By Aaron Short, MA, LPCC, NCC
Why did we get angry at that person? Why did we get offended when someone challenged an idea we had? Why did we lose our temper when things didn’t go according to plan? Why can’t we forgive ourselves for past transgressions? These things may have happened because our ego is out of control, plain and simple.
Unnecessary frustration, uncontrolled emotion, taking offense… all of these reactions outwardly scream “I KNOW BETTER, HOW DARE YOU CHALLENGE ME!”, while the interior voice yells, “YOU IDIOT, YOU ARE A FAILURE, YOU WILL NEVER SUCCEED!”. This stance is a stance of weakness, ignorance of self, and ego.
Our ego (when it is out of control) is our enemy. We have the ability to choose to take ownership (of our life, our thoughts, and our actions) and lead ourselves into greater freedom and depth of experience. Yet, our unchecked ego prevents us from experiencing that freedom because it causes us to lose compassion, place competition over relationship, be overly critical of others, refuse help, and adds stress to our life as a result.
So how do we gain control over an ego that has run riot? There are many different approaches to addressing this issue. However, the first two steps to on our journey towards authenticity are practicing forgiveness of self and others, and being honest with ourselves about our motivation.
- By forgiving we are letting go of baggage that we violently guard otherwise (as seen in our irrational anger and reaction to being challenged or confronted), and allowing for the potential of growth and new perspectives to exist.
- Forgiveness is not saying everything was ok, it is saying past events no longer are allowed to have control over you.
- Writing a letter to the offender, stating your forgiveness has been given, and burning or shredding it afterward (rather than mailing it) is a great exercise to facilitate forgiveness of self or others.
- Recognizing where our behaviors and thoughts originate is a great first step to identifying subconscious control in our lives. Why did we say that? Why did we stay silent? Why were we upset? Etc…
- Keep a nightly accountability journal with honest and true answers to the following questions:
- Did I do or say anything today that was meant to protect my false self (the out of control ego)?
- Why did I think this was necessary in the moment?
By taking these two steps we begin to create room for growth in ourselves as well as develop our “observing self”. With the development of the “observing self” we gain the ability to take a third person perspective on our thoughts and behavior, and evaluate it objectively rather than through the veil of emotion and ego.
Our ego is a suit of armor we have built that weighs so much it prevents us from standing. Yet we put it on each and every morning.
What would it look like to wake up and not wear that burden any longer?
How would our behavior be different if we weren’t driven by the need to guard against criticism and perceived assault on our fragile identity?
Who would we be if we took off that mask?
Where would we go in life with this new-found freedom?
Lastly, after answering the questions above, why would we choose the out of control ego over the authentic self?