“Letting go of taking things personally” is an experiment based on an idea from Eileen. Taking things personally is something that we all do, and at times it really clouds our sense of peace, our relations to others and everyone’s quality of life. ” Letting go of taking things personally” is a practical course in 5 parts, looking at the most important elements of taking things personally, with some exercises to put in practice.
Part 4: Going beyond fear and letting go
So how are you doing so far ? I have received many comments and questions, so I have a sense we are moving in the right direction with this. So let’s take another step.
Taking things personally is at the core of our suffering. It is is nothing less but experiencing the process of egoic conditioning in full action. As we are all searching for traces of the ego, this is good news indeed. With a little bit of knowledge about it’s formation, a pinch of curiosity and a dash of courage, we are actually able to bring the different elements of the reaction out of the darkness into the light – and see it dissolve.
Egoic conditioning has it’s roots in the past. Traumatic childhood experiences of real and/or perceived neglect, may lead to a sense of being incomplete or not good enough. Egoic conditioning is all about survival, and we discovered that the ego is using the instance of a stress response, to apply not only to real danger, but also to perceived threats to it’s own beliefs of being in control.
Fear is a leading emotion in all of this. The watchdog of the ego will prevent us from looking into certain areas of our memory, because it is related to experiences of being vulnerable and helpless. Critical mental processes, like judgement, will help us to avoid situations, and or people, that may remind us of this experience and we will create layered, and complex emotional responses to those instances.
Let me give you an example. A woman overhears a conversation in the office about a someone having received a promotion. She listens to it and literally freezes with feelings of anger, hurt and resentment. Something in her made a judgement, that this person is not entitled to be promoted, it makes her feel angry and disregarded, and so she stomps off to smoke a cigarette and later drives to a shopping mall, to buy a pair of expensive shoes, that make her feel good again. Lets say she has grown up in a cold and loveless environment, and her efforts to excel at school, or be good and helpful at home, never were rewarded. This led to feelings of guilt and shame about her perceived incompetence, as well as feelings of jealousy and resentment. As a consequence, she tends to muffle the anger by smoking cigarettes, and spending money to distract herself from feeling bad about herself.
Can you see how it all is related ?
A wounded ego does never heal, never forget. There is this festering wound deep inside, and any instances of being reminded regarding the failure to live up to one own’s expectation, or self-image, is ensued by a whole cascade of emotions, that are a highly individual mixture of fear, anger and sadness. The only way of healing such a wound is to revert the process of ego formation, by the process of letting go.
Letting go is the opposite of creating an egoic conditioning. Any egoic reaction originates in a desire, which may be something I want – like being rewarded, or acknowledged, or it may be something I do not want – like feeling rejected, or not getting approval. So I will try and mold all my experiences over the course of a day, to serve this desire, even if I have to manipulate reality. And of course, if I encounter a situation, where someone antagonizes my attempts to create a certain reality according to the wishes of my ego, I will take it “personally” and rage against this person.
The process of letting go, on the other hand, is all about dissolving fixation points taht have formed around “desires”, whatever they may be. Take the example from above – a woman is overhearing a conversation about someone having received a promotion. Somewhere there is a judgement – “she does not deserve this”, which is a projection of ” I am not good enough and feel threatened by someone else being better”, and then there is an emotional reaction. While it may not be possible to catch the thought – or the judgement – it is definitely possible to become aware of the felt sense that goes along with it. This is the starting point of the process of letting go – turn the attention to the feeling, which may feel like getting sick to your stomach , which is how judgement feels.
Instead of launching into a defense reaction based on this queasy feeling in your stomach, take the alternative route – find a quiet place and sit with the feeling. gently turn your attention to it – do not suppress it , do not follow it, just be with it. You can name it, make an attempt to describe its quality, ask. what is it about. You actually can communicate with the felt sense of a judgement, and see if accepting the feeling as what it is – a queasy, pinching, judging sensation (or whatever quality you give it), that may say to you ” I feel not good enough” (or whatever it says to you) – does anything to change or dissolve the sensation.
This is what letting go is all about. It is the reverse process of forming an egoic reaction. By fully becoming aware and acknoledging how you feel about something, and becoming aware of the thinking behind it, we are able of simply allowing the energy to dissolve.
It feels good doing that. letting go is a wonderful, physical sensation. We experience it spontaneously, if we give up trying to control an experience and let life flow. But it is also possible to consciously direct awareness to teh place the contraction is taking place, and sit with it – shine the light of awareness right into the darkness, until the vermin scurries off, to be never seen again.
Of course, letting go is not a one off thing. It is something that has to be done constantly and it requires practice. You need to find your own best way of doing it and there may be many different methods. But basically it means to fully acknowledge an unconscious process, by simply going into a sensation of queasy uneasiness, and be with it, with all the present awareness we can muster, until it changes. There are usually many different layers to an emotion, and there are many different emotions – but the process of letting go is always the same – full acceptance and merging into it.
So you might want to try this the next time, judgement and a mixed bag of emotions make you feel really bad about yourself…