Oct 17, 2009

The ego’s sense of ‘self’ and the need to defend

"You're a liar. You say one thing and then you say the opposite to someone else. You are the biggest fake," she says to me.

My reaction is instantaneous. Outrage. I feel misunderstood and I notice the strong 'need' to defend myself. I'm not a liar! I want to say. It's actually just the opposite. I may not be consistent in form (what I do and say) but that's because I try to act consistently with the content of my mind. Whenever I'm conscious, I try to respond from a loving space. Love inspires you to say what is most helpful and sometimes the most loving thing to do is to talk in their language and at their level; even if that means that what you're saying is not necessarily what you would believe.

I want to correct her, but I don't speak just yet. I pause instead.

I remember this section in ACIM:

When you correct a brother, you are telling him that he is wrong. He may be making no sense at the time, and it is certain that, if he is speaking from the ego, he will not be making sense. But your task is still to tell him he is right. You do not tell him this verbally, if he is speaking foolishly. He needs correction at another level, because his error is at another level. He is still right, because he is a Son of God. His ego is always wrong, no matter what it says or does. T-9.III.4:2-10

I realize that the goal of this interaction with my daughter is to tell her she is right, not necessarily verbally, but mentally. I remind myself that the goal of communication is never what is being said! The purpose of any conversation is either to join or to separate; to reinforce the dream of separation or to undo it. If you talk with your ego you will be unconsciously seeking separation. The opposition that you feel will be telling them they are wrong and you will be reinforcing the differences between you. It won't matter what you actually say, even if your words sound patient and loving, mentally, you will be telling them that they are wrong.

If I respond to my daughter out of a desire to correct her image of me, I will be doing it as an ego. This doesn't mean that I should never explain to her the way I think and act; it just means that I can't do it out of a 'need' to defend my 'self'.

As egos, our goal is to develop and protect our sense of self. We depend on our self-concept because as long as we believe we are unique separated selves, we remain safe from the knowledge of who we are in reality. The ego's strategy is to keep us focused on the question "Who am I?" As long as we look for the answer in the world; in what we look like, what we do, what religion we practice, what language we speak, who our friends are; we are effectively hidden from the knowledge that we are not a body, but one with our Source.

I see that my daughter's claim about me is just a temptation to react in a way that will reaffirm my identity as my separated self. But the situation has the potential to be an opportunity to release myself from my identification with the ego. The choice is mine. The ego's knee jerk reaction is to oppose and protect my 'self', my group, my country, my beliefs, my version of A Course in Miracles, or whatever it is that defines me as different.

But if I am able to just notice what is going on; if I can see the ego's purpose in every interaction, then I can do something about it. The truth is that I'm being played by my own hidden desire to remain separate. I'm not really upset because of my daughter's accusation. I'm upset because I believe I'm an ego that needs to maintain its sense of individuality by opposing everything and everyone.

Having identified the ego's purpose for this interaction with my daughter, I am free to choose again. As I notice my desire to oppose her, the interaction becomes a classroom in which the goal is to learn that I am a mind and not a body. As I join with the forgiving part of my mind, the opposition melts away. The desire to protect my 'self' disappears because I'm no longer identifying myself with the body who has an ego that needs to protect itself.

Through forgiving eyes, I realize her accusation is true. I search my mind and in less than five seconds, I find several examples in my life where Aileen has lied, or been inconsistent. Now that the desire to protect my ego has dissolved, I can wholeheartedly agree with my daughter.

"You're right, honey," I say. "I'm trying to be consistent, but it doesn't always work."

Her face fills with understanding.

There is such freedom in releasing myself, even for a moment, from a limited, defined sense of "self!" All that energy spent in defense and opposition is released and I feel light, happier. I remember that phrase from the Course "Do you prefer that you be right or happy?" and I definitely prefer to be wrong and "happy."



  1. Hi Aileen

    Thanks for your post, but I have to say that I totally disagree with everything you say. You are clearly wrong.

    ....That was my ego by the way, reacting first, without taking the time to listen, to listen deeply :-D

    I am reminded that one person's "right" can easily be another person's "wrong". And speaking personally, what I thought was "right" yesterday I may feel is now "wrong" today! I can so easily become attached to my idea of what is "right" and what is "wrong". So much so, that I fail to listen to what the other person is even saying. I end up trampling all over their heart.

    I love your response to your daughter and her response. I sense that she felt heard and understood. Once this happens then ideas of "right" and "wrong" drop gently to the ground, like soft morning rain. It then becomes two people having a conversation, connecting at the place of heart and not the place of ego.

    I have come to realise that what I say next, changes my world and the world of the person I'm speaking to. May I speak as mindfully as you did to your daughter, in my conversations today.

    Take care


  2. Hi David. You had me laughing this morning when I read the first sentence on your comment. For a second I had no idea where it would go.

    I appreciate your reference to listening which is only implied in the post. It's an important one. It's so true that when we focus on being right, we become unable to listen to others. Our obsession with protecting our sense of 'self' robs us of the chance to be present with others.

    Thank you for your comment.

  3. Nice work, Aileen. Sounds like you are doing very well at the challenging school called "teenaged daughter."

  4. Thank you very much for your post. It touched me a lot. I have some sort of very difficult relationship with my mother and I am always a liar for her, and I always react to, what I label, her nasty comments. I read that section you mention a few days ago and it hit me a lot because the first person that came to my mind while reading was my mother. I am trying to put it in practice, not always successfully, so your post give me a lot of help and relief. Love, Lisi

  5. Marian, Thanks. LOL. I have my good moments.

    Lisi, Thanks for your comment and I'm glad this helped you. XOXO

  6. Hi Aileen,
    Great story! I love the question, do you want to be right or happy... seeing your self and your daughter through the eyes of love is the easy and peaceful way to live for sure, like nothing else! That you can do this in hte heat of the moment is testimony to your inner strenght and committment to living and walking in awareness.

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  8. Thanks for the great post. I just had a "fight" with my neighbour and its so true .. my side with the ego has maintained my sense of "righteousness" and of course... unhappiness!
    I want to choose again!

    Got a bit of question re Linda's comments on health and body etc.

    1) I thought ACIM teaches that space is an illusion ... so what is pure space?

    2) I am still having problems with the health issues... On the mental level, if I just let go and not exercise or eat right, will I still end up unhealthily fat on the physical level?

    Totally appreciate some guidance.
    Thanks in advance,

  9. Linda. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your stopping by. I went ahead and deleted your second comment because I sensed you meant to send it as private message to me. I'm very touched by the experience you had and would love to talk more about it. Much love to you.

  10. Jo,

    Thanks for raising these questions. I got a little carried away with the answer to #2. I thought it was a really good question and the answer may help some of the readers who are new to ACIM. Good luck with your neighbor!

    1) I'm not sure what Linda means by "pure space." We would have to ask her. She practices a spirituality that uses different terms than ACIM. And yes, from the point of view of ACIM space is an illusion.

    2) If our human experience is a dream, just like in a sleeping dream, there is no cause in the dream. What happens in the dream is caused by the dreamer's wishes. But within our life, that is not our experience at all because we're not in touch with the dreaming mind.

    We experience ourselves as the dream figure who is subject to the laws of the world. So when I eat too much and not exercise, my experience is that I gain weight. That is not true in reality, but very real in my experience.

    Our goal as students of ACIM is not to demonstrate that the laws of the world should not have an effect on us, but rather, to wake up from the dream. So we use our experiences, which the ego would otherwise use to reinforce the dream, to undo it. That requires us to be vigilant for our ego and to accept ourselves where we are at. If eating healthy is important to us, we eat healthy. What is most important is that we begin to see that all experiences we have are the same, not in form, but in purpose. They can be used by the ego to reinforce the dream or given to the Holy Spirit to undo it.

  11. Thanks Aileen! I am beginning to understand now.

    Jo =)

  12. Boy, what a nice description of forgiveness. I can only hope to have the presence of mind (sorry, that was a bit of a lame joke there) to pause before I react. Well, failing that, I can always acknowledge how much I don't *want* to let go of my wish to be right.

    Thank you for a lovely and thought-provoking post!

  13. Thanks, Roia. It's nice to see you. Love.