Observing the Ego

There is value in developing a consciousness of the things that set off our egoic reactions.  For me, one of the big triggers is someone appearing to question my competence.  It tends to set off an immediate reaction – I feel the indignation arise, often way out of proportion to the incident, which may be very minor.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from my dean, with whom I am meeting later today for my annual evaluation.  The e-mail said that he could not locate a copy of my annual report and asked if I had yet sent it.  If so, could I resend it; if not, he suggested it would be helpful to receive it before our scheduled meeting.  Pretty innocuous e-mail…no reprimand or annoyance expressed in it…implicitly but clearly acknowledged that he might have received it and misplaced it.  Yet my first reaction was one of annoyance and indignation.  In my mind swirled various thoughts around the idea of: “I sent the report in over a month ago.  How could he think I would not have submitted it in a timely fashion?  I don’t miss deadlines.  I always do things like this promptly.  I’m never late.”  Etc., etc.  And I could feel the swirl of negative feelings around the thoughts.

Of course, as soon as I became aware of what was going on, I realized how silly it was and the negative feelings dissipated.  The key of course is being aware – not getting completely caught up in the ego, but being able to step back and observe the thoughts and feelings.  The idea is not to try to actively do anything to stop them, but simply to observe without judgement.  If we can do that, the negative feelings lose their power and dissipate.  And I think developing a consciousness of the things that have the greatest tendency to set off these reactions in us is helpful to being able to not get caught up in them.

To be sure, this is not always easy.  But it is hard to have the peace of which Jesus and the New Testment writers speak if we can’t let go of our egoic reactions.  If we can’t step back, there will always be something preventing our minds and hearts from being at peace. 


One thought on “Observing the Ego

  1. I have been struggling with the boundary between the ego and the whole community.

    There’s a latin phrase:
    Gloriosum est iniurias oblivisci
    It is glorious to forget the injustice

    I wonder how a lawyer can ever believe in this maxim?
    How can we ever overlook a slight or a harm? Isn’t that what we are trained to do–to right wrongs?

    But your post points us in the right direction, focusing on the bigger picture–the whole community–not the ego.

    Our immediate reaction to criticism (small or large, intended or unintended) is to perceive it as an attack. But it is just words. It’s not real. It is only real if we make it real by reacting to it.

    I am struggling to understand and practice this, but it is not easy.

    I understand that I can forgive others for perceived slights. Others can also forgive. But do we, as lawyers or as persons, have a duty to fight for justice, or instead, do we help others see that forgiveness is the correct path?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s