Our picture of normal behavior – the assumptions about what it is like to be alive, to be a human being – is skewed. Culture tries to project the idea of an organized, poised, and polished self, as the standard way most people are. And this encourages us to get impatient and disgusted with ourselves when we do not live up to expectations. Many things that we might assume are uniquely odd or disconcertingly strange – and which cut us off from other people – are in fact completely average and pervasive.
How many times have I shouted at myself to buck it up, get it together, and stop being so weak or so weird.? But for me, it is better to stop expecting to be normal in the sense of being calm, coherent, and rational, and getting ashamed when I am not. It is far more useful to recognize the boundless and sheer normality of madness, waywardness, and alarm in every single human soul.
Sometimes I have these peculiar thoughts and habits and if anyone found out about them I am fearful that they would label me and cast me out of their social sphere immediately. Are you as desperate as me to fit in? Our picture of what is normal is very often way out of line with what is actually true and widespread.
The fate of normality is very much in the balance. The ability of technology to see us as we have never been seen before is on the rise. Yet, the notion of a shift in what is considered normal invites unease: we do not want conformity but increasing anxiety level is not a good outcome either. It is a short hop from critiquing normalcy to claiming that we are too concerned with self.
Often confronting your odd behavior can bring relief, as will a plan for addressing the problem. Talking to a therapist is often a good way to see your particular problem. Maybe you are not as abnormal as you thought. But there is no evidence that the proliferation of therapy has done harm to our identity or all that much good.
The question of normality creates strange paradoxes. Often it is relatively healthy people who feel defective. The worriers may believe that they have too much or, more often, too little ambition, desire, confidence, spontaneity, or sociability. Their keen social awareness (a strength), when combined with a few obsessive behaviors, causes them to fuss over glitches in the self.
In contrast, those with serious problems often insist on their normality. Anorexics and alcoholics may profess certainty that they are fine. People afflicted by disabling panic attacks or depression have often tried to hide their problem. That mood disorders are common and largely treatable makes them more acceptable; to suffer them is painful but not strange.
In other words, in the therapeutic setting, the proliferation of diagnoses has diverse effects, making some people feel more normal, some less so, and touching others not at all. There is no automatic link between a label and a sense of abnormality.
How will it feel to live in a culture in which few people are free of psychological defect? Well, we have been there before, and we can gain some clues from the past. A study done in the 1950s asserted that 80% of Americans were abnormal. But when everyone is abnormal, being included loses its sting. We are in a period where therapy is no longer unusual —while its gravity, in terms of social stigma, has diminished. In fact, it is sort of hip to be in therapy. Also we have redefined normal to include broad ranges of difference.
Where once people pursued normality through efforts at self-reform, now they proudly redraw the map to include themselves. In this context, diagnostic labels confer inclusion in a community. Today, an emotional difficulty can be understood both as a disorder and a unique perspective.
We can hold two forms of normality in mind. Normal as free of defect, and normal as sharing the human condition, which always includes variation and vulnerability. I believe we are entering a period in which abnormality is universal and unremarkable.
Normality may be a myth we have allowed ourselves to enjoy for decades, sacrificed now to the increasing recognition of differences. The awareness that we all bear flaws is humbling. But it could lead us to a new sense of inclusiveness and tolerance, recognition that imperfection is the condition of every life.
You are alive, and so am I. My cat, Charlie, is purring and is very much alive. The tree just outside my window has new leaves which are emerging for the spring. Although sometimes I wonder, I don’t believe that my computer is alive nor is my desk and chair.
What is it that defines life? How can we tell that one thing is alive and another is not?, Amazingly, it is surprisingly difficult to come up with a precise definition of life. Many definitions allow us to separate living things from nonliving ones, but they don’t actually pin down what life is. With so many human beings dying from covid-19, this is a question we should be asking.
So what allows living organisms to survive?
Biologists have identified various traits common to all the living organisms. Although nonliving things may show some of these characteristic traits, only living things show all of them.
Living things are highly organized, meaning they contain specialized, coordinated parts. All living organisms are made up of one or more cells, which are considered the fundamental units of life.
Life depends on an enormous number of interlocking chemical reactions. These reactions make it possible for organisms to do work—such as moving around or catching prey—as well as growing, reproducing, and maintaining the structure of their bodies. Living things must use energy and consume nutrients to carry out the chemical reactions that sustain life.
Living organisms regulate their internal environment to maintain the relatively narrow range of conditions needed for cell function. For instance, your body temperature needs to be kept relatively close to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Celsius.
Living organisms undergo regulated growth. Individual cells become larger in size, and multicellular organisms accumulate many cells through cell division. You yourself started out as a single cell and now have tens of trillions of cells in your body. Growth depends on pathways that build large, complex molecules such as proteins and DNA.
Living organisms can reproduce themselves to create new organisms. Reproduction can be either asexual, involving a single parent organism, or sexual, requiring two parents. Single-celled organisms can reproduce themselves simply by splitting in two! In sexual reproduction, two parent organisms produce sperm and egg cells containing half of their genetic information, and these cells fuse to form a new individual with a full genetic set.
Living organisms show “irritability,” meaning that they respond to stimuli or changes in their environment. For instance, people run from bumblebees, many plants turn toward the sun; and unicellular organisms may migrate toward a source of nutrients or away from a noxious chemical.
Populations of living organisms can undergo evolution, meaning that the genetic makeup of a population may change over time. In some cases, evolution involves natural selection, in which a heritable trait, such as darker fur color or narrower beak shape, lets organisms survive and reproduce better in a particular environment. Over generations, a heritable trait that provides a fitness advantage may become more and more common in a population, making the population better suited to its environment.
Living organisms have many different properties related to being alive, and it can be hard to decide on the exact set that best defines life. Thus, different thinkers have developed different lists of the properties of life. For instance, some lists might include movement as a defining characteristic, while others might specify that living things carry their genetic information in the form of DNA. Still others might emphasize that life is carbon-based. Me, well I can talk and think and feel so I must be alive
How well do the properties above allow us to determine whether or not something is alive? The living things we talked about earlier—humans, cats, and trees—easily fulfill all seven criteria of life. We, along with our feline friends and the plants in our yards, are made of cells, metabolize, maintain homeostasis, grow, and respond. Humans, dogs, and trees are also capable of reproducing, and their populations undergo biological evolution.
Nonliving things may show some, but not all, properties of life. For instance, ice cystals are organized—though they don’t have cells—and can grow but don’t meet the other criteria of life. Similarly, a fire can grow, reproduce by creating new fires, and respond to stimuli and can arguably even be said to “metabolize.” However, fire is not organized, does not maintain homeostasis, and lacks the genetic information required for evolution.
The question of what it means to be alive remains unresolved. For instance, viruses like the coronavirus—tiny protein and nucleic acid structures that can only reproduce inside host cells—have many of the properties of life. However, they do not have a cellular structure, nor can they reproduce without a host.
For these reasons, viruses are not generally considered to be alive. However, not everyone agrees with this conclusion, and whether they count as life remains a topic of debate. Right now, I think most consider covid-19 to be very much alive, particularly if you become the host.
So, what about the idea of love?
Life and love are intertwined. Love brings joy to the living and without it, life often lacks meaning and purpose. Love is a complex set of emotions, behaviors, and beliefs associated with strong feelings of affection, protectiveness, warmth, and respect for another person. Love can also be used to apply to animals, to principles, and to religious beliefs. For example, a person might say he or she loves his or her dog, loves freedom, or loves God.
Love has been a favored topic of philosophers, poets, writers, and scientists for generations, and they have often debated its meaning. While most people agree that love implies strong feelings of affection, there are many disagreements about its precise meaning, and one person’s “I love you” might mean something quite different than another’s. Some possible definitions of love include:
A willingness to prioritize another’s well-being or happiness above your own.
Extreme feelings of attachment, affection, and need.
Dramatic, sudden feelings of attraction and respect.
A fleeting emotion of care, affection, and like.
A choice to commit to helping, respecting, and caring for another.
All or some of the above.
“life and love are very precious when both are in full bloom.”
Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger which has strong roots in human evolution. If people didn’t feel fear, they couldn’t protect themselves from legitimate threats, which in the ancestral world frequently resulted in life-or-death consequences.
In the modern world, individuals often fear situations in which the stakes are much lower, such as public speaking, but their bodies and brains may still treat the threat as lethal. This can trigger an extreme, although often unnecessary, fight-flight-or-freeze response. As a result, people may find themselves avoiding challenges that could benefit them in the long run or hanging back during social interactions.
When people today do face deadly or extreme danger, it can sometimes cause lingering trauma. Such trauma can trigger a fear response that is hard to quell, even when the risk has passed. We will fear the coronavirus until a vaccine emerges in 5 years and for many years after.
The process of creating fear takes place in the brain and is entirely unconscious. There are two paths involved in the fear response: The Quick Response is quick and messy, while the Thoughtful Response takes more time and delivers a more precise interpretation of events. Both processes happen simultaneously.
The idea behind the quick response is “take no chances.” If the front door to your home is suddenly knocking against the frame, it could be the wind. It could also be a burglar trying to get in. It’s far less dangerous to assume it’s a burglar and have it turn out to be the wind than to assume it’s the wind and have it turn out to be a burglar. The quick response shoots first and asks questions later.
The thoughtful response is much more cerebral. While the quick response is initiating the fear response just in case, the thoughtful response is considering all of the options. Is it a burglar, or is it the wind? Have I seen this particular stimulus before? If so, what did it mean that time? What other things are going on that might give me clues as to whether this is a burglar or a windstorm?
The sensory data regarding the door — the stimulus — is following both paths at the same time. But being thoughtful takes longer than a flash. That’s why you have a moment or two of terror before you decide to run or not.
Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. Hope comes into its own when crisis looms, opening us to new creative possibilities. It includes the existence of a goal, combined with a determined plan for reaching that goal. The difference between hope and optimism is that the former includes practical pathways to an improved future.
I hope the vaccine for the coronavirus happens on a shorter time frame than I expect. This fear will remain and will limit future improvements. But my hope is that it will enable us to see our connectedness and need for each other.
Hope should be viewed as a cognitive skill that demonstrates an individual’s ability to maintain drive in the pursuit of a particular goal. An individual’s ability to be hopeful depends on two types of response: the individual’s determination to achieve their goals despite possible obstacles and the individual belief that they can achieve these personal goals without a doubt. But it is important to set realistic goals that have a reasonable probability of being achieved. It is important for individuals to find something they can be passionate about, makes them feel good about themselves and would help them remain hopeful of their ability to achieve these goals. Hope is a way to maintain personal motivation, which ultimately will result in a greater sense of optimism.
I have high hopes!
Greed is the intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food. Greed is an excessive love or desire for money or any possession. It is not merely caring about money and possessions but caring too much about them. The greedy person is too attached to his things and his money, or he desires more money and more things in an excessive way.
We tolerate greed, because we accept the hard bargain that it can do good, not that it is good. The pursuit of self-interest is the driving force for assembling resources and putting them to their best use. Greed bears fruit in many ways.
Greed has always been the imp of capitalism, the mischief it makes for those faithful capitalists. Their troubled consciences are not the result of doubts about the efficacy of free markets, but of the centuries of moral reform that was required to make those markets as free as they are.
But greed has taken America too far. Companies no longer pursue increased productivity, new and improved products or new production facilities. CEOs keep sales on a modest upward track and use cash to buy back stock which increases earnings per share. With increases in earnings PER SHARE, the stock market rewards shareholders with a higher price. Everyone is happy including the CEO and other senior managers as their big bonuses are triggered.
I have long felt that fear, hope and greed fuel the stock market and most everything else. Look at the following chart.
Fear is the bottom of a bear market and no one wants stocks. Of course, it is the best time to buy. At the top (greed), everyone believes this market will go on forever unlike any cycle in the past. It doesn’t!
Is this pandemic a means of acquainting us with suffering, so we can retreat from greed, become fearful and then regain hope again?
The most essential relationship of our lifetime is the relationship with ourselves and our most important task is to discover who we are as best we can, our TRUE SELF. Ideally, we will learn from our experiences so that moving forward, our lives will be better, healthier, and more meaningful. Once we have a pretty good idea about who we are, we seem to be ready to start the journey of being ourselves in a relationship. In this endeavor we have to focus on the job of making sure we live our own life to its fullest capacity and potential, while incorporating the capacity and potential of another’s life into a relationship. The complexity and difficultly that evolves in the creation of an experience that is healthy, honest, respectful, inclusive, joyful, and loving, and that values and promotes individual expression and personal growth for both partners is massive. WOW!
The work with a partner is not intended simply to fulfill physical or emotional needs, but it’s aim is to accelerate the process of awakening. The power of relationship wakes us up in areas of life where we are asleep and where we avoid naked, direct contact with our existence. A loving relationship cannot evolve out of sheer romanticism, that initial rush of erotic attraction that is all most of us ever know of love. Love is not a product of attraction. It is a commitment. The relationship becomes a spiritual practice of partners laying down their lives for each other—facing their shadows, relinquishing old patterns and agendas, allowing all self-justification to be seen, brought to the light, and released. I have found this to be very difficult. I have failed on several occasions to awaken my shadow areas and get beyond romanticism.
Friendship, sexual attraction, intellectual compatibility, and love are also fundamental to relationship development. No doubt, love is the glue that keeps a relationship strong and solid. BUT, dreaming that love will save us, solve all our problems or provide a steady state of bliss or security keeps us stuck in a fantasyland, undermining the real power of love.
Consider a large oval mirror for a moment. This mirror is without ego and mind. Imagine you are standing in front of the mirror, as it reflects your face and shoulders. It reflects the table and crooked picture in the background. Everything is revealed as it really is, without self-consciousness on the part of the mirror. If you choose to move on, the mirror lets you. The mirror is always empty of itself and therefore able to receive the other. The mirror has no preconditions for entry, no preconditions for acceptance. It receives and reflects back what isthere, nothing more and nothing less. The mirror is the perfect lover. It sees as God sees.
I believe that true love lives and thrives in the heart space without conditions like the mirror. It keeps me from wanting to hurt people who have hurt me and prevents me every day from entertaining obsessive, repetitive, or compulsive head games. It can make the difference between being happy or being miserable and negative.
When we meet someone, love is not something we feel right away. That strong feeling of attraction, like a magnet pulling you towards that person you’ve just met is actually infatuation and sexual chemistry. Mother nature gives us a big dose of infatuation in order to get us together initially. Love does include sexual chemistry but it differs because it is an emotion that takes time to build. Lust can appear in an instant; love evolves over a period of time as you get to know the other person inside and out. If you don’t develop a base of loving feelings with your partner, once the sexual spark dies down, you will become bored. Humans are built with the capacity to love over and over again. My 8th grade crush was Melinda. Without my humanness, I would still have just a crush and wouldn’t know love.
A loving relationship is not built in a day. The threads of love take time to weave together to form a strong bond. It is only as you and your partner share your thoughts, fears, dreams and hopes that love takes root. This actually happened for me in a 27-year marriage to a woman that became a perfect partner for me, strong where I was weak, willing to do what it took to keep our love growing and our family unit intact. Alas, I became the Master of the Universe.
In a truly loving relationship, we give to another without condition or expectation. There is no account keeping. Giving pleasure to our partner gives us pleasure. When we see our partner happy, we feel a sense of joy. When we see that they are sad or depressed, we feel their mood.. With love comes empathy for the other person’s emotional state.
When we love someone, we are willing to compromise without sacrificing our own self in doing so, nor should our mate require us to sacrifice our own self for their personal gain. When we love, we are respectful of each other. We do not intentionally hurt our partner. When we talk about them in their absence, it is with such warmth that the listeners can hear the love in our words. Our love for the other person enables us to act morally and ethically, both with them and in our community. Their presence in our life makes us want to be a better person. If in love, we never feel lonely, even when alone. The very thought of the other person makes us feel as if we have a guardian angel with us at all times.
When our partner succeeds at something after a long effort, we beam with joy. There is no jealously or envy, just pure pleasure at seeing our beloved’s success. Even when separated for work, travel, or other commitments, our thoughts drift towards them and what they might be doing “right now.”
With love, sex becomes sacred. Different from the early days, our sex becomes lovemaking, a unity of body and mind. The presence of love in the relationship allows us to feel protected and safe. We feel a sense of security and stability.
Our partner sees us for who and what we are and still loves us,. We can show all our sides, positive and negative, and receive their love unconditionally. Love allows us to bare our souls and feel grace in return. Love allows us to disagree without developing a debilitating resentment.
Love in a relationship allows two people to grow exponentially and evolve as God intends for nature and man. God loves me and you love me. I love God and I love you. What else is necessary?
In late October, a friend and I went to Pipestem State Park near Athens, West Virginia. The setting is exquisite with abundant forests, changing leaf color, and wonderful mountains. As luck would have it, there was considerable rain on our second day and so we looked for an indoor activity. AHA!!!!! The resident naturalist, LYNN and her dog Alice, were giving a lecture on the demise and resurgence of the American Chestnut Tree. I love chestnuts roasting on an open fire, so it was a perfect time for us to learn about this beautiful tree.
The American chestnut was at one time the most
important food and timber tree species in the eastern half of the U.S because it
could grow rapidly and attain huge sizes. The tree was often the outstanding visual feature in both urban
and rural landscapes. The wood was used wherever strength and rot-resistance were
colonial America, chestnut was a preferred species for log cabins, especially
the bottom rot-prone foundation logs. Later posts, poles, flooring, and
railroad ties were all made from chestnut lumber.
edible nut was also a significant contributor to the rural economy. Hogs and
cattle were often fattened for market by allowing them to forage in chestnut-dominated
forests. Chestnut ripening coincided with the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday
season and turn-of-the-century newspaper articles often showed train cars
overflowing with chestnuts rolling into major cities to be sold fresh or
roasted. The American chestnut was truly a heritage tree.
The chestnut was almost completely destroyed by a
bark fungus accidentally introduced from the Orient in 1904. Within 40 years,
over 30 million acres of chestnut trees were killed from Maine to Georgia and
west to the Mississippi. This tragedy was the largest ecological disasters in
American history. There has been essentially no chestnut lumber
sold in the U.S. for decades, and the bulk of the annual 20-million-pound nut
crop now comes from introduced chestnut species or imported nuts.
The Chestnut’s beautiful, rot-resistant lumber
was used for everything from furniture to fence posts, and its tannin used in
the tanning industry. The loss of the chestnut, at the time of the Great
Depression, had a devastating effect on the people and wildlife of the
Appalachian Mountains. The economic loss from the chestnut’s demise amounted to
untold millions of dollars.
its decimation as a lumber and nut-crop species, the American chestnut has not
gone extinct. The American chestnut has survived by sending up stump sprouts
that grow vigorously in logged or otherwise disturbed sites, but inevitably
succumb to the blight and die back to the ground. It is considered functionally extinct by the
USDA but the blight fungus does not kill the tree’s root system underground.
there are millions of sprouts that can be found in the eastern US. Although the sprouts may only reach 15 feet
or so before the blight kills them, some produce nuts before they die leading
to new generations of trees to grow.
A very small number of mature chestnuts still exist, apparently immune or resistant to the blight. Some foresters have been collecting seeds from these mother trees, with a goal of producing a blight resistant chestnut tree by hybridizing the American chestnut with other species of chestnuts. This is an 18-29-year project.
Meadowview, Virginia is home to The American
Chestnut Foundation’s research farms. This property and its facilities are used
to breed American chestnut trees for resistance to the blight fungus.
Meadowview includes more than 50,000 trees at various stages of the breeding
process, planted on more than 150 acres. The American Chestnut Foundation is
based in Asheville, North Carolina with five regional offices located
throughout the Appalachian region. www.acf.org
If you have never been to Pipestem, put it on your bucket list for weekend adventures. The beauty of the place is wondrous. The McKeever Lodge has lovely rooms and spectacular views. There is outdoor and indoor swimming, a zip line course, a tramway up and down the mountain, four eateries, a golf course, a nature center, a recreation center plus cabins and a campground. www.wvstateparks.com
There is a natural connection between the way we live and the diseases that come our way. Science is just beginning to discover the linkages between specific negative emotions and specific physical disorders, but already many of these connections can be made.
emotions damage the body. When we perceive a situation to be dangerous, adrenaline
and cortisol are released by our bodies to facilitate “flight or
fight” responses. The problem is
that most of the “dangers” that cause stress cannot be resolved by
fighting or running away! I have tried both and neither ever worked.
life is characterized by a tsunami of stressful events and daily pressures
coming at people from every conceivable direction. And yet the real culprit
isn’t the situations which surround us – it is the emotional reactions to these
are not confined just to the mind or heart, but they are often translated into
chemical reactions which occur at both the organ level and the cellular level!
Apparently, the “most damaging” emotions are feelings of
un-forgiveness, anger, worry, fear, resentment, and frustration. Clearly,
no one with an emotional life is immune to the danger, particularly FEAR (FALSE
EVENTS APPEARING REAL!)
negative emotions which place so much stress on our bodies come in two forms:
those that arise out of present situations and those that are embedded in our
deepest memories. These unhealed memories are actually concealed as false
beliefs and negative images in our mind, formed as destructive remembrances.
Our immune system is the primary healing source in our bodies. Stress is
the one thing things that diminishes the immune system. Healing these memories is the only way to allow
the immune system to do its job.
the emotional symptoms of stress starts with reducing the sources of stress in
your life. There are a variety of stress-reducing techniques.You have to find
the ones that work for you in providing relief, but they don’t eliminate the
reasons for your stress.
activities such as running, jogging, and aerobics are a great way to relieve
stress and tension.
physical activities such as yoga or tai chi can help to work your body while
relaxing your mind.
techniques such as contemplative meditation and prayer can strengthen
your emotional responses to stress.
stress in a particular area of your life can help to lessen your exposure to
use some mobile apps, such as Calm, that engage my mind through guided
conversation which helps me manage stress and anxiety.
time, you may find that your resolve against stress becomes stronger and that
your symptoms improve. However, if you
find that you’re still struggling to handle the emotional aspects of everyday
or chronic stress, it may be best to reach out to a mental health professional.
You cannot allow these techniques to mask the underlying problem.
Learning how to
recognize sources of stress in your life is the first step in
managing them. Everyone has different stress triggers, but work stress
tops the list for most people.
Causes of work stress include:
Being unhappy in your job
Having a heavy workload or too much
Working long hours
Having poor management, unclear expectations
of your work, or no say in the decision-making process
Working under dangerous conditions
Being insecure about your chance for
advancement or risk of termination
Having to give speeches in front of
Facing discrimination or harassment at
work, especially if your company isn’t supportive.
Everyday life and personal relationships also
have a big impact.
The death of a loved one
Loss of a job
Increase in financial obligations
Moving to a new home
Chronic illness or injury
care of an elderly or sick family member
Traumatic event, such as
a natural disaster, theft, rape, or violence against you or a loved one.
the stress comes from inside, rather than outside. You can create stress just
by worrying about things. All of these factors can lead to stress:
and uncertainty. When you regularly hear about the threat of terrorist attacks,
global warming, and toxic chemicals on the news, it can cause you to feel
stressed, especially because you feel like you have no control over those
events. Also, major fears develop over
money issues and paying the bills, particularly when an unexpected bill arises
and the budget is thrown off. Shit happens.
and perceptions. How you view the world or a situation can determine whether it
causes stress. For example, if your television set is stolen and you take the
attitude that’s why we have insurance you’ll be far less stressed than if you
think the robbers are coming back to hurt you. Similarly, people who feel like
they’re doing a good job at work will be less stressed than those who worry
that they are incompetent.
expectations. No one is perfect. If you expect to do everything right all the
time, you’re destined to feel stressed when things don’t go as expected.
Any major life change can be stressful — even a happy event like a wedding or
a job promotion. More unpleasant events, such as a divorce, major financial
setback, or death in the family can be significant sources of stress.
stress level will differ based on your personality and how you respond to
situations. Some people let everything roll off their back. To them, work
stresses and life stresses are just minor bumps in the road. Others literally
worry themselves sick.
“I may not be much, but
I’m all I think about”! Most of our thoughts center around job, possessions,
money, or other things we have accumulated. If we tell someone about this and
believe this is our true self, we will be told about our ego problems. Ego is often considered a liability. Yet we must have ego in order to function as
humans. The ego is the compass that helps guide us in the determination of
right from wrong. It helps us make decisions in life.
Where do we go wrong with ego?
People with huge egos are generally considered those who have an insatiable
desire to demonstrate their own self-importance. Boastfulness is not an admirable trait, regardless of one’s
status in life. “Conceited,” “boastful,” “prideful,” “self-centered,”
“arrogant,” are all ways that egocentrics are often described by others. When
in conversation, egocentrics will almost always try to redirect the
conversation back to themselves, and talk about their supposed
successes, accomplishments, and achievements.
Simply put, they need to look good – and they feed off other
people’s validation. They are self -centered and lack empathy for others.
An unhealthy egocentric doesn’t see past their own needs and desires.
Characteristics of a
person with an exaggerated ego:
They are always right—at least in their
own minds. The person who suffers from a huge ego sees their opinion as the
only one that matters. They are driven by what they believe, and facts have
little importance to them.
A person suffering from an inflated ego is never satisfied. They
are addicted to the high they get from reaching goals and achievement dictates
their behavior. They do not live in the now, but know they need more of
everything. In the words of Queen— “I
want it all and I want it now.” If a neighbor gets a new sports car, they want
a more expensive sports car just to show them they are better.
Huge egos do not accept loss. They
must be number one in everything they go after. These folks will do just about
anything to succeed, even if it means hurting another person. They manipulate
the system for their benefit, are disloyal, disrespectful and obnoxious. They
expect the world to revolve around their universe.
The egocentric has given
herself a grandiose sense of self-importance and expects others to see this at
all times. They will exaggerate any talents and
achievements in the course of their lives. They will tell and retell stories of
past events to acquire recognition and admiration. They will embellish their
unlimited success, worth, and beauty so that others see their perfection.
These folks suffer from lack of interpersonal relationships. They
do not understand what it is to support another with their dreams, ideas, or
emotions. They are only concerned with
what anyone can do for them. Empathy
doesn’t exist for the egotistical person. They are not able to accept
compassion or show empathy.
How do folks develop these massive egos? Are some humans born with
oversized egos? As you delve deeper into your true
identity, as you strip away every false layer of your old self, you will find a
smaller ego that is the right-size for decisions. Before you can do this, you
must look at the reasons for this oversized ego. The preponderance of egocentrics do not have a very positive self-image. They recognize their
insecurities and attempt to camouflage these insecurities by wearing a
mask– one of competence and confidence – in a desperate attempt to
conceal their real state of mind. Low self-esteem can be problematic; it is a
leading cause of anxiety, depression, and a number of other psychological
disorders. Egocentrics are fearful of failing and do not recognize that failure
has some of life’s best lessons.
Having high expectations of
oneself is a healthy and productive frame of mind. However, spending most
of your waking hours thinking about your achievements far exceeding anything
conceivably realistic is not healthy or beneficial. Egocentrics often have these illusions of
If an egocentric perceives
their life’s progress as inadequate – a common characteristic of such people –
they’ll embellish anything and everything in order to make up for this “gap.”
Should someone call them out, they’ll frequently overreact in a desperate
attempt to get people to buy whatever they’re selling.
Egocentrics have a compulsive
need to “match” someone else’s perceived qualities. These folks are often
highly accomplished individuals; yet, their unquenchable desire to supersede
anyone else remains evident. This extreme need for validation is apparent in
their conversations with others. When the topic of conversation does not
involve them, an egocentric cannot help but intercede in a desperate attempt to
redirect the spotlight. She becomes a
10-year-old girl, although she won’t agree with that assessment. A conversation that doesn’t revolve around them
is not worth having.
An egocentric truly believes
that their way is the best way – and the only way. If an egocentric detects a
loss of control – often perceived as an act of disrespect – they’re quick to
become angry and defensive. Such attitudes and behaviors are most apparent in a
group setting. I can remember in 2003 sitting
in a meeting of about twenty colleagues, sitting on the edge of my chair,
pounding the table for emphasis regarding a marketing plan some wanted to
implement. I believed we should provide
more money for direct sales in our branches and was opposed to “soft”
marketing. It was a good thing that my
sales group was number one in the company, because otherwise I would have been
asked to leave.
So, I have a huge ego and don’t
like it. What to do? If you can,
sit comfortably and quietly in a darkened room and just ask yourself “Who am
I?” Allow your thoughts and feelings to come to the surface, and don’t judge
them. Just observe what comes up. Do not berate yourself but try to find the
YOU that you want to be. Then you can
focus on who you are and where you want to take yourself.
The Ego will gain some power as you contemplate your True
Self and attach those thoughts to your identity. Take a step to get away from
this tendency. Volunteer or just lend a helping hand to others, forget about
your Self for a while, and instead shift your attention outward to your fellow
humans in need. Release your obsession with “I” and instead focus on “We.”
Offering your hands and heart to others will help contain your ego.
My worst habit was talking more than I listened. I still
struggle with listening. The ego always wants to be heard and can’t stand when
others have the floor. The false self wants all the limelight and praise and
finds it difficult to let others have attention for any length of time. One way
to overcome this is to develop a new habit: listening more than you talk. Allow
others to fully finish what they have to say before you respond or bring up a
new topic; this way, you will learn to have a balanced relationship with others
rather than one solely built on an out-of-control ego. This will also help you
relax and go with the flow rather than always having to control a situation and
overtake the conversation.
“Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” Folks
with large egos always want to have the last word, and they can’t deal with
being wrong. They won’t let go until others see it their way. It is hard to
remember that others will always have different opinions than you. The
realization that their opinions don’t invalidate your own is a big step; others
just see things from a different point of view, and they’re entitled to that.
Once you can allow others to express themselves and be themselves without
feeling offended, you have made a marked step on the path to diminishing the
ego. Choose to be happy.
I have been told on
several occasions that if you have a need to talk about humility, you don’t
have it. Humility is often regarded as
weakness. It is often confused with
humiliation. It is hard to come to grips
with a humble attitude. When we
fail at something that is important to us—a job or a relationship, for
example—our self-esteem plummets because we tied our self-worth to those
things. All of a sudden, we become bad or unworthy people.
A humble person is able to withstand failure or criticism. These folks
sense their intrinsic value of being human rather than letting the world make
that judgement for them. When they fail at a task or don’t live up to
expectations, they try to learn from the situation, but never consider that
there is something wrong with them.
A healthy emotional bond formed with others, usually our childhood
caregivers, provides unconditional acceptance and love which can serve as a
buffer against the effects of criticism or failure. A lot of us did not
experience secure attachment when we were children. But we can compensate
through healthy adult relationships, such as friends, romantic partners, or
even with a higher power, which has been important for me.
Humble people have an accurate picture of themselves—both their defects
of character and their gifts—which helps them to see what must be done to
change. There is no judgement here, just
acceptance. This acceptance allows me to see where these defects are limiting my
growth. Use a feather rather than a bat to beat up on yourself. Kindness and compassion make your change
easier. Transformation comes from positive action.
Gratitude can make us less self-focused and more focused on those around
us—a hallmark of humble people. Expressing gratitude can induce humility in us,
and humble people have a greater capacity for conveying gratitude. I am a
believer in making gratitude lists. Gratitude reinforces humility. BE GRATEFUL
FOR WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU CAN BE.
How often do you feel that a friend, colleague,
or a spouse reveals their true self to you?
The real person? Maybe you get
glimpses at times when you think someone’s actions represent who they actually
are. I wager that you have lots of beliefs about yourself and other
people. You use these beliefs to indicate why people act in a certain way. If
someone yells at you, you may forgive them because you know their life
isn’t going so well. Or, you mistrust them because you feel they are angry
about something you have done. Or, you might even think that their true
self reflects their anger about everything, and you should have no contact with
them. Accordingly, there are times when you believe that a person’s actions
reflect the situation they are in or their current mental state.
I have trouble discerning the true self of
others. This is an area that is part of
the “I don’t know” category for me most of the time. There are plenty of times when I first meet
someone that I decide we don’t connect, we are not on the same page, and I don’t
spot anything about them that I like.
There are times when I decide to dislike someone before I meet them. Then after a time, I grow to like them. I
need the willingness to give them and me a period of adjustment, a pause if you
possess a host of qualities that are similar, but it is their unique
combination that creates the individual and their singular true self. Mystics are not the only ones that can be in
touch with their true self. Most believe that the true self is moral and good.
It is the notion that everyone is born with instincts that differentiate the
good from the evil. So, when people make
changes in their behavior, we are more inclined to believe it reflects their
true self when they change from doing something bad to something good than vice
versa. When someone has been self-serving for a long period, but realizes
that serving others is the better course, we believe they have gotten in touch
with their true self.
We all have gifts that guide the true self: a
zest for life; a rational way of thinking; a certain amount of creativity;
freedom from the bonds of self; gut feelings that are based on proper
discernment of right and wrong; a spiritual path; and the ability to love and
be loved. Our nature is determined by our usage of these gifts. Your choice and
my choice can be to allow these gifts to grow and prosper; to engage in actions
that feed, protect and care for them. Or, we can allow them to lie fallow. It is amazing that these qualities often
remain dormant and we function below our potential as a human being. But our
gifts remain, simply waiting for an awakening.
Do I want a life filled with meaningful
opportunities or do I want to be left with an unfulfilled yearning for
something better? The choice seems
obvious, so why do so many choose the latter path?
I once was a partner in a firm that was
incredibly profitable and prosperous. We
didn’t know why that was the case. Some
believed we had the uncanny ability to find good people in all the towns and
cities where we had offices. Some
thought it was the vibrant southeastern marketplace which was our home. Others
of our more egocentric brethren wondered if our abilities might be greater that
we assumed. Many believed in luck—we
were just uncommonly lucky. Once or twice,
it was suggested that we do a thorough review of our business to find the
elements of our success. Our executive
committee, of which I was part, voted 5-0 in the negative. We were afraid of
what me might find or we would change our luck if that turned out to be the
Why do folks allow
their gifts to remain hidden and unused? FEAR most of the time. We are afraid
of what we might find. Fear is a dominant emotion for a good may folks. Other
common emotions include surprise, happiness, joy, sadness and anger. Do you
feel open and willing to express all of your emotions with zeal during your
daily activities? Or do you fear what others might think of you? What if I told
you that other’s thoughts about you are none of your business?
I wanted to know how
my emotions were dominating my life and how the chaos (my executive committee–squirrels)
going on in my head was ruining my life.
I read about Thomas Merton and his struggles to find his true self. I
wondered if a true self existed for me. I talked to priests and ministers, psychologists,
smart women, smart men, and I read Emmett Fox, Carl Jung, William James, and
the COURSE in Miracles. Finally, I
looked at me. I could not go forward without knowing who I was and what I was. I had to look at people who angered or
damaged me, at businesses and relationships that had deprived me of my just
rewards, and at what scared me.
As you probably
surmise, this accounting did not go in my favor. I had harmed far more people
than had harmed me, mostly those for whom I expressed love and affection. The
failure of my business and the anticipated membership on the New York Exchange (life-long
dream) was of my own making. And fears centered on my inability to acknowledge
mistakes and learn from failure. My outsized ego and my sense of self
importance created anger that would not go away. It blocked joy and happiness and my
relationship with God.
my way of thinking began to change. My understanding of life and
progress through it were inhibited by my usage of certain emotions and my blockage
of others. I could easily access fear,
anger, and sadness in the extreme. But happiness and joy were absent. And I
hated to be surprised. I had to make different choices and I needed help to do
realized that I wasn’t connected to the Source. I wanted the power to transform
my life and found that empowerment by connecting to God via a spiritual path.
Centering prayer, solitude and silence were critical. I made a pilgrimage to
the Abbey of Gethsemane, was silent for five days, went to services three times
a day, and walked in Merton’s shoes. I
reshaped myself and my life. I began to take risks and embrace new
possibilities. I was generating
happiness and joy from within rather than accepting external formulations of
it. I freed my self from my self and made my relationship with God central to
occur in life over which we have no control. Many will attribute these
things to fate, randomness, nature, physical reality, or coincidence. There are
no coincidences. It is the Spirit that provides the answers for us in all
things. We find the Spirit when we discover and actively engage our True
is the highest human function and where we put our True Self to its greatest
use. St Francis tells us that it is better to love
than be loved That would deny
the intrinsic social nature that humans have to be loved and love another. By
trusting another to know one’s own self through their eyes, we free our self to
union–to love and be loved. Loving connections convey the ultimate
expression of our True self.