The Rio Chama Blog
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Blog posts tagged in sense of self
This blog describes how to handle anger in the most constructive way.
Alice worked as an accountant for a large corporation and thoroughly enjoyed her job. However, when a new person was hired to replace the department supervisor who was retiring, Alice's job situation took a downturn. Not only was the new supervisor impatient when his demands weren't met, he would vent his anger by ranting and raving. After several weeks of working under these tyrannical conditions, Alice began to have trouble sleeping and experienced nightmares. In an attempt to address the situation she went to the human resource department of the comapny and explained what was occurring. When she was asked if she had spoken to the supervisor about her dilemma, she replied no and stated her reluctance was due to fear. At that point the counselor suggested she read about anger and suggested several books. Alice checked Grow Up Your Ego out from the library and discovered a section on assertiveness in the sixth chapter on emotions. In fact she learned a great deal about emotions including how natural and important they are along with appropriate ways to express them without harming herself or others. After practicing an assertiveness message prior to going to work, she went to the supervisor's office and forthrightly told him she was experiencing considerable frustration when he lost his temper and requested that when he had a problem with her performance that he do so in a calm way. Much to her surprise the next time he needed to speak with her about something she had done incorrectly, he called her into the office, left the door open and in a poised, quiet way explained the problem and asked for her suggestions as to how the difficulty could be corrected. When she gave her input they reached an agreement as to how the situation could be resolved. Relieved she left his office and at the same time felt concern he would resort to his old ways. Such was not the case for in ensuing instances the supervisor maintained his demeanor and in fact a feeling of mutual respect began to develop between the two. Needless to say, the learning Alice acquired regarding emotions inluding anger not noly kept her from quitting her job, but also improved her relationships with family and friends. She now recommends the book to others.
From the get-go infants can show interest, surprise, happiness, and even distress. This was made very evident to me when I was a nurse assisting at the birth process. What a delight to watch when a newborn nestled into Mother’s arms in total comfort or looked into Dad’s face with wide-eyed interest! We now know that infants’ facial expressions are the first signs of their emerging egos.
Because the ego is the system of our personalities that both helps us survive and give us a sense of self, it fulfills its needs through connecting with people. The connections between an infant and her caretakers are emotion laden–an infant cries when hungry, smiles and coos when talked to in a pleasing manner, and can actually mimic emotions displayed by others.
Each interaction with each caretaker carries an emotional flavor. . . the stronger the flavor, the more likely there will be an imprint on the infant’s malleable sense of self. If caretakers habitually ignore the infant’s cries of distress, she learns she cannot expect to have her needs met. Unable to develop trust, development of her emotional life is greatly impaired. What do you know about your arrival into this world? Do you have the sense you were lovingly welcomed? Are the stories told about your infancy and early childhood filled with pleasurable words? Or, do they reflect annoyance and impatience with your behaviors?
The answer to both questions is no. Behavioral research now shows that the ego not only is real but is also responsible for two very important jobs. It keeps us alive and gives us a sense of self. Just as we physically grow up, our egos have to grow up as well. When the growing doesn’t happen, the ego unable to cope with life’s contingencies, resorts to detrimental behaviors and emotional mayhem. On the other hand, scientific data solidly indicates that as the ego emotionally matures, spirituality emerges as its natural companion.
Nonetheless, the mythical ego is often viewed as a spiritual culprit. Early on in my clinical practice I was surprised by the number of clients who came to my office confused about feeling depressed after months and even years devoted to one spiritual practice or another. I had naively figured that those who pursued such paths had built in constitutions suited to the task. Even more distressing were those who came after the downfall of a guru. Burned by the aftermath of a leader gone wrong, too often the client’s focus turned to “getting rid of ego.” Reactions of feeling bummed out, disappointed, or angry were considered ego bound and did not pave the way to enlightenment.
This is not to argue with the way in which Eastern philosophies speak about the ego or refer to its demise. This is about what psychological theory and research from the Western perspective have to say about this important facet of our psyche that shows itself from the moment of our births. And the purpose of this blog is to show how solid investment in ego growth can change your life for the better including having loving relationships that support your individuality. Being spiritual is not equivalent to a monk-like sacrificial existence.