A young man and his wife, with their 2 children were driving along in busy traffic. Their speed slightly more than the speed limit but keeping pace with the overall traffic flow. Something happened and the husband had to slam on his brakes and swerve to the left at the same time, narrowly missing the car to his left trailing just behind. Within a few seconds it was over and they had gone around the stalled vehicle. He didn't hear a crash behind him so he assumed everything was ok, although he looked in the rear view mirror with his heart pounding in his chest, a knot in his throat.
His wife after her first screams of fear began berating him for not paying attention. His own heart still racing he did not respond, but the scared berating continued. He felt the need to defend himself and almost got angry in return, but something stopped him and he had the presence of mind to check his kids to make sure they were ok. Surprised he noticed he was paying attention to both how he was feeling and responding and how his wife was feeling and responding, despite her anger and fear.
He relaxed a bit and acknowledged to himself that he had allowed himself to be distracted. He had not been paying attention and they had gotten lucky.
He was suddenly aware that his wife, not in control, depending on him to keep them safe, needed reassurance not anger. Very attentive, with an even but gentle voice he acknowledged the close call and assured her that he was really paying attention. By remaining quiet, her anger and fear quickly dissipated. After a moment she apologized for her angry outburst, explaining her immediate fear as the cause. After a short time everything returned to normal and everyone chimed in to tell each other how lucky they had been.
This incident could have escalated into a serious family drama. Our Ego is incredibly self protective and does not like it when it is attacked no matter what the conditions or situation is.
All of us need our identity. Our Ego begins to take shape around 2 years of age and matures in our early twenties. By maturity I mean that the EGO has a dominant influence on how we interpret each moment of our lives and thus how we respond to each moment of our lives.
Our identity, our self image is an accumulation of our childhood and our young adulthood. It is everything we have been programmed to be and everything we have imagined we are.
Throughout this web site, in one form or another the words Ego, Self Image ,or Identity will keep appearing. I would like to spend a small amount of time talking about what they mean in our everyday existence. These are powerful concepts and cannot lightly be set aside, nor should they. But, they are so powerful it is time to reconsider the role they should play, specially in our relationships.
Agape, love without conditions, strings or agenda. The most obvious example of a human being experiencing this state of mind is when a mother first holds her newborn. The feeling has been building in her for 9 months. This feeling continues until one of two things appears. The baby asserts its own wants and needs in the only way it can, and/or the mother develops the need to assert her own wants and needs. This gets quite complicated. In the majority of cases the socialization of the baby begins in earnest as the mother figures out how to deal with the baby's expanding needs while she begins to balance her own.
I obviously do not have the experience or wisdom to fully explore this relationship. I am and have been a father, never a mother. Yet I have experienced some of that powerful bond with both the mother and the child. I have also been humbled by the feelings of total inadequacy when trying to deal with a crying, screaming baby. A crying, screaming baby can unbalance anyone. The only way I survived these episodes was to calm down, set my own needs aside (to stop the screaming), and look for what the baby was feeling. Sometimes it was the baby's fear, gas, stomach problems, overtired, hungry, or a pain of some kind. Sometimes the baby just did not want me around, mom was the only answer.
Over all it is a wonderful experience. How early humans managed is beyond me. But they did and here we are.
As the child begins asserting its own needs in ways we do not like or approve of, we begin the process of tempering this "I want and I want it now" approach. In most cases the child learns they have to share and share alike, space, time, food, stuff. And they learn to recognize that others deserve equal recognition of their own wants and needs. As this process moves along the child develops an image of themselves and an idea of how to fit in with everyone else while still figuring out how to get the better end of the deal.
Thus it begins, how to always get the better end of the deal.
We never outgrow this conditional approach to life. This thing called our identity or Ego is an accumulation of everything we have learned about taking care of our needs, protecting us against pain, guarding ourselves in our relationships and gaining approval from others. All of this is an extension of the baby's first concepts of self - you are responsible for making me feel good or making me feel bad. The source of my well being is outside of myself so that is my reference point. I look for satisfaction from others, from things, from status, from others approval. When I don't get it a lot of negative options appear. The list is quite long ranging all the way from blame and anger to depression, to loss of self esteem, to extreme pain, to apathy, to addiction. With approval, or getting what I need, my responses are equally varied and again the list is quite long ranging from euphoric happiness, to an over inflated opinion of myself, to general satisfaction, to a strong sense of well being.
What is it in us that guides these responses to the moment. It is certainly not anything we can pin point exactly and say, "Yup, that's me, that's what or who is running the show". But it is a programmed response, an accumulation of all of our conditioning, all of our training, all of our beliefs and opinions from the experiences we have had. We are strongly attached to a huge investment into what we have become, who we think we are. This huge investment cannot be lightly dismissed, it cannot be managed or controlled and above all it cannot be looked upon with any disapproval.
If we do not want to continue with how we are experiencing life and our relationships. If we want to reach for a different path in life, then we must trick ourselves into seeing thing differently. This trick can be learned easily. it can be applied until it is second nature. This trick, however, must be practiced over and over again until complete awareness of the moment is within you always. To be honest with you I am a novice. But even as a novice I am completely different than I was 2 years ago.
What is the trick?
To learn to notice by learning to be quiet. To accept what you notice without judgement.