At one time I didn’t care if she was in the same country as me. Another, I couldn’t bear to be without her company.
In one moment I was ready to fight for a future together. The next, I wasn’t sure if we should even be together.
Like a flick of a switch I could go from ‘put together’ and pounding my chest to ‘falling apart’ and broken down in tears.
She called me a ‘flip-flopper’, and rightfully so.
I worried it was something more serious…
I would look in the mirror and hated the person I saw. How could I do this to someone… anyone? This is not the man/person I imagined I would become. Not only was I inconsiderate of her feelings, at times I actually got a kick out of it. Had I officially gone crazy? Was I becoming a danger to people I love the most? To experience these thoughts and questions after 30+ years of a ‘normal’ life truly shook me to the core. My whole identity was put on trial, and worst of all I had no idea how to control it. No matter what choice I made, I couldn’t seem to stick with it. It was like a constant ping pong match going on in my head, and every time I went for the win, I found myself striking the ball back… back and forth… over and over… yes and no… I can, I can’t. Now, later. Rinse, wash, repeat.
I finally reached a point of absolute exhaustion… and that’s when it hit me.
This battle was more than a struggle to be decisive.
It was more than the inability to choose.
It was more than just forcing myself to only say the ‘right’ things or cater to the feelings of others.
It wasn’t a random occurrence happening out of my control.
It was a lesson… a lesson in the biggest war we face in our journey into self-awareness.
When I think back to my perceived ‘normal’ life in the past, there was one thing that always remained consistent – I lived and operated solely from my ego. People saw me as ‘put together’ because there was no way that other side of me was allowed to see the day of light. In fact, I didn’t even see it as ‘anorhrr side of me’. Instead, it was a side I had to erase.
Yes I balled my eyes out in the shower when I was the only kid not invited to an elementary school party held by my former best friend, but I took it as a reason to build an even stronger ego.
And So I did.
Every passing day, month my ego was under construction – whenever it felt to be breaking, I would retreat to being alone with myself and made it my mission to build it even higher and stronger. By last year, I was so wrapped up in an emotional facade, completely disconnected from my true feelings, that I remember literally brushing off the words of someone opening their heart to say the love me. I smiled, and moved on… barely a tingle in my body from the courage this person had to be vulnerable.
Introducing the enemy… or hero – depending how you look at it.
As I began my journey and career in personal development 5 years ago I started to become aware of this idea of being vulnerable. It was a big part of my public talks and coaching, but it was incredibly calculated. I knew how to share it in a way that kept my ego in charge. It still does… but now the walls are starting to crumble.
The facade has become too much for me to bear. My neck and back are constantly hurting, my posture sucks, and my whole battle with a depressive state this past summer/fall showed me how much it can crush me if I continue to build it up only to let it fall again.
Being vulnerable is scary. It opens you to feelings that are incredibly uncomfortable and pain that can leave a long-lasting sting. In this state, other people have much more power in hurting you. But only at first. The pain they trigger is simply that which we’ve avoided to confront for so long, individually and collectively. It hurts because we’ve never taken the time to explore that hurt… To give it new meaning. Only when the wound is consciously exposed can we work on healing it.
My transition to living a less lopsided life is in full effect.
I know I will never get rid of my ego, but there’s only so much it can control me if I begin to become familiar with what it’s like to live publicly in a state of vulnerability. To not retreat to it only in solitude, but to live with it as a part of being human. If I can make vulnerability just another part of who I am and express it as ‘normal’ as it is to express my ego, the ball is back in my court. There’s no longer a battle within for there is no enemy I’m trying to beat.
“If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do you no harm.” ~ African Proverb
I’m learning that we can reduce the ego’s power by not trying to starve it, and at the same time not trying to hide our vulnerability. Both must see the light of day for sanity to exist.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.”It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “If you feed them right, they both win.”
“You see, if I only choose to feed the white wolf, the black one will be hiding around every corner waiting for me to become distracted or weak and jump to get the attention he craves. He will always be angry and always fighting the white wolf. But if I acknowledge him, he is happy and the white wolf is happy and we all win. For the black wolf has many qualities – tenacity, courage, fearlessness, strong-willed and great strategic thinking – that I have need of at times and that the white wolf lacks. But the white wolf has compassion, caring, strength and the ability to recognize what is in the best interest of all.
“You see, son, the white wolf needs the black wolf at his side. To feed only one would starve the other and they will become uncontrollable. To feed and care for both means they will serve you well and do nothing that is not a part of something greater, something good, something of life. Feed them both and there will be no more internal struggle for your attention. And when there is no battle inside, you can listen to the voices of deeper knowing that will guide you in choosing what is right in every circumstance. Peace, my son, is the Cherokee mission in life. A man or a woman who has peace inside has everything. A man or a woman who is pulled apart by the war inside him or her has nothing.
“How you choose to interact with the opposing forces within you will determine your life. Starve one or the other or guide them both.”
It is this battle my friends that will be the biggest battle of your lifetime… and it will be nowhere near easy.
We live in a ego dominated society that attacks vulnerability in every chance it gets in order to put them back in their place – back into their ego. However, if we are going to move forward collectively, we must have the courage to no longer let those attacks scare us away from this part of us that is so important… so real… so human. We must truly learn to feed and care for both wolves so that through our self-awareness we can consciously choose in which state we reside in every moment. To allow both to serve us instead of allowing each to use us.
To help you in the transition, here are few tips/insights of learned along the way…
- Start by focusing on expressing your vulnerability alone – Although I mentioned above it’s important not to always retreat into solitude when allowing vulnerability, it is an important step in the process. Learn to be able to laugh, cry, be angry, be sad, be hurt, be confused and be lost while you are alone, and learn to express those emotions without placing any judgement on yourself (i.e. crazy, weak, inferior). By going through these emotions will 1) prevent you from feeling like it’s ‘normal’ to suppress them and 2) show you the relief that can be had by no longer feeling like you have to fight back these emotions (it will literally feel as good as when you puke after drinking too much)
- When sharing your vulnerability others, feel free to express it in terms of the battle – Often times we feel that only either the ego or vulnerable part can be ‘true’ at any given moment. We pressure ourselves to choose the wolf that is in charge. However, in doing this we are once again starving one, which then causes us to feel less in control and become perceived as ‘flip floppers’ by others. A great way to move away from this is to simply acknowledge both aspects when expressing yourself. Encourage yourself to say things like
- “Right now I am noticing this feeling of incredible anger at what you did, but at the same time sad and worried that I might have been the cause of you doing it.”
- “I want to say a lot of mean things to you because you deserve it, but at the same time I know that those mean things are just temporary feelings. The dilemma I am having right now is I don’t want to suppress them, and at the same time don’t want to hurt you.”
- “I know deep down I love you, but I also am aware of how scared I am of receiving that love and opening myself up to loving you. I’m scare of getting hurt and don’t know what to do right now but defer these feelings for later so I don’t have to deal with them.”
- Learn to accept your lack of self-awareness in the past and if possible reach out to those you are comfortable with in bringing closure to it – If we all lived completely self-aware lives there’d be no stories for us to share. All stories have some sort of mission.. struggle to get past… and almost always they are rooted in the idea of a character becoming more self-aware. For that to happen, there had to be a time in which they were less self-aware! Your past may have not been pretty and you may have done and said things you still regret to this day… be ok with that regret as an emotion, go through it, and allow yourself to naturally be ok with the fact that it are those very words and actions that have created your story to this day. However, tomorrow doesn’t have to abide by the same pattern. You can start a new chapter, whether that’s for your life in general or a specific person in which the past was difficult. In my upcoming book I will share more on how to navigate these messy conversations so that you can find closure while also being respectful of others. For now, just play around with learning to balance the courage to be true to yourself and the humility to be considerate of others.
- Recognize your ego’s pattern – As smart as our ego is, it isn’t smart enough to be figured out. Our ability to be self-aware is far more powerful and with effort and patience we can begin to see the programmed pattern in which our ego thrives its operation. By discovering this we allow ourselves to quickly realize when we are in an ego-dominated state so we can step back from it and acknowledge the vulnerability that is not getting enough attention.
- It gets easier as you become stronger – The more you practice consciously choosing to be in either an ego state or vulnerable state, the easier it gets and the faster you can do it. Don’t let the pain and difficulties of beginning this process turn you off. Just like you will fall a few times when learning to ride a bike, you too will ‘die’ a few times learning to fight this battle. In time, however, you will understand how it works and ultimately win the war.
- Don’t let the wolves distract you from what it really means to love – This ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ world we live in constantly forces us to pick a side. Our minds are constantly racing to figure out the best way to love or the right way to be loved. We try to figure which wolf will guide us, when the truth is neither can or will. Love is expressed through our ego and vulnerability, but ultimately transcends it. To really love is to learn to be accepting of both wolves in others and yourself and not let it effect the love you have for them or you.