Ego and Self at Work
Over the forty years that I have worked as a consulting organizational psychologist, two things have become clear to me. There is almost no limit to what human beings can achieve together if we perceive it to be in our self-interest. Technical solutions appear to be possible for all our challenges, but instead of implementing then, we seem, instead to be destroying the very foundations of our existence. At present we are facing the collapse of our ecological systems, social inequities and power differentials are destroying the social fabric of our lives, and our democracy is at risk as we have fallen into a pit of endless polarization and conflict. Discontent with involvement in work has led to the “great resignation”. It is difficult to even find people to hire these days. How can we understand this situation and become part of the solution?
Anyone who has attempted to make changes in our organizations can testify to the difficulty of achieving a positive result. Where do we go wrong and what can we do about it? There is a strong tendency, when we are not pleased with whatever is going on at a particular time, to look for who needs fixing, to blame them, proceed to prescribe how they could do a better job at work, and finally ridicule them for not doing what we suggested (although all this judging is usually done behind their backs or on social media). The quality improvement movement popularized by Arthur Deming and Joseph Juran introduced us to the idea that, instead of blaming people, we should look to improving the context that people work in, the culture and processes which create the conditions which either bring out the best, or the worst in us.
There is a fundamental assumption underlying the design of most modern organizations in America which receives little attention, even in a time when the very basis of capitalism is being questioned. I call this assumption the “ego-system”. We are familiar with the idea of ecosystem, the interaction of many elements to maintain a certain stability of functioning. By ego-system I mean the tendency for organizations to be designed to appeal to, serve and be driven by the ego needs of participants in the system. This assumption is so fundamental that we don’t even question it. This is largely because we don’t think much about what we really are as a human being, and we go along with the assumption that what we are is “me”, the voice talking in our head all day long expressing its preferences, opinions, and demands.
Adopting a less self-centered, judgmental, more systemic approach has produced much better results in pursuing organizational change, but anyone who has been involved in organizational improvement efforts knows how hopelessly wrong they can go. It is amazing the degree to which we can waste time, money, and effort on ultimately making things worse. Often this is because those who drive and “own” the change process often project their “common sense views” on the situation and proceed to ram a change down people’s throats which is often ill informed, and half baked.
This mistake is repeated over and over again because those who tend to drive change have the power to insist they are right and ignore evidence that contradicts their view. When we push a change on others based on our version of common sense, we find out it may neither be common or valid.
Successful organization development requires a common approach, but common in the sense that it is based on a genuinely shared understanding of the situation and what it will really take to make it work. The people involved must have a common understanding of the circumstances and the goal and be genuinely motivated to make successful change. Otherwise, the effort will dissolve into the many ways that change fails.
Let’s back up an additional step and consider that the best place to start in improving our organizations is with ourselves. This is a simple idea which has profound consequences, but which we somehow tend to forget when we are in a position of power and seek to make change. This idea can be summarized as: “If everyone sweeps the street in front of their shop, the street will be clean”. This perspective can be dismissed as a cliché, or, we can seek to understand how it is possible to put ourselves in a position to more effectively build organizations that really work.
Stated another way, if our sincere desire is to build organizations that bring out the best I people, there is only one place to start, which is, to strive to bring the best in ourselves to the work. How do we do that? Consider the possibility that the messes that we encounter in the world of work arise from a single problem: We have built a civilization around the demands of the ego, and we assume that we are conscious, aware beings who consistently act in a rational manner. Many people I work with have an awareness that something is not right in the way we live in our modern society, but it is difficult to get a firm grasp on what is out of order, let alone figure out what to do about it. The purpose of this chapter is to share some perspectives on the inner drama that plays out in human life, which we tend to summarize as having to do with “the ego”.
Many of us have received wake up calls delivered by life, through which we have discovered that our inner life is not the simple, consistent, positive realm that we would like to believe it is.
I was 19 and the proud owner of a 1953 Jaguar XK120, a dream car for the male ego. I had come to realize, however that it had come to own me, instead of me owning it. The car broke down on a very predictable schedule, every 2 weeks, and cost more than I could afford to fix. An intense love hate relationship evolved between my male ego and this car which reached an obsessive intensity. Finally, I came to the realization that the car had to go, and all the emotional forces that had developed over my inner struggle became focused on getting the car out of my life.
Finally, I found a prospect and we agreed to meet in a residential neighborhood. There I sat on somebody’s lawn looking over the car parked at the curb as I waited for my buyer to come inspect the car. The scheming voice in my head had taken me over, going over and over my strategy for steering my prospect’s attention away from the car’s weaknesses and onto its good points. This voice was bent on dumping my car on this unknown victim. Looking back, I can see that I was obsessively contracted around the single intention of foisting my car on this poor buyer. My body was tense, my mind rigidly focused on manipulation, and an emotional negativity surrounded me which created a general assumption that this buyer somehow deserved to be victimized.
As my scheme rolled over in my mind, some part of me became aware of an old man walking down the road towards me. This other part of me was trying to get a word in edgewise, suggesting I might consider saying hello to this man. The schemer in me of course dismissed this idea instantly as irrelevant to the mission of the moment and took over my mind space again. As the old man neared, the struggle between these two parts of me intensified, and suddenly he was standing next to me. I looked up and said hello. With a bright, open smile he said, “You are looking at the sunflower!”
I suddenly realized that, between me and the car, directly in front of me, the nine-inch bloom right in front of my face, was a glorious sunflower. Prior to the appearance of the old man, I had not seen it at all, captured as I had been in drama of the schemer in my head. The old man smiled again and walked off down the street. There I sat, staring at the sunflower, the world suddenly so much larger and brighter and fuller after my escape from my “schemer’s” clutches.
Soon my prospect drove up, a young man who clearly could not afford a giant hole in the road that sucked up money. I had a very pleasant conversation with him about the benefits and liabilities of the car. He decided it was not for him, and off I went into a beautiful day with a clear conscience and a mystery to consider which has been with me since.
My encounter with the sunflower man revealed to me that there were several parts, or “sub-personalities” operating in me at the same time. I saw clearly that the quality of my life was determined by which one was allowed to take charge. My exploration of this mystery has led to an understanding that, rather than being a single, unified identity as we assume, we are, instead, a collection of a variety of “selves”, which have different qualities and functions and manifest a wide variety of degrees of functionality and dysfunctionality. There is a vast literature in this subject in modern psychology and in the wisdom traditions which explore the evolution of human beings. Unfortunately, in modern common parlance, we have few terms to describe this phenomenon. We simply refer to these issues as having to do with “ego”, and perhaps “lower self” or “baser impulses”.
If we have had a minimally dysfunctional modern upbringing, we have learned to subordinate the impulses of the lower self to the discipline of the ego. This leaves the ego in charge, which does provide some domestication of the animal urges, but the cost is a life driven by the flattened, narrowed, constricted perspective which characterizes the part of us we call “ego”. It tends to be all about “me”, my wants, my preferences, my fears, and resentments.
There is a broader perspective possible, which is often referred to as capital “S” Self, True Self, or Higher Self. We encounter this experience as a child before the ego has constrained our experience. Viewed by Self, the world is a brighter, more colorful, far more beautiful place, enlivened by a palpable sense of intrinsic mystery. We may experience this Self in love, in nature, in vigorous physical exertion, through the creative process, in contemplation, meditation and prayer.
The really wonderful thing about engaging life through Self is there is a great freedom in it from the limiting obsessions of the ego: what I must have, what I must do, what I must be. The ego can become attached to virtually any focus, however dysfunctional and painful. It can become attached to delusions of grandeur, to a belief in personal depravity or victimhood, any focus that gives it a sense of reality. The ego will defend these delusions to the death, because whatever it is identified with in that moment, is its reality, however limiting, painful or destructive. This attitude of the ego is call narcissism.
"The narcissistic orientation is one in which one experiences as real only that which exists within oneself, while the phenomena in the outside world have no reality in themselves but are experienced only from the viewpoint of their being useful or dangerous to one. The opposite pole to narcissism is objectivity; it is the faculty to see people and things as they are, objectively, and to be able to separate this objective picture from a picture which is formed by one's desires and fears."
Erich Fromm. The Art of Loving
The challenges of growth and development appear very different from the points of view of ego and Self. Ego has a very great need to conceal and deny “weakness”, because for ego, “I must be the best, and weakness is threatening to my very existence.” From the perspective of Self, there is a deeper appreciation of the entirety of the life journey. There is more compassion for who I really am, how I came to be the way I am, and a deeper understanding of the work that is presented to me in the next step in my evolution. When we have true compassion for ourselves and our circumstances, we correspondingly tend to have compassion for others.
We will consider here three elements of the human being, and the interaction dynamics of these elements in the organization. The elements are: “impulse”, “control”, and “wisdom”. An excess of uncontrolled impulse results in the dysfunctional organization. The competitive organization is achieved by bringing the impulses under control in service of the goals of the organization. An excess of control, however, can cause problems. For example, control is exerted by individuals, and as such the competitive organization can suffer from the excessive control of individuals who are acting solely in what they perceive to be their own best interests.
Excessive control over long periods of time can also result in a rigid and stultified bureaucracy, which evidence a distinct lack of impulse to act and innovate. The guiding influence of wisdom is required to balance impulse and control and reconcile the various constituencies that make up an organization.
To understand how to build an organization that brings out the best in people, it is useful to understand the psychological structures out of which these three elements emerge. To this end I will present insights from Freud, Max Freedom Long who studied the Hawaiian Huna system, and John Bennett who studied the system of nafs or “selves” from the transpersonal perspective.
Freud on Id, Ego, and Superego
In describing the dynamics of personality, Freud introduced the concepts of id, ego, and superego. Since that time, the term “ego” has become a common label for a wide range of psychological dynamics. A better understanding of these and related terms can provide us a much deeper understanding of how to build organizations that balance impulse, control and wisdom and thereby bring out the best in people.
In Freud’s view, the id is the most primitive part of the personality. It arises from the body, is fully active at birth, responsible for all our instinctive, primitive functions, especially sexuality and aggression. Freud called these impulses “triebe” or “drives.” It acts to get our needs met. It is entirely focused on what “I want”, and “I need”. The Id operates on the pleasure principle, meaning it seeks always to avoid discomfort and to seek pleasure.
The id has no sense of reality, what is possible or impossible, nor does it have any concern for others. When the Id wants something, nothing else matters. An inability to satisfy needs immediately leads to tension and anxiety. According to Freud, the Id is the source of all psychic energy. It is the part of human beings that is responsible for “impulse”.
The job of the ego is to satisfy the drives of the Id through such functions as perception, thinking, and motor control. The ego develops over time in recognition of a reality outside “itself” in interaction with other people and the outside world. Freud explained that, as the id operates on the pleasure principle, the ego operates on the reality principle.
The ego comes to realize that others have needs and preferences and that it is not always a good idea to ignore the needs of others. The ego realizes that you can’t always get what you want, at least not immediately, and employs defense mechanisms to control the id. These defenses include repression, the exclusion of impulses from conscious awareness, projection of unacceptable impulses on others, and reaction formation, which is an exaggerated adoption of a pattern of behavior which is opposite to the unacceptable impulse arising from the id.
The ego also negotiates between the pressures of the id and the superego. It seeks to find a balance between excessive need gratification and excessive delay of need gratification. It does this through planning and thinking and controlling the Id. The ego is the agent of control.
In Freud’s psychology, the superego is the last part of the mind to develop; it is the moral component which is often equated with (perhaps erroneously) the conscience. The superego is on a continual campaign for perfection, pursuing its ends through the imposition of rules. Its power to enforce rules is vested in its ability to generate anxiety. Freud believed the rules imposed by the superego to have been learned from parents and authority figures. Obeying these rules leads to feelings of pride, value, and accomplishment. The consequence of breaking the rules is fear of punishment, guilt, and remorse. The relationship between superego and “wisdom” is not as clear as the relationship between id and impulse and ego and control.
A Healthy Personality
According to Freud, a healthy personality is built on a healthy balance between id, ego, and superego. Not too much self-gratification, not too much moralistic restraint. In Freud’s psychology it is the job of the ego to maintain this balance. The ability to maintain this balance in the face of the tension between id and superego is called ego strength.
Unresolved tension between id and superego can result in fixations or complexes. The individual is “stuck” in these old patterns. In response the result may be regression to more infantile behavior, and or the formation of various symptoms which Freud called “neurosis”.
The Hawaiian “Huna” Perspective on the Three Selves
On the other side of the planet, a very different culture also discerned three “selves” in each of us. They called these selves “unihipili,” “uhane” and “aumakua”. These terms share the root “u”, which refers to a separate self or spirit, entity, or unit of consciousness.
In their view, each of us is comprised of three different selves which are at different levels of psychological evolution, and which have different functions, capacities, and orientations. In the Huna view, it is the quality of functioning and interaction of these “selves” that determines the nature and quality of an individual’s life.
Unihipili – Lower Self
The lower self in the Huna tradition is associated with the flow of life energy or “mana,” through sticky threads of energy or droplets of rain-like energy. It is described as childlike, playful, tending to behave in a somewhat secretive manner, outside of the conscious awareness. It is responsible for all of our autonomic, unconscious bodily functions. Very sensitive to shaming and criticism, it seeks to avoid offending those in authority or power and it is associated with memory.
It is interesting to note the similarity of the unihipili to Freud’s Id. Both are seen as primitive, associated with energy, libido, or mana, and both are associated with memory and the “hidden” or unconscious. This description of unihipili adds to our understanding of that part of us which is responsible for “impulse”.
Uhane – Middle Self
The uhane is described as a “tube” or conveyance. It is associated with inductive reason and speaking or “whispering”. It is also described as the “guide or teacher in the house”. The uhane is positioned between the unihipili and aumakua, as the ego is positioned between the id and superego. The uhane appears to be that part of us that is “whispering” in our heads all day long, which makes those little decisions all day, attempting to control the impulses of the lower self.
Aumakua – Higher Self
The aumakua is called “the god within”. It is the most evolved of the three selves, the “older, parental and entirely trustworthy self”. Aumakua has been seen as a guardian angel, or guiding spirit, and can manifest itself as a particular species of animal. Traditional Hawaiian’s tended to view their family as being guided by a particular aumakua, for instance the shark, the owl, or the turtle spirit.
It is interesting that the aumakua refers both to the higher self of an individual as well as guardian spirits which manifest as animals. The higher self is seen as the source of all knowledge and wisdom, pertaining to past, present and “those elements of the future which have been crystallized”. One could say that this description of aumakua represents the Hawaiian view of wisdom and its source.
The Tripartite Tradition
It seems there is a tradition in many cultures to conceive of the primary aspects of the human being in three categories. The first, often viewed as the “lower” is associated with the outer expression of the human being, the body. It is the life force that gives life, animates matter, and is associated with all living things. The second, often described as the “higher” is associated with the spirit, or intelligence, or consciousness that is uniquely human. The third is usually conceived as somehow “between” the higher and the lower. This middle element is described as a “self”, or “soul”, or “I” which must mediate between the higher and lower elements.
In the Christian tradition these three principles are called anima, animus and spiritus. Anima controls the life of the body. It regulates the bodily function. It is ready to act with a precision and skill that is beyond us or at any rate cannot be grasped by the mind. We see this when we are threatened physically, and our body intelligence takes over, and somehow executes very rapid actions to secure our survival. Animus is the conscious part in us, the part that thinks, reasons, decides on courses of action, and gives our human existence its personal and responsible character. Spiritus refers to a certain power of living. It is in essence, love, tendency, desire, a silent grasping of the true, the good, the beautiful of God.
The Sufi System of “Nafs” or “Selves”
In the Sufi tradition, the lower element is called ruh-al-haywani,or animal spirit. The higher is called ruh-al-insani or human spirit, and the middle as a series of “nafs” or “self-structures ” which manifest different qualities depending upon the degree to which the human consciousness, the ruh-al-haywani is identified with and attached to the animal spirit. In this conception, that which is essentially human is of divine origin, and has become associated with and bound to the animal qualities that are an intrinsic and inevitable consequence of living in a physical body.
John G. Bennett was a student of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, who studied the Christian mystical and Sufi systems of spirituality and psychology. Bennett presented a synthesis of this Sufi system of psychology, describing three levels of self.
He described the material self as the level of self-most identified with matter. It is the self of the physical body, and it is responsible for navigating the world of objects. The material self is capable of very sophisticated activity in the material world, but it is limited in that it relates to the world only as physical object, and it is motivated by powerful sensual impulses. It is unaware of the reality of other human beings and as such it is capable of great cruelty and self-centered behavior. The material self will stop at nothing to achieve its ends, irrespective of the consequences for others. It has no sense of remorse for its actions.
The material self has no sense of what is realistic, it does not understand limitations or restrictions, driven as it is by the impulse to action and acquisition. It is never satisfied, never getting enough of what it wants, more money, more possessions, more power, more sex, more drugs. It is never satisfied or at peace.
The material self, operating on what Bennett called “automatic energy” is highly conditioned, reflexive, and impulsive. The material self enables us to deal with the world of physical objects, but only in a very conditioned way.
Bennett described the reactional self as operating on “sensitive energy” which gives us a sense of being alive. This reactional self is about direction, “toward or away from” and is based on polarities, attraction, and aversion (see Deeper Man by John Bennett). When we operate out of the reactional self we have the possibility of making contact with (which the material self does not) the “other”. The reactional self-contact is always characterized by a polarized like or dislike, attraction, or repulsion dynamic.
The sensitive energy through which the reactional self operates has tremendous force. It creates a powerful dynamism in our psyche in relation to the world, other people, and our perception of ourselves. It can lead to a very conditioned, highly polarized orientation to the world and life which we feel very strongly about, even though the content of those beliefs may be paradoxical and even transitory.
Whatever we believe or feel or perceive based on a reactional self takes on the status of “The Truth”, even though the content may be purely opinion, prejudice, or personal preference with no factual basis or objective validation. This is the root of fanatical attitude. In the Sufi tradition, it is this reactional self, called also the “blaming self”, that is seen to be responsible for restraining the material self, called “the commanding self” or “the self-inciting evil”.
In the Sufi tradition it is this reactional self, which is able to respond to law, to understand the need to restrain the excesses of the material self, and to bring order to the self and society. is interesting to note that it is the unguided reactional self which then becomes that root of the fanatical fundamentalist, whether that fundamentalist be a Moslem, A Christian, A Jew, A Hindu, an Atheist, a Conservative, or a Liberal. All share the same entrapment in a fanatical attachment to a set of personal preferences which have been raised to the status of, for them, “the Truth”.
The reactional self has a very important job to do. It is responsible for controlling the material self. The reactional self is capable of understanding consequences. It can think “If I do this, something bad may happen to me.” This is not empathy or compassion. It is a sense of consequence. Most important, the reactional self is capable of feeling remorse for its actions. It can assimilate a sense of right and wrong and feel remorse for not living up to that standard. This is why the reactional self in the Sufi system is called the “Blaming Self”.
This self is capable of blaming itself for not measuring up. But, quite often, most often for some of us, it spends most of its time blaming others for not measuring up. The reactional self is critical to human development. It provides an agent and a motivation to work on oneself, but only after one has shifted from blaming others most of the time and getting down to work on one’s own issues.
If we observe ourselves, the manifestations of the material and reactional selves can be quite clear, an every day, every moment experience. Bennett’s description of the true self is far different. He describes the true self as being associated with balance, and with wholeness. It is achieved through the “harmony of the centers”, meaning the proper functioning and integration of our thinking, feeling and sensory motor centers allowing the manifestation of the “real I”, which is the reality, or essence of what it is to be human.
Bennett associates the true self with freedom, true freedom from the limitations of the physical body, from existence, and from the ego, the false sense of self. This is clearly a subject that goes far beyond this discussion of creating organizations which bring out the best in us. It does raise, however an important question that is relevant here.
If our objective is to create organizations that bring out the best in people, we need to understand what a human being is, and what the implications of humanness are. In the Sufi tradition, the system of selves or “nafs” introduced here and described by describes seven levels of self. There is the material self, the reactional self, a divided self which is the self beginning to be attracted by the spiritual dimension of life, and then there are three more levels of refinement of the true self.
In the Sufi tradition, it is in our evolution through these levels of self, that we become truly human. Paradoxically what disappears in this journey is a separate sense of self, the ego is washed away. What manifests is a person increasingly motivated by unity, by love, and decreasingly distracted by the pain of separation and the fear that accompanies it. Viewed from this point of view we can understand why our typical organizations are so dysfunctional and feel so empty. They tend to be driven by the forces of the material and reactional selves, which are the lowest and least human dimensions in our makeup.
Consider the truly inspiring stories you have heard about groups of people who have created something special together. See for yourself if, at the core of these special organizations, there is not a motivation which goes beyond the purely material and personal preference. It is usually love in some form. Love of people, love of beauty, love of knowledge, love of building something special together.
It is the true self that is capable of empathy, it is guided by conscience, and it is ultimately capable of true creativity. In the transpersonal view, the emergence of the true self in human beings is seen as the purpose of life, perhaps the purpose of the creation. In the Sufi view, until the True Self has been realized in us, we are not really human. If this is true, and if our modern organizations have been expressly designed to serve our material and reactional self, then it is no wonder that we are seeing so much happening in the world that does not match up to our sense of how human beings should live.
Impulse, Control and Wisdom in Organization
It seems that human behavior can be viewed as being motivated and guided or driven by three very different aspects of the human being or “selves”:
· An impulsive, material, animalistic, self-centered self which navigates the world of objects, connects us to our life energy, can be playful, or extremely cruel. This self is primarily about “life” or life energy, the world of objects, survival and pleasure and getting what it wants- Now!
· A controlling, reactive, decision-making self which seeks to avoid punishment, and can discipline the material self, but is very opinionated, driven by a black or white, like or dislike orientation to the world. This self is about “identity”, it is the focus of awareness and calls itself “I”, “me”, the ego, or “myself”, and above all it seeks to be right, and in control.
· A higher, or true self that evolves out of inspiring life experiences, which is characterized by empathy for other human beings, a sense of conscience, of responsibility in life, and an increasing sense of selflessness, wonder and gratitude in living as that higher self is revealed and distilled through the life experience. This level of self is addressed primarily by the spiritual traditions of the world, and in psychology by the field of transpersonal psychology. This level of self is called the “I Am”. The higher self, the true self, Insani Kamil.
Self-Observation and Change
I would like to share two experiences, one which had a positive impact on overcoming the excesses of the material self, and the second on those deriving from the reactional self.
I had the opportunity many years ago, to participate in a nine-month residential training program which was based on the teachings of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, who studied the methods of the Sufi’s as well as others. In the course of this program, we engaged in a variety of meditation techniques, some sitting, some “action oriented” such as the sacred dances of Gurdjieff. We were also benefitted by the exclusion of normal everyday distractions such as television and radio.
One of the challenges I was working on when I started the program, was difficulty controlling my anger, which seemed to sneak up and take me over. During the course of the program, I observed a very interesting evolution. At first, I become more aware of having been being “consumed” by my anger. Then there began to be, earlier on in the anger process, a part of me which was aware of being angry. In the beginning this part was unable to do much, other than observe. Then, as time went on, this “observer” began to make use of some inner practices, to “let go” of the anger. In particular these practices had to do with working with my breathing, but what really made it possible to let go of the anger was the fact that I began to identify this inner observer as “I”, and that “I” recognized the anger and all the justifications that my angry part was making for its anger, as just that, justifications. In these cases, you might say my “locus” of identity shifted from the angry part, to this other, observing part.
As time went on, I began to identify increasingly with the observer, and dis-identified with the angry part. I became increasingly suspicious of the view of the world that my angry part painted, recognizing that this view of the world usually led to more trouble.
Then, as more time progressed, I began to realize that I could see the anger response arising, before it took me over, and, if I caught the response at that point, it was easier to overcome, by deepening my breathing, and releasing. The possibility of choice began to present itself, to release the anger, or to express the anger, depending on which was more appropriate to the situation.
The point is, the angry impulses which appeared to me to arise from the lower, material self, could either take me over, become my master, or I could become the master of these impulses. It depended on the level of my awareness, which depended, it seemed upon some accumulated quantum of quality awareness which I associate with the meditative lifestyle I lived at that time.
The second experience is more recent and pertains to the impact of awareness and meditation on the reactive self. I have practiced a daily meditation for the last 20 years and again, there has been some perceivable accumulation of awareness, which from time to time presents a moment of deeper insight.
Through my meditative practice, I have come to see one of my habits more clearly. This habit is a nearly constant focus on “making good use of time and getting things done”. This habit has recently begun to reveal itself as a more than a bit tyrannical. I began to notice that this habit, much like an automated program wants to run all the time, not only on workdays, but also weekends. I had come to value my ability to get things done and accepted this program as a necessary part of my psyche. Then one day I realized that this program had taken over my life, in a sense become my master, making lists, and driving me from one item to the next, never being satisfied with any accomplishment.
I recognized this as a function of the “middle, reactional, ego self”. It has a valuable function in our lives, evaluating, making plans, keeping track and so on, but, being a part of ego, it also tends to believe that it is the whole show, the whole self. Being identified with it, I unconsciously assented to its unilateral control, until this moment of awareness, in which I saw it from the “outside” and realized it for what it is; an ego function that had gotten way out of control. Since then, it has been possible to recognize many moments in which this planner has gone overboard, and let it go, especially on the weekends, when constant doing is not the best pathway to renewal and repose.
Whatever approach you take to meditation, the practice offers a very important over-arching benefit. It offers to increase one’s level of awareness and make it possible to connect more deeply with the reality of our life and our human beingness. It is the ultimate upshifting tool, which makes it possible to rise above the domination of the lower self, the ego and clears the way to a connection with and experience of the True Self. Once that connection is made, the real adventure begins, because we are no longer completely lost in an illusion.
In closing, I want to share some advice from Suleyman Hayati Dede, the Last Sheikh of Konya of the Mevlevi Sufi tradition:
If we do not strive
For inner perfection,
we will remain
what we are now-
The world Has never been
without its teachers.
Jesus, Buddha, Muhammed
were some of the
great ones, but there are
always qtub, special beings
who take care of the world.
The perfect man,
the complete man,
lies within each of us.
The Whirling Dervishes, Shems Friedlander,
SUNY Press, New York 1992, p.30
Copyright Kim Payton Ph.D. 2022