The Ego

The Ego

I’m struggling with Ego issues at the moment, so it seems apt to write about this topic.

The reason I’m struggling is because someone made some disparaging remarks about one of the programs I developed and in which I am deeply involved. The comments were not truthful and frankly unfair and my first response (still lingering, hence the struggle) is from my Caveman Brain, where dwells the limbic system containing all emotions. I am also experiencing some physical reactions caused by the adrenaline and other neurotransmitters that make life interesting.

My daily work as a counselor is with people who find it difficult to deal with exactly this – an external event that triggers emotional and physiological responses that in turn lead to undesirable behavior. I know that our emotions are the result of unconscious thoughts that stem from negative childhood experiences. For example, being brought up in a dysfunctional alcoholic household where my very identity was largely dismissed and ignored led to the ingrained thought “There’s something wrong with me.” That, in spite of my own therapy and my years of personal and professional growth, is still the occasional default, as happened today.

When I work with clients, we go back and uncover those negative beliefs and re-process them. I use EMDR, but other therapists utilize other interventions successfully. I know that people like the one who was mean to me today (see how easily I revert to childhood!) have their own issues and that my higher self wants to be kind and compassionate and forgiving.

It takes practice, mindfulness, true desire, and also an awareness of just how powerful that Caveman Brain can be. The limbic system is where addiction moves in and takes up residence. We get “high” off all that adrenaline, enkephalins, dopamine, etc. When my blood is thundering in my ears (ok, maybe just pulsing a bit, I’m being melodramatic) I feel powerful. I’m on high alert and damn the torpedoes! I am able to recognize this and see the paradox of power – I am, while in that state, not powerful at all. Rather, I am truly in control of myself when I can make a decision how to respond based on my values and own sense of self.

People can become addicted to anger and drama just as they do to sex, gambling, shopping, and drugs. Anger can fuel the other addictive behaviors by giving permission to act out. How easily I could have said “I really need a drink now.” There was a time when I would have smoked half a pack of cigarettes.

Instead, I made choices. First, not to act in a way I knew I would be sorry for later. Then to look for meaning and personal growth. Hence, this article. Finally, there is the possibility of Connection in this.

I started out talking about the Ego. There is another paradox, which is so common when we talk about addiction and recovery. Our Egos are how we identify ourselves, what makes each of us who we are. Our Egos are also what keep us in addiction in that we turn inwards and focus only on the “rush” that allows escape from the pain of our disconnection. Letting go of the Ego allows us to Connect to the Universe and every living thing in it, including the people who piss us off. The paradox is that each of us is Connected and so our Egos are a part of that. We don’t need to lose ourselves, deny ourselves, or act against ourselves for the greater good. Everyone’s good is my good. My compassion for that mean person is compassion for myself, because we are Connected. And of course, I need that compassion and understanding. I’ve been there and done that when it comes to being thoughtless and even mean. So in the end, my Ego brought me back to Connection. I’m calm now and ready for sleep.

Be In Light

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