Those in the field of traditional psychology, in our humble opinion, create layer upon layer of needless complication around the understanding and healing of mental and emotional wounds inflicted by life and/or the people in it; in order to 1. create the need for their help to unravel this complexity that would otherwise not exist, 2. make a name for themselves as someone who allegedly knows what they’re talking about, and 3. make money. And, although this could be seen as a gross over-simplification, it’s lucidity, for us, illuminates the simple truth.
One such layer of needless complication derives from the concept of self-sabotage…
But before we dive into this, let’s first take a look at the difference between our mind and who we really are.
The Mind and Its Ego
Our conscious mind is like a living, on-board computer intended to help us process information and communicate. It is no more who we are than our MacBook or Dell is. And yet the majority of people believe their identity is equal to their mind — that they are the voice in their head that does their thinking. Our mind is no more who we are than our iPhone is. When we believe that we are our mind, then we believe that there is something wrong with us when there is something wrong with our mind. This could no more be the case than if we were our MacBook when it glitched or shut down unexpectedly. It is this preposterous. Who we are is completely separate from the mind and its ego. Our identity derives from the non-material consciousness of our spirit; which is part of Universal consciousness.
If we believe that the problems in our mind are problems in us personally, then we will likely believe different things about ourselves and the world, and make very different choices than if we understood that we are separate from our mind. For example, if we believe we are less worthy or desirable because our mind is wounded, then we might undervalue ourselves significantly, and when looking for a relationship partner, settle for someone abusive, controlling, or manipulative because we think we don’t deserve anything better, or would never find anyone else — especially if these wounds were inflicted in our childhood by a parent who treated us this way (which would also cause us to gravitate in the abuser’s direction because of the familiarity principle).
Does a calla lily, hawk, or amethyst crystal identify with material world constructs, and limit what they are by doing so? Does a banyan tree, Doberman, or ocean waste life considering such absurdities? In “The Peace of Wild Things,” Wendell Berry writes “I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.” To us this illustrates the truthful simplicity of nature as a material world mirror or symbol of the truthful simplicity of the non-material consciousness of the Universe — which has none of the complication, confusion, conflict, ambivalence, or negative emotion existing within or generated by the human mind.
In an earlier post, “Naturally Joyful,” Kai described it this way: “When focused on gaining a broader understanding of truth, our intellect can be the gateway to the universe. When attending to ego issues or negative emotions, it can create a life of wasted energy and needless suffering.” If needed, this article could help generally clarify what we mean by spirit and ego. But let’s also take a deeper look at the ego, what it is, and how it works.
Since the ego is central to the understanding of this post, let’s dig a little deeper into what we mean by this potentially ambiguous term. The following is an excerpt from an earlier post entitled “Stress No More: Natural Ways to Shrink Hypertension.”
Stress, whether manifesting as anger, fear, or shock; or states like depression and anxiety; originated as an instinctual aid to help focus us on survival when confronted by an imminent threat. In the absence of real danger, we were not intended to experience such negative thoughts or emotions. They were not supposed to take away our happiness. So what happened?
When our cave dwelling ancestors developed to a point where life was something more than an ongoing struggle for survival, they became aware that more was there to see and know. The ego, our perception of self in the context of the world, began to grow. When life became more than a daily fight for food and shelter, there was room for reflection, relaxation, and peace to flow. Although the human ego sparked the origins of basic self awareness; which carried the seeds of self acceptance, compassion, and responsible living; it also awakened the potential for selfish preoccupation with image, power, and possessions. The higher vibrational use of the ego offers a window to the universe, while its lower vibrational counterpart builds the walls that imprison us. It was intended to be a porthole through which to see that we are part of a larger process, to encourage our pursuit of higher consciousness. Yet most live lost within the limits of its levees. As time passed, for those trapped within the confines of their selfish preoccupations, growing importance was placed upon their ego issues. So image, power, and possessions; and the things that represented them; began to seem like they were matters of survival. Negative thoughts and emotions, which were biologically engineered solely for the purpose of helping us survive against legitimate threats to life, were now occurring when our ego needs were threatened. Negative emotions went from the survival basics of anger or fear that helped us fight or run away from a snarling tiger, thundering landslide, or salivating rapist; to anger or fear in the service of our image, thirst for power, and push for possessions. Just as the ego was never intended to foster and support selfish preoccupations, our negative emotions were not designed to serve the ego. But as humanity moved increasingly toward a selfish preoccupation with image, power, and possessions; the ego went from a potentially useful part of our mind, to a self-serving parasite that feeds off of our negative emotions, and needs them in order to stay “alive.”
OK, now let’s get back to the concept of self sabotage, which in this article we will refer to as ego sabotage — to separate it from who we are and simplify it to an egoic process supporting our unresolved ego issues with a variety of defenses that serve to justify our issue-based thoughts, words, and actions. These unresolved issues are generated by our life experiences and how we interpret/respond to these experiences. They are forms of conditioning — mental, emotional, and physical — making us more sensitive, reactive, and vulnerable to certain things. Such ego issues could include 1. fear of losing control, 2. fear of being wrong, 3. fear of being abused, 4. fear of having our trust violated, and/or 5. fear of being rejected/abandoned. The defenses supporting these issues could be 1. a highly sensitized, excessive need for control, 2. an obsessive need to be right or to prove ourselves, 3. a distorted perception of fairness and fight to be fairly treated, 4. an irrational preoccupation with our trust being violated combined with our attacking and blaming of others for having violated our trust when they have not, and 5. avoiding or running away from people or things we are afraid of losing so we don’t risk being rejected or abandoned by them, respectively.
So this approach to understanding our transformational conceptualization of ego sabotage is a simple spiritual/educational one — helping us understand our life and how it has affected our mind.
Transforming The Complex Illusion Of Self Sabotage Into The Simple Truth Of Ego Sabotage — Simplifying The Way We Heal
According to psychologist Nick Wignall, in his article “Self Sabotage: Why You Do It And How To Stop For Good,” a simple definition of self sabotage is “Self-sabotage is when you undermine your own goals and values.” Now this could be useful, if its origin was the ego instead of the self, and if our goals and values were actually being undermined rather than temporarily hijacked by the conditioning of our past and our ego. But Dr. Wignall goes on to explain how this concept is also frequently misused, misunderstood, and misapplied. He writes “Self-sabotage is one of those terms you hear thrown around a lot, but understanding what people actually mean by it is tricky—in part because a lot of people don’t really know what it means!
• Some people use it judgmentally, as a form of criticism for someone they perceive as lazy or weak.
• Some people use it to sound smart when they don’t actually know what they’re talking about.
• Still others talk about in a way that’s so general and vague that it’s essentially meaningless.”
Meagan and I agree with this perspective on the term, and this is another reason the use of it may create more confusion or harm than good. Like popularized concepts such as codependence, bipolar, or ADHD; the mainstream has a pop-cultural definition of terms that varies so much, and are often so generalized and biased, that they may lose their meaning altogether. And another critical factor when considering how people have been impacted by their past experiences and their ego is that every person is so completely different that there is no specific approach that could ever fit more than one person well — and this person would probably be the author of the method. And after Dr. Wignall acknowledges these things, he goes on to offer a fairly complicated set of definitions, explanation of causes, and method for overcoming self-sabotage. He even goes so far as to say “Of course, there are endless ways we all fall into self-sabotage.” This statement implies, with “of course,” that this is a given; that there are “endless” ways it happens to “everyone” — which suggests that it absolutely happens to everyone in an endless number of ways. This is an example of what the field of psychology does. If a vulnerable reader saw that, then they might believe that, based on what he said, they must be self-sabotaging, and then go looking for things in their life that fit these descriptions until they found something, and then create another problem, or layer on a problem, because someone said that everyone has this problem and it absolutely occurs in an endless number of ways. And such a statement also serves the field of psychology well, because when people read this, they may want to pursue professional help to deal with their self-sabotaging behaviors. Either that, or they will mis-diagnose themselves, complicating the simple truth of their life conditioning into more layers of illusion they will eventually need to remove in order to heal. And for those looking for ways to avoid dealing with their problems, the more complication the better, because they can always find another diagnosis or problem to focus on — never dealing with anything, to help them perpetually avoid facing and dealing with what they already know is the truth.
We believe that educational approaches that explain and describe tendencies, patterns, general conditioning, how the mind and ego work, how to better recognize such things within ourselves, and how to raise our vibration above them into higher spiritual vibrations to see them clearly for what they are and replace the illusion with truth — the darkness with light; is all that is needed to both understand and overcome such conditioned patterns. Turning them into increasingly complicated concepts, that allegedly apply to everyone, will only add layers to the ego issues and defenses — while tricking people into believing they are resolving their problems — and take them further from the simple truth of spirit — that shines the light upon their wounds and ways to heal them. From the higher vibrational perspective of spirit the light of truth shines on the ego, reveals it for what it is, and replaces its darkness with light. So that, until its issues and defenses are completely overcome, it can at least be seen clearly for what it is — removing its control over us, and restoring this control to where it naturally belongs.
The simple truth of spirit is the source of real healing, growth, and change.
Photo Credit: Caleb Amor