II. The Ego and False Autonomy, P 2
2 Everyone makes an ego or a self for himself, which is subject to enormous variation because of its instability. He also makes an ego for everyone else he perceives, which is equally variable. Their interaction is a process that alters both, because they were not made by or with the Unalterable. It is important to realize that this alteration can and does occur as readily when the interaction takes place in the mind as when it involves physical interaction. Thinking about another ego is as effective in changing relative perception as is physical interaction. There could be no better example that the ego is only an idea and not a fact.
If you ask folks where their ego came from, most will tell you that it was formed through their interactions with other people, that they are the way they are because of how they were treated while they were growing up. They will say that it was further affected by things that happened to them as adults, the loss of a loved one, the birth of a child, getting fired from a job, all the things that happen in the life of an ordinary person go into making them the person they are. In other words, that they are the victim of their DNA, their childhood and people, and circumstances in their life.
It would seem that this is true, but Jesus tells us that we are never a victim. He says that we make our ego ourselves and that we continue that process all of our lives because we did not make our egos out of the Unalterable. Not only did we make our egos but also we make an ego for everyone we know. I read someplace (maybe from Regina) that we never know another person. We only know our thoughts about that person. Wherever I heard it, I knew that it was true.
Then Jesus says that we interact our ego with their ego and this produces changes as well, again, because they were not made from the Unalterable. So in the relationship I had with my ex-husband, for instance, I had ideas about him that I attributed to him. I told myself that what I see with my body’s eyes is what is true. I told myself that how I see him is how he is. But truthfully, I projected onto him everything I thought I knew about him, and where do you think I got the ideas that were projected? From my own mind, of course. Where else?
I can understand how it is that our interactions change our egos. If I tell someone that he is guilty often enough, he is going to begin to live up to my expectations. But Jesus goes even further with his explanation. He says that it doesn’t even matter if we speak to each other or interact in any way in form. Just the thoughts in our mind affect the other. Of course, they do. I made his ego with my mind, so if my mind changes, so does his ego. And as he changes, so do I. We are so entwined that it is remarkable that we were able to convince ourselves that separation is real.
Here is an example of how this works. I have made a very complex ego involvement between my boss and me. Because he is also my brother, this man’s ego and mine evolve on several layers with each interaction, physical or mental. One day a few years ago, I was walking through his office and glanced at him. Our eyes met for a moment and I noticed that he seemed very unhappy. He didn’t smile or acknowledge me in any way. His mouth was turned down and he looked tense.
I continued on my errand, but mentally I stayed with him. I interpreted his facial expressions as meaning that he was unhappy with me. I went several places with that thought! But where I ended up was that I believed that he was going to fire me. With a one-sided interaction that occurred only in my mind, I altered the ego I had made for him.
Instead of being the loving and caring brother, he was now showing his formerly hidden true colors. He was a hard man, unreasonable, and willing to fire his own sister. My ego changed from the sister who looked up to her younger brother and admired and respected him, to a frightened and resentful person who blamed her brother for her fate.
He didn’t fire me. He never said anything to me about that encounter and I doubt that he was even thinking about me when he looked at me. But in my mind, a change in our egos occurred that day. He became a harder person, someone to fear. I became a more frightened person, more defensive, and guiltier, and my interactions with him changed for both of us because of this change. His actions seemed to prove my beliefs about him.
This remained true for years until I realized what I had done and forgave the situation. I asked for a new way to see him and I asked for a new way to see myself. With a healed perception I was able to see him with more clarity. When the guilt I projected onto him was withdrawn, I was also able to withdraw the guilt I had projected onto myself. Again, our egos were altered, and again our interactions changed. Now his actions seem to prove my transformed beliefs about him.
The ego I make for the both of us changes and transforms depending on my thoughts about it, and my perceptions. It is very clear to me that the ego cannot be real and that it is not a fact, but just an idea. I breathe a sigh of relief as I think about that.
We have no idle thoughts. We are creating on one level, and making on another, and we are doing this all the time. Here in egoland, we are making egos. We do this constantly with every thought we have. It would behoove us to be mindful of the thoughts we think and to ask for correction when they are dark thoughts. What we make here is not eternal. It is not even real. But what we believe in is real for us, and, until we stop believing all our thoughts, we make a hellish world and believe we are in it.