How do you excavate the real Self?
To get the real You out from under the junk means dismantling. Deconstructing. Breaking down patterns. Stepping out of systems. Losing dependencies. Setting boundaries.
We all get stuck under junk in the same two basic ways:
- Other people give us their junk, and we don’t know any better, so it piles on and we just carry it along with us as if it’s important.
- We attract and let in all sorts of new junk, because something tells us that we need it.
That something is nothing more than the voice of fear.
How fear works with the ego
Fear senses a threat, to our survival or stability or comfort, and sends an alert.
“Threat! Alert! Danger!”
We respond to the threat at hand: run away, fight back, or some sort of combination or alternative.
Then our brains get to work. And we come up with ideas for preventing this threat from ever happening again.
We often focus on the situation (Y) surrounding the bad experience (Z) rather than thinking through the bad experience itself. We spend a lot of time and energy coming up with strategies to eliminate the situation (Y), hoping to prevent the bad experience (Z) from our lives forever amen
These strategies usually present themselves as needs (X). We spend a lot of time focusing on X in order to eliminate Y (when what we really should do is deal with Z).
- Need: “I need a better car.”
- Because I’m afraid of getting stranded on the side of the road again.
- “I need a boyfriend/girlfriend.”
- Because I’m afraid of being lonely.
- “I need to get a raise.”
- Because I’m afraid of not being able to buy the stuff I think I need to buy in order to maintain the image I want to maintain because I’m afraid that if I don’t everyone will see that I’m a fraud.
Look, of course some of those needs are legitimate. If your old beater car keeps breaking down, leaving you stranded, yeah: you need a better car. It’s a simple problem with an obvious solution. (How to achieve the solution isn’t always simple, or obvious.)
But getting in a relationship isn’t necessarily the cure for loneliness. The problem of loneliness is hardly simple. And the right relationship is rarely obvious.
We listen to these needs because the ego – the junk pile – is triggered by fear. It feeds on fear. It is very sensitive to fear.
The ego isn’t a real force or an actual identity. It’s nothing more than a collection of junk, piled up, on top of You (the real force, the real identity). So the ego has a very real fear of not surviving, because it’s not real in the first place.
When fear presents a threat, and your brain comes up with a corresponding need to counteract or prevent the threat, the ego grabs that need and obsesses over it.
The ego comes up with a plan to get it, whatever it is.
The plan usually involves a lot of goals and processes and actions that hold no joy for you.
It’s all outcome-based and it’s all ego-motivated. The entire ridiculous point is to fulfill an arbitrary need to prevent a perceived threat to an identity that is not even real.
If you don’t realize what’s happening, your life will become nothing more than doing those processes to fulfill those needs.
There’s not much joy in that kind of life.
You fulfill the needs or you don’t. It doesn’t matter.
Meeting the need doesn’t change your life, because your fear system will find a new threat, your brain will come up with a new solution, and your ego will jump on it and you’re back to work, unsatisfied and scared.
You may experience a moment of elation, accomplishment, safety, peace.
But that moment never lasts.
Because fear never rests. Fear is insatiable. Fear will invent things to be afraid of, will find threats in the most innocuous situations, because threat identification is its only purpose.
And ego is the perfect, terrible partner to fear, because it is hypersensitive to every alert, every threat.
You think you can relax. You think you’ve made it.
Then fear will pull the trigger again.
Ego will react.
And you’re off.
One more urgent need, one more pointless goal to chase, one more set of outcome-based processes that give you no joy…
It’s a fear-ego loop, and it’s ugly, and endless, and it will keep the real You buried. Forever, if it can.
Usually there are a lot of these loops going on in your life.
There’s never just one threat. There’s never just one need. People spend a lot of time talking about priorities and time management and reaching goals and so on.
Sometimes that is really helpful.
Sometimes it is just the ego trying to make you better at doing what it wants, which is MEET ALL THE NEEDS! KILL ALL THE THREATS!
How do we get out of these loops?
There are two basic approaches.
One is the sudden band-aid approach.
It looks like this, usually: Someone has an epiphany. (Awesome.)
It might be triggered by trauma or loss or change. Upon having this epiphany, they see the futility of life as-is.
They say, “No more!”
They cut ties, they let go, they leave it all behind, they move away, they get a new job, they follow their dreams, they dye their hair and start a punk rock band, or something like that.
This is an admirable and often wonderful approach, however, it can lead to some problems.
- The epiphany might only lead you to understand that the ego-fueled life was bad as you saw it and lived it. You might not have learned anything about the ego itself, and how it motivates you. The ego is really adaptable. It will resurface in your new life, create some new and different fear-ego loops, and you can find yourself being just as miserable and unfulfilled as you were before.
- The changing you do might be unnecessarily complete, an approach that is very much “baby out with the bathwater.” Because you feel an urgency to change things, you might walk away from relationships, experiences, support, etc., that are good and healthy for the real You.
Two is the slow and steady approach.
It looks like this: you start creating different loops. Loops that link into the real You instead of the ego. Joy-Value loops instead of Fear-Ego loops.
As they expand, guess what contracts? That’s right: the fear-ego loops.
The ego diminishes. The sound of the ego grows fainter.
Fear still senses and alerts you to threats, but you’re not hypersensitive to all of those alerts. You can respond to fear with thought and control.
You can see the fear-ego loops for what they are.
You can decide, consciously, if you want to engage in them or not. If not, you can extricate yourself.
And you can create and expand those joy-value loops, give the real You a lot more room and freedom, and start enjoying the processes and the outcomes of your life.