So the brain is structured to serve the animal… The ego, then, is selfishness, self-centered; and the animal instincts become elaborated through the intellect…
To re-contextualize the ego—-to see it’s true nature and how it arose—-you don’t have to feel guilty about it. You don’t have to crush yourself because—-How could I have said that? How could I have been so cruel? Because you’re a vicious little dinosaur inside.
David Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D., The Way to God: Positionality and Duality – Transcending the Opposites. Recording of a lecture given 04/2002
Most of the people I know are involved in self-improvement. They read spiritual books, meditate, practice yoga, try to eat well, go to the gym, go to therapy, take classes, sit in 12 Step groups. Many of them practice some form of daily self-examination—-checking their behavior to see that as much as possible they are not behaving from selfish motives; noticing where they have been cruel or judgmental and then trying to make things right, amending their behavior. For some it seems it is a full-time job, this push for perfection. And almost without exception, these same people live with a harsh inner critic who rarely acknowledges growth but rather points out every imagined transgression, demonizing the individual for the bad mother/father/friend/lover/etc. they are or projecting that same judgment out onto the world and looking for those other people whose behavior is so egregious as to make us feel at least somewhat okay by comparison.
This is the ego. Its job is to judge, to delineate, to keep score. It does it whether we give it permission to do so or not. Living as it does in the animal brain, it receives information from our senses before our forebrain does, and so reacts to the world and to our place in it before we have any opportunity to choose an appropriate way of being. It is harsh, judgmental and mean. It sees only separation, never oneness. It sees us always as one-up or one-down, and it runs a litany of why we are better than or why we are worse than; and for every one of these uninvited flashes through our mind, we judge ourselves. Harshly. Judge ourselves for our judgmentalness. Judge ourselves for our harshness. Judge ourselves for our separation from our fellows and from the world. For some of us, this can be hell.
It is a spiritual truism that everyone always is doing the best they can. This includes me, right now. This includes you, right now. We are worthy of life. We are worthy of love. We are worthy of joy. We are here in this life for a reason, and it is our task at hand to live in such a way as to discover that reason. How are we to do this? By moving in the direction of life and permission, rather than in the direction of death and judgment. By knowing ourselves as that which is worthy, rather than seeing ourselves as that which is not. By recognizing in each moment of our day that we are not this animal nature. We are that which lies behind it. We are not these negative reactions to ourselves and to the world, but rather a force of love and light in the world. By letting this negative chatter run its course—-because indeed, it’s been going for a long time and we probably won’t be able to shut it down in a day—-but not listening to it. Not taking it seriously. And not letting it convince us that we are ‘bad’ for the selfish or murderous thought or feeling that might pass through us as we make our way through the world.
What we are is beautiful beyond measure. And this world, too, in spite of its hardships and its uglinesses, is beautiful beyond measure. Each moment of this life is a gift. For us to remain sitting in judgment, of ourselves or anyone else, is to refuse this gift. How sad is that?
Today, when I find myself listening to the voice of the Inner Critic, I will thank it for sharing and redirect my attention to the world around me. When the voice tells me something negative about one of my fellows, I will let go of that thought and let go of the judgment of myself that may come up right after that thought, and I will look at my fellow for evidence of his lovability. For evidence that he, too, is a child of God, and worthy of every good thing.