Amma Bhagvan Sharnam: Ego in Relationships

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ego in Relationships

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Ego in Relationships

Are you willing to consider the possibility that when you are fighting with a loved one, a spouse, child, parent, friend or business associate, what you are truly fighting against is your own shadow self, hidden away from your awareness and projected on this person by your ego? Are you willing to entertain the possibility that a true lasting conflict cessation is an inside job, one that each one of us must do continually inside our self? If your answer to these questions is yes, please read on.

Sri Bhagavan says, "Life is a quest to know yourself". To know yourself you need a mirror. And the mirror is your relationships. Every relationship you have with another human being mirrors aspects of your self. It either mirrors you, exactly as you are, or it mirrors aspects for which you have a negative charge, aspects that you hate.

Have you noticed how someone will say about a friend or a colleague at work: "I hate him when he does that OR I hate it when he behaves this way". What we actually hate is actually an unconscious shadow side of our self, normally repressed, now being activated. The clue here is our intense emotional reaction to that person's behaviour. Whenever "our buttons get pushed", a shadowy part of our self is being stimulated, someone close to us is mirroring us. And usually we don't want to see it.

Why is it that man is always engaged in this blame game? What is it that prevents us from actually perceiving our relationships as a learning experience that facilitates us to transform and evolve?

It is the Ego or Evil Grossly Overloaded, as we would prefer to call it. Evil because it constantly works to destroy you and your relationships. Gross, as it is not subtle in any way, the way it works is blatantly obvious, yet it seems very difficult for anyone to be able to overcome it. Overloaded, as it permeates every aspect of our life.

What is the EGO?

Sri Bhagavan says, "The ego refers to the six particular games of the ego. The Ego is a functional property of the self". The ego is also the expression of the self; it is a sophisticated form of the self which indulges specifically in the six games of the ego. The six games of the Ego being:

  • 1. Domination.
  • 2. Refusing to be Dominated.
  • 3. I am Right.
  • 4. You are Wrong.
  • 5. Cover up.
  • 6. Struggle for Survival.

Let us now see the many ramifications of "The Ego" on our relationships.

Domination

Shobhan was very depressed and angry with his wife of 20 years. A docile woman, she had dedicated her life to him and his children. His word was akin to scripture for his family. He was used to everything going his way and would tolerate no disobedience. But now out of the blue she was trying to become independent and saying that she too wanted to live her own life. She wanted to pursue her own interests and had started voicing her opinions about everything. It was almost as though she didn't want to listen to him anymore. And the more he tried to enforce his views the more she argued and fought back. He didn't feel in control any more and did not like it a bit.

Very often we tend to feel secure in a relationship only when we are in control of the relationship. We want to be listened to all the time. We want our ideas and opinions to be accepted all the time. We feel the need to be needed all the time. And this leads to a tendency to dominate in the relationship. There are various ways by which people dominate.

Direct Domination

Where there is no concern about hurting the other person or any consideration to the feelings or opinions of the other. It is domination through force, where there is a threat to the security or survival of the other. Have we not heard parents telling their children, "As long as you are living with me, you are dependant on me; you have to listen to me. I am your father. I know what is best for you. You have to listen to me or get out and live your own life". And then have we not heard couples quarrelling all the time even about trivial issues, and then issuing ultimatums like, "I am the bread winner, if you don't like it, then you can leave", If you want me to live with you, you have to do as I say". In face of such threats, we make the other bow down to our authority. But one can very well imagine the fragile condition to such relationships.

You Stoop to Conquer

There are some, who would like everyone to appreciate them as humble, understanding and compassionate people. Such practiced humility is yet another ego game. You stoop to conquer. You convince, manipulate and control; while all the time maintaining a fa├žade that you are only concerned for the welfare of the other.

Domination through Guilt

When it becomes impossible for you to control directly, you employ the subtle weapon of guilt to achieve your means. You make the other feel so penitent, that he has to bow down to your wishes out of sheer remorse and regret that he/she has caused terrible hurt to you. Have we not heard people raving and ranting that, "I do so much for everyone, but nobody listens to me", or "I am here only to slave it out, nobody respects my words", and so on and so forth; and then ultimately having their own way out.

Refusing to be Dominated

On one hand we wish to dominate and on the other hand we rebel against domination. We wish to have our control in every issue and rebel when others attempt to do the same. Again we employ the same ploys of direct refusal or subtle refusal through planting guilt or manipulation.

I am Right and You are Wrong

You could especially see this when you are relating to somebody. During the course of the conversation you would either be trying to get the better of the other person or not allowing the other person to get the better of you. And you will be summoning up all reasons, logic, examples and data to show that you are right and the other person is wrong. You would be very reluctant to see things from others point of view.

But what happens when a conflict is not resolved amicably? What happens when one person insists on winning and the other gives in just to keep the peace? Either you are the winner or the reluctant loser. In either case you believe the other person to be wrong. After all, if you thought he/she was right, there wouldn't have been a disagreement in the first place. Unfortunately disagreements that end this way prevent us from getting what we want from friendship and family relationships, a sense of closeness, love, respect and understanding. However if our opinions are discounted, if we discount the opinions of others, it we allow the other to win only because that person is demanding, or if we don't know how to express ourselves well enough to make our position understood, distance is sure to grow between us. Even if we do win the skirmish, the casualty is usually costly - a rift in the fabric of love and friendship. And once the fabric tears, it only keeps tearing more and more until the relationship is completely broken.

Cover-up and Struggle for Survival

What happens to you when somebody points out you mistakes? What happens to you when somebody tries to impinge on your ideas? You immediately tend to become insecure, and then what follows is a whole lot of les and dramas.

This fight for survival goes on all the time. And finally if things don't go your way, you engage in covering up the failure by giving a whole host of reasons.

Finally the ego gets out of hand. You keep on getting hurt and are not able to forgive the other and You become an insensitive person. As you keep getting hurt your thoughts become self-centered. There is a tremendous conflict leading to the loss of energy. Consequently you lose all sense of peace and tranquility.

Ego also leads to failure of intelligence. An egoistic person would not be able to listen to others and consequently would not be able to learn. He cannot see others point of view, he cannot get fresh insights. Hence he becomes stupid in the course of time. In other words, there is failure of intelligence. A person, who is very egoistic, cannot get insights.

The egoist also tends to become positional about every issue. Consequently, who is right and who is wrong, whose opinion is to be accepted and whose is not becomes the predominant issue and the primary issue of concern is lost. The egoist has no freedom to change positions while those without ego can change stands depending on the clarity that they get. The person without an ego is the strong person contrary to popular opinion that he is weak and spineless.

Finally how is one liberated from this Ego?

Sri Bhagavan says, "It is possible to be free of the ego, when there is awareness. Awareness of the ego in action is to be free of the ego. Because if the ego is so harmful, so poisonous, so dangerous and is not profitable, when you become aware of it, automatically it becomes weak. You will not do anything that is harmful to you. That is the nature of every human being. So, if you can see how ego is so harmful, then the ego is not there. If you could see how self-centered activity is harmful, you will no more engage in self-centered activity. You stop doing all these things because you know it is not good for you. That is all. If you would see that something is good for you, you would continue to indulge in it. That is all there is to it. It all happens naturally. The problem is, you do not see how the ego will be harmful to you, how self-centered activity is being harmful to you. If you could see it, you are free. That is why we say ‘To see is to be free'. What do you see? You see its being harmful to you. Who would like to harm oneself? That is how all these activities stop. On the other hand without seeing it or seeing that it is harmful, whatever you would do to be free of the ego, you would only be perpetuating it. There is no end to this game without seeing".

And as a grand finale Sri Bhagavan promises, "If all this is not possible for you, the only way is to depend on ME and ask ME, ‘Bhagavan please help me'. I will then do it for you"!!!

Contemplative Questions

Here is a set of questions that would provoke you and put you through some soul searching. They are not about religion nor about ethics. They are merely about you.

They are not meant to serve as solutions nor are they meant to lead you anywhere. These questions are meant to serve as tools to discovering yourself.

1) Do you perceive the Presence of a benevolent force guiding, protecting and shaping your life? What name do you give that Presence? When did you best feel this Presence?

2) What is your opinion of God? Is your opinion drawn from religion, books, parents and or your personal experience of life?

3) Do you pray? Do they get answered? How often?

4) Do you think it is possible to relate to the Divine? What relationship would you opt?

5) Here is a story for you - Two fierce enemies once did a penance to placate god and receive boons vying with each other. God appeared to the first man and asked what he wanted. He said "give me twice of whatever you give my enemy". Then God appeared to the second one. Even before God could say anything he asked, "God, would you please tell me what my enemy asked for? On knowing his prayer request, he said, "then God, blind me in one eye."
Now what would you wish for yourself, your best friend and your worst enemy if God gave you a chance?

6) Have you ever experienced a coincidence or chance that seems to have involved so many people and factors that you can't stop wondering if a mastermind was behind this operation? If yes, do you savour the experience often and have you shared it with someone close to you?

Namaste Amma Abhagvan Sharnam

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