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."