Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mr. Big Stuff- Who Do You Think You Are?

The other day I was at the gym working out when I was approached by someone from the YMCA staff. This had never happened before and has never happened since. The man had a Russian accent and combined with my iPod, it was necessary for me to say “Excuse me?’ He repeated the question “Are. you. feeling. it?” He seemed to be a pompous ass so I just said “um....SURE. I am FEELING it.” “Really?” he asked. “Yeah.” “Well if you want some help, let me know.” His manner was so condescending and patronizing I reacted defensively.

Thinking about this experience later I found my reaction so strange. Here was someone trying to help me and I got defensive. Why was that? It was because he hurt my ego. Not only could he have changed his approach to accommodate my ego but I should have been aware of my defensive reaction. This stranger’s opinion of me was not me!

Later I was writing a big long email to a friend who was going through a breakup at roughly the same time I was. In it I had all this advice about how she needed to change her thinking and reactions to others, blah, blah, blah. At the end, I read it over and realized I sounded like a conceited arsehole. Not the friend I was trying to be. My intentions were good but my methods were coming from this ego-centered place.

So lately I’ve been reflecting on my ego. Many times we do things out of concern or care and have the very best of intentions but still it feeds our ego when it comes right down to it. Recently I made a phone call on behalf of my ex who was having difficulty understanding someone’s accent. They told him there was a problem with his rental application but he didn’t understand what that problem was. So he asked me to help him. Because his situation was confidential, the woman refused to talk to me. Not only did I find her manner extremely brusque but I became upset to the point where I was literally shaking. I was trying to do something good. And she wouldn’t LET me! Again, my ego had completely taken over. I needed to defend it. Not only was my reaction to her unhelpful, but I had personalized a situation that had nothing to do with me!

I’ve come to realize that much of my negativity stems from ego-related feelings. For example, situations where I feel I’ve been wronged. The feeling of injustice overwhelms any sort of rational thought and I become angry. I 'm compelled to share the story with all my friends, who, in turn feed my ego by sympathizing with me. I personalize the situation to such a degree that I adopt this identity of victim/martyr, when in fact that’s not the “real” essence of me at all, just a role I’m playing.

My ego isn’t me either. When someone criticizes me or I choose to take a comment too seriously, this is because my ego is threatened. Being aware of this, my reactions to the outside world have become more rational and measured. I never understood what Jesus was talking about when He saidWhoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it, because what profit will a person have if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” After reading this Eckhart Tolle book, I suspect this has to do with our ego.

Another area where being "ego-aware" has helped me is in the transition I’ve been making from being part of a relationship to being single. We have had to divide our assets and possessions. Usually this is an area of conflict and it was so tempting to make it personal. But when I took a deep breath, focused on the present and then took my ego out of the equation, decision suddenly became clearer and impersonal. We both had the same goal. We were both on the same team (if you will). Reacting because of feelings of rejection, insecurity, unworthiness, jealousy wouldn’t help the situation. Besides, I was never really upset for the reason I initially thought I was upset. It's like that scene in "When Harry Met Sally" when Harry says that when couples break up they argue over the stupidest things like who gets the ugly coffee table. I love it when Marie (Carrie Fisher) turns to her partner and sweetly utters "I want you to know, that I will never want that wagon wheel coffee table."

So the question I'll leave you with today is a toughie. Ask yourself "Who Am I?" I have in the past indentified myself in a plethora of ways and yet none of these are the true essence of who I am. To quote Shakespeare, "A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet." When I admit that these labels are just that, and nothing more, then I am suddenly no better (or worse) than my fellow human beings.

Who am I? I think God was onto something when He just answered "I AM"

1 comment:

Amazing Parents said...

Oh, Danny. You have no idea how deeply I "get it". This is my whole life right now and I am fully immersed in some serious self-discovery.

Although paragraph 5 is my favorite, I also love the ending and I could not agree more! I am. What a very powerful statement indeed! And to know that we were made in that image, with the same ability to be fully present like that. Wow. We just need to understand how to do it.

I am so happy that you are on this path...right along side the rest of us who struggle everyday to separate the parts of our lives that are propelled by ego versus the true self. That essence of existence that just says, "I am" and nothing more.

I love you, Danny. You're amazing.