Ego Trip #4: The Ego Squashed

Sunday, October 30, 2016 2 Comments A+ a-


Hello, friends! Hope you've had an awesome weekend. Mine's been chock full of research on this ego stuff. I feel a lot more comfortable writing about it, but still think I'm chipping away at the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to advice about getting past the ego, there are several different disciplines to draw from.

So, I ended up scouring my own personal resources and doing a ton of online research. My goal was to pull out the common denominators, because those are usually based on more experience and truth than the other, fluffier stuff. Not that the fluffy stuff is bad. I just prefer practiced principles over personal opinions. :)


Okay, we've been at this for a while and have determined that the ego is a psychological mechanism our conscious minds use to identify us as separate from our surroundings. I'm sure this was pretty valuable to our ancestors, who needed to establish firm boundaries between themselves and the external world to survive. But is it really that important for us today?

I think that, to some degree, it is. We all need a little bit of "me" to function properly in society. Seeing yourself as one with everything could lead to some awkward moments (not to mention a few lawsuits). The real problem occurs when, over time, our ego develops into a monster yarn ball of thoughts, labels, and judgments that distort our view of reality. We carry it around, completely unaware of its burdensome weight and the fact that it's keeping us from being our true, authentic selves.

This can be a major stumbling block for us. The INFJ values authenticity, both in ourselves and others. As I mentioned in my last post, I believe that we feel this discrepancy keenly, and the tension can lead to a state of depression. Couple this with the fact that the ego is using our own natural gifts (perfectionism, introspection, future projection) against us, and you could end up with a truly confused and unhappy INFJ.

What can we do about it?


A lot, actually. But first, we need to determine our goal. Depending on our approach, we can do one or all of the following:


  • Become aware of the ego and what it's doing to us (congrats, you've achieved some of that by reading the Ego Trip series).
  • Retrain the ego to help us see ourselves in a more positive light (some of us have already done that by "identifying" as an INFJ). Keep in mind that this might result in trading one identity for another, which ultimately doesn't solve the problem.
  • Weaken the ego (through meditation and thought training) so that it has less of a hold on us.
  • Dissolve the ego completely (and see yourself as one with everything, sort of like a Buddhist monk).

Each of these goals, with the exception of the first one, will take some concentration and focus. Personally, I'm somewhere between retraining and weakening mine--with an emphasis on squashing it into the weakest state possible. Awareness was my first step (and it happened in some super-cool, synchronous ways). Since then, I've been progressing at a steady pace. It's been kind of amazing, and I'd like to focus primarily on the goal of how to weaken--or squash--the ego's grip.

Let's take a look at what could help you get started. These are both from personal experience and  research. Take them as you will:

Step 1: Understand the Ego (Awareness)
  • Become aware that your ego has been misleading you.
  • Research what the ego is and what it does.
Doing this will help you understand that you are much, much more than that monster yarn ball of thoughts and beliefs you've been gathering over the years. You'll also learn that your ego's behavior is majorly addictive, and that overcoming it is going to take you out of your comfort zone.

Please be aware that a lot of ego-related info on the web revolves around spirituality, enlightenment, and positive-thinking systems. If you're not interested in those and just want philosophical info, you'll probably have to do some digging. 

(Note: if you want some info on resources that contain ego-squashing material, check the bottom or this post for links.)

Step 2: Get a Grip on Your Thoughts
  • Engage in daily meditation or prayer.
  • Read articles/books about (or take a class on) ways to focus your thoughts.
  • Practice yoga
Meditation plays a major role in learning how to control your thought process. Almost every book or article I've read on squashing the ego lists meditation as a key factor. There are multiple teachings on it, and you have to experiment to find the right one for you. Basically, you push aside all thoughts and focus on just "existing" or being present. Yikes, was this hard for me to learn. I literally couldn't stop my thoughts for more than five seconds (hello...INFJ!?!). I tried everything...guided meditation, listening to soft music, focusing on my breathing. It was a huge challenge for my brain.

But it's getting easier. I try to meditate for 10-15 minutes a day. You wouldn't believe how good it feels to shove your thoughts (and anxieties, and worries, and worst-case scenarios) aside and just enjoy the present moment. It's liberating. My best experiences with meditation happen right before I fall asleep or when I wake in the middle of the night (when my resistance is low). In prolonged sessions, my hands and feet will tingle, and sometimes my scalp. I end up feeling amazing...connected, weightless, full of love.

Note: when my thoughts are too restless for meditation, I use prayer instead. Not everyone is spiritual, so this might not pertain to you. But if I can't quiet my mind, the next best thing is to focus all my thoughts on God. The end results, for me, are the same.

And I honestly don't know much about the yoga thing. A lot of people find it a helpful ego-squashing tool, so I put it on the list. :)

Step 3: Don't Feed the Ego
  • Recognize when you're complaining, and stop immediately.
  • Same with labeling, criticizing, and judging (regardless if it's yourself or someone else).
  • Cut off worst-case-scenario thinking.
For me, this step is the hardest. I struggle with it every day. I'm used to being critical of myself (and others, although my standards for them aren't nearly as high). I'm also used to complaining and putting myself down. I picked that last one up in childhood, because it was easier to diss myself before someone else could beat me to it. Yeah, that's sad, but it's how things were. What's important is that I'm learning to overcome it.

The worst-case-scenario one will be difficult for INFJs. I recently received an e-mail that catapulted me straight into worst-case-scenario mode. Everything I was working on ground to a halt, and my life boiled down to what if. I paced through the house, rehearsing myself into a state of preparedness for every possible negative outcome. After two hours of this--yes, two freaking hours--I realized what I was doing and stopped. I told myself this was nothing but ego and that it was pointless to focus on a future that might never come. So I went back to my work. What's ironic is that a few minutes later, I received an e-mail that put the entire issue to rest. Nothing bad happened...except for stress and the loss of those two hours. I won't be doing that again.

The ego thrives on fear, anxiety, and negativity. Cut off its food supply, and its hold on you will weaken.

Step #4: Be Here and Now
  • Learn to focus on the present moment.
  • Reflect on the past when you need to, but don't dwell on it.
  • Realize that you have more impact on the future by staying in the present.
My freshman year in college, I was encouraged to take an Orientation class. One of the chapters in my book was called Be Here and Now. The concept was meant to help us focus on staying alert and not letting our thoughts wander during class. But the phrase stuck with me, and now it has greater meaning. I try to be as present as possible. When memories knock on the door of my brain, I don't always let them in. Sometimes I have to, but if they turn out to be ego-chow, I push them back out the door. Same with the future. If it hasn't happened yet, I don't need to worry about it--plan for it, sure, but definitely not worry about it. Worrying changes nothing.

Being Here-and-Now isn't always easy, and I've struggled with how to do this as both a daydreamer and an author. When I'm immersed in a fantasy or in my writing, the "present" slips away. I'm in a completely different world. But I don't consider this the same as stewing over past/future events. During periods of creativity, I'm making my immersion my present. It becomes my current existence. I've always wondered why writing certain scenes "feels" more real than anything else. Now I know...it's because I'm experiencing that scene as my Here-and-Now. There's a difference, and it's kind of cool. :)

Step #5: Don't Worry, Be Happy
  • Make an effort to be thankful for things.
  • Know who you are, and love that person.
  • Keep an eye out for positive stuff and focus on it.
  • Seek out things that make you happy. Do them.
  • Repeat that last step as often as possible. :)
This sounds cliche, doesn't it? Or like the agenda of some Power of Positive Thinking course, lol. But there's nothing wrong with being happy and thankful. When you're doing something you enjoy, or focusing on stuff that brings you happiness, you're less engaged with your ego and more in line with your true self. And feeling gratitude is an awesome way to squash your ego's negative perspective.

Loving yourself is also key. I'm not talking egotistical love, but gracious and compassionate love for who you truly are. Because you're not a bunch of labels or the product of a belief system. Your identity isn't locked up in past experiences, future outcomes, or even personality type. You are a unique individual with amazing qualities and an enormous capacity for love.

Love and Fear are at opposite ends of the spectrum. When you're fully engaged in one, the other just melts away.



Lol, this post ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated. Sorry for the novel! But I do hope that the Ego Trip series has helped you in some way, even if it's simply raised your awareness. I'm just scratching the surface here, so if you have any questions, please let me know.

Take care, guys. Blessings to all, and good luck squashing those egos!

Love,
M.

P.S. Here are a few good resources that have helped me on my ego-squashing journey: The Point of Power by Peter Baksa; A New Earth and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle; Free Yourself From Your Ego in 3 Easy Steps by Amy Jars at mindbodygreen.com; Dissolving the Resistance of Ego by Sen at calmdownmind.org; What is Ego - How Your Ego Dictates Your Entire Life by Leo at actualized.org

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wawoo
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October 31, 2016 at 7:20 PM delete

Wonderful, Thank you!! I'm also going to work on pushing that "ego chow" right out the door. Love that turn of phrase 😊

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Meridian
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October 31, 2016 at 8:44 PM delete

Lol, glad you liked it...and best of luck to you! <3

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