I read an article recently where the authors tried to figure out why people get so defensive when it comes to health and exercise advice. The article was ok; I realized that I see the issue differently, and wanted to discuss it a bit here.
A little explanation: the Ego, in psychological terms, is Who I Think I Am. It’s my personality, my dreams, my humor, my quirks, my habits, everything that could possibly go into how I see myself is included in in the Ego.
And the Ego has three basic needs in order to feel at ease. I’ll post them in stages so that you have plenty of time to let them marinate.
My hope is that, by starting to identify the needs of the mind, we can remove some of the neediness, the franticness, the desperation, surrounding these themes. So just read through and see where it lands for you, where you observe it in yourself, in others, in your past, and in your patterns.
Make no mistake, in order to feel safe, Ego wants to be right. And it prefers when everyone else is wrong.
I’m sure you can see where this is true in your own life.
Often a huge source of stress and tension in people’s lives is the fact that they are being made wrong. Their symptom is wrong, their behavior is wrong, and they are wrong.
You’re too fat. You’re too skinny. You don’t have curves in the “right” places. Your muscles aren’t big enough. They’re too big. That food is bad for you. You’re terrible at this job. Just eat less and exercise more. You shouldn’t be so sad. You’re not supposed to watch that much TV. I can’t believe you ate that many calories. Your clothes are wrong. Seriously? Have you ever looked in the mirror? Who do you think you are?
Ad nauseum. Ad infinitum.
How do you respond to that? How do you come back to equilibrium?
This is not uncommon at all.
She’s a bitch. He’s a jackass. He’s intimidated by me. You don’t know my story. Shut up. You’re not qualified to judge me. I’ll unfollow you. I told you so.
People find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than for being right.
– J.K. Rowling
It’s a defense mechanism. It may be a form of denial, but to me it’s more about trying to come back into control and safety.
This is really common as well.
I was working with a young woman who binge ate often. She’d describe to me the events leading up to a binge, and every single time she’d end up completely overwhelmed, looking for some sort of container for her emotional experience so she wasn’t lost entirely. She’d find it in a bag of chips. Or a quart of ice cream. Or a box of cookies. Or other things. All of the things.
For the time it took her to eat the food, she was safe and she was right. The outside world didn’t exist, it couldn’t bother her, it couldn’t hurt her. She could manage the hell out of eating that bag of chips.
Later she’d come back to being wrong. Bad food = Bad M_____.
You might do this with TV, books, sleep, exercise, gossiping, internet, pets, or anything else. None of these things are bad, just start to notice if you’re using them to numb out to your life and your emotional experience. Inquire about the underlying reasons.
Your soul is your particular divinity, but it’s buried underneath a lot of stuff. Ego, Super Ego, Shadow, and the rest. Uncovering it takes a bit of work, a little learning, but it is available for everyone.
If you’re preoccupied with whether or not you’re right (and whether or not someone else is wrong), there’s no space for authenticity. There’s no safety for it. Vulnerability is similarly challenged. You can’t relax enough to let the soul come through.
That’s draining, and in my personal experience, leads to a lot of anxiety.
This is a hard one. We spend a lot of time cursing our journeys, trying to shame ourselves into change. If you think you need to be fixed, that means you believe you’re broken.
But you can’t lose what you never had. If you want to lose $100, you’ve gotta have it first.
Can you give yourself the gift of making your journey right? Of blessing yourself?
If you’re currently on a diet, could you maybe break for two weeks and just own where you’re at? Maybe spend a little mirror time every morning, just coming to yourself, getting familiar with your body, and owning it?
If you have an unwanted behavior, could you own it as yours? As the right choice for you? There’s a beautiful passage from Eating in the Light of the Moon that begins a story by asking you to imagine that you’ve been swept into river rapids:
Your efforts to keep afloat are futile and you are drowning. By chance, along comes a huge log and you grab it and hold on tight. The log keeps your head above water and saves your life. Clinging to the log you are swept downstream and eventually come to a place where the water is calm. There, in the distance, you see the riverbank and attempt to swim to shore. You are unable to do so, however, because you are still clinging to the huge log with one arm as you stroke with the other. How ironic. The very thing that saved your life is now getting in the way of your getting where you want to go.
Many people find themselves here when it comes to unwanted symptoms and habits.
Unfortunately, the impulse is to assume that you’re wrong, that there is something wrong with you to continue the behavior. But it wasn’t wrong to grab a log and save your own life. It was the right choice. You were right.
Give yourself the gift of making yourself right.
My point in sharing these Ego Needs is not to say they’re wrong.
At the core, these Ego Needs are about survival. In your mind, it’s life or death.
To own these Ego Needs doesn’t mean you can’t ever change. But it will hopefully start to shift your changes to be from a place of love, rather than shame. In order for your body to be what it’s supposed to be, you need to be who you’re supposed to be. It’s about coming into your power and owning these patterns.
So just start to look. See where you try to be right at all costs, and sacrifice vulnerability. See where you’ve made yourself wrong (or let other people make you wrong) and cursed your journey.
Show up for yourself.
Make yourself right.
Love happens now.