I won’t hide it. I’ve spent some time in the offices of psychologists trying to come to terms with the differences between how I think and how I feel, among other issues. I’ve done some study. I’ve done some soul-searching. I’d like to now share a few useful discoveries with anyone who has fought their particular demons, especially the ones that give you that needle-in-the-vein fix of self-doubt.
Ekhart Tolle often refers to the ‘egoic self’ as the ‘preservational self.’ The egoic self seeks endless life. It is a self that cannot cope with the thought of dying, so it proceeds as if some route to immortal life might be found. The egoic self develops many ways of viewing self and its relationship to others in this process, but many of these points of view are flawed because they are constructs to fit the egoic self’s extremely defensive, unaccepting way of seeing things.
Tara Barach points out that the egoic self constantly seeks affirmation. Why? The egoic self is fearful of disconnection from others. Affirmation is evidence of connection, but often the egoic self’s self-preservational fear-shield will not allow praise to penetrate, which causes an endless hunger for that which it denies to itself. Self-doubt flourishes in this praise-starved environment. Self-doubt can be moderated by connection and a sense of belonging. The egoic self cannot get social affirmation in isolation. Even within isolation, self-doubt and egoic centrality can often make things ‘real’ that aren’t ‘true.’ But living in such a conditioned reality is not living in an authentic manner. The bigger truth is not something the egoic self wants to admit. Yet we must seek and accept the bigger truth!
Here’s an example of the conundrum too many people face. Someone else says, “You look good today.” The egoic self deflects the intended compliment by thinking, “What this person is really saying to me is that I don’t usually look good.” By these means, an intended compliment becomes insulting and denies the much sought after affirmation. Then the self-protective, egoic self begins to build an image that reflects what it perceives as ‘reality.’ But what is perceived as reality, as seen after the praise deflection, is not the truth. One needs to seek the larger truth and the egoic self will not provide it to you! The egoic self thinks it is protecting you (and itself). “It’s just you and me, kid,” the egoic self seems to whisper conspiratorially in your ear. “I’m the only one you can trust. You and I are the same and inseparable.”
The egoic self lives with fear, and fear travels with some other unsavoury companions. They are violence, addictions, need to withdraw or escape, need to freeze everything in place, to allow no change. Fear and the expectation of harm close the whole person to goodness. Constant withdrawal often results in being constantly alone. The egoic self then begins to reinforce the need to be constantly alone by creating a synthetic, but believable reality. Being constantly alone becomes evidence of one’s essential worthlessness. Some truly great, worthwhile people may know otherwise, but they feel worthless. Their sense of being worthless is NOT true, but the self-inflicted evidence of it can seem like an unchangeable reality.
To dissipate some of the self-destructive, harmful effects of such fear and self-doubt try to ‘attend’ to fear and ‘befriend’ it with the whole self. Try to create a ‘soft space’ inside one’s self within which the fear might come to rest as one accepts the fear and reassures the self. Try to remind yourself of feeling calm. Spread your hand across your upper chest as you rest and reassure your whole self. Do it now and feel how reassuring you can be to yourself. Witness and acknowledge your fear and your calmness. Invite fullness to return.
Connection to others, meditation or prayer may all help in this growth toward wholeness. Join an interest group engaged in constructive pursuits as simple as walking, or doing community service, helping others, playing cards, checkers, doing a daily check-in with a friend, what-have-you. Doing that will present challenges to the person who has sought solitude in life, but its challenges are challenges relating to being whole, being connected. Enjoy them!