No wait – don’t click away! THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL POST! 🙂
One of the most insidious parts of the ego is the need to be right.
Where does this come from?
It’s embedded deep within us, coming from the survival mechanism of evaluating threat in the world.
Find a red berry on your morning forage?
You’d better be able to evaluate if it’s a yummy one or poison before you eat it!
This need to be right in our perceptions of the world has run amok and to a large degree is the cause of our current political climate.
It’s useful to reflect on how this might manifest for you. Many of us (myself included!) hold strong views of the world and we’re committed to those views, and deem them to be correct.
But what happens when you encounter someone who is equally certain that her view is true instead?
This does not cause problems only on the big stage of political discussion. It’s a very real problem in everyday life. The need to be right is likely driving a huge portion of the small arguments and little conflicts you have every day.
It’s helpful to be aware of it, but it’s even more helpful to examine what’s underneath it.
Meaning: What do you feel is the right response when someone is wrong?
There’s this human tendency to use violence in teaching our young. We do it with dogs — roll up the newspaper and swat him on the butt — and we do it with kids, with yelling and screaming and sometimes worse.
If you dig beneath the surface, and examine your beliefs, it can be shocking to see how much you’ve internalized these behaviors.
I recently did this type of exploration. I had a small argument with someone over how insurance policies work — not even an argument, really, just one of those things that comes up in life when you’re talking with people at work or your friends. It was, ironically enough, about how insurance companies ascribe blame, and whose policy might suffer an increase in rates based on the specifics of a certain kind of claim.
These types of arguments, when I “know” that I’m right, cause me to feel physical symptoms: Rising blood pressure, accelerated breathing, quickening speech, restlessness. In other words, frustration.
I can’t stand frustration.
I stepped away, and later on examined the situation. Why did I react so strongly? (I still thought that I was right on the specifics of the insurance debate.)
Why did it matter? Why the reaction? What was underneath all of this?
The Work developed by Byron Katie [icon name=”fa-sign-in”] is the best tool I’ve found for looking under the hood and figuring myself out. I did a worksheet, and about five minutes into the process I uncovered this core belief:
“When you’re wrong, you must be punished.”
I can easily trace that back to the parenting style I experienced growing up. That’s not a statement of blame, it’s just how it was, and I think still is for many families around the world.
What was even more distressing was the accompanying acknowledgment that it feels good to be the punisher. This is the ego out of control.
There are some type of “victor” endorphins that get released when we have vanquished a foe. This too goes back to our hunter-gatherer origins. Humans are the dominate species on this planet not by accident, but by violence. We have overcome and subordinated every other species. This is a biological mechanism: When we win, the physical system rewards us with a shot of dopamine and we feel good.
Dominating over another person makes us feel good.
This is one of the most basic ways that the ego maintains separation.
When you dominate, you are separate from; you are removing your commonality and identity from the other and denying any part that is shared. The other is foreign. The enemy. I am at risk.
It manifests in this very simple requirement: I must make you suffer in order for myself to feel good.
When the ego sees an opening, it goes for it. It’s not enough then to somehow acknowledge that both are the same. Both of you cannot be right; one must be WRONG and that involves a fight and a declaration, and a public display of their shame.
So how do you counter this? What do you do?
Well, per that incredibly useful process found in The Work, you turn it around. Instead of “When you’re wrong, you must be punished” it becomes “When you’re wrong, you must be loved.”
I invite you to reflect on that for awhile. The comments are open if you have any observations to share.