Escaping The Ego’s Insidious Trap of Self Criticism – by Chris Cade
On the path of spiritual growth, the ego can be very insidious. When we first become aware of its criticisms, we come to realize how much it consistently hurts us. We see that it punishes us in a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” way. No matter what we do, it’ll have an opinion why we should have done something else.
The thing is, that’s sadly just the beginning. That’s what we can see on the surface and it is easier to work with than when the ego gets more subtle and uses comparisons instead of direct judgments. Here’s a simple example.
Have you ever shared about something difficult or bad happened, and the person you’re sharing with replies and says that you don’t have it as bad as other people? Maybe even not as bad as themselves?
This type of thinking is interesting because it points to the part of our psyches that is always comparing. The thing is, this is like a vice grip on our happiness. That’s because when we compare our experience to another’s experience, we are actually not fully being Present. We’re using somebody else’s experience to make ourselves feel better about our own situation.
Perhaps you’ve had a relative who is always “one-upping” you?
You share about a tough day, and then their response is “You think that’s bad? Wait until you hear this…”
Or perhaps on the positive side you share about a great day, and the first response from somebody is “That’s not nearly as cool as the time I went to Hollywood and…”
You get the picture. Most of us feel rubbed the wrong way when that happens, and for good reason:
Because that person isn’t seeing us as the Divine people that we are. That person isn’t acknowledging us. When that happens, we often feel unseen and sometimes hurt.
Unfortunately, that external example is not the real concern. It’s just that: an example to lead us into a much deeper and more profound understanding of ourselves. The real concern is when we do that to ourselves silently.
For example when we see another person have a wonderful experience, and we think to ourselves:
“I’ll never have that” or “I wish I could have that.”
Immediately that pulls us out of the present moment. I’m not just talking about objects, relationships, or people either. What about spiritual experiences?
For those of us who go to meditation groups or workshops, it’s easy to compare ourselves to others. Maybe we feel like other people had the deeper meditation. Maybe we can feel like other people get to feel the “Universal Oneness.” Maybe at a telekineses workshop we get frustrated that somebody else could bend the spoon and we feel like we never will. Or maybe we see how “loving” somebody else is and feel bad about ourselves… like we could “never be that loving.”
Those comparisons are ways that we punish ourselves and pull us out of the present moment. And whether we’re conscious of it or not, they cause us emotional pain every time we do that to ourselves.
This can feel like a vice grip. The mind naturally wants to compare. It uses that as a way to feel better. Yet that feeling is only temporary as a consequence of projecting outwards the pain we don’t want to feel inwards.
What’s the answer?
Compassion for ourselves and others. When we step back and truly see another person, and ourselves, we coe to understand that we don’t have to minimize somebody elses’ experience. All we have to do is to acknowledge it. It really is enough to simply say “I hear and see you. Yes, I see how that can be painful. And I’m here for you.”
(even if you’re talking to yourself)
When we compare, we separate. With separation comes pain. We all hurt when we compare, even if we’re not conscious of it.
Therefore, the next time you find yourself silently comparing to other peoples objects or experiences, try shifting your attention towards appreciation. See the gifts in the other person. See the gifts in their experience. Then as Byron Katie says: turn it around.
See the gifts in you and your experience.
This simple shift from comparing to compassion, from separation to unity, is what opens the door for miracles in your life.
This article was written by Chris Cade, Founder of SpiritualGrowthEvents.com