My ego is having a really hard time right now. She is struggling with severe certainty addiction withdraw symptoms. Certainty addiction (often associated with but not limited to religion) is the inability to acknowledge that your point of view could be wrong. It’s either yes or no with no room for maybe.
I was conditioned to not only want to know the truth, but to also believe that whatever truth I embraced was the only truth possible. So now that I’ve decided to leave that way of thinking behind, my ego is completely distraught. She’s been vomiting, has the chills and sweats, and is continuously proclaiming that she’s going to die without the drugs.
It was her decision to get off of “certainty drugs” because she saw how much it tormented me. I was so angry at everyone who disagreed with me and pitied them for not being able to grasp the truth. I didn’t enjoy my complexity because I thought it was hypocrisy. I needed to be right so badly that I was willing to externalize my intrinsic power to experts and gurus so that my opinions would look more credible.
But now as I try to nurse my ego back to health after completely destroying her world, I am starting to regret my decision. How could I do this to her? Why do I purposely entertain ideas that contradict my beliefs? Why do I embrace both extremes of any issue? Why am I okay with not knowing what will happen after death? Why do I believe that no matter how bad someone treats me in this life, their higher self really loves me unconditionally? Why do I refuse to put people (God included) on pedestals?
I am not absolutely certain of anything, and that hurts my ego badly. I must be a masochist to think it would be a good idea to make my ego this miserable. Maybe some certainty and self-righteousness in small doses wouldn’t be that bad. It’s hard to not over-analyze, it’s stressful to take full responsibility for myself, and it’s damn near impossible to not care about what people think of my eccentric way of thinking. Anything would be better than this right?
“No!” she says. “I can do this. I can do this for you.”
“But Sweetie, I’ve taken away everything you’ve ever depended on for emotional support and spiritual comfort,” I tell her. “I’ve taken away your whole identity!”
“Yes. Yes, you did,” she stutters through aches and chills. “But I’d rather struggle through this with you by my side, helping me than to be banished. I just don’t want you to leave me.”
“I’m never going to leave you. That’s impossible.”
“Really? Well what about those spiritual gurus that talk about transcending the ego?”
“I never agreed with that! I was never going to do that to you. If that’s what works for them, fine that’s for them… But it’s not for me.”
“Absolutely! I could never ask you to leave, but I am asking you to change and that’s probably worse!”
“Carla I said I would do this for you. I said that I would lay down my pride, my need to be right and my need to be superior to others so that you could continue on your spiritual journey. I agreed to be a lone wolf so that you can ask hard questions. I agreed to trade in certainty for uncertainty so that you can live in mostly unexplored territory. I agreed to be a contradiction. I meant what I said. I can do this. I’m doing this because I love you.”
Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person in the world who believes my ego loves me. I didn’t know that self-love would be this much of a challenge considering that it’s all we hear about in pop psychology these days. So I thought that I was doing what was popular for once. But most spiritual teachers encourage you to transcend or abandon the ego. “It lies to you,” they say. “All it knows is fear.”
Since I’ve always had a tendency to go against the grain of not only common secular thought, but common spiritual thought as well, it seemed pretty natural to follow in the same vein here. I love my ego like I love a child. How could I not? All she’s ever wanted to do was please me and protect me. How can I not give her a chance?
She only needs to be right because if she’s not right, she will let me down and embarrass me. She’s starting to realize that letting me down is okay for the sake of freedom, but I’m starting to realize that letting her be is okay for the sake of my personality. I noticed that when you choose to live in ambiguity, you tend to judge those that need certainty… and that’s another certainty drug!
I know that we “spiritually mature” people feel let down when we see others indulging their egos, but why is that judgment necessary? People are not evil for relying on their egos. People are not ignorant for relying on their egos. People are not unenlightened if they let their egos get the best of them sometimes. This world would be boring as hell without the dualistic extremes of all of our egos. The ego is fun, and funny, and sexy. The ego makes places like social media entertaining!
When I look at my ego (and everyone else’s) I see a navigation system for this world: a safety net for the tight rope, and a flotation device for the pool. Without it, we are completely on our own. So when I-or when I see others- fall into certainty addiction, extremes in opinion, or dogmas in lifestyle, it’s just a sign that I’m not ready to travel without my GPS yet. I need to travel the road of uncertainty until I get more comfortable.
And maybe I’ll never be 100% comfortable with going without my safety net. At least I know for certain that the net will catch me when I fall. Because my ego loves me whether I’m on certainty drugs or not.