There are actually more than 5 ways the mind controls our happiness. We will be only be looking at five in this article. To understand these mechanisms you first have to understand that human beings essentially have two parts to themselves. The true self and the egoic self. The rest of this article will help educate you on both parts and explain when and why the ego needs to be trained.
The True Self
The true self is the part of people that is naturally happy and content with life. It’s the natural state for all people in the world. Happy, content, loving. A person need not do anything special for the true self to have these feelings as the are already present.
The true self is also the part of the self that knows what an individual’s soul most needs to grow and expand. When a person is connected to their true self life feels magical. It just flows. Most people have times when they get a glimpse of what it is liked to be fully connected to the true self without interference from the ego. If you’ve ever had a day where everything seemed to fall into place and it felt just amazing – this was a day where you were tuned into your true self.
The Egoic Self
The ego as we talk about it in this article has nothing to do with the ego or superego of psychology and should not be confused as being the same thing. For our purposes, the ego is purely connected to spirituality.
This is the part of the self that constantly looks for ways to take happiness, love, and contentment away from the true self. It does this because, from its perspective, it believes it is trying to help improve life. What often happens, however, is most people fall into the trap of letting the ego override the true self. They become obsessed with egoic thinking and in so doing actually end up loosing and/or forgetting about the joy, happiness, contentment, and love which normally is already present in life.
5 Popular Ways the Egoic Mind Attacks
1. The Need for Perfection
Perfection can’t and doesn’t really exist in the physical world. The egoic mind doesn’t care about that. It tries to make many people believe that things have to be perfect and with this comes the idea that if things aren’t perfect, then life is ruined or they aren’t good or valuable people.
Perfectionism is one of the most horrible diseases a person can have. While it can serve the purpose of helping one to work toward being the best they can be, a person almost always ends up feeling like they can’t live up to perfection. Still, some will keep trying and trying…. trying to be something they aren’t and were never meant to be.
By letting go of the need to be perfect we release guilt and stress that often times accompanies it.
2. Fears and Worries
There are two types of fears. Intrinsic fear that arises in any given moment which triggers the fight or flight response. This is also called or known as healthy fear. It is apart of us geared toward helping to protect ourselves.
There is also false fear. Fear, a mentor once told me, is an acronym for false evidence appearing real. This is the fear that ultimately leads to stress and worry being placed upon the self.
Anytime a fear projects into the future it is subject to examination. While the egoic mind may think that having such fears is healthy, is it really? Most people create fears about the future. Fears in which there is no concrete evidence to indicate that the fear has any real value.
Our beliefs, if controlled by the egoic mind, will many times try to convince us that the worst is happening or is going to happen. Even without any evidence that it is true. By learning to base our beliefs off actual evidence vs perceived evidence we can go a long way in winning this part of the war with the ego.
A horrible word that as adults we would do well to work to strike from vocabulary.
As children we need shoulds! It helps to train us in good morals and values. As we become adults, hopefully those morals and values are so engraved in our spirit that we automatically do what is the right thing to do.
There are no shoulds in life. By telling yourself life should be a certain way or people should behave in a certain way all you are doing is creating unhappiness within. We can’t control other people nor can we control life itself. All we can control is ourselves, our own beliefs, and our own actions. Additionally, by telling yourself something should happen you set the risk of the ultimate disappointment, as many times shoulds never transpire in the physical world.
4. What Ifs/What to Do
Our egoic mind is wired to think of worst case scenarios and to make us feel as though we “should” be doing something. Just like by eliminating our shoulds we find more peace and less stress, the same will occur when we stop asking what if and what should I do.
Lets address the what should I do question. Anytime you have to consciously ask yourself what you should do you are already falling into the ego mind trap. The flow of life happens when we just participate in it. This is when the true self can be at its best.
This leads to the next part – What if? As soon as you ponder the idea of just participating in life your ego will attack with a barge of what ifs. What if my life gets worse? What if I look like a fool? What if others make fun of me? What if I do something stupid? What if I loose all my money? What if I never succeed? What if my relationship falls apart?
The problem with what if is that it relates to the evidence factor previously mentioned. There is no evidence that the what if will be true. What if I ask her out and she says no? Then you move on. More importantly, what if you ask her out and she says yes? That can lead to a new relationship! Things won’t always work out in life – but that’s life!!! We shrug our shoulders, pick ourselves up, and move on.
If we do nothing, however, but wonder “What if?” we end up missing out on life entirely. Who really wants to do that?
Another common way our ego attacks is through negative story telling.
In cognitive psychology and therapy people are taught that A plus B = C.
A stands for activating event. This is the actual event and a person’s interpretation of that event.
B is our beliefs about the event. Our beliefs are ever changing and sometimes they are rational and other times irrational.
C is the consequences we experience based on our beliefs about the event.
An example. A breakup would be the activating event. Holding the belief or telling ourselves the story that there are many fish in the sea and better to exit now than later will produce very different consequences from believing and telling ourselves the story that we aren’t worthy of love and our life is over! People choose their beliefs and stories that they tell themselves and they can change them anytime they want.
Whenever you catch yourself telling a negative story about yourself or life – you owe it to your true self to stop and co-author a new story that is more productive and useful to living.
Exceptions to Rules
This is not to say that there are never exceptions. Learning to mediate the battle between the true self and egoic self is not always easy, but it can be highly rewarding and life changing.
Ultimately, most of us have the same broad goals for life. Be happy, be loved, live a good life. What we must realize, and what is hard to realize, is that for many of us these goals have already been accomplished and we just need to enjoy them and be present with them.
That’s not to say we can’t think about or make any plans for the future – just don’t obsess about the future or let it control you in the present moment.
That’s also not to say we should entirely forget the past – the past holds many valuables lessons that are worth reviewing, but it isn’t beneficial to obsess over the past or allow it to control us and our beliefs in the present.
You are encouraged to review this information and discuss it with people that you are closes to.