On Being – Chapter II – Talking About Ourselves (part II)

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Depression and Other Emotional Dysfunctions Are Due to Ego

Ego prefers to focus on itself. Ego is the source of emotion, positive and negative, and of self-interest. Ego seeks satisfaction. Ego needs to control. The more the mind is preoccupied with itself, the more it turns in on itself, and the more emotion will frame the mind’s thought processes, judgements, and perceptions. The quality of the mind’s work is determined by the I AM’s relative emphasis on ego. Our world is ‘darkened’ only to  the degree we allow ego to be a factor in it. With ego in control, the mind’s cognitive outcomes are determined by our emotions; rather than our emotions being determined by the mind’s cognitive outcomes. The latter case describes how things are supposed to work. Emotion is a natural effect of the mind’s outputs (our thoughts). We have it backwards when our thoughts are the product of our emotions. Emotion is ill-suited to be a cause. Emotion is a reaction and can provide no value to the mind’s evaluative processes. It should not be a factor in our thinking until the evaluation is completed. Only then should we direct our attention to the emotion, and begin to evaluate that – separately. Otherwise we are, at least in part, reacting and beholden to emotions which are in fact the ‘echoes’ of past thoughts. The more we allow ego to have a stake in our consciousness, the more our minds will bend our perception of what is, into something else – what was, say, or what might be, or what we fear will be. The more we view the world through the lens of our egos, the more our memories of the past and anxieties about the future will consume the present. The more strongly emotions are felt, the more our minds are occupied with them (the harder it becomes to resist). The spiralling of our minds’ consciousness, into emotion and away from true perception, eventually leads to ‘emotional breakdown,’ or living entirely in a world of our own manufacture –because we have so far isolated ourselves from the peace that exists in the moment.

Have you ever noticed, after a relationship breakup in which you were the ‘dumpee,’ the radio is playing one song after another about lost love? When things were good, the radio didn’t play so many! The truth is, radio stations are always playing songs for forlorn lovers, especially the country stations, and the disk-jockey doesn’t even know who you are, much less heard about your broken romance. The dj has not changed her repertoire, but you have. It is because, when we are feeling blue, our tendency is to think blue, and we focus on the blueness of the world; it is what we have become much more conscious of. Consciousness of one thing displaces consciousness of any other thing, since we have only one mind, not several, and we can be conscious of only one thing at any given moment. And because thinking blue breeds blue thinking, we progressively isolate ourselves from the things which would buoy us emotionally and lift us out of our blueness.

The mind occupied with blue thoughts cannot at the same time give consideration to good things. It can therefore not be evaluating fairly; for good is never entirely absent from anyone’s life, at least not for very long, if at all. The mind chooses to dwell on the bad things, and in doing so, ignores the good. We cultivate misery. Even if we do not think, “I choose to think only ‘blue’ thoughts,” we have made that choice. We must choose rather to look for, and give some thought to, the positive. This is hard to do when you are blue. Here’s something that I find helps:

When I am feeling sorry for myself, I need only look around. It is easy to find someone whom I would not want to exchange places with. I only have to consider for a moment, what life must be like for that person living on the street, that young paraplegic in a wheelchair, that blind person, that person who can only get around on a scooter, that parent whose child was murdered, and my own situation no longer seems so bad or untenable. The sadness leaves me.

The egoic persistence in dwelling on past troubles, if it is not worrying about the future, invokes negative, draining, emotional energies that will in time become the general mental/emotional state of the individual, and mental pathology the inevitable result.

 

The Good Side of Bad

Whenever bad things happen to us, ego is first to react: we might feel hurt, bereft, anxious, angered, or jealous, depending on the situation. If bad things happen often enough, the mind is obliged to filter them, or risk becoming dysfunctional due to unremitting duress. The bad things in life provide ego with something to do; something which will make the ego feel important; but for as long as we maintain our focus on them, we give the bad things life. We  continue to feel the bad things that happen to us long after they happen – we are paying the event emotional interest; having ourselves endure much more than the event per se is worth. Why would we choose to do this? Why would we allow our souls to labour so, under the weight of consumptive, egoic energies? Yet this is what we are choosing, when we do not elevate our consciousness past consideration for our pain. But the pain does not belong to us; it belongs to the event; in order to free ourselves from the pain, in order to leave the pain in the past where it belongs with the event, we must keep our minds trained on the present – the exact same place where it in fact exists. This is the only place where peace of mind is actually attainable. When present, there is no past to regret and no future to be anxious over. There is only the doing, the creating, the now.

Bad things can have the effect of propelling us into the present simply by making it too painful to continue living in the past. By forcing us to elevate our consciousness to the non-egoic, we are put back on the road (albeit a wee bit roughly, at times) to life’s ultimate destination – joy.

Suicide

When people think suicidal thoughts, they are in ego-mode; the mind’s focus is entirely on itself. The mind is not engaged with respect to anything existing and happening outside of itself; save for that what it can draw upon in support of its current state. In such a state, one’s mind is busy with things that have happened, and/or things that have not happened. The present is excluded. The ego has completely taken over. The mind is fully engrossed in the pain one is feeling. The mind cannot, therefore, be performing any sort of non-egoic activity.

But that which exists outside of the mind, exists whether the mind is aware of it or not; and that which exists outside of the mind, is only perceptible to the mind while the mind is not absorbed in itself. When the mind is not absorbed in ego; then non-ego will absorb the mind. Cultivating non-egoic consciousness puts you(the mind) in the moment; where all that exists (including you) happens to be. The world of non-egoic reality is always the present; but beyond ego’s control. It is eternal. Ego exists in the present too; but it insists on having utter control over it. The ego cannot remake the present; but it can build a sandbox for the mind to play and pretend in. But as we all learn as children, you can only play in the sandbox until mom hollers, “Supper’s ready!” and you must leave the toys behind when you go back in the house.

If the mind is not in the present, it is not where it needs to be for the sake of the individual; where what is real can always be found, and nothing unreal is found. The individual whose mind is focused inward upon itself, can only ‘experience’ the present through the filters of sadness and anxiety. Sadness is the emotional residual of things past; anxiety, a response to things that have not happened; both are entirely constructs of the ego. Neither the future or the past can possess any substance; but the emotions they give rise to can –even to the point of harming your mind, body, and soul.

While the mind absorbs itself in thoughts evocative of emotional pain, sadness, or guilt, it is the ego that is opening and closing the door; letting some thoughts in, while keeping others out. This is not the ego’s job. It is the mind’s job. But the mind is on coffee-break, and the ego is an incorrigible opportunist: behind the first negative thought, a thousand more are lurking. Once the mind’s gate opens to the first one, a tsunami of emotionally and spiritually deflating thoughts are able to rush right in. The ego thrives on crisis, and will not shut the gate of its own volition; so the mind must eventually resume control of its duties. It cannot perform its job as gatekeeper if it is absorbed with what has already come through the gate, and waiting for more of the same to come calling.

Keeping such thoughts out of your mind can, at times, require a good deal of effort. It may require an intensely focused effort. It will definitely require constant vigilance. People commit suicide, so we know the mind can convince itself that suicide is best. The benefit, so ‘reasons’ the ego-addled mind, is that the ‘pain’ will stop; but you have no way of really knowing this, given that at least part of you ‘survives’ the transition from this world to the next.

Anyone who has committed suicide is now present entirely in the 2nd Emanation. If in the transition, the ego is left behind (or rather, its ability to affect the mind’s perception is left behind), the individual would know things were not at all as bad, ‘on Earth,’ as they had believed when they committed suicide; it only seemed that way because they were able to focus only on the bad things – things compatible with their general mood. They could not acknowledge the good things, which were, nevertheless, also present. They might also be aware of the suffering their suicide has created for others: parents, siblings, buddies. The love these people felt for them, their self-absorption kept them from appreciating. They could not detect the light shining all around them, because they were engrossed in the shadow being cast by their own mind.

The best thing the people left behind can do for the departed is to set aside their profound sadness. For as often as they can do this, they open up a window through which the non-egoic world is visible. The mind will be able to perceive the certainty of reunification with their loved one. It is, in fact only in the 3rd Emanation sense that they are actually separated. Owing to the limitations imposed by 3rd Emanation existence, and to the distraction of ego’s incessant chatter, we acknowledge this only on occasion. We afford ourselves mere glimpses of the greater reality in which we exist through our mind’s window; as only a portion of  our neighbourhoods is actually visible to us through the kitchen window.

The ‘living’ and the ‘departed’ will sense togetherness again, and for a much longer time (eternity) than they feel separated. Recalling from Gladiator, the words of Juba to the grieving Maximus, whose family was murdered: “You will see them again, only not yet….not yet.”

Cultivating happiness, celebrating life, and entertaining fondness for your departed is the best way to send them happiness, because your pain will be felt by them, when you are feeling it. Happiness. What better way to pass the time until you ‘see them again?’