Is Ego Making You Sick?
Overcoming resistance as a path to better health.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” -Lao Tzu
Resistance is the ego saying, “no no we can’t let that go!” Resistance is the root of all stagnation. Stagnation, when things get stuck and don’t move, is the root of all disease (Read more about what do when you’re feeling stuck). How do we practice overcoming resistance to keep the flow going without an acupuncturist following us around?
Ego, in this context, does not refer to arrogance, or entitlement, though ego can be both. Ego is referring to the aspect of self and psyche that develops in childhood to differentiate us from our mothers. Ego defines the Me and the You, separating self from others. It is a normal and healthy stage of development. We all have an ego and we all need a well-integrated ego. That being said, sometimes we get stuck in this developmental stage. The ego is continually reinforced to the point where we can’t develop beyond it. There are some big benefits to being able to see your ego’s role and then transcend it. Overcoming resistance, by way of transcending the ego, leads to better energy flow and more vitality.
Remember It’s Not Personal
It can seem impossible not to take life’s events personally. Our minds are ruled by the ego, which says “this is about me! This is happening TO ME!” And it really feels like it. The truth, of course, is that hardly anything is about us. Our partner is a jerk, the dog gets into the trash, our best friend is flaky–these are the little things that add up to a story about victimhood or feelings of bitterness. Don’t let that happen.
Remember that even the most horrific tragedies–rape, murder, the death of loved ones, do not define our identity. There is a self that is fully healed, whole, and untraumatized underneath the ego-self. Experience has only the meaning we give it.
Next time your ego gets all up in your face and tells you that this terrible no-good thing that’s happening is so unfair and you start feeling angry, cynical, and resentful… take a few moments to pause. There’s nothing wrong with the emotions that arise, feel it all! Then, let the story go. When we stop letting whatever has happened be about us, it’s 100x easier to get some distance from the painful feelings. The ego will resist, and that’s okay. Recognize the resistance.
You may feel angry for a friend who was wronged. I doubt it leads to sleepless nights for long. In comparison, if YOU feel wronged and are angry about it, you may find yourself thinking about it for years. Your experience is no more about you than the one your friend had. You already know these things happen to everyone. Yet, the ego is certain it is personal. Tell your ego to bug off, and you’ve already made a huge step towards overcoming resistance. Energy has been freed up for health well being.
Let the Story Go
When we don’t tell ourselves the story that keeps triggering the feelings, we become free from them. “If I had been a better girlfriend he wouldn’t have cheated” triggers feelings of unworthiness, sadness, guilt. Our mind made that story up. It is a thought, not a truth. We have the freedom to reframe the experience in whatever way we want: “I don’t know why he cheated (the truth). Maybe he felt fear about the honeymoon phase fading and made an impulsive choice that he thought would make the fear go away”, triggers feelings of compassion for someone else’s pain, and our own.
Maybe, that car wreck that we still feel guilty about was just a lesson to stop eating while driving, and we will be so much safer now! Relief! No need to make up a story about how we are irresponsible, untrustworthy, incompetent, or any of the other rude things our mind likes to fabricate. We transcend ego when we recognize:
- Our thoughts, feelings, and emotions do not define us.
- Our experiences are not personal.
- We get to choose the meaning attributed to our experiences.
We start overcoming resistance when we notice the ego fighting to hold on to the story, to make things personal. Noticing it is enough. This allows energy to move more freely. Our bodies will relax as our nervous system switches to a parasympathetic state: blood pressure drops, breathing slows, blood vessels open to allow circulation to our fingers and toes. Overcoming resistance improves our health.
Acupuncture addresses resistance through the body. Carefully placed needles help improve qi (pronounced “chee”) flow, bringing what is unconscious to the surface, and integrating emotions and experiences. Acupuncture activates the parasympathetic nervous system, so that we are in a receptive state of healing, and can break free of toxic emotional patterns and ways of thinking.
Start practicing overcoming resistance now and perhaps we will all be zen-masters in our older age, witnessing life’s challenges float by like leaves in the river.
One of my favorite quotes:
Our thoughts are always happening. Much like leaves floating down a stream…If you are standing by a river and a leaf floats by, you have your choice of following the leaf with your eye or keeping your attention fixed in front of you. The leaf floats out of your line of vision. Another leaf enters…and floats by. But as we stand on the bank of the river and the leaves float by, there is no confusion as to whether or not we are the leaves. Similarly, it turns out that there is a place in our minds from which we can watch our own mental images go by. We aren’t our thoughts any more than we are the leaves. ~Ram Dass and Paul Gorman
We aren’t our experiences, or our feelings any more than we are the leaves.