When my ego gets the better of me

Funk v depression.

If all words are nothing more nor less than symbols open to subjective interpretation, does word choice matter?

I guess for me it does, hence I’ve chosen the word funk in this instance. I’m applying the word funk here because, as a term, it’s less harsh, less extreme than more modern connotations and assumptions I feel now surround the word depression. Not that I’m attempting to minimise the potential harm depression can cause or lead to. Certainly not. But I remember a time when the word, at least in my own mind, didn’t feel so much like a code red. Admittedly, that was a time when the code red options were often not identified until the situation was at a more critical level, or worse still, when it was too late. That does of course, still occur with way too much frequency.

I don’t have to look too far beyond my own doorstep to witness the struggle that others face every day and how it can become more than just a little overwhelming, stealing over one’s life incrementally until there appears to be no way to reach beyond it. There are enough reports online and off making it all too clear where these kinds of struggles can end up. Getting lost in that darkest of nights is not a state I’ve ever come close to, but I can imagine how few steps it might take to find oneself there. I’ve no doubt that for some individuals gripped by such a state of mind, where any and all efforts feel like too much, death can appear to have a most preferable allure to the task of finding a way through the quagmire of other options. Death can be the quiet exclamation that releases all the challenges, whilst life can be a procession of question marks with no end in sight.

Now, I’m writing this without any statistics to hand, so yes, I’m writing with a large degree of ignorance on the matter. I don’t know, for instance, whether depression is on the increase (though I assume it is) in real terms, whether the severity of depression is on the increase, or whether there is an over-diagnosis of it as a health issue. But I’m not here to disseminate statistical data, or critique the implications, accuracy or otherwise of such data. That’s not why I’m writing this.

My reason is a smidgen more self-focused than that. It’s no more, and no less, than me mapping out some of my journey in this life, divulging some of my experiences, and the thoughts that are springing from them.

So, for me, at least up to this point in life, I’ve never reached such a critical level, I’ve never been pulled into the depths of what I would consider to be a code red. Nor an amber for that matter. At least, not that I’ve noticed. Up to this point, my path hasn’t ever veered in that direction. For that I’m certainly grateful.

Life has gone on regardless of any internal struggle. I’ve still been able to bounce through each part of my day that has involved intermingling with others. My general routines have continued as normal. Any variations tend to be outwardly invisible, save for a perhaps more sombre tone when interacting with some people, a level of banter lacking the more standard pep, or, if you were to witness me at home, more prolonged staring at the computer screen without actually ‘doing’ anything, breaths more frequently interspaced with sighs.

There have been more dramatic moments over the years. There have been some very melodramatic moments as well. You know, those kind of moments akin to when your first crush dumps you, or you perhaps have a flood of self-pity at the notion that no one truly understands you. Totally soul-destroying in the moment. Generally more comic in retrospect.

Standing on the other side of such a moment always presents a better perspective.

I may have in the past week had a moment, yet it was no more and no less than that. A moment. But in the throws of such a moment, how to handle it? When that most conniving little ego – my ego – grabbed a hold, with its own devious mission to throw me off course, to wrest any semblance of control I might momentarily have believed I had over the multifarious aspects of myself, away from me, what could I do?!

Get centred in a sanctuary of inner peacefulness, love and grace?

“Sod that my friend! None of that for you!!”

At least, that’s how it expressed on an experiential level. Instead of any inner peace, there was a wall that I careened all too quickly into, a wall that appeared to curve around in one relentless sweep, like the walls at the bottom of some all too stark and dry well. What was in front was beside and behind. Looking up for the exit, it seemed all too far and out of focus. The switchboard controlling my emotional stability had been unexpectedly nabbed from my grasp, the switches flickering in unpredictable fashion.

Frustration. Anger. Confusion. Loneliness. All were jockeying for a good position, all keen on top spot, but happy enough in their own perverse manner to share the limelight, even if none of those states were externally visible.

Fortunately for me, I recognise there are distractions I have at my disposal which help to redirect my energy toward more positive streams, like movies, reading, my local cafe, the internet and more. In turn, not all my options are distractions. Some are reminders of what can be, redirections that help me realise that, at a deeper level, a more inspired level, none of these outward concerns are as real as the inner peace that comes from a reconnection to Source.

In this particular case I needed to simply be still. Still on the inside. Still on the outside. I needed to allow myself to be a human who was simply being, rather than a human doing, or a human striving to do. I had to put all the persistent thoughts, the to-do lists, the expectations, the criticisms, the hopes and fears aside. I had to relinquish all my beliefs that all this stuff, all this outward life-stuff, actually matters. All of that and more. Put it ALL aside. And simply be.

Now I’m not suggesting that I needed to relinquish any notion that I myself matter. Far from it. At a certain level I matter very much. Just not the ‘I’ that is tied to material things, to worldly things, to egoic things. The ‘I’ that matters is the level of my self that I only find in the stillness, the level of my self that knows what is best for me at a level where the outer me could never really know. Whether you choose to consider that level of self the Higher Self, the Holy Spirit, God, Source, or perhaps Divine Intelligence, I guess that’s up to you.

I don’t consider myself a religious person. The dogma attached to religion and the adherence to so many archaic perspectives borne from the need for structures and guidelines suited to a time long past, or the political manipulations of a time long gone, whilst fascinating, doesn’t sit well for me. That said, there is merit in some of what is written. And I do believe there is more to myself, to us all, than what we can perceive with our physical senses.

When I allow myself to reside in that stillness within, the guidance from that source comes through. Peace comes through. Happiness returns. Grace abides within. The darkness induced by ego recedes. And I am grateful. I can again see my life as a journey. One where I peel away the layers of negativity and confusion, of doubt and fear, of distraction and self-deception. One in which, by seeing passed all my own layers of deception, I can more easily see passed all of yours, and in so doing see the light that shines within.

We may all be shrouded by varying layers of darkness, some of which might lead to a funk, some to deeper depression, or any number of other challenges particular to our human condition, but we all have a purer light at our core. It’s not a light that comes decorated with sparkling distractions, nor strobe effects, nor sirens and trumpets, nor even effusive gaiety. It’s the warm glow of connection, the first rays of light breeching the darkness of a distant horizon on a still day, the feeling of being exactly where we belong.

And once again, for this moment in time at least, and hopefully for many more, I feel like I’m exactly where I belong.

Get Writing!

Get writing! A simple enough command. One I say to myself often. And in essence, it’s a relatively straightforward process. You would think so…but…

…hours then tick by. Days. Weeks. Maybe even months.

For whatever reason, I have analysed myself, my writing, and more importantly perhaps, my writing process, into paralysis. There is an overabundance of questions to which I don’t have the answers. Or at least not answers I feel are adequate.

What exactly am I going to write about?

How much of myself do I wish to reveal/expose in this?

Will anyone even read it?

IF someone reads it, what will they think?

Do I care?

What if someone I know reads it?

What will they think of me then?

Do I want to go down that path?

Whilst I might be a fan of opinions and the debate that can result from having opinions, even if there is a difference of opinions that never reaches a clear conclusion or any agreement, I struggle with the potential for conflict. Whether that’s simply a personality glitch, a survival mechanism, upbringing, something else…I don’t know.

Certainly, when it came to growing up, the rule of the house, and especially my father, was that parents were right and kids did what they were told, no questions, even if the particular parent was wrong. I’m sure you all know the old saying: “Mother/Father knows best.” Disagreeing was talking back. Even saying no to a question was sometimes talking back, regardless of the truth in the response. My father once summed up both a key aspect of his own personality, and a core aspect of this entire topic with his response to a disagreement we once had when I was a teenager. “I’m your father. I’m always right. Even when I’m wrong.”

Whilst that response, and no doubt many others I can no longer remember, may have instilled a slight dislike and distrust of authority figures, it also, somehow, instilled a disinclination to argue, to be angry, to challenge in any meaningful way, and to feel that my own particular voice necessarily held any value, even if I was right on a given occasion. Those particular outcomes explain a great deal about my life that I won’t go into now, but they also hold significance for this particular blog.

When I compare myself to others out in the world, be they people I know, or people I don’t, I almost envy those of them who appear to have a single-minded sense of who they are and what their purpose in this life is. They pursue it with what appears to be a relative ease when compared with myself (and so many others). Me? I feel like I toil at every turn, confronted with one form of adversity or another, even if it’s simply the lack of support from those closest to me. At other times I feel like I do little more than stare blankly at the canvas of my life. Is that canvas waiting for nothing more than my first efforts at perhaps the broadest brushstrokes of colour to enliven it?

Perhaps such an appearance of ease within some of those more successful individuals is deceiving. Perhaps they are not nearly as clear within their mind as they’re able to project out to the world. But then, perhaps that is simply who they are. Life may have in fact dealt those individuals a particular hand, that, for whatever reason, enables them to walk, dance or charge through their life with a passion, a conviction, a self-assuredness, a steadfastness, and a consistency, that simply will not be swayed by the desires or intentions of others, be those others family, friends, partners, or some other form of authority figure.

Now, one may endeavour to attribute that to upbringing, education, karma, numerology, astrology, genes, some god or divine force. Take your pick. We each have our own interpretation of how forces both subtle and obvious impact our lives. We have all drawn our own particular conclusions as to what factors have the greatest influence on our own lives and the lives of others we encounter.

I personally consider them all to have some level of contribution, great or small, with it all woven together like some vast tapestry that represents, in its wholeness, an image of who we are and what we do. And I believe we come to this particular life we are in with all those aspects predetermined. Established. For a reason. For me, there is no good or bad about it. No punishment or reward.

To quote the great bard himself: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts…”. It is for me, a more inspired approach, one that combines well with a perspective found within A Course In Miracles, which, at least in my own interpretation of the work, guides one to be more focused on how one perceives their experience, than upon attempting to directly change their experience.

Not that change cannot be made. Not at all. More that the change made is perhaps made best when the guidance for it comes through you, from a higher/deeper source, rather than from you at your more reflexive, ego driven level. After all, how can any of us truly know what lies before us, what we are destined to experience at any given moment, what this script we call life has in store for us actors within our given parts? Better to pay more attention to the ‘director’ of this particular experience no? They’ve undoubtedly read the entire script and all the potential rewrites, so they’re bound to be in a better position for knowing what lies ahead. Better for us to not think that this life is who we are. Better instead to recognise who we are at our core, separate from the character we presently inhabit, as we fumble our way from one scene to the next in this unpredictable film we call life.

However, philosophising aside, none of that changes the fundamental appearance of some amongst us appearing far more adept at seizing the reins of life and harnessing whatever is presented them to suit their personal desires, as well as their expression in the world and upon the world. 

Am I one of those? No. I can’t say that I have ever felt that sense of control over my life. I have never felt like the master of my fate, no matter how much I look at it from a multitude of perspectives. Whilst I may never be more or less than the subjective observer of my experience, that experience has never appeared as one I have been able to steer in the direction I would prefer it to go. My own life has, in its own particular way, felt like a faltering but determined process of stepping away from subconscious layerings of victimhood, from feeling and believing that life is being done TO me, rather than being lived and, more significantly perhaps, controlled, from moment to moment, BY me. 

Which of course leads me inexorably back to my preceding comments. Maybe this is simply the path I walk, perhaps the path I MUST walk, to reach some particular outcome that I fail yet to see. I don’t always know what I’m doing. Hell, when I look really hard at my particular journey through this life, I almost NEVER know what I’m doing. I might sometimes make a relatively accurate guess. My choices might generate a generally acceptable progress in a particular direction for however long, offering a modicum of happiness, pleasant distraction, or agreeable focus.

I can also look back upon my life thus far and see that there have been, in a winding, twisty sort of way, progressive steps forward. No step has ever appeared like some great leap forward. Some steps have in fact appeared as steps backward. I have been as a blind man dropped within the middle of a forest, not knowing which way leads home.

Yet, if I’m not being too harsh on myself for just a moment, it is possible to see the progress. I am not the same person I was when I was growing up, when I moved out of home, when I ventured overseas. Not even the same person I was a year ago. The changes may not be externally visible, they may even be quite minor internally, but they are there nonetheless.

And they have all led me to this moment. They have all brought me to this particular blog I am now writing, where I question how much of myself I invest in this process, how much of my ‘character’ in this life I expose to the world, how vulnerable I allow myself to be in order that I might be able to take the next few steps. Will opening myself more fully to the potential scrutiny of others assist me in other aspects of this particular journey? Maybe it will. I really don’t know. Perhaps I need to apply a little faith in that part of me that is deeper/higher than my ego infused shell. Perhaps it is simply waiting for me to take this next step. I really don’t know.

‘Get writing!’ may seem like an easy enough demand. But it’s deciding how much of myself is in what I write that can be most difficult next step.

And step.