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Death of the Ego

September 9, 2013

Last week I talked about how I had previously modelled myself on Motivational Gurus and how this had, to me, seemed deluded on some of my blog posts (and also hypocritical in that I had at times criticised them!). There are many posts that I read back and want to delete – but delete I shall not. There is little point in sharing my life – and recovery – with you if I edit out the bits I am ashamed of. Ashamed is perhaps too big a word but it is definitely in there somewhere, underneath the embarrassment.

Realising where we went wrong, when we tried to live someone else’s idea of life, how we got to the point of implode and just when we woke up to the truth is vitally important in any process of development and healing. I find it so fascinating that my blog entries during my most ‘insane’ moments were actually the most forthright, truthful and real. It actually seems to me that my ‘Positive’ entries, especially during January, were, well – bonkers! Is insanity really what we think it is?

It is perhaps ‘normal’ human behaviour to avoid uncomfortable scenarios – on and offline. So it stands to reason that ‘Positive Thinkers’ and Gurus, Projects and Teachers make a much easier read. So when a blogger comes along and bares his gaping soul for all to see – the pain of the truth is just too much for some. Those who do wish to see the ugly truth and the truthful ugly will surely stick around long enough to feel the sensitivity of my writing. Those who become blinded by anger and reaction will surely click away to other, less honest pages. We are all different but for me – Positive Thinking nearly killed me – I was forced to start over and stop forcibly making myself ‘Positive’ ‘Happy’ ‘Calm’ or indeed ‘Sane’. I lost the plot, became ‘ugly’ with my truth and amongst that darkness, underneath the stinking decay of the me that was – my entire ‘self’ collapsed. I imploded and there was no-one to catch me as I fell back down to earth. When this happens, we find our true selves again, it is bound to happen when you are so vulnerable that you have no choice but to see yourself clearly – as you really are. It’s like a snake shedding its skin, slivering away into the undergrowth to replenish beneath the moist dew.
When the old beliefs fall away we have no choice but to shed the skin and keep on walking. During this process, I believe, we make new friends and shed some old ones, thus leaving behind a part of our soul. This can be painful but when your heart is open (and mine was forced open during the breakthrough) this does, it would appear, open other avenues and portholes that previously would simply have gone unnoticed.

I bumped into an old friend a few weeks ago who I hadn’t seen for six years. I was overjoyed to see her and we immediately embraced in the middle of rush-hour, the busyness around us made no effect on the ‘proper hug’ that we were sharing. As we caught up it transpired that we had both turned forty this year and we had both had a breakthrough (some people call this a ‘Mental Breakdown’). Charlotte (not her real name) said something so matter-of-fact that it blew me away. She said it in response to me telling her that since my breakthrough I didn’t know what I believed in and that my trust in therapies and the therapeutic community (all, and I do mean all of my therapy-trained friends withdrew until I could ‘see more clearly’). Charlotte simply said: “Well that is what happens when the ego dies”. She was speaking from experience and there was a beautiful absence of judgement. This absence is something I am new to, the specialist organisations I go to for support work in this way, avoiding labels, opinions and therapy. They call it ‘buddying’ and deliberately replace – temporarily – friends and family and social networks. They do this because it is very, very common for people with open mental health needs to experience the loss of friends and even family due to the stigma associated with being open about how you are really feeling. This is often referred to as ‘Mental Illness’ but back to Charlotte:

As we sat in the sunshine at the table of my favourite coffee shop in the city, Charlotte and I chatted about vulnerability and we shared our experiences of abandonment resulting from telling people how we really felt. We talked about how easy it is to pretend you are okay, to smile when you want to cry and to dance when you really want to die. So many of us do this so that our friends don’t leave us. But the irony in this coping mechanism is that it is a red herring – the isolation remains underneath the surface, bubbling like volcanic lava ready to erupt and erupt it must, eventually. The breakthrough forces the real us to emerge, like a phoenix from the ashes of denial. This emergence into the real world, free from the trappings of the ego*, can be excruciating. It is no wonder so many of us lie, cheat and game our way as far away as possible from this shamanic death. The Shamans practice ‘Death Ceremonies’ of which I have little knowledge but I do know that it involves, in some ceremonies, literally being buried in the earth, deliberately being forced into fear and thus the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism causes a sense of surrender. It is within this surrender that the ego dies and we face ourselves – Shamanically or not.
Anxiety often feels like being buried alive. There is a sense of intense pressure in the sternum, restricted breathing and panic. Add to this the blackness of Clinical Depression and you have the perfect environment for your very own Shamanic Journey. The difference is that few in your world will know what is going on for you (in Shamanic Ceremonies the journey is facilitated by an experienced Shaman for safety and guidance) and the isolation of this can increase the panic. You have a choice – sink or swim. I did both.

I see Charlotte a few times a week now, we both are writing, involved in creative endeavours and work very few hours (in our paid jobs) so have lots of free time. This free time can be a help and a hindrance, depending on my mood. Unfortunately my stress levels are still unpredictable and so doing set hours a week would be impossible. I work at least forty hours writing but this is an occupation I can control and I have noticed that since the breakthrough my writing style has changed. I am clearer, more concise and know when to take a break.

I am taking a break right now. My ego wants me to continue but my self-care tells me to make some herbal tea.

Until Next Time,

Matt xx

*No, I am not ego-less… I wish… what I mean here and what Charlotte was referring to is an aspect of the ego – the aspect that thinks it is better than anyone else, the part of ourselves that strives for perfection, ambition, knowing and self-importance. We all experience this. I believe, as my journey continues, that the ego dies in stages. I believe that an aspect of ‘Matt’ has died. I believe that this aspect was the ego… just a morsel of the bigger ego that continues to try to rule my life. This ego hates my vulnerability. This can sometimes feel like self-hatred. It’s a difficult place to be.

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