forward to : )

I use the term ‘work’ to describe the process, but it has actually been the most rewarding, satisfying and liberating of all the endeavours I have ever undertaken.

As for success… it has come to mean happiness now more than anything else. But I couldn’t end this post without making it absolutely clear that living your truth in no way means giving up on your dreams and ambitions. Quite the opposite – I now have bigger and outrageously more ambitious dreams than ever before! And the really great thing is that I feel like they are practically a done deal, because now everything hinges on me and how I feel. No one else is in control. No system. No other judge or critic. Nothing. Only I can do the best job of being the real, true me and there is a huge feeling of power that comes from knowing that.

I encourage you now to go home to your truth and live from there.

Related Posts:

Growing Up and Finding Myself Again

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – How I Learned to Be Happier, More of the Time

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Defining Happiness

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 1 – Taking Responsibility for Your Happiness

 Concessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 2 – Staying Committed to Happiness

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 3 – Thinking Positive and a Tale of 2 Frogs

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 4 – Stop Complaining!

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 5 – Practising Gratitude and Appreciation Daily

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 6 – Being Selective about What We Give Our Attention to

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 7 – Spend Time Around Happy People

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 8 – Love Yourself!

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 9 – Have Fun!

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 10 – Believe in Your Dreams and Believe in Yourself

Confessions of a Happiness Addict – Step 11 – Trust and Let Go