The Desperate Need To Be ‘Somebody’

Like a great many others in the days following the atrocity in Uvalda, Texas, I struggled to make sense of it all. My first thought was that this was a crime of rage and that there’s too much rage in our culture. I’ve changed my mind, however, because I now believe that these crimes are birthed of fear. Nothing else can produce the kinds of behavior we’re seeing with these shootings. We can talk about gun control, poor use of background checks, and mental illness, but I think it’s all motivated by fear — specifically, the fear of being a nobody. From social media “influencers” to billionaires and their rockets, it seems as though everybody else is succeeding in life. But what about those who don’t succeed, or worse, can find no way that they could ever share in what they’re seeing on television or their phones?

The correct term for this is envy, one of the seven deadly sins. Envy is not the same as coveting; it’s much more intensely personal. It’s entirely driven by our egos, for a healthy self is content to let life be in charge, to simply blossom where they’re planted.

Back in the mid-1970s, I went through a season in my life of hanging only with African-American friends. I dressed in silky Superfly clothes, with wide and long shirt collars — open with chest hair on display — and, of course, the jewelry. I went to the black bars and hung with friends who played basketball with our television station recreation league team. One of my friends during that season was an inner-city high school basketball coach. I remember playing in a benefit game at his gym, where the crowd erupted when I hit a jump shot. I asked my buddy the coach about it, and he said, “Look around, stupid! You’re the only white guy in the building!”

One day, he invited me to watch his team practice. It was fascinating. Every time one of them hit a shot, he would cry out, “I’m known!” Over and over, a made shot evoked shouts of “I’m known!” I asked my friend about it, and he said that scoring in a high school game meant you’d get your name in the paper. Hence, “I’m known!” This was an amazing revelation to me, and I still think about it today. What must it be like to grow up feeling like a nobody, unless you could score in high school sports, because that mean you weren’t a nobody; you were known!

There exists today a deep pocket of Americans who go through their lives feeling unknown. It spans the gamut of nationalities, and it’s especially prevalent among uneducated white folks in America’s Southland. They are incensed at the idea that they are somehow “privileged” because they’re white, when the reality is they’re dirt poor while pretending otherwise. Redneck culture includes driving home to young people the reality that they are nobodies. Behaviors, especially alcohol and sex, are designed specifically to toughen up young boys to face the inevitable. It’s not uncommon for incredible episodes of abuse in the lives of these young people. Born a redneck; die as a redneck. Very few people make it out. The most remarkable thing about rednecks is their refusal to publicly embrace a loser identity, which is why they vote Republican. “We’re just fine. We’re independent. We take care of our own and don’t need any of your government assistance.”

In his remarkable book, The Righteous Redneck’s Journey To Love, Keith Coffell tells of the cruelty applied to him as the community did their best to turn him into a “redneck soldier”. At the age of 12, he was taken to the woods by his uncle and an older boy, stripped, and sexually assaulted. Here’s a paragraph from later that night:

As I lay face down on my bed with my head buried in my pillow, I could still feel Uncle Joe’s slimy hands on my body, smell his whiskey laden breath breathing down my neck, feel his prickly whiskers rubbing against my chest, and cringe at the thought of Bobby’s sticky tongue pressing against my body. I cried myself to sleep that night and the next night and the next night and the next night. In fact, the nightmare of the rape still haunts and taunts me from time to time. I never told my parents. I felt they didn’t care. And in my mind, I believed Daddy would have simply said, “Stop your fuss boy, you in Redneck Boot Camp. You’ll be alright.”

Of course, not every redneck soldier is raped, but the takeaway here is that this kind of ignorance and brutality are likely more prevalent in the South than anybody realizes. If we ever want to understand the kinds of evil that this kind of treatment can produce, we only need to look into the roots that produced such rotten fruit in the first place.

New York Times best-selling author Mike Robinson says, “When you accept yourself for who you are without trying to be a ‘somebody’ in the eyes of humanity, then you have let go of your ego…Only an ego would make a person a ‘somebody’ or its opposite, a ‘nobody’. Your descriptive labels are not who you are, they are what you have become, so don’t judge yourself and others on the value of a label. Instead allow the true you to emerge, because when you are not attached to any descriptive label, you are free”

In a new article about Robinson’s book The True Dynamics of Life in CISION (PRWeb), writer Sara Gibbons provides a warning that summarizes Robinson’s thoughts:

“…to be a ‘somebody’ a person has to become something other than what they are, and to do that they have to desire, strive and suffer. He relates this to the very beginnings of society and the consequent development of desire for more. This caused society to split and divide into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. This split is called envy, which is the fundamental fear of not having enough or not being good enough. It is the fear of being a ‘nobody’. This is so destructive to human life that it is more deadly than AIDS, HIV, cancer and more toxic than greenhouse gases.

By association, the GOP appeals to this need to be “somebody”. As the representatives of the wealthy, they ought to know who’s a somebody and who is not. By appearing to represent Evangelical Christianity, Republicans appeal to their sense of faith as a representation that they are okay, alright, and on the side of good. Add to that sweeping generalizations from the Bible, such as “Nothing is impossible with God”.

The greatest evil here may be that the GOP uses envy to manipulate the electorate on behalf of the rich and the extremely rich. The unintended consequences, of course, are all over the map, and include things like we saw this week. The Bible actually calls this “tickling the ears”, which is a whole lot easier than educating people. It tries to make them feel warm and wanted, well, except for those who don’t.

I agree with Mike Robinson that this struggle between the ego and the self — if effectively supported from without — is at the core of most things that are wrong with us humans at this stage in our development.

The insanity of Uvalde is just one more, highly horrific example.

The Ego’s Role in Trauma Response II

What is ego? Does it need to be destroyed? | Isha Sadhguru

When I reach into myself, there is no confidence at all. Can you imagine living your life as such? Probably not, which Is why this whole measure of confidence is misleading at best, and dangerous if not acknowledged by professional counselors. There exists a vast cavern of emptiness for me and those like me when I reach inside to find help under stress. It’s just not there. It was never allowed to develop due to childhood trauma. Therefore, I’ve lived my life with ego confidence instead of self confidence, and it is this revelation I wish most to share with the world.

Here are a couple of key paragraphs from part I of this series:

The ego is a part of the self but not the self. When all needs are met, the ego and the self work together efficiently to take us through our lives. Ego is not inherently evil, although it can become very much so with the right set of circumstances. For example, where there is trauma, the ego rises in defense and seizes the opportunity to lead the damaged self. But, as the ego continues in this position, it becomes stronger in representing the self’s identity, one that is often fallacious and harmful to the self’s wellbeing.

…The character of the ego, post-trauma, is described in Eric Bernes’ Transactional Analysis in a juvenile ego state known as The Little Professor, which is why some trauma responses are often viewed as foolish and childish behaviors. The Little Professor is smart, creative, and obsessed with protecting the self. Unfortunately, however, protecting the self includes living the life that the self knows should be hers, and in order to stay in charge, the ego then works to continue the pain that keeps the self bound in what feels like complete helplessness. This is often where the patient’s damages surface in what is often addictive behavior. Quieting the voice of the ego becomes the self’s obsession, which addictions provide for a season. A nervous breakdown of some sort will occur when the patient’s ego/self runs completely off the rails, for example, through an arrest, an outburst at work, or some other form of self-destruction, including suicide.

Ego confidence is developed over years as “victories” over the weak self in all things human development and relationships. The most common weaponry here is in the ability to gather insight from others while providing little in ammunition that could be used against the ego. Those deep into their egos, for example, will rarely remember the names of people to whom they’ve just been introduced, because they are too busy at the moment of such an introduction trying to figure out how to take advantage of the moment to sell themselves or otherwise manipulate the new face. Ego confidence, therefore, is a series of behaviors and beliefs that boost the ego’s hold over the self.

1965

A story of this from my own life comes from the constant obsessions to be noticed for outer expressions of talent. When I was in early high school, I spent one entire summer teaching myself how to play the 5‑string banjo. I bought cheap albums and slowed them down to half speed in order to study the notes and figure out the finger work. The banjo was one of my most important ways to show off without letting anybody get close to me. I couldn’t “take” lessons, because I had to do it on my own. I got my wish and became known for playing bluegrass music in Michigan. I was on TV every week with my brothers. I’d get invited to all the parties, but nobody wanted me for me, just to entertain their guests with my banjo. This is the cruel fruit of ego confidence. His ambitions are different than mine, and so it goes.

This is why Craig Nakken in The Addictive Personality writes that suicide is actually an act of homicide in which the self finally kills the ego. Before trauma, the ego and the self work together to create a growing girl or boy with all the attributes available to well-adjusted children. We call this “sanity”. Enter trauma, and the Little Professor rises to protect the self and slowing begins the job of doing the living for the self, which is destined for total failure resulting in even the death of the patient. Confidence exists only in the form of the personality that the ego creates, so there Is zero actual self-confidence. Therefore, when in situations as an adult that require a modicum of self-confidence, the response is defensive, loud, and generally filled with rage.

And, this is what we must overcome in order to find sanity in the here and now.

This is complicated by what I view as an ego-driven wish among people to place their agency (self-determined) over human nature. In recovery, we call this “terminal uniqueness”, because people will chase their own vision for themselves rather than admit they are just like everybody else. Partly, this is due to a lack of agreement over what exactly constitutes human nature. This is directly due to the ego’s attempt to present itself as somehow different than everybody else. This allows them to sidestep similarities in nature by saying they don’t apply. This is the greatest lie in the history of humanity, for we are truly all the same as human beings. We respond to stimuli in the same ways even though we may be different in the ways we think. Like snowflakes are all snowflakes even though they’re all different. Turn up the heat, and they melt. As humans, we “melt” in a similar fashion.

I believe our only real task in life is to become more human. This is the only logical conclusion, given that we are spiritual beings on a human journey, not the other way around. Despite centuries of teachings by “holy” people, we cannot possibly ever become MORE spiritual than we already are. What we can, however, become is more human. Moreover, it makes common sense, too, because what else could God possibly want from us? To conquer each other? To destroy in order to gain? Why? As my friend Doc Searls says, “Life is a death sentence for us all.” How true, and he goes on to tell us that the only difference between us is that some have more comfortable accommodations along the way.

Can we share our comforts to make the journey easier for others? Of course, but there’s that self-centeredness we’re famous for, so we don’t. I got mine on my own, so you can get yours, too. You just need God, a little faith, and you’ll feel so much better when you do it for yourself. It is a personal, oftentimes lonely calling, for we are corrupt at core, and the truth is that we get uncomfortable, because who wants to believe this of themselves? This is why people get angry when their sense of agency is discovered to be bullshit. Today, we emphasize how different we all are, but a great many of our societal problems could be overcome if we’d only agree that human nature trumps agency every time.

When God created humans (in whichever way you choose to believe), he put us in a garden that was watered by a mist. We can safely conclude then that this is where and how we were intended to live together. Unfortunately, we chose to believe the lie of the ego that our own guilt and shame made us feel unwelcome, and so we left. Joni Mitchell was right; we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. And, we can only do this on our own by giving up our ego-driven, self-centered lives. Only then will the devil be defeated. This must be an internal governor, for all external controls will end in bloodshed. They always do.

So, the real question is can we ever get back to the garden? Again, this is the only goal that accomplishes the original task of the Creator of the Universe. Think of it as a cosmic “let’s see if they can dig themselves out of it.” By now, you likely feel that I’ve gone off the deep end, but it needs to be taken seriously, because the future of our planet is at stake.

Are we going to continue to twirl our fingers and whistle in the dark until Jesus comes to take us home? If these same people ignore the mercy side of our witness, then all has been lost, and God has no reason to keep us around.

People, He wants US to figure it out. How can I “make” you love my neighbor, if you won’t do it on your own?

Can humans unite as one without the constant presence of self-centeredness?

The Ego’s Role in Trauma Response

What is ego? Does it need to be destroyed? | Isha Sadhguru

“I am the result of the way I reacted to what happened to me as a child.” AA Big Book, Freedom From Bondage

The ego is a part of the self but not the self. When all needs are met, the ego and the self work together efficiently to take us through our lives. Ego is not inherently evil, although it can become very much so with the right set of circumstances. For example, where there is trauma, the ego rises in defense and seizes the opportunity to lead the damaged self. But, as the ego continues in this position, it becomes stronger in representing the self’s identity, one that is often fallacious and harmful to the self’s wellbeing.

For purposes of this discussion, it’s important to view ego as a two-sided coin. On one side, there’s the image of being better than others, but the flip side reveals the image of being worse than everybody else. It’s the same dynamic at work in either case, and in fact, the latter is much more common than the former.

The ego knows when the self has been hurt and uses that hurt to maintain its position in the mind of the victim. It does so by leading the self into constantly repeating the pain of rejection and abandonment that the self feels. In this way, the balance between the two is nearly impossible to restore. The ego is in a constant search for situations that will remind the self of its failings and, thus, keep the seat of power in the patient’s mind. What person reeling from abandonment issues, for example, hasn’t deliberately walked right into likely rejection? That person is lost, because she cannot figure out why she keeps doing this over and over again. It is the very definition of insanity.

The character of the ego, post-trauma, is described in Eric Bernes’ Transactional Analysis as a juvenile ego state known as The Little Professor, which is why some trauma responses are often viewed as foolish and childish behaviors. The Little Professor is smart, creative, and obsessed with protecting the self. Unfortunately, however, protecting the self includes living the life that the self knows should be hers, and in order to stay in charge, the ego then works to continue the pain that keeps the self bound in what feels like complete helplessness. This is often where the patient’s damages surface in what is often addictive behavior. Quieting the voice of the ego becomes the self’s obsession, which addictions provide for a season. A nervous breakdown of some sort will occur when the patient’s ego/self runs completely off the rails, for example, through an arrest, an outburst at work, or some other form of self-destruction.

The ego’s weapon is deception. Through this, she works very hard to prevent the patient from the contentment of the moment, which is where healing is possible. When the self walks into the ego’s trap, she finds herself in one of two artificial “places,” the past or the future, and often both. Those badly damaged in the past deal with immature emotions, because the ego keeps reminding her of her wounds. With such feelings, the self is then obsessed with what might be coming around the bend. She often rehearses (in her mind) the various scenarios imagined, so that she would be prepared in the event one of her possible scenes would actually occur. Like a baseball batter who’s been brushed back by the pitcher, he faces the next pitch with just a bit of trepidation. He’s, at least partially, expecting to get hit with the next one. The pitcher has the batter exactly where he wants him, just a little off. This is the same concept with the abuse victim. She’s waiting, planning even, that she’ll have the information necessary to know exactly when to duck. This is living in the future.

A self that’s been badly damaged is incapable of rightly judging the world around her, and this is just another way that the ego runs the show. And it can be quite a show, for the ego’s relationship with shame is a two-fold cord that is constantly at enmity with the self. Beginning with the innate sense of worthlessness that comes with the trauma, the patient believes that they are alone in their suffering, which leads to the disease known as Terminal Uniqueness. “There’s something wrong with me” is what manifests in the minds of trauma victims. This feeling is so strong — after all, normal people are lovable and happy, and things like this don’t happen to them — that the best she can do is hide it, and for that, she turns to the Little Professor for help. He does not, however, have her best interests in mind.

Craig Nakken writes in The Addictive Personality that suicide is actually a form of homicide in which the self finally destroys the ego (Nakken references the ego as “the addict”). This internal battle, therefore, can truly be fatal. In recovery, we have a saying that the mind can be a dangerous place, because we’re not alone in there. 

There is little doubt that the ego functions like the devil from the Bible, which was likely early humankind’s way of explaining the complex mechanizations of the human mind. When Jesus said, “Get thee behind me, satan,” he was more likely speaking to his own ego than some external creature with red skin, horns, and a pitchfork.

When preachers fall from grace, count on the ego of that person to be the source of the mischief. The same ego that led them into ministry as a way to escape feelings of unworthiness will pull the whole house down upon them sooner or later. The self of that minister may have genuine feelings in the service of others, but the pulpit has been chosen as a hiding place for the inferiority he actually believes he’s covering up. This person is constantly under stress, but, of course, he’s very good at hiding it until acting out seems the only reasonable response to his feelings. Humiliation is just one of the weapons of the ego. As British Evangelist and author John R. W. Stott expressed, “And they who fain would serve Thee best are conscious most of wrong within.” It’s an open door to behavior that acts out rather than deals with the history behind it.

The most powerful message that the ego brings to the self is one that denies the existence of the ego whatsoever. Science is the ego’s unaware partner here, because science simply isn’t equipped to deal with things that cannot be measured. Besides, the view presented here is too simple, and science “just knows” that it has to be more complex. We must remember, however, that science pursues a paycheck of some form, and complexity sells when approaching potential patients with treatment options. The extent to which we believe that science is “supreme,” is the degree to which we’ll deny human nature in the quest for wellness. Science presses our uniqueness. Recovery voices our sameness. It’s doubtful these two enemies will ever see things the same way.

The problem, of course, is that insurance will more readily pay for science, not this mushy, new-age kind of nonsense. It is a significant problem.

The victims of horrible abuse are mostly shunned by our culture. Firstly, victims don’t advertise their wounds as abuse. They move forward, always anxious for tomorrow, and this often appears to outsiders as “wallowing in self-pity” instead of putting their big girl pants on. The truth is that such victims are often highly sensitive when it comes to their skill at reading a room, for example, as a way to position themselves against those who likely won’t understand. We call many of these people “Empaths,” and they are legends in their own minds. They view their sensitivity as a gift in order to feel special, but this is simply another manifestation of the patient’s trauma response. People like this are a full-course meal for science in its unwillingness to explore such things, because they are almost always wrong or overly general in their analysis of what’s going on around them.

Empaths are usually approachable and friendly, so they make good healers, friend, and sounding boards for others, who are more interested in using empaths for self-gain than genuine friendship. Empaths are often overweight, having used eating as an addictive response to the trauma that they’re fleeing. Not all fat people, however, have mental issues, and they’re quick to defend themselves against such accusations. Overeating can be a very visible form of “sin” — a.k.a. gluttony — to those not trapped in a trauma response, and these sorts of judgments only make things worse for the patient.

We all want to feel special, and trauma victims are no different. Their specialness, however, Is laced with the poison of feeling utterly unlovable and different in a bad way. They blame themselves for what happened, and it’s through this door (the one labeled “shame”) that the ego makes its appearance.

The only cure for this of which I’m aware is the practice of deliberately making the effort to live in the moment, for the ego has great difficulty functioning outside the world of time and space, choosing instead to live in the pain of the past or the anxiety of tomorrow. This must come, unfortunately, as a revelation or an awakening, something science completely rejects.

Remember always that as long as he/she is trying to run your show, your ego is most definitely not your friend.