Most likely while growing up, you heard the phrase, “It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.” Parents often use this threat as a means to control their kids. Mind you, their intent is well-meaning to protect the child from getting hurt, but still, it is a control mechanism. Oftentimes we view control as being a “bad” thing, yet we don’t see that at the root of all control is love. Love is the foundation which causes the desire and perceived need to control because without that love for something, there would not be a need to try and control the things that we fear will take that something away.
The ego is very much like that loving, controlling parent. The ego believes it knows what is best for us, and thus, it tries to control our behaviors to fit what it believes is our greatest good. So in that way, the ego is actually behaving very lovingly towards us, even if we perceive its actions in a negative light. When we try to eradicate the ego, when we try to get rid of it, it becomes stronger. Why? Because it’s acting out of LOVE! And as we all know, love tends to be an extremely powerful force. Therefore, by truly understanding that the ego acts out of love, we can learn to live in harmony with it. In fact, we can actually work with the ego to move towards our higher spiritual goals that we previously believed the ego was trying to prevent us from reaching.
1) Ask The Question
The next time your ego acts out and you find yourself doing or thinking something that isn’t the way you’d like to live, pause for a moment and ask yourself this question: “How could this be beneficial to me?” The point of asking this question is to answer all hypothetical ways (without judgment) in which the behavior could be helpful to you. Let’s use an example and pretend that you have a difficult time going to sleep. Here’s a list of reasons why it might be beneficial to not go to sleep:
It means I’m not awake as long to do productive things
Being awake protects me from having bad nightmares
If I’m awake, then I feel safer that nobody will physically harm me
When I sleep I feel absolutely nothing, like I’m dead. I’m scared I won’t wake up.
You see, those are a few reasons why we might not be able to sleep. Notice anything in common? They’re all protective instincts coming from the ego… they’re all with the intent of love. By recognizing this, we are empowered to then work with the ego and find a more meaningful solution.
2) Feel The Answers
The next thing to do is look at the reasons you listed. Say one out loud, close your eyes, and focus your attention on area of your belly just below your ribs. You are listening to see if this reason you spoke out loud causes a reaction in you… something that says, “Yes, that feels like it could be the reason.” Maybe the first one will cause a reaction, maybe you won’t find a reaction until the last one. However, assuming you’ve exhausted all possibilities as to why you might have the upsetting behavior or thought, then repeating this process with each possibility will eventually identify exactly why it is happening.
3) Thank Your Ego
Once you identify the reason, the next thing to do is THANK YOUR EGO for acting out of love and protecting you in that way. Gratitude is key here because it recognizes that the ego isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just not focused on the same set of priorities as you are.:) This is fundamentally important to this process because it enables you to build a meaningful relationship with your ego built on trust, and more importantly, respect.
4) Give Your Ego A New Reason
Now that we have thanked the ego, we must release it from its previous duty. Let it know that its original purpose is no longer needed, and that you would like it to take on a new purpose. This new purpose should reinforce the way you want to now live, for example, to be able to fall asleep easily at night from now on. The goal here is to continue building that relationship with your ego in a positive and healthy way. Remember, it wants to show it’s love for you! What better way than appreciating what it’s done and now giving it a brand new way to show it’s love for you?
It’s important to make sure your ego knows why you want this new behavior, so the more justifications you can find the better. Therefore, as an additional exercise to help identify the new reasons, you can use a similar process as step 1. Instead of asking a question about why the behavior is bad, instead, ask why the newly desired behavior is good. Following our example we would ask the question, “Why is it beneficial to fall asleep easily and quickly?”
I awake more rested and can be more productive throughout the day
I can enjoy my dreams
I can release the stress of the previous day
I can wake up early to enjoy a sunrise / make a nice breakfast / workout / etc
When I sleep I feel extremely at peace
Now you have a full list of reasons to justify to your ego why this new behavior is in your best interests, and that will help guide your ego to continue acting out of love for you… now in line with your goals!