Over the break, I was able to spend a lot of time reading and relaxing. One of the books that I spent time with was David Richo’s “Five Things We Cannot Change and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them.” The book is about accepting the the unavoidable “givens” of human existence: (1) everything changes and ends, (2) things do not always go according to plan, (3) life is not always fair, (4) pain is a part of life, and (5) people are not loving and loyal all the time. It is a terrific book and one of the concepts really resonated with me.
Richo uses the acronym FACE to help you identify whether your ego is showing up and making you miserable. It is not that ego is bad, it is part of being human. However, Richo argues that much of our suffering is self-inflicted when our ego tries to fight against the givens of life. When our thought patterns are centered in Fear, Attachment, Control, or Entitlement, we are feeding our ego and increasing our own pain. You can ask yourself the following questions to examine what your thought patterns are.
FEAR – Are you afraid of losing something? Are you afraid of not being enough? ATTACHMENT – Will you only be happy with a specific outcome or way of doing something? Are you attached to your position or title or status? CONTROL – Are you trying to force order or compliance? ENTITLEMENT – Do you feel like you deserve something that you don’t have?
I was feeling sad over the holidays and was actively fighting against the feeling. The interesting thing is that this book showed me was how I was using all of the ego thought patterns to try to suppress my sad feelings. As predicted by the book, by doing this, I made myself more miserable.
As I examined my internal stories, this is what I discovered. When I felt sad, I was afraid that I was slipping back into my old habits and fearful that I was going to lose my ability to live in joy and freedom. I was attached to my self-image as a really positive person and told myself I shouldn’t be sad. I tried to control the situation. I tried to purge my sadness through meditation and positive written intentions and exercise, hoping that I could find something to make my feelings go away. I felt resentful that I was feeling fearful and sad and told myself that I had worked so hard that I deserved to be happy.
As I realized what I was doing, I just let myself be sad for a while and work through my grief, which is what I needed.
As I am writing this blog, I am smiling because I realize how far I have to go and how far I have come at the same time. I can see the growth in my ability to notice when my ego is showing up and how I am not condemning myself when it happens. That feels good to me and makes me happy.
My husband gave me the best advice as I was struggling and taking the time and effort to be introspective that I will pass along to you. Be gentle with yourself.