is not to be confused with informing someone of a
mistake or deficiency so that it can be put right.
And to refrain from complaining doesn't necessarily
mean putting up with bad quality or behavior. There
is no ego in telling the waiter that your soup is
cold and needs to be heated up—if you stick
to the facts, which are always neutral. "How
dare you serve me cold soup..." That's complaining.
There is a "me" here that loves to feel
personally offended by the cold soup and is going
to make the most of it, a "me" that enjoys
making someone wrong. The complaining we are talking
about is in the service of the ego, not of change.
Identifies with the Body
from objects, another basic form of identification
is with "my" body. Firstly, the body is
male or female, and so the sense of being a man or
woman takes up a significant part of most people's
sense of self. Gender becomes identity. Identification
with gender is encouraged at an early age, and it
forces you into a role, into conditioned patterns
of behavior that affect all aspects of your life,
not just sexuality. It is a role many people become
completely trapped in, even more so in some of the
traditional societies than in Western culture where
identification with gender is beginning to lessen
somewhat. In some traditional cultures, the worst
fate a woman can have is to be unwed or barren, and
for a man to lack sexual potency and not be able to
produce children. Life's fulfillment is perceived
to be fulfillment of one's gender identity.
the West, it is the physical appearance of the body
that contributes greatly to the sense of who you think
you are: its strength or weakness, its perceived beauty
or ugliness relative to others. For many people, their
sense of self-worth is intimately bound up with their
physical strength, good looks, fitness, and external
appearance. Many feel a diminished sense of self-worth
because they perceive their body as ugly or imperfect.
In some cases, the mental image or concept of "my
body" is a complete distortion of reality. A
young woman may think of herself as overweight and
therefore starve herself when in fact she is quite
thin. She cannot see her body anymore. All she "sees"
is the mental concept of her body, which says "I
am fat" or "I will become fat."
the root of this condition lies identification with
the mind. As people have become more and more mind-identified,
which is the intensification of egoic dysfunction,
there has also been a dramatic increase in the incidence
of anorexia in recent decades. If the sufferer could
look at her body without the interfering judgments
of her mind or even recognize these judgments for
what they are instead of believing in them, this would
initiate her healing.
who are identified with their good looks, physical
strength, or abilities experience suffering when those
attributes begin to fade and disappear, as of course
they will. Their very identity that was based on them
is then threatened with collapse. In either case,
ugly or beautiful, people derive a significant part
of their identity, be it negative or positive, from
their body. To be more precise, they derive their
identity from the I-thought that they erroneously
attach to the mental image or concept of their body,
which after all is no more than a physical form that
shares the destiny of all forms— impermanence
and ultimately decay. Equating the physical sense-perceived
body that is destined to grow old, wither, and die
with "I" always leads to suffering sooner
refrain from identifying with the body doesn't mean
that you neglect, despise, or no longer care for it.
If it is strong, beautiful, or vigorous, you can enjoy
and appreciate those attributes while they last. You
can also improve the body's condition through right
nutrition and exercise. If you don't equate the body
with who you are, when beauty fades, vigor diminishes,
or the body becomes incapacitated, this will not affect
your sense of worth or identity in any way. In fact,
as the body begins to weaken, the formless dimension,
the light of consciousness, can shine more easily
through the fading form.
is not just people with good or near-perfect bodies
who are likely to equate it with who they are. You
can just as easily identify with a "problematic"
body and make the body's imperfection, illness, or
disability into your identity. You may then think
and speak of yourself as a "sufferer" of
this or that chronic illness or disability. You receive
a great deal of attention from doctors and others
who constantly confirm to you your conceptual identity
as a sufferer or a patient. You then unconsciously
cling to the illness because it has become the most
important part of who you perceive yourself to be.
It has become another thought form with which the
ego can identify.
the ego has found an identity, it does not want to
let go. Amazingly but not infrequently, the ego in
search of a stronger identity can and does create
illnesses in order to strengthen itself through them.
hard it is to live with yourself! One of the ways
in which the ego attempts to escape the unsatisfactoriness
of personal selfhood is to enlarge and strengthen
its sense of self by identifying with a group—
In some cases the personal ego seems to dissolve completely
as someone dedicates his or her life to working selflessly
for the greater good of the collective without demanding
personal rewards, recognition, or aggrandizement.
a relief to be freed of the dreadful burden of a personal
self. The members of the collective feel happy and
fulfilled, no matter how hard they work, how many
sacrifices they make. They appear to have gone beyond
ego. The question is: Have they truly become free,
or has the ego simply shifted from the personal to
collective ego manifests the same characteristics
as the personal ego, such as...
need for conflict and enemies,
the need for more,
the need to be right against others who are wrong,
and so on.
Sooner or later, the collective will come into conflict
with other collectives, because it unconsciously seeks
conflict and it needs opposition to define its boundary
and thus its identity. Its members will then experience
the suffering that inevitably comes in the wake of
any ego-motivated action. At that point, they may
wake up and realize that their collective has a strong
element of insanity. It can be painful at first to
suddenly wake up and realize that the collective you
had identified with and worked for is actually insane.
Some people at that point become cynical or bitter
and henceforth deny all values, all worth. This means
that they quickly adopted another belief system when
the previous one was recognized as illusory and therefore
collapsed. They didn't face the death of their ego
but ran away and reincarnated into a new one.
collective ego is usually more unconscious than the
individuals that make up that ego. For example, crowds
(which are temporary collective egoic entities) are
capable of committing atrocities that the individual
away from the crowd would not be. Nations not infrequently
engage in behavior that would be immediately recognizable
as psychopathic in an individual.
are many people who are always waiting for the next
thing to react against, to feel annoyed or disturbed
about, and it never takes long before they find it.
"This is an outrage," they say. "How
dare you ..." "I resent this." They
are addicted to upset and anger as others are to a
drug. Through reacting against this or that they assert
and strengthen their feeling of self.
long-standing resentment is called a grievance.
carry grievances is to be in a permanent state of
"against," and that is why grievances constitute
a significant part of many people's ego. Collective
grievances can survive for centuries in the psyche
of a nation or a tribe and fuel a never-ending cycle
grievance is a strong negative emotion connected to
an event in the sometimes distant past that is being
kept alive by compulsive thinking, by retelling the
story in the head or out loud of "what someone
did to me" or "what someone did to us."
grievance will also contaminate other areas of your
life. For example, while you think about and feel
your grievance, its negative emotional energy can
distort your perception of an event that is happening
in the present or influence the way in which you speak
or behave toward someone in the present. One strong
grievance is enough to contaminate large areas of
your life and keep you in the grip of the ego.
requires honesty to see whether you still harbor grievances,
whether there is someone in your life you have not
completely forgiven, an "enemy." If you
do, become aware of the grievance both on the level
of thought as well as emotion, that is to say, be
aware of the thoughts that keep it alive, and feel
the emotion that is the body's response to those thoughts.Don't
try to let go of the grievance. Trying to let go,
to forgive, does not work. Forgiveness happens naturally
when you see that it has no purpose other than to
strengthen a false sense of self, to keep the ego
in place. The seeing is freeing.