The might of ego’s right

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

Let go of your attachment to being right and suddenly your mind is more open. You’re able to benefit from the unique viewpoints of others, without being crippled by your own judgment.

–Ralph Marston

BUDDHIST philosophy teaches about the pain and suffering that come from attachment. We may become attached to people, things or events unfolding in a particular way. Ego likes to think it has control and that it can arrange aspects of life to suit its wishes.

Of course, life, events and other people cannot be controlled so ego seemingly gets into a power struggle with what is. At times, it can be like a four-year old who doesn’t get his way. Ego, too, has its own version of tantrums.

Ego often becomes attached to being right. The problem is that it becomes attached to being “right” about things that are often a matter of opinion, rather than fact. If one insists on being right about the score of last night’s game or the exact wording of a quote from Shakespeare, these are things that can be objectively confirmed.

However, if the topic is a question of politics or how things should be handled in a relationship or even how the children should be disciplined, there is no one right viewpoint. Try telling that to ego. While there is no arbiter for the validity of its truth, ego argues its points on the basis of some kind of superior knowing.

Yes, indeed, when ego is speaking, it speaks with the voice of authority. It is right and everyone else is wrong. Not only does it claim rightness when there is no right, but it also establishes a polarity, which brings with it distance, conflict and, in extreme cases, violence.

We see the devastating effects when a society decides that one group is better than the others. It can justify its belief in all kinds of ways, but it is still a judgment based on opinion, not fact. We have seen this with the Jews in Germany and the blacks in America.

Ego also rears its polarizing, judgmental head around issues of gay rights. Whether it argues that homosexuality is immoral or that gays should not be allowed to marry, ego takes its biased view and parades it as fact.

Religious groups that claim their religion is the only right one are yet ego-driven while practising their form of spirituality. Stating that they are the only ones who will be admitted into God’s presence is projecting human ego judgments onto the higher spiritual power. Surely, God, of all beings, has evolved beyond playing favourites and controlling through reward and punishment.

I smile inwardly when I hear someone who has “found” the spiritual path talking about how “unevolved” his/her partner, friends or colleagues are. Clearly, ego has found the path, but it is still ego walking down that path. Now it is all things spiritual that are right and everything else is wrong. Ego holds on with a tenacity and fervour that makes it seem like a life and death issue.

In truth, for ego it is a life and death issue. We either continue to house ego within our mind-body, allowing it to govern our thoughts, feelings and behaviours or we let it go. Ego has a very deep fear of getting the transformational pink slip.

If you find yourself asserting that you are right, being unable to let go or simply agree to disagree, it is a sure sign that ego still plays a dominant role in your consciousness. Holding on to rightness is like closing a door to all other points of view. It often allows the argument to become more important than the person with whom we are conversing. It allows no room for expanding perceptions or seeing a bigger picture.

With ego out of the way, so goes the issue of right and wrong. We are then free to respectfully disagree and to learn from one another.

Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist in private practice and author ofGrowing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution. For more articles, permission to reprint and information about her books and “Deep Powerful Change” personal growth/hypnosis CDs, visit www.gwen.ca

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