"I am not ___ enough to ___."
Perhaps the most common sentences I hear in sessions with people are constructed like the above one. You can fill in the blanks with endlessly different words or phrases ("I am not good enough to be successful." "I am not attractive enough to find love." "I am not secure, strong, trusting, confident enough to leave my dysfunctional relationship or the job that I hate, or to love my body as it is.").
I have written often on this blog about character structures, and the injuries and defenses that lead to their creation by the immature ego of the little child. I have also written extensively about the essential self-work needed to dismantle the character structures in order to head towards a life of self-actualization. Well, today, for those who are ready, I'd like to offer an exercise that can assist greatly in the process of dismantling the ego's grip on our lives. It will sound simple and straightforward, but it will be a challenge.
Okay. From now on, remove the pronoun "I" from any negative statement about yourself and your life, and replace it either with "my ego" or "the child in me."
So, "I am not attractive enough to find love" becomes... "My ego says I'm not attractive enough to find love." "I am not secure enough to love my body as it is" becomes... "The child in me is not secure enough to love my body as it is." And so on.
Try it. You will discover how powerful this simple exercise is in revealing how identified with your ego you are, how often when you say "I" you are actually speaking the words, statements and beliefs of the ego. And specifically what, you may wonder, is the problem with such an identification? Well, a great deal, actually.
You see, the ego did have an original purpose in the developing child's psychology. That purpose was to observe events and experiences and store them in memory, very useful if you don't want to keep getting burned over and over from touching a hot stove to discover once again that it's not a desirable action.
However, what went awry living in the environments we did as little children, chronically getting wounded emotionally and psychologically by our un-self-actualized parents, relatives, teachers, etc., is that we turned to our ego to protect us emotionally:
"Maybe if my ego helps prevent me from burning my hand over and over, it could help me figure out how to get mommy to not be angry at me, or how to get daddy to pay attention to me."
The above is a logical leap for that desperate little child, but an erroneous one. You see, the ego is designed to be the periscope on the submarine, but it is not the submarine itself, nor even the captain. Operating from a primary false assumption that all little children make - that the painful effects of the parents' lack of self-actualization could somehow be manipulated or avoided by the actions of child's ego - the child assigns the ego the impossible task of providing for its security and well-being.
The ego, in turn, does its best to take on the job, but its resources are inadequate to the task. What the ego comes up with as solutions are the very things that hinder our fulfillment as adults, because the ego's main efforts are directed at keeping the true self of the child hidden behind a false self (mask). In fact, for this defensive maneuver to have its effect fully, it becomes compulsory to believe that we in fact are our ego and its various masks. This false solution ultimately interferes with the real solution that nature and life provides for the child - growing up!
So, folks, try this exercise. It's much more than a word game or semantics. It's a way to aid the self-work you are hopefully doing to detach yourself from your ego and become your fullest, truest adult self, who is of course going about the business of becoming conscious of itself as your Higher Self, and ultimately, All That Is, your one true identity.