Oh how skilfully our ego can take us over and sweep us up in a shitstorm of drama and stress! After thinking recently that I was starting to get a relatively decent handle on catching my mind and avoiding identifying with my ego, the universe delivered me an excellent situation which perfectly highlights just how deep this unconsciousness runs, and that mindfulness is an ongoing practice. No need to be getting cocky any time soon!
My day, my energy, shifted in an instant. It had been a pretty regular day, I was out of my usual routine but it was nothing startling and all just normal life stuff. I was feeling good despite a few little niggles here and there, my energy has been refreshingly and gratifyingly on the rise lately and I am recognising the pay off from my devoted spiritual practice. All it took was a quick glance at an email that had arrived in my inbox in the early evening.
My heart squeezed. My stomach instantly began churning. I felt ill. I was physically shaking.
It’s comical retelling the story with hindsight. This instant and dramatic shift in energy, all from a short email. No terrible news had been delivered. No significant problem had been revealed. I won’t go into the details of this private matter, but suffice to say, it was a simple email. It was simply a small piece of information, and a request for my opinion.
But it’s what my ego, my thinking mind, did with that information, that sent me into a tailspin.
The thoughts that I conjured from this short email were mostly along the lines of:
– People I love must think I’ve been deceiving them;
– My words and actions have caused other people to worry, stress, and take unnecessary actions that they would otherwise not have taken;
– I’ve disappointed people I love;
– I’ve inconvenienced people I love;
– People I love must be angry with me, annoyed with me, and think less of me.
Yep, although I was very concerned about my loved ones, the crux of my freak out came down to my concern around what others think of me, and I concocted all of those assumptions based on a brief email that included no comment whatsoever about me, or what anyone thought about me.
So the drama was firmly established in my mind, and then some conversation ensued around a highly emotional topic. Any other day, I would have simply shed a few tears. But in this situation, I allowed it to snowball me staight into meltdown city.
Situations where our reputation or character is perceived as being under threat are not uncommon, and it’s a normal human response to try to maintain a favourable standing amongst our family and community. Evolution created our brains in that way, increasing our chances of survival amongst the safety and support of the tribe. It’s a base chakra phenomenon, and our ego isn’t all bad – it’s a survival mechanism.
But this brain wiring does cause us a lot of unnecessary stress, and we’re at a point in human evolution where we are better served by being aware of this process, and how to use that knowledge to reduce our suffering.
All of my thoughts around this situation were just that – thoughts, created in my mind. They weren’t truth. No one had said any of those things. And yet, I believed them as truth, and I gave them meaning without even consciously thinking about it – I am a bad person. The churning and nausea in my stomach was a clear sign that the weaknesses in my solar plexus had taken a huge hit. My self confidence isn’t unshakeable. My ability to safeguard my energy isn’t yet quite as robust as I’d like it to be. I place a grossly unbalanced weight of importance in what other people think of me.
If I’d managed in that moment to observe my thoughts and avoid identifying with them, I’d have been able to handle the ensuing conversations much more gracefully. I’d have been able to calmly and effectively respond to the email without drama. I’d have been able to see the situation for what it was, and not attach all that meaning to it. I’d have avoided much of the pain, suffering and tears that followed.
This situation has been an illuminating learning experience for me. I’m so grateful that these days, I can at least recognise what I’m doing to myself, and diffuse the anguish and suffering a hell of a lot more quickly than in the past.
As I said to my mum earlier today, tongue in cheek, clearly I needed to drum up a bit of drama for myself, seeing as I’ve been so stress-free lately and it felt too foreign! Thanks for that ego, job well done. Time to move on.
Photo credit: by Nicholas A. Tonelli. Modified and used under license.