Intellect v/s Ego

Ego operates on “I have to be right/I am right” principle. Intellect distinguishes between right and  wrong.
Ego destroys natural resources because of greed. Intellect warns us about the imbalance in nature and urges us to protect the natural resources.
Ego wants revenge. Intellect warns us about the dangers of seeking revenge.
Ego is afraid of seeing help. Intellect understands that the importance of seeking help (sometimes).
Ego wants to work at the expense of physical and mental health. Intellect distinguishes between passion and obsession.
Unfortunately, the world is lead by people who are driven by ego.
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Customer service

The way some people behave with customer service is disheartening. Employees who work as customer service executives represent the company but they are actually not responsible for the products and services. And yet, some people pour all their anger on them, completely forgetting that the person at the other end of the line is a human being. In a way, some customers are trying to bully someone who is in a vulnerable position. It perhaps boosts their ego and makes them feel as if they are in control of their life. Perhaps, it is a way to feel less powerless.

Unequal relationships

I have laughed at dwarfs, transgenders, gays, lesbians, prostitutes, people from lower economic class, people who cannot speak English and dark-skinned people in the past because I wanted to fit in. And when some of my friends or loved ones did the same, I thought, “They are nice to me and people around me, so why all the fuss? Sure, they look down upon the waiter, but how will it affect their loved ones? How will it affect me?” However, people who think that any human being/group is worthless or is inferior to them, will, in all likelihood, treat us in the same way.

Human beings seek acceptance and a less judgemental form of love in intimate relationships but a person who believes that someone is inferior (even if that person is not a family member/relative/friend), will eventually bring the same kind of hierarchy and judgment to relationships. So a ‘normal’ man may mock a dwarf but he may not mock a ‘normal’ woman in the same way. However, he might believe that a ‘normal’ woman is inferior to a ‘normal’ man..so eventually, he might mock all the things that a ‘normal’ woman represents or loves. A ‘normal’ woman may feel superior to an autistic woman and we may continue to be friends with her because we are not autistic and it’s not a danger to us. However, if we notice closely, there will be always some kind of competition. Someday, this woman might try to prove that her child is more ‘normal’ than her friend’s child. This applies to God too. If we believe that God is superior to us then we also believe that our loved ones, family members, are inferior to God and that their lives matter less. That is why a 13-year-old Indian girl was allegedly forced by her parents to fast for more than two months as part of a Jain ritual (she died!). That’s why in the Indian society, the oppression passes on from one party to the other. When Indian parents look for a groom for their daughter, they don’t look for compassion…rather, they want a guy who has an awesome pay package, so that they can look down on others. All they care about is if this guy behaved nicely to them; it doesn’t matter if he treats his servants badly (in fact, many middle-class and upper-class men and women take pride in dominating and humiliating servants). So eventually, this guy creates a hierarchy, placing himself and his parents at the top. Ultimately, his wife and his children will suffer, because equality is the foundation of intimate relationships.

Trusteeship or ownership?

Long time back, I heard someone say that we need to treat ourselves as trustees to our life, body, mind and the planet. When we are owners, we kind of abuse what we own. When we are trustees, most of us are responsible and conscientious. For example: A father may  eat less or smoke or do something harmful to himself but when it comes to his child, he will urge him to stay away from bad habits. When we consider ourselves as the trustees (and not owners)to our planet, we might care about it better. I liked this thought but I feel there’s something missing…

An attitude of  a trustee could lead to a stable and better world but without ownership, there is no creativity. We may work hard and do our best for our organisation or any collective unit but without a sense of ownership, we are not satisfied. In practical life, we have a selfish side to us and it needs to be honoured too. Without a sense of ownership, we will be deprived of self-expression. The worst part of this is that the child in us will be abandoned. A child has no responsibility…she doesn’t have to care about putting food on the table. She doesn’t feel guilty about doing things that make her happy.But this child is important. Sports, Art, Entertainment are not ‘basic’ needs but they are important for human beings. Being a trustee (all the time)  kind of stops your growth. Being an owner  (all the time) can be harmful to the society. I guess we need both the owner and trustee.

People-pleasing is an exercise in futility

A people-pleaser (like everybody else) can impress two kinds of people: Other people-pleasers like her and people who don’t care much about what others think of them. If she tries to impress the first group and succeeds, she feels dissatisfied. If someone is pleased with you, then he must be:

1. genuinely pleased with you
2. pretending that he is pleased with you because he wants something from you
3. pretending that he is pleased with you because he wants you to think that he is a nice person.
A people-pleaser is not trusted by others because he is not honest. If he is honest, he won’t be liked by everybody. So, when a people-pleaser is trying to please another people-pleaser, she is participating in a futile exercise. Even if the people-pleaser is impressed with her, she won’t be able to trust him because there is no guarantee that he is speaking the truth. So that leaves the people pleaser with the second group of people: those who don’t care much about what others think about them. They mostly follow their inner voice. They have the strength to be the minority. They only respect those who respect themselves. The only way the people pleaser can impress this confident person is by being herself!

Rationality and Ego

Ego is a child of rationality. A rational person always wants to be certain. He is forever looking for proof but there is no ‘perfect’ proof. You may be convinced that a particular food is healthy but practically speaking, you can never know whether the healthy food you buy is actually healthy whether it is from a small village or a factory. Rationality is important but at the end of the day, you can never be 100 percent sure.

Similarly, ego is forever searching for the proof that it is worth something. You maybe a living legend, but your ego wants more and more proof.

In both cases, there is complete disregard for subjectivity. Everybody’s focus is on the food’s effect on the person and not vice versa.

Pride, egotism, habits and addictions

I’m reading this book called ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg and it says that a lot of who we are is actually due to habits. Usually, when we think about people or even ourselves, we think in terms of values and character and hence think in terms of fixed ideas. For example: We say that an unethical person does what she does because of her beliefs or because “She is not a good person.” But what if it’s about habits too? The book says that brain is neutral..and so are habits. The brain doesn’t know whether a habit is good or bad…all it cares about is saving energy. Habits save energy. Imagine making decision for every small thing …it’s too taxing, right? That’s why we have habits. There is a lot of Science, Psychology and Neuroscience in the book and basically, all the three areas say that you cannot actually erase old habits from your brain. In a way, it’s a good thing because if you don’t remember things like driving, you would have to learn the whole thing again. In a way, it’s bad because not-so-good habits won’t die. But there is hope: you can replace the old habits in a way that they won’t bother you. I’m not even half way through the book and yet, I have gained so much from it. I will be writing more about it when I finish it but for now, it got me thinking about pride and how it’s related to building good habits.

When I analyze by own bad habits, obsessions and addictions, I feel that pride is one of the things that can help us in getting out of bad habits. When you are addicted to something, you are not in control and nobody likes to feel this way. No one likes to get addicted. You may derive pleasure but pride, unlike egotism, is necessary for survival. Like they say, the greatest pain is when you ‘fall’ in your own eyes..when you cannot respect yourself.

The more you get addicted, the less you actually care about the pleasure that you get from the thing you are addicted to. It becomes more of a habit. This inability to kick out an old habit and stick to a new healthy one makes you feel bad about yourself. It is a great threat to confidence.

There was a a time when I equated pride with egotism but they are clearly different. Pride has got nothing to do with others…it’s about your own expectations from yourself and how you fulfill them. Nobody else can know whether something is an accomplishment for you or not because no one can completely know what exactly you went through to accomplish it.

On the other hand, when you are not proud of yourself, you try really hard to impress others. When you have nothing to be proud of, you try really hard to associate yourself with others who have accomplished something. That’s why you see people reacting in weird ways when somebody points out a flaw in their country, religion, etc.

When we are addicted, one thing that may help us is to understand that in the things we are doing in the short term and are not something we want in the long term. At the end of the day, what matters is whether we feel proud of ourselves or not.

Image management

From our childhood, we are taught about image management. We strive to build a great reputation in the society. An image is formed: an image that will evoke envy in others, an image that your family members will be proud of, an image which is close to perfection. But there is a major flaw in this idea. This image, what we aspire to create, is connected to others. Since nothing in this universe can exist alone, it creates all sorts of problems, not just for you but for others.

Let’s say a man wants to have a great reputation in society’s eyes. Initially he will start off by torturing himself to meet society’s standards. Let’s say this person gets married. Now, his image is linked to his wife too. If his wife behaves in a way that is not line with his reputation, he will try to control her. Let’s say he is successful at this. But this doesn’t end here. He may have children.Now, his ‘image’ is linked to what his kids will do. What if one of them is gay? What if one of them wants to pursue a career that is not conventional? He will try to control them too. Let’s say he succeeds at this too. But this image has many other images linked to this single image. Let’s say that this person is a Hindu. If some Hindu whom this man doesn’t even know does something that is not in line with Hinduism, this man will become furious. That’s because his identity is at stake now. If any Hindu does something that is against his idea of Hinduism, this man will feel insecure. If this person is patriotic, he will get angry at a complete stranger who doesn’t stand up for national anthem in a cinema hall. Why? Because his image is linked to his country’s image!
Usually we try two things, when the above happens: we either try to disassociate ourselves from the person or we try to control him/her. If your company is not performing well, you can try to associate yourself with another company. But it is not easy to do this all the time. You cannot divorce your wife so easily (because of society again!), so you try to control her.
We try and try and try to only associate ourselves with the ‘ best.’ But the problem is that even the best go through times when things don’t go their way. Even the filmmaker, who is considered to be ‘great’ will have times when she will be criticized. There will be people in your life, whom you cannot control. What will you do about your image then? The ‘image’ is basically about perfection. But if you want a perfect image, everybody else connected to you must be perfect too. They cannot make any mistake. Is that possible? Can you control your nation so that your image is not affected? Can you control everybody who is practicing your religion? You may control your family but what about everybody else?

How excessive worry is related to your ego

Note: I suffer from anxiety issues. Few loved ones also have the tendency to worry TOO MUCH (sometimes in an abnormal way) about all sorts of things, so I guess I do understand what the state feels like. Please note that I am not criticizing those who suffer from disorders or those who can’t help but worry. This post is not against worry/anxiety. If you are worried about your daughter who has to travel at night, then your worry is completely legitimate. If you are worried about your husband who is in the army, your worry is legitimate. If you were sexually abused then of course, you will be afraid of the world. This is about situations which are less serious. I am talking about excessive worry which leads to people suffocating their loved ones. Of course, *I* am no one to decide what is serious and what is not, where you should feel anxious and where you should not. I am only sharing what I found out about *my* anxiety and *my* observations about people around me. It’s all subjective.

Anxious people are always pitied. We often feel bad for them. This might sound ridiculous but I pitied myself for being so anxious all the time and I felt the same when I saw anybody who is anxious. Anxiety sucks out all the fun out of life. But it’s only while writing my last blog post (it’s totally related to this post, so do check it out) that I realized that over-anxious people can be egoistic. This was a huge blow to my ego though.

So here’s my thought process as an anxious person:

“I am afraid of this big bad world. People might manipulate and take advantage of me.”

OR

“People will laugh at me. I will mess things up.”

Everybody has such thoughts but when these thoughts totally take control of your life, you develop anxiety issues of the serious kind. When I saw some people who were stopping their kids from doing something because of their anxiety, I felt bad for the parents. But here’s the thing: If a parent is so worried about his 25 year old son that he stops him from making his own decisions because of concern and worry, then there is a lot of ego involved. When you say that you will chose a bride for your grown up son for “his” good because the world is a mean place and people might cheat him and all that then what you are actually saying is:

1. My decisions are always correct.
2. My son cannot make good decisions.
3. The only people who cares about my son is *me*…the girl that he loves cannot love him more…
4. The whole world is full of mean people and I am the only nice guy!

Can you see the arrogance? Your fear is coming from having a low opinion about others. I must admit that I am pretty much like the person above. I mean, there was a time when I was afraid of the “mean world” (I still am) where people are out there to hurt me. But here’s something really fascinating about this mindset: I am actually saying that only others can be mean to me and I cannot be mean to them at all! In other words, I am good, others are bad. My excessive fear about the “big bad world” was partly coming from my assumption that I don’t have anything “dark” inside me that could possibly harm or hurt others and THAT is an egoistic assumption. The reality is that I have also hurt people, I can be also the oppressor. We all oppress each other and we don’t even know it.

If you are always in fear, maybe you should ask yourself a question: Why do you have such a low opinion about your fellow human beings? I understand that you are worried about your son but isn’t it insulting to think that he can never make a good decision? How can you be sure that you will always choose well?

Asking for help and ego…

Offering help is considered noble and virtuous in most cultures. The reason is clear: if we have to survive as a society, we need to help others. Because of this belief, most of us hesitate while asking for help. We are taught that those who give are selfless while those ask or take are selfish. But this is an ego trip. When you hesitate too much while asking for help (assuming that those who are going to offer help are in a position to help you), you are, in fact, in hold of your ego. Ego always wants to be superior to others. If you “ask” for help, you won’t be superior anymore. The other person is more powerful than you and that’s something the ego doesn’t want. When a person in suffering reaches out to others for help, he is actually rising above his/her ego. He doesn’t care about his reputation.This person must be respected and if possible, offered help. In a way, suffering brings us together: we are no longer worried about our social status or power games. Suffering has the power to humble the ego. Who is more egoistic and selfish? Someone who is too proud to ask for help or someone who understands that a truly compassionate person gives love to himself as well? If your compassion excludes your own self, most probably, your compassion is based on ego. If your compassion excludes others, most probably, your compassion is based on your ego.