We talked about the ego's tendency to become attached to things, ideas, outcomes, power, control, and so many other things we can never truly possess. We listened to each other's stories of egos run amok or out to lunch or triumphing in big and small ways. We were a room full of egos, sharing, listening, questioning, dialoguing. We went easy on each other's egos last night. We were gentle and kind and respectful. Even when we asked hard questions, or offered provocative advice. Ego is the conscious part of us which creates the self-awareness necessary for growth and relationship. Last night, it was almost as if each of us contributed our own fraction toward one big ego. A collective ego, like a soft machine, chugging toward enlightenment; or like a gentle giant, benevolent and introspective; our long, gliding strides pulling us along on a meandering, free-form journey.
This discussion about ego was not an overt conversation. In fact, I don't think the word even came up. But whenever we talk about power and control—especially when it's exercised by someone else (a loved one, an enemy, a boss, a neighbor, a stranger in a store)—then that's what it's all about. Its name need not be spoken; it's there all the same.
I wrote about the good kind of attachment after our August 6 get-together. This is the Ainsworth and Bowlby kind of attachment, the attachment we mammals form between each other, starting before birth. In humans, these attachments, whether secure or dysfunctional, can last a lifetime. The bad kind of attachment comes from Buddhist teachings. This is the sinisterly pervasive, diabolically intoxicating attachment that leads to suffering: Inflexible and unconditional attachment to things, ideas, people, beliefs, power, control, outcomes, prestige, legacy, even immortality. This is the stock and trade of the narcissists in our lives. I wrote about narcissism back on July 23rd. Am I repeating myself? I hope not. But awareness about our unhealthy attachments bears repeating.
The second kind of counterproductive attachment at work in an abusive relationship is generated by the victims. It's an attachment to what Freud called the repetition compulsion. It's a strange but common drive to repeat unsatisfactory scenarios from our past in hopes they will turn out differently. These fantastic hopes come from that vast unconscious portion of our mind, where the fuel for our fears and passions is stored. Those who allow one-sided, codependent, unfair, or dangerous relationships to continue are not "gluttons for punishment." They are dreamers, attached to hopeless unconscious wishes for a different past. Rather than thinking of ourselves in those situations as "enablers," we might do better to consider that we are only doing what comes naturally. But nature provides much that is unhealthy for us. Black widow spiders, rattlesnakes, avalanches, arsenic, and meteorites come readily to mind. So doing what comes unnaturally might be a better way to go when it comes to changing our interior and exterior circumstances for the better.
We did not meditate together tonight, but we exercised interdependence beautifully, I think. We did not overtly try and detach from anything. We did not blame ourselves or others for wanting all these wants. But we did sit together. And it felt like a start to something big. Something huge even. Something greater than all of our egos put together. It didn't necessarily feel like nothingness. But it felt to me like a taste of freedom. Peace.