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Posts Tagged ‘ego’

My son asked me today, “How do you teach patience and perseverence?”   Apparently he knew someone who needed to learn and my son wanted to teach them.

I said, “Those qualities cannot be taught.”

So then he asked, “Then how did I learn them?”

Mind you, he is 22 years old, and I thought of the witty retort: “it takes time and effort to teach patience and perseverence”, but the truth is that he had learned these things by the time he was he was 5.   I tried to remember teaching my children.  I realized that what I taught them were the attributes that are required before patience and perseverence can be developed.  Then they developed those skills by themselves.  I was raised in a military family, so I learned early on never to shirk responsibility or shift blame.  Those were shameful behaviors that my parents snuffed out pretty darn quick.

My kids were taught that they are responsible for what happens to them.  This cause-and-effect lesson can be painful, but is necessary.  When they fell down or hurt themselves my first reaction was to say, “Slow down and watch where you are going.”  They put their own band-aids on.  When they were sick they were put to bed with juice and told to sleep.  There was absolutely no coddling.  Nowadays this would be considered child abuse by parents who think their children need to be worshipped as gods.  I am thinking now of parents whose children see a doctor when their noses run, or who call their teachers to complain when their child fails a test.

After some years of this training, my kids rarely sported skinned knees or colds lasting more than a day.  They never played illness or injury as if it were an advantage.  Even now when they are all adults they watch where they are going and go to bed uncomplaining with juice if they are sick.

Disappointments were handled the same way.  I never told them that the disapointment was caused by someone or some circumstance.  I always said, “Why didn’t you do X?” or “Why didn’t you try harder?” and  “You will get it next time if you work at it.”

So by emphasizing that they were responsible for what happens to them, they learned patience and perseverence all by themselves.

I reminded my son of the opening 10 minutes of Kung Fu.  I told him that Caine came to the monastery as a child, not with a clean slate, but having already learned patience and perseverence.  The boys who were dismissed had not. Caine waited outside the gates for a week, then longer, then in the rain…and then the important clincher: “After you, honorable sir.”

I told him to show his friend that film and perhaps it might help.  Those who are extremely self-centered cannot think beyond their personal space.  They cannot be patient because they want what they want right now.  They cannot persevere because if they can’t get what they want, they abandon the goal or try to get someone else to get it for them.  And…they seem to be always whining.

How to teach them to release the ego?  How do you teach someone he or she is not the center of the universe?  Hard to do if they have been taught that they ARE since birth.

When there is so much to overcome, there is an “aha” moment when folks do “get it”.  There is a moment like that in Kung Fu as well.  The child Caine asks the blind monk Po, “Old man, how is it that you hear these things?” and Po replies, “Young man…how is it that you do not?”

You can see the “aha” in Caine’s eyes.

I told my son to give the DVD to his friend and cross his fingers.

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This is an example of the fractal Mandelbrot Set.  Giving the image a name isn’t really important, but some folks might see this and think it is an inkblot, similar to what Dr Rorschach flashed at patients to get inside their minds.  It is, and it isn’t.     If you took a magnifying glass and looked at one of the edges you would find a smaller copy of the image.  You could do that forever.

An inkblot test might get 99 people to “see” a butterfly, but the 100th might “see” a pig.  Uhm.  OK.  Is that person wrong?  Crazy?  Who is to say?  Experts?  Psychologists?  Psychiatrists?  a Judge?  In a complex society like ours the answer is ‘yes’.  Someone has to make that judgment.  But let’s step away from the social aspect and look at the blot from an existential aspect.  The pig-seeing person differs from the norm, but that does not make him wrong.

How about the wild rhetoric flying about America today?  You would think there was only one right way to run a country and if you do not agree, you are in league with Satan.  Why do people say, “My way or the Highway” or descend to ad hominem attacks if you do not agree?

So WHY do people get so hot when others disagree with them?  It is because they really really believe that there is only one way or one thought or one true and correct answer.   If you disagree you imply that they are wrong, and that feels like an attack on their fragile egos.

The most vociferous folks will battle to the death to MAKE you see it their way.   But why do they care?

(Read more in a related study here)

The first step in being able to navigate beyond physical reality is to understand how fluid physical reality really is.  Your ego is important.  It is there to focus your consciousness in this particular physical reality.  If you did not have an ego, you would find it difficult to steer.  The ego is like a lens, or the rudder of a ship.  When YOU use it for your own purposes, you have smooth sailing.  When you allow your ego to stomp around reality uncontrolled, you will be in for heavy seas.

You accept that everyone sees the world through the lens of their own egos.  The clearer you grind that lens, the more you will see.  If it is curved or flawed or colored, then everything seen through it will be distorted.  It will seem REAL to you, however.  “What do you MEAN that tree is red?  Of course it is GREEN!”  But if you are looking through a red filter you are just as correct as your friend.  Touch the tree, then.  Does it FEEL red?  You see where I am going with this.  It is foolish to argue with anyone holding on firmly to beliefs they will not release.  You cannot use reason to convince someone something isn’t “true” when they didn’t use reason to place that idea in their minds in the first place.  Just let it go.  It has nothing to do with you.

(an aside:  I am not suggesting that folks should not be activists, merely that shouting at your friend is not the way to share ideas)

When you poke your head through the veil of physical reality, you toss that ego lens back to earth.  Its comforting images will no longer be there to guide you.  The Landmarks will be different.  For example.  You may drift through your living room.  There is your grandfather’s old recliner.  You “blink” and now it looks new, another “blink” and it is not quite the same color.  Now it has an extra cushion.  What is “there” is the idea of your grandfather’s recliner, not the chair you see when you are awake and walking around the physical room.  Plato went into some detail on this idea, so I suppose he traveled the ether himself.  If he participated in the Elysian Mysteries, I am sure he did.

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This is my favorite quote from Richard Bach, the Metaphysician.  Henry Ford, the Pragmatist, said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right!”

I wouldn’t be pounding this concept so hard if I didn’t see the problems people create for themselves every day at work just because their thinking is skewed.  So many many times each day I hear a co-worker bemoan some “fact” about his or her reality that just isn’t “true”.  I put true in quotations because Truth (with a big T) is very definitely subjective.  If you are accepting something as True, then it is.  The obverse is also true.  If my colleagues would say, “I am not satisfied with the way this project is progressing, and I am discussing alternatives with the other folks in my group” then I would smile and nod.  But that is not what they say.

They say, “Mary ruined the project with her stupid idea” or “Management was unreasonable when they demanded this be done on a deadline” or better yet, “Everyone is putting me down and not letting me do my work”.  I love that one.  Do you see the drift?  If something is not going well, it is someone else’s fault.

Do these folks honestly believe in their heart-of-hearts that they are infallible?  Do they really think that if they had complete and total control of the project it would turn out perfectly and on time?  I don’t think so.  I think they are making all that noise so when the criticism comes, it is aimed at someone else.  Deflection to protect their egos.

An how is the ego damaged by failure?  Are You what people think of You?  or are You something else?

A great many people define themselves by what others think of them, and how do they know?  Unless they are reading minds, they are guessing.  This makes for an unwieldy self-image.  You are what you THINK others are THINKING about you.  All comes back to what you think… again.

Our culture encourages this way of self-image because it sells a lot of products (from beauty products to self-help books!).  Young people are nearly impossible to impress with any other way of thinking.  To them it IS vitally important which table they sit at in the cafeteria.

I would say that no amount of public approval will completely satisfy an insecure Ego.  The insecure will always focus on the one negative comment, as if anything less than complete agreement or complete adulation is unacceptable.

Impossible, therefore massive psychological misery.

You are NOT what others think of you.  You are what you think of yourself.  This is manageable.  If you are dissatisfied with yourself, you can change the way you  think of your Self.  It is more difficult (and expensive) to change the way others think of you.  Even then you cannot be sure.

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