When you jump back from a bond fire, startle at a loud sound, or fire back a nasty comment to a person in a conversation, you're using the most primitive part of your brain. The ego was one of the first pieces of consciousness to evolve in human beings. Its primary goal is your safety. While this is a good thing, it can be a little out of place nowadays. Here is why your ego jumps in and causes you so many problems.
Safety is Its Singular Purpose
Your ego works overtime to keep you out of harm. It has kept humans from being eaten by wild animals or hurt by a fellow human with a club for thousands of years. Unfortunately, it hasn't kept up with the times because it doesn't care at all about your happiness. That's a different part of your brain that developed long after the ego was in place.
When in a heated discussion with your partner and tempers rise, you begin to feel threatened and your ego reacts to this. Its goal is to keep you safe, so it uses the weapons you have available at that time - your words. You say something back to your partner that you instantly regret. Your ego is fine with that tactic, but the part of you that values happiness and feeling good, now feels awful. The key to those situations is to understand when your ego is responding and you have better choices.
Tapping into the Ego
You can have a dialogue with your ego and stop yourself from reacting based on its response to a situation. Here is a meditation exercise to get you started working directly with your ego.
- Find a quiet place in which to relax with no distractions.
- Take a few deep breaths to get focused.
- Think of a situation in which you were uncomfortable, such as an argument with a friend or family member. Find a situation that still has some "sting" to it for you.
- Replay that situation in your mind as if it were happening right now.
- Listen for a little voice or a presence around you that's making suggestions as to how to respond to the situation. It could be telling you "Run away!", "Slap them!", or "Tell them they are an evil person!"
- As soon as you experience these suggestions, turn your focus on where that voice or presence is located. Some people sense it outside of their body, to one side or the other, or at the back of their head. Some people sense it somewhere inside of their body. Regardless of where you sense it, lock your attention onto that place.
- Now you can communicate with that part of you. Ask it "Why would I want to do that?" and wait for its response. Remember that this primitive part of you is only concerned with your safety. It doesn't care if the action makes you happy.
Integrating This Into Your Life
When you find yourself in those difficult or uncomfortable situations, you can pause before you react and talk with your ego. Go right to that physical location and confront it. Remember that it's doing the job it is meant to do, so treat it kindly. You still want it to have you jump back from a fire and not get burnt.
But in a situation where you want to weigh different choices and not just react, stop and talk with the ego. Thank it for its tireless efforts at keeping you safe and for the suggestions on how to deal with the current situation. Tell it you want to react differently this time. As you develop this communication channel with your ego, you'll find it easier to stop, take a breath, and not just react to a situation in a way that you'll regret later.