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Monday, October 13, 2014

Ego-Based Behavior vs Heart-Based Behavior

This is such a big one. We see it so frequently (and recognize it easily as such) when a couple splits up and instead of making their children's well-being a priority (which would be heart-based behavior), they can only see that which allows them to feel that they are getting even with the ex-partner (which would be ego-based behavior). This might include such niceties as not showing up when they have visitation, or not paying child-support until forced to by law, or refusing to have anything to do with the children while they're with the partner and only interacting with them when they are actually with you, to continually badmouthing the other parent, or deliberately withholding the children in some fashion from the other parent. There are as many modalities of this kind of behavior as there are imaginative minds. The bottom line however is: the kids never win. Even the ego-based behavior person doesn't win, because in some fashion, at some time they will pay a price.

But we are perhaps a bit more blind in recognizing ego-based behavior when it has to do with concepts such as pride and honor, and even more nebulous concepts such as you are wrong and I am right. You have insulted me, and perhaps the other has been lacking in respect, and now both get up on their high horse regarding the matter, and completely lose sight of the fact that they love each other. This often happens in families. I've had clients come to see me that may have been estranged from their parent/s or children for years, even decades. And when you unravel it, and come right down to what happened - it is very often a case of the individual ego being stronger than the love. Even if one of the two parties is operating from the heart, if the other continues in his/her ego, the heart-based person may not be able to crack the shell.

How this comes about is actually relatively easy to understand: we lose sight of what is important and remain in a place where higher importance - more value - is given to something that has to do with pride and honor, or being right, as opposed to love. The former is ego-based; the latter is heart-based.

In smaller ways it often happens with parents and adolescents as well, especially when the teens are in that time of their lives that psychoanalysts used to call Sturm und Drang, which I actually prefer to call: 'that time when they become aliens from outer space'. So of course, when parents come to see me at that time of a teen's life and request that I 'fix' their teen, I tend to urge better - and heart-based - communication. And I encourage the parents to exercise their role as parents (which is, in fact, a valid concept even when the parents are in middle or old age and the teens are no longer teens but well into their 30's and 40's), and encourage them to speak to their offspring in order to remind them (or perhaps clearly point out for the first time) that what they (the parents) really care about is the love that exists between them and the teen, as opposed to the issue - whatever the issue might be. And that by all keeping their eye on the love, the issue can more readily be resolved. That is heart-based behavior.

In order to allow heart-based behavior to be prevalent in your life, being aware and conscious of yourself is paramount. And once that is in place, you will catch yourself quickly when you revert back to ego-based behavior, and you will then just as quickly move forward again to heart-based behavior. How can we ever expect there to be peace anywhere at all in the world, if we cannot even do this in the relationships we have with those who are closest and nearest to us: with those we love?

One final point: not forgiving is ego-based. Forgiving is heart-based.


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