“You look a bit shaken Thomas, is everything alright?”
It was just a tough day at my work, and then on the way home some jerk was harassing me on the freeway. I guess he thought everyone was going too slow, but it wasn’t like I could do anything about it. He was behind me, and then as soon as there was a small space, he accelerated past my car and gave me the finger. I still don’t know what the hell he thought I did.
“His rude gesture offended and irritated you?”
Well sure, he was looking like a crazy man as he passed and flipped me off. It was only directed at me, there wasn’t anyone else he was looking at. I almost yelled something back at him, but I decided that in today’s world it was too risky. I mean, what if he turned out to really be crazy? He could have turned violent on me if I made him any madder than he already was.
“Your frustration, in the face of powerlessness is obvious, but I do not think you have given yourself the time to see it differently. Allowing yourself time to deconstruct the event can be very helpful in reducing your frustration, thereby lowering stress and remaining healthier both physically and mentally.”
I think I have it in pretty good perspective Omen; I was minding my own business driving in bad traffic, and a total ass-hat went crazy on me. Boom, done.
“I am not sure if that is more of your humor Thomas, or if you truly are thinking that way. Either way, allow me to explain what I meant; a method of deconstructing almost any poor interaction and then being able to see it in a new light, so to speak. Your encounter with that other driver was very upsetting to you, it raised your physical reactions in much the same way a physically dangerous encounter would. Your emotions suddenly rage, your pulse rises, and you become angry and frustrated in just seconds. For some people in similar situations, they can be moved to actual physical violence and retaliation. Now, picture in your mind a different set of reactions that are not based in ego, but are thoughtful and present. The angry driver does just what you said he did, but in this new way of thinking you step back from instant reaction and acknowledge that fact that he is already a very angry man.”
“Furthermore, by the simple acknowledgement that he is an angry person, you can leave that with him – it is his anger, not yours. As you said, you believe you did nothing to offend him except be the unfortunate one in the car directly in front of his. So, you are not culpable for any transgressions against that man, you have nothing to feel apologetic for. You are literally blame-free in this situation, yet that man is still angry enough to make a rude gesture at you. Now perhaps you can see that all of the negativity was brought by that man, and did not exist in your world until he behaved as he did. Yet, that brief moment of his rude behavior was able to trigger an equally angry inner reaction in you.”
Yeah, okay, I can see that.
“Deconstruction involves looking at why that triggered all of the emotions that you suddenly felt, and what those emotions are based upon. In this case, as I said earlier, you most likely felt powerless to really do anything about his behavior, or even inform him that he offended you. That leads to frustration, the emotion most related to not being able to accomplish something we very much want to do. Yet, let us look a bit deeper if we can, go down a level to see what causes you to feel like you want to do something about the situation. That most often springs from the ego Thomas.”
The ego, or my ego I guess… how does that fit in to this?
“The human ego is a complex mental component that I will admit I do not fully understand, but nevertheless I do know that it is able to be tamed. It is the ego that makes you feel that you need to react in situations such as that one. Your ego tells you that you have been trespassed against, that you have been insulted, and that you are required to react to it. It is your ego that tells you that the specific hand gesture he made to you was a very insulting one that was intended to hurt you; and it is the ego that makes you feel hurt.”
Well, it was insulting wasn’t it? It’s not like there’s a bunch of other interpretations for the middle finger gesture. As far as I know there isn’t any society on earth that doesn’t know what it generally means. He wasn’t saying ‘hello’ to me, he wasn’t saying that I’m number one in his book.
“I hope you are not being intentionally obtuse Thomas, I do believe that you know what I am trying to get at here. You have the choice to quiet your ego, or better yet, to hear it and choose to set that message aside for one that is more reasoned. You can choose to see the situation as one where a very angry man passed you in an aggressive manner and made a rude gesture; and nothing more. He was the angry one, he was the frustrated one, he was the one that was almost out of control – not you. If I were walking about your town trying to sell poison would you be inclined to buy some from me? I think not, nor would anyone else for that matter. If you picture that man in a similar light, I think you can begin to understand what I am saying.”
Okay, you’re saying that he’s the one selling poison, in this case a metaphor for his anger, and that I bought some. Am I close?
“Yes, very good Thomas, that is almost exactly right. That man is like a storm that you can choose to avoid, and not get caught in. When you see that all of the anger and aggression belongs with him, you can choose to not accept any of it. You can leave those emotions with him, and then congratulate yourself on remaining in your own space and retaining your own calm mental state.”
That sounds a lot easier said than done Omen, and I’m not sure I’m quite that evolved yet. But, I do see your point now; if I really were able to do that then I can picture the whole thing ending up differently. I probably wouldn’t be mad or frustrated at all; I’d see it as his BS that has nothing to do with me. I mean, that sounds great but how do I train my brain to slow my ego’s almost instant-response to situations like that?
“Ah, I do not recall saying that this is an easy process Thomas. In fact it is quite difficult at first to even acknowledge that you are in a situation that calls for this new way of thinking. You may want to begin with just the acknowledgement piece of it. Noticing the rise in emotions and the suddenly changing physical responses in your body are both good markers to pay attention to. Think of those like alarms going off that require you to do something in order to quiet them. If you can immediately become aware of those responses you can then begin to slow yourself down, and you might find that you have time to choose a different response.”
In other words, I can train myself to notice the emotions kicking up, and then maybe breathe slowly to calm myself and choose not to react. I can reject what my ego is telling me to do and then choose to do what my higher-self knows is a better response.
“Yes, exactly right Thomas. I believe you will find that there is a hidden reward in this new thinking as well. You will come to realize that you are calmer, and that you are not a slave to your ego anymore. You will feel as if a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders when you no longer take on someone else’s current emotional situation.”
So, what’s the point of having an ego then? I mean it sure seems like it gets us in trouble by causing us to make rash decisions. Why do we have an ego at all?
“That is a very difficult question Thomas, and I can only speculate. The ego is an important part of the human psychological makeup, especially when it is in-check, so to speak. It becomes less of a benefit when one allows it to control them. Ego can serve beneficial purposes in a person’s life Thomas; it helps provide your sense of self-worth, along with the soul. When ego and soul work in harmony there is a balance within you. You find that your decision making is based less on emotional response and more on facts and reality.”
How does the soul balance out the ego?
“The ego will tell you that you are a very important person, the soul will tell you that you are but one of a billion souls living on the planet. That is a balance because they are both right; you are important, but so is everyone else. You are one of billions, yet you are unique and deserving of respect. That is the balance, self-worth that is in healthy perspective.”