Read and Reflect: The Ego-Driven Mind
Our residents are helping us kickstart our journey of reflection on the topic of mental health as we research and gather perspectives for our winter spotlight. Our team will be reading How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan, Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig, #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso, and Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss by Stephanie Wittels Wachs.
Written by Karina Baffa.
Most of us hear Michael Pollan and think, “Oh, the food guy,” and you’re not wrong. Pollan’s most notable work is probably his Netflix series, “Cooked.” His career has taken him from a plant-based, healthy-food connoisseur to a 50-something-year-old thinking about trying LSD for the first time.
Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind delves into the science of psychedelics in relation to consciousness, death, addiction, depression, and transcendence. To avoid making this sound more like a scientific journal than a book reflection, I thought I’d take what I read (which, to be honest, was only the first 30 pages), and relate it to something I could wrap my head around. I recently stumbled upon Dr. Wayne Dyer’s Seven Steps for Overcoming Ego’s Hold on You, and was pushed to reflect on my mindset.
I urge you to let go of this ego-driven need to be right by stopping yourself in the middle of an argument and asking yourself, ‘Do I want to be right or be happy?
In the prologue of How to Change Your Mind, Pollan notes a series of trials performed at Johns Hopkins where psilocybin (the active compound found in psychedelic mushrooms) was given to patients with terminal cancer. According to Pollan, participants ranked this experience as “one of the most meaningful in their lives, comparable ‘to the birth of a first child or death of a parent.’” Reactions like these make trying LSD seem a little less intimidating (ignore that, Mom).
An overarching theme found in psilocybin trial results is “the temporary dissolution of one’s ego,” which Pollan notes as the “key to changing one’s mind.” The word “ego” can refer to many things: self-esteem, self-worth, self-image. And it’s up to us to work against it every once in a while.
As human beings, it’s in our nature to construct our own identity, one that may not necessarily be accurate. These self-constructed egos play out in a million teeny ways throughout our daily lives. For instance, when you’re in a rut and you see someone succeed, your first instinct can be to feel bitter or angry at them. But you’re not actually angry at them, you’re just subconsciously allowing your ego to step in the way as a reflection of your own insecurities.
By all means, act to eradicate the horrors of the world, which emanate from massive ego identification, but stay in peace.
I don’t know about you, but I am extremely sensitive to the energies around me. Other people’s negativity is contagious, and sometimes I feel like I’m the most susceptible person in the room to be a host. Dr. Dyer’s steps have given me the resources to work towards a place where I can feel safe and protected by my thoughts, rather than damaged by my ego.
So that brings me to the point of this piece. Although I can’t offer you any mind-altering, ego-dissolving drugs, because well, for one, I think I’d lose my residency here, and two, that would be illegal, I can share a few of Dr. Dyer’s steps. Regardless of your beliefs, reading these with an open mind might change the way you think and lead to a more peaceful mindset. And hey – isn’t that the goal of psychedelics?
And ironically, although you’ll hardly notice it, more of these victories will show up in your life as you pursue them less.
For reference, when Dr. Dyer mentions “intention” he means this: “Connecting to intention means listening to your heart and conducting yourself based on what your inner voice tells you is your purpose here.” Without further ado, here are a couple of Dr. Dyer’s Seven Steps for Overcoming Ego’s Hold on You from his book The Power of Intention.
1. Stop being offended.
“The behavior of others isn’t a reason to be immobilized. That which offends you only weakens you. If you’re looking for occasions to be offended, you’ll find them at every turn. This is your ego at work convincing you that the world shouldn’t be the way it is … By all means, act to eradicate the horrors of the world, which emanate from massive ego identification, but stay in peace …
Being offended creates the same destructive energy that offended you in the first place and leads to attack, counterattack, and war.”
2. Let go of your need to win.
“Ego loves to divide us up into winners and losers. The pursuit of winning is a surefire means to avoid conscious contact with intention. Why? Because ultimately, winning is impossible all the time. Someone out there will be faster, luckier, younger, stronger, and smarter and back you’ll go to feeling worthless and insignificant.
“You’re not your winnings or your victories. You may enjoy competing, and have fun in a world where winning is everything, but you don’t have to be there in your thoughts. There are no losers in a world where we all share the same energy source. All you can say on a given day is that you performed at a certain level in comparison to the levels of others on that day. But today is another day, with other competitors and new circumstances to consider. You’re still the infinite presence in a body that’s another day (or decade) older. Let go of needing to win by not agreeing that the opposite of winning is losing. That’s ego’s fear. If your body isn’t performing in a winning fashion on this day, it simply doesn’t matter when you aren’t identifying exclusively with your ego. Be the observer, noticing and enjoying it all without needing to win a trophy. Be at peace ... And ironically, although you’ll hardly notice it, more of these victories will show up in your life as you pursue them less.”
3. Let go of your need to be right.
“Ego is the source of a lot of conflict and dissension because it pushes you in the direction of making other people wrong. When you’re hostile, you’ve disconnected from the power of intention. The creative Spirit is kind, loving, and receptive; and free of anger, resentment, or bitterness. Letting go of your need to be right in your discussions and relationships is like saying to ego, I’m not a slave to you. I want to embrace kindness, and I reject your need to be right. In fact, I’m going to offer this person a chance to feel better by saying that she’s right, and thank her for pointing me in the direction of truth.
“When you let go of the need to be right, you’re able to strengthen your connection to the power of intention. But keep in mind that ego is a determined combatant. I’ve seen people end otherwise beautiful relationships by sticking to their need to be right. I urge you to let go of this ego-driven need to be right by stopping yourself in the middle of an argument and asking yourself, ‘Do I want to be right or be happy?’”
4. Let go of your need to be superior.
“True nobility isn’t about being better than someone else. It’s about being better than you used to be. Stay focused on your growth, with a constant awareness that no one on this planet is any better than anyone else. We all emanate from the same creative life force. We all have a mission to realize our intended essence; all that we need to fulfill our destiny is available to us. None of this is possible when you see yourself as superior to others. It’s an old saw, but nonetheless true: we are all equal in the eyes of God … Don’t assess others on the basis of their appearance, achievements, possessions, and other indices of ego. When you project feelings of superiority that’s what you get back, leading to resentments and ultimately hostile feelings.”
7. Let go of your reputation.
“Your reputation is not located in you. It resides in the minds of others. Therefore, you have no control over it at all. If you speak to 30 people, you will have 30 reputations. Connecting to intention means listening to your heart and conducting yourself based on what your inner voice tells you is your purpose here. If you’re overly concerned with how you’re going to be perceived by everyone, then you’ve disconnected yourself from intention and allowed the opinions of others to guide you. This is your ego at work. It’s an illusion that stands between you and the power of intention … Stay on purpose, detach from outcome, and take responsibility for what does reside in you: your character. Leave your reputation for others to debate; it has nothing to do with you. Or as a book title says: What You Think of Me Is None of My Business!”