So many of us engage in self defeating behaviors. We put our own interests last. We don’t stand up for ourselves when someone wrongs us. Sometimes we allow others to be selfish, reckless and ungrateful with us.
The great misunderstanding when trying to get rid of ego is that this doesn’t mean we have to give up all of our needs and wants. We absolutely do have the right to sustain our own livelihood and our own interests. Denying these fundamental needs in order to be happy only makes us prone to depression.
Many of us feel disdain towards people with grand egos. Those who always need to stand in the limelight and grab as much attention and praise as possible. This certainly means that ego is at work. It’s the grand ego that gets in the way of being considerate of others.
But there is also a small ego that gets in the way. The one that keeps whispering that we’re not good enough, that we are worthless or unlovable. That too, is ego. It’s the kind of ego that has trouble distinguishing right from wrong because it thinks it has to lose out in order to be of worth.
Getting rid of ego does not mean to put yourself last. It is the ability to separate right from wrong, to know what is needed at any given situation for yourself and those who are involved. Sometimes other people have to hear the word no, and not only if that means it is for the greater good.
A small ego is just as much an obstacle to live a purposeful life as a grand ego.
The ego we want to try and get rid of, is the ego that holds us back, that causes unnecessary anxiety, or depression, or assigns blame where none is warranted. It's difficult sometimes to be able to differentiate, and that is part of the work.
And we need to give ourselves the time to work these things out. Pretending that we are over all our earthly desires when we are not, is called spiritual bypassing. When we try to rush our development to an extent that we skip certain steps, we inevitably are pulled back to an earlier stage of development.
Back in the sixties, when Timothy Leary and others experimented with LSD and acid, the research quickly reached a dead end amidst fears of drug usage spiraling out of control.
Today, researchers around the globe are attempting a more serious approach that includes the controlled treatment of patients with ailments like PTSD, depression or alcohol and drug addiction. Drugs like ecstasy and LSD are used in small dosages and are integrated in psychotherapeutic work with the patients.
A pioneer in the field is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) that has been battling regulators to approve research in the field for decades, and has recently approached the Pentagon to work with active duty soldiers who suffer from PTSD. Maps is also cooperating with scientists in Israel, Europe and South America to expand the scope of research into the usage of other drugs.
Last year, British scientists reported that psilosybin, an active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”, reduces activity in the so called default mode network of the brain. The default mode network is a hot topic in the field of neuroscience and there are many theories about its function. Some researchers believe that it is responsible for the internal monologue we create about ourselves, and therefore shapes how we perceive ourselves.
People with depression, anxiety or other related symptoms, tend to form negative beliefs about themselves, which then becomes an aspect of the default mode network. With the help of MRI technologies, psychedelic drugs have shown to dissolve that sense of self including its negative attributes.
In the US too, progress has been made. In one MAPS sponsored study, there is pronounced optimism about the future of these treatments, especially the use of MDMA or ecstasy.
The long-term study that included 19 chronic, treatment resistant patients with severe PTSD demonstrated a “sustained benefit over time, with no cases of subsequent drug abuse and no reports of neurocognitive decline”, the authors conclude. “These results indicate that there was a favorable long-term risk/benefit ratio for PTSD treatment with just a few doses of pure MDMA administered in a supportive setting, in conjunction with psychotherapy. Should further research validate our initial findings, we predict that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy will become an important treatment option for this very challenging clinical and public health problem.”
According to a study conducted by neuroscientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the use of psychedelic drugs is at its highest now, higher even than in the 60ies and 70ies. 15 percent of the tests subjects have stated to have used one of these drugs recently.
“Psychedelics are different from other drugs, in that they are not known to be physically harmful or cause addiction or compulsive use”, the study concludes. “Experts agree that psychedelics are less harmful than alcohol and most other recreational drugs, although psychedelics can elicit anxiety and confusion during the drug effects”.
Babies want to be held when they are in distress. When that’s not possible, they stick their thumb in their mouth. It’s called self-soothing.
Touch is healing. If no one is around who can provide a hug or hold your hand, be still and put your hands over your eyes. Or on your heart. Or your temples. Whatever feels right. Stay there for a little while and notice the tension go away.
Focus on your breath. Notice any small occurrences, like the cool air going into your nostrils and warmer air coming back out. Feel your belly rise and fall. Try to make a subtle whispering sound in your throat when you inhale and exhale. It will draw the attention away from your thoughts and into your body.
If you have chronic anxiety, be in nature regularly. Take a walk in the woods. Sit by a brook. Feed the ducks in the park. hug a tree. There is nothing as soothing as getting in touch with the larger world out there.
When trying to calm the mind, don’t attempt to force your thoughts out. Focus on your body. Let the thoughts arise, acknowledge them and let them go. Refocus on the breath. If thoughts arises, gently bring the attention back to the breath. Don’t judge yourself. There is nothing to achieve.
5. Environment change
An anxious mind craves stillness, not stimulation. Turn off all electronic devices. Just be in the quiet. Look out the window. Sit in a church pew for a few minutes on your way to work. Step outside for a few minutes. If you are at work, go to the bathroom and open the window. Do nothing.
Hum to yourself. Put your hand on your chest and feel the vibrations of your voice. Hum a melody or just a simple note. Hear yourself.
Focus on the sounds around you. Birds chirping. Cars going by. The fans of computers. Some people like to download calming Apps if they have panic attacks in enclosed spaces. Use nature sounds: ocean waves, soothing melodies, singing bowls. Avoid energetic music.
The fainting ladies of the old days were brought back to consciousness by strong smells. It works the other way around too. Experiment which scents calm you down: flowers, oils, fruits. Camomile and lavender have soothing qualities.
Move, but move slowly. Use your hands: knit, sew, cook, build a birdhouse. Anything that slows you down and draws attention away from the thoughts and into the body. If you have chronic anxiety, cultivate a regular practice of yoga or qi gong.
Put a cloth over your eyes, drip some essential oil on it and rest.
Let's face it: Relationships can be hard! But it doesn't have to stay that way.
We've all been there. It's Sunday morning. The husband wants to see his parents. The wife would rather go take a hike in the woods, or the other way around. One insists on what they want, the other resists or doesn't really engage and you're off arguing what to do with this Sunday afternoon.
The most important aspect to avoid a fight is your attitude towards the other person. If you internally roll your eyes and get ready to defend your position as the one and only possibility, then you're already on the path of war. But if you're able to look at it from a joint perspective—as in we are going to figure this out together—then you will have a relaxed Sunday afternoon.
When couples disagree about how to solve a problem, both people should put their own opinion on the back burner. Instead, explore what else you would be willing to consider.
Do a little brain storming without getting attached to a solution first. What else could you do with your afternoon? Maybe swing by the parents for a cup of coffee and then take a short walk together? Hike with the in-laws? Have a romantic afternoon at the beach and make dinner plans with the family for next Saturday? Split up and each do your own thing? Find a whole different strategy all together?
Before getting attached to one particular idea, create a pool of possibilities first. Come up with some ideas what each of you want to do. That way you come closer to what each other is willing to give up in order to come to a joint solution.
First you have to give a little. That's when you gain your partner's trust and willingness to compromise. If you get hung up on only one solution (yours) you inevitably get into a power struggle and only one person can "win" - but the victory is short lived, because resentment will build within the other.
Change your mindset and include the other in your thought process rather than exclude them. From then on you will get what you want.
Do social situations make you nervous?
Social anxiety happens. It happens to millions of people, and it feels excruciating and isolating. Many of us have been in the grip of social anxiety—that panicky feeling when we would rather disappear into thin air than be around (certain) people.
Sometimes we have no choice. We can't get away, as much as we'd like to. We have to be around our boss/coworkers/family members/God knows who else.
Here are five tips how to survive a social anxiety attack:
It's not about walking on egg shells. Compassion is the key to a happy life together.
Sometimes our partners become very irked and wounded when we just try to make conversation. They take any little comment as a criticism of them and turn a harmless inquiry into a paranoid insult.
If it feels like you have to walk on eggshells, that doesn't mean your partner has a borderline personality disorder. They might just be a gentle soul on the verge of a breakdown.
One of the couples I see, let's call them Phil and Jen, have these kinds of exchanges frequently. Jen is highly sensitive when it comes to her appearance. All her feelings of inadequacy have been displaced onto her body, which is now the battleground for her ongoing self-improvement projects.
Phil thinks there is nothing wrong with Jen's body. He doesn't mind that she has a little fat around her belly, and is honestly convinced that she is beautiful. Jen tries to believe him but can't quite pull it off. The belief that she is unattractive is stronger than his loving reassurances.
The other day Phil comes home from work, opens the fridge and asks innocuously, "Did you finish the leftovers?" He should have known better. Jen took it as a criticism, thinking he blamed her for eating what she couldn't really allow herself to eat.
Instead of just answering yes and moving on, Jen threw a fit and blamed Phil for just not getting it. She expects him to be aware of her sensitivities at all times and hold back any comment that might be hurtful for her.
Phil in return gets mad because he feels he shouldn't have to censor his every utterance and wants Jen to just get over her sense of inadequacy.
What is required is a mutual understanding of where each partner is coming from.
Phil is already aware of Jen's vulnerabilities, but when he comes home tired and stressed and in need of some reassurance himself, he just doesn't have it in him to then go and take care of her emotional needs.
Jen too knows very well that she tends to overreact, but sometimes has only enough energy to soothe her own fears and runs out of patience when Phil too has had a bad day. This is when they clash: when both are in need of comfort, and none of them has enough to give to the other. That is when we put up a wall and get defensive.
They have learned it's best to just give each other some room to breathe and then come together and talk about what bothers each of them. Jen ultimately has to fess up to her sensibilities and try to accept that she can be difficult at times.
When we are able to make jokes about our inadequacies and not take them so seriously, that is when we are on our way to be free from the insecurities that haunt us.
Having trouble getting off the couch? You're going about it all wrong. It takes baby steps.
We all know how hard it can be to reach goals: lose those five pounds, quit smoking, get an exercise routine going. Not to speak of finding a new job or giving up destructive habits like overspending or drinking. All these can affect the quality of your relationships drastically.
And while it will always be hard to reach difficult goals, there are a few pointers on how to make it a bit easier getting there.
One of them is the realization that positive thinking won't necessarily get you anywhere. If you indulge in what is called an overly positive outlook (as in "oh, I can have this piece of cake, I'll eat less in the evening"), you quickly throw all good intentions overboard and your weight loss goal has been compromised before it even got off the ground.
If all you do is visualizing a positive outcome ("I'll be able to run these five miles!") without realistically thinking about what you can actually do, there is no inspiration to really try. And when we fail to achieve the goal, we feel easily demoralized and throw all good intentions out the window.
If you tend to be too optimistic about your goals and end up failing over and over, you have to adjust your expectations to reality. Look at your exercise plan. Is it actually something you can integrate into your life, or are you setting yourself up for failure?
Make it more realistic. The way to do it is to compare what you are doing now (like not exercising at all) to your goal (for example running five miles a day). Start with one mile three times a week.
Most importantly, make a "what if" plan. What if I come home and I simply don't feel like exercising. Imagine what you can do to stay the course. "If I'm not in the mood, I won't sit down, but will take a walk around the block."
If you won't let yourself off the hook but can motivate yourself to take a small step towards your goal, chances are that something will happen. It may not be one mile three times a week, but maybe you run one mile, walk one mile and mow the lawn. It will feel much better to register some kind of success rather than nothing but failure.
If you find yourself running out of steam, don't focus on what you've already achieved. Rather than thinking "I ran almost a mile, it won't hurt if I stop," keep at it by reframing the thought into "only ten more minutes to go."
The method is called mental contrasting and was designed by psychologist and researcher Gabriele Oettingen. It works the same way with trying to refrain from something you want to stop doing. If you want to quit eating sugar, assess how many times you've tried before and how successful you were.
If you've failed before, don't stop cold turkey. Break it down into smaller goals. Begin with cutting out sweets and soft drinks and replace them with the most sugary fruit you might enjoy (like mangos or grapes). You can also start by replacing rich ice cream with somewhat less sugary treats like oatmeal cookies or sherbet.
Make an "if, then" plan. If you are tempted to indulge in sweets, distract yourself momentarily. Stretch your body or play with your dog. It's all about delaying gratification. The moment will pass and a few minutes later you may not feel so tempted anymore.
Accept that small long term goals are much easier to reach than grand and quick changes. If all you want is get it all in no time whatsoever, you'll be frustrated and demoralized.
Everything we want to achieve requires dedication and hard work. Expecting a quick fix is the first fantasy to let go off.
There is a reason why men and women often can't connect. It's a different way of looking at love.
Shame is possibly the most difficult emotion we have to deal with. And shame is behind many of the difficulties that arise in every marriage and intimate partnership.
Many women fall into what psychologists call the “pursuers” in the relationship, while most men are the “distancers”. Women are often the ones who want to talk about the relationship and urge their husbands to have more conversations and shared activities.
Men in return often withdraw into their own world, and seemingly prefer to watch TV or sit by the computer rather than discuss what is going on between the two partners.
Of course, it can also be the other way around.
In the beginning, the two partners may have been attracted to just this dynamic: he wanted to be with someone who is social and initiates conversation. And she loved that he was so mellow and non-intrusive.
But all too often what used to feel like a perfect match becomes a dynamic from hell, when one does nothing but pursue and the other does all the distancing.
Mental help professionals Patricia Love and Steven Stosny give us the reasons why things spiral out of control in their highly readable book “How to Improve your Marriage without Talking about it“.
Women are born to look for connection. They are the ones who were designed to raise children and to hold the families together. When women seek connection and can’t get it they start to feel anxious and feel that they have to do something about it.
Men by contrast are wired to be hypersensitive to stimulus and arousal. In ancient times, and today, they were the ones who protected the tribe from outside threats. They had to be vigilant at all times and be ready to fight and protect, or flee when things got dangerous. When men can’t fulfill their role as protectors and fighters they feel easily overwhelmed by shame and a sense of failure, and for them the safest thing to do in such a situation is to withdraw.
Which is what typically happens in a fight between spouses: The wife, afraid of losing the connection, is trying hard to make improvements in the relationship, which triggers a heightened sense of failure and shame in the husband. Because he has learned to hide this shame early on, his wife has no clue what she triggers in him. As he is trying to ward off his shame by distancing and withdrawal, he withholds that vital sense of connection from her and forces her further into loneliness and anxiety.
This, in return, causes more shame within the husband. On some level he feels that he has failed to protect his wife from being afraid. So he gets angry at her for feeling fear, and at himself for having failed her.
The authors point out that men, because of their sensitivity to hyperarousal, often have a greater need for alone time. Women tend to interpret this as a lack of interest or even a loss of their love. Shame reinforces this dynamic. The root meaning of the word shame is “to cover or conceal”. When we feel ashamed, all we want to do is hide and get away from the embarrassing situation.
“For the average male, relationships are not always a source of comfort”, write Love and Stosny. “A man’s greatest pain comes from shame, due to the inadequacy he feels in relationships. Talking about the relationship, which is guaranteed to remind him of his inadequacy, is the last method he would use for comfort.”
The solution how to overcome this impasse is to learn to put yourself into the shoes of your partner. To understand that fear and shame lie at the heart of the conflict rather than rejection and abandonment. Empathy provides connection. Without being connected, it is pointless to try and discuss a disagreement or a previous fight. “Any attempt to talk about it while you are disconnected will make it worse.”
So the first order of things is to establish a connection, which for many men (and some women) does not mean talking. Instead, rub his back for a little while, share a cup of coffee or the morning paper, and feel what state of mind he might be in. He may feel tense about something that happened at work, or distracted because he is trying to fix something in the house.
Men often de-stress by working with their hands. They mow the lawn or fix a broken lamp. In this moment of trying to establish a connection without words, is is all about him and trying to understand where he is at. Once you do feel connected, you can address your own thoughts in a non-shaming, non-accusatory way.
The authors even give a remedy how to get started: “You have a much better chance of connecting by activating his protectiveness, and you have the best chance of doing that by exposing your own shame.” Which is of course, very hard to do. Admitting to your own sense of failure is not easy, male or female. But it is the surest way to soften things up to avoid more clashing.
The gist of the matter is to be in a relaxed and open state of mind when you want to address a relationship issue. When you’re tense and stressed, there is no point in bringing it up.
Here is how you can overcome your shyness and meet your match:
1. Fess up. Don't pretend to be a social butterfly. There is nothing wrong with being introverted. Tell your date if you are someone who seeks friendship first or needs time to fall in love. You may scare away a few flakes, and instead attract people who will really appreciate you.
2. Meet at places where you feel confortable. If you don't like loud bars, don't go there. Often introverts are also pleasers, and they will do what they think is asked of them even if they suffer. Find a place that makes you feel comfortable: a laid back coffeeshop perhaps, or a park. Take your date out for a walk with your dog. You'll have an ally who will be there for you whatever happens.
3. Avoid smooth talkers. In a relationship, you need to be heard. If your date won't allow you to get a word in edgewise, it's not the right person for you.
4. Look for subtle connections. Sometimes we get so flooded by first impressions and things to look out for, it's difficult to just feel what it's like to sit with this person. Do you like being there? Or does it feel crowded, overwhelming, or make you nervous? Make sure you actually enjoy hanging out with your date.
5. Beware of takers. Introverts are often givers. We listen, pay attention, and want to be there for the other. Make sure you get to be on the receiving end of the equation. If you have to ask repeatetly for romantic gestures or to be included, this is what you sign up for down the road.
"Good lovers aren't born, they are made. You cultivate the erotic. It takes an active focus and intention to see your partner as an erotic person." These are the words of Esther Perel, a star in the world of sex therapy. Her popular book Mating in Captivity, Perel discusses how to preserve desire and romance in long term relationships.
When asked when they find themselves most drawn to their partner, most people will say something like, when I see them radiant, in their element, passionate or joyful. They see their partner as “the other”, where there is absolutely no caretaking. They are curious and don’t assume to know everything about them. Knowing that life still has surprises, that there is more to discover about your partner is the key to an erotic revival.
One way to bring back the excitement is to utilize an extra email address just to be seductive with each other, suggests Perel. The alternative email address becomes an erotic space that exists only for the sake of playing and flirting. You can come up with different personas in yourself or live out a role play you always wanted to engage in.
In a recent podcast, Perel reminds us that eroticism is not the same as sexuality. While sex is an action, eros happens very much in the mind. “Eroticism means connecting with aliveness”, says the sex therapist.
A good sexual fantasy often offers the solution to the widespread boredom in longterm relationships. Whatever turns you on – toys, stories, things – can be utilized to spice up your sex life.
Too much safety in a relationship can become an obstacle to sexual interest. It especially becomes an issue when one person feels that he or she is doing too much of the care taking. Women in particular get worn out by providing care and nurture, and may experience attending to their spouses’ sexual needs as just another burden.
Perel suggests that it is important to take responsibility when we contribute to the disconnect by not taking enough time for ourselves. She has coined the phrase “I turn myself off when…” (for example “…I spend all my energy on taking care of the kids”) in order to bring the attention back to the partner who is uninterested in sex. Rather than saying “nothing is turning me on” the phrase “I turn myself off” brings the focus back to the place where desire isn’t owned. Desire requires us to take an interest in oneself.
Perel believes that monogamy is harder on women. Women are hardwired to try and create safety for their offspring, and that focus can lead to setting aside their sex life for the sake of safety. Many women struggle with how to deal with motherhood and taking care of the whole family at same time.
The prejudice is that women don’t want sex, but the truth is that the need to create safety and to nurture everybody else has depleted them from feeling their own sexuality. They may not have been seen, nor have they seen themselves as a sexual being in a long time. When the partner brings up eroticism, they really are trying to remind them not to forget that part of themselves.
When one partner is uninterested, yet the other is, the latter is put into a painful state of longing. And when that longing is chronically ignored or even ridiculed, it causes frustration. That is when the conversation about what was lost needs to begin. And one thing that was lost is aliveness, which some people attempt to recover with an affair.
“Affairs are not about sex, they are about feeling alive again”, so Perel. When sex is being withheld, there is lots of frustration. At this point, the best thing to do is to have a conversation about missing the other, missing what has been lost and that is not necessarily sex alone. Starting the conversation is paramount.
Infidelity, so Perel, doesn’t always mean that something was missing from the relationship other than simple aliveness. In that case, the infidelity is simply an alarm to put more energy into regenerating the relationship.
How you can learn to navigate the stalemate around one partner wanting sex and one who does not, click here.