We’ve all been there. A conversation with a friend or family member that starts well but takes an unexpected turn into disagreement. What begins as a difference of opinion, can quickly descend into a slinging match of veiled and not so veiled insults. This is what I refer to as the ego coming out to play. When this happens you can bet your bottom dollar that the other person’s ego will be right there, squaring up to yours, with folded arms and a scowl. This situation can only go one of two ways.
It happened to me recently. A dear friend of mine, popped round for a cup of tea. He was chirpy and full of energy and I too was feeling especially brilliant, I made tea as he chatted to me cheerfully from the sitting room and once I’d brought out our drinks and plonked myself in a seat opposite him we began to chat in earnest.
What happened next was totally unexpected. He said something that triggered me, I can’t even remember now what it was, that’s how insignificant it was, but before I knew it, my ego was up and pacing the floor and ready for action. Before I had a chance to stop it, my ego gave a response that, as ego driven comments usually are, was both defensive and judgmental.
Predictably, my friends ego responded in kind and before we knew it our egos were engaged in a full on catfight. Thankfully, my friend and I know better than that, we stopped the conversation, which was going nowhere fast and we gave each other a big hug. We commented on the fact that our egos had just come out to play and expressed gratitude that we had the awareness to spot it.
It’s taken me years to get to a point where I can take a fearful and ego based reaction and, recognizing it for what it is, swiftly replace it with a loving one. It definitely helps when I know that the person sat across from me loves me and they know that I love them. A few years ago that would have led to a falling out, words would have been said that would have been hard to get over and the friendship would have suffered damage for no good reason at all.
It’s not always easy to stop, think and choose a better reaction when in a challenging conversation or situation but I truly belief that accepting the truth that there is nothing in that reaction is a brilliant first step. Recognizing that feeling wounded, hurt, defensive, judgmental or critical are usually the domain of the ego, then we can choose to let the heart take over and respond with love. The ego lives in fear and the heart in love. I know which one I want running the show.
“The Ego is not who you really are. The ego is your self-image; it is your social mask; it is the role you are playing. Your social mask thrives on approval. It wants control, and it is sustained by power, because it lives in fear” ~ Deepak Chopra