Any of you in the healing/self-healing/spiritual landscape will be all too familiar with this term. It used to be a tremendous source of dread and anxiety for me once I understood: what the ego is.
For so long, I had the impression that the ego was the thing that made people grandiose and confident. In its worst form, it was megalomania and narcissism. I had no idea the ego was also that hateful voice that would keep you small and afraid. So when I found myself on this journey of mending, I was constantly inundated with the ego. Without explanation, I kept thinking this couldn't possibly apply to me. I don't have a voice giving me confidence. I don't have a voice that thinks I'm great. The voice in my head is an ornery oppressor, reminding me that I'm a chronically pathetic heap of skin.
It seems to me that our egos, when left unchecked, are more akin to petulant children. Screaming, wailing and bullying to bulldoze our decisions. We don't kill misbehaved children, so why are we attempting to kill our ego? Furthermore, the more I tried to let mine die, the worse it got. What am I doing wrong? This was one more thing that made me angry and disappointed in myself. One more reason to attach to a person or thing outside of myself is that clearly, I'm too inept on my own.
The turning point came from a deeply traumatic experience. Who knew that what would be the worst day of my life would lead to my epiphany? Let me explain...
My dad was in hospice, dying. His body had been in the stages of death for a few days, but then came the "no going back" moment. His death was slow and would have been agonizing had it not been for the exceptional care of the hospice that kept him comfortable. With that said, from the outside, it still looked excruciating. I can't begin to find the right words to describe the experience. I want to chronicle every bit of it, but I also don't want that to be anything another soul has to ever think about.
Hours passed, and my dad was in an unresponsive state. Then, in a cruel twist, his body flooded with adrenaline in a last-ditch effort to survive. He sat bolt upright, his eyes rolling forward again, and he said, "help me." He tried to physically fight his way out of bed. This went on for nearly an hour. Just as suddenly as the adrenaline kicked it, it wore off, and he was again unresponsive. It would be several more hours before he passed.
I'd be lying if I said this didn't still fucking haunt me. But, during one of my flashbacks, a connection was made... what if this was what my ego was doing? What if the hunkering down into banshee mode was like the aforementioned adrenaline dump? I started to ask myself why I was attempting to kill my ego in the first place. Surely the tone of voice can be changed. It is, after all, the home of the self. Why not change it from commander to consultant?
I knew I had my work cut out for me, but it was worth a try. I wanted a voice in my head that could say "atta girl!" instead of calling me a half-baked troglodyte. Over time it's been successful. The truth is the ego gathers a lot of valuable information. It seems to be the delivery of that information that could use finessing. For the first time in my life, I've been able to say "atta girl!" to myself without an immediate bombardment of all the ways I'm a dipshit. I find myself in this liminal space where I have an ego that is supportive, kind and willing to celebrate wins but will also occasionally call me names and remind me that I'm a dumbass. Now when data is presented the default isn't "hey, you fucking weirdo, why do you think YOU can do that?" it's more " hey, you know there isn't a lot of success with this in the past: there's a strong possibility you're going to look foolish." And I can consciously respond to that with, "you know what, you're totally right, but that's okay. I feel good about moving this forward." There isn't the same pushback with worsening insults. Now when I fall on my face, there's a bit of an internal laugh and "told ya so" under my ego breath. But then also a "hey, good for you for trying." That's new!
Starting this blog is a great example of this. I had the idea for this (name and all) seven years ago. I sat on this for seven years because I kept telling myself I was too much of a failure. Who the hell was I to think I could write!?! And why would anybody want to read anything that I have to say? Going into this, I still very much had those thoughts. What is different now is that I'm not doing this for anyone other than myself.
I've learned that a crucial step in changing the tone of my inner dialogue is giving it new experiences. I can't keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. It's as if I was putting cabbage in the oven, then expecting to pull out a delicious apple pie. Writing a blog is an enormous learning experience for me. I'm learning to open up and freely share things about myself that I wouldn't otherwise do. I'm learning to be a writer. I'm learning not to attach to a specific or desired outcome.
At the end of the day, I've achieved a personal goal by starting this blog. That's a huge deal to me. If people find this and like it, that's the icing on the cake (or ice cream on the pie). Time and time again that voice that knows my ineptitudes pipes up and voices its concern. But I have a stronger voice responding that it's okay to be scared. It's okay not to know. It's better to try.