Are there things in your life you are not allowing yourself to fully see? Are you keeping them tucked away on the edge of your awareness where you can’t feel them? What would happen if you let those things come fully into your awareness?
To live in a manner fully consistent with our truth, we must confront reality as it IS. Not as we would like it to be. Not as we imagine it might be some day. What. are. you. feeling. and. experiencing. in. your. life. right. now. There is pain there, and vulnerability, yes. But guess what else is there? YOUR LIFE. True reality is that shaky, vulnerable place where you actually FEEL alive. It is that open, spacious freedom where you realize you can actually ask for what you want, that it is okay to desire, that you are allowed to be human, and true love and connection are possible. There is an incredible amount of vibrant energy there.
How do we live from this shaky open, true place? If you are like most people, you have become so skilled at escaping reality that you do not even realize that you are doing it. Our wonderful egos have protected our spirits in various ingenious ways. When we were young and our egos were developing, these defenses helped us survive. Now that we are grown, these same defenses constrict our awareness and distort our perception.
To be able to unravel our egos’ work and meet reality head-on, it helps to become familiar with the ego’s tricks. With assistance from a book I am reading now, The Inward Arc: Healing in Psychotherapy and Spirituality by Frances Vaughan, here is a wonderful list of ego defenses. Read them, know them, and learn to recognize when you are doing them. As you become familiar with the ways you struggle to gain control OVER life, you will naturally relax these defenses and gain more clarity. (I find that it is possible to sense the ego kicking in at an energetic level, a slight escaping or lessening of intensity. This is part (all?) of what we are beginning to notice when we sit in meditation.)
Woo! What a rush. When you can SEE the truth, you can LIVE from the truth. Like plunging into a cold pool, and laughing because the water is shocking but oh so refreshing . . .
EGO DEFENSES: COMMON WAYS TO ESCAPE REALITY
Denial (“Everything is fine.”)
Simply, the blank refusal to acknowledge what you do not want to see or feel. When unconscious, you will not be aware that you are in denial. All you will be aware of is that you think things are “fine” or “manageable” or you “can handle it” (often, denial can manifest as a weird insistence on your own strength to handle things). You numb yourself out to your own pain or destructive patterns. (Positive affirmations can work to increase denial.)
Projection/Blame (“It is THEIR Fault…”)
The inability to accept a part of your own consciousness, so you project it out onto other people. Because you deny your own anger for example, others appear overly angry to you, and their anger might feel overwhelming or intense. You then assume that the “cause” of your discomfort is the other person, rather than owning and accepting that the original discomfort comes from within.
Shame/Repression (“It is MY fault. . . “)
You are aware that you are feeling a certain way (angry, sad, vulnerable), but you do not think that it is safe or okay for you to actually be feeling that way, so you bury it. Instead of just feeling that feeling, you feel shame and low self-worth. I think of shame/repression as the flip side of blame. Instead of pushing the energy OUT towards to the other, you pull it INTO yourself. Either way, you are escaping the full brunt of reality.
Reaction Formation (“I’ll do it first.”)
To avoid being hurt, you become what you fear. If what you are actually experiencing is a deep fear of abandonment, you might avoid this feeling by becoming really good at leaving people quickly. If you are afraid of aggression and violence, you might become a bully to avoid feeling your fear and pain around this issue. I am rubber and you are glue . . .
Rationalization (“Well maybe I didn’t actually feel that way . . .”)
You explain and justify whatever thoughts/feelings/action you judge to be unacceptable. You feel something in the moment, but later on, you talk yourself out of it. If you felt hurt or angry, you convince yourself that you did not have a “reason” to feel that way. You move an intense feeling from your HEART to your HEAD, where you can dissect it. In the process, you avoid processing your feelings and actions as they actually manifested. (If we consistently cling to spiritual “knowledge” that does not yet exist at a heart level, we can rationalize away reality and actually increase our separation from life. “We are all one . . .” “I forgive you, because we are all love . . . ” There is a reason why this often comes off as inauthentic!)
Regression (“I am so hurt! Rescue me!”)
You feel pain/anger, but instead of taking ownership of it, you make the other person responsible for fixing it. You don’t recognize the ways that you are creating the conditions that allow this pain to arise. In a sense, you project your own power onto the other person because it is too scary to recognize it in your self. (As Marianne Williamson says: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”)