Stuck In Survival - Part II
First of all, completely identifying with only your ego leaves you frustrated and on edge a lot of the time, because your survival-oriented ego is, by its very nature, insecure and restless. It’s never satisfied with anything for any length of time. It’s always busy running from one desire to another.
You can check this out in your own life. Living in a media saturated environment we are bombarded daily with an endless array of “must have” products and services. Isn’t there always something, an experience you crave or something you want that you look forward to, only to find that the anticipated happiness, once satisfied, soon fades and is quickly replaced by the next desire? Hasn’t this been a consistent pattern in your every day experience? Your ego is addicted to brief, temporary satisfactions that keep you frustrated and in a constant state of wanting.
Another reason why identifying only with your ego keeps you on shaky ground has to do with fear. If desire is what your ego runs toward, fear is what it runs from. Much of the time isn’t there some fear or worry, large or small, hanging around in your mind? Your ego constantly worries about its security, either its physical, financial or emotional security. The range of possible fears is endless. For most people a big fear is of not being good enough, not being loveable, not being adequate; the fear of being “less than.” When fear clouds your awareness, you become irritable and angry at yourself and others.
Fear and desire are a very big part of a survival mentality. If you pay attention to what thoughts actually take up large amounts of your mental time and energy, you’ll see how often fear and desire throw you physically, emotionally, and spiritually off balance.
Finally as you begin to watch the direction your thoughts go in, you’ll see that with a survival mentality you’re almost always dwelling in the past or in the future. That’s what your ego spends most of its time doing; jumping back to the past or ahead to the future. When you look back it’s usually to brood over past mistakes. This stirs up regret, and you begin blaming yourself, feel guilty, and become depressed.
Or maybe you’re more in the habit of looking ahead to the future rather than the past. Looking ahead to make future plans is obviously necessary. It’s the projecting ahead with a sense of dread about some (often imaginary) fear or consequence that can be disabling. This kind of looking ahead creates anxiety, and like depression, leaves you feeling shaky and unsettled.
Right now as you were reading this page or the previous page, did you notice your thoughts wandering off? If so, where did they go—to the past or the future? Meditation masters, experts at observing how the ego mind works, refer to it as “monkey mind.” Just as a monkey jumps from one tree branch to another, your ego jumps from thought to thought, feeling to feeling, from past to future and back again. It doesn’t matter whether your survival ego is creating guilt and depression or worry and anxiety; they are all emotionally draining. It makes everyday life even more stressful.