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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Basing Your Behavior on Your Heart Instead of Your Ego

Being motivated by the ego rather than the heart is such a big one for so many of us. We see it frequently (and recognize it easily as such), for example 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 those things which allow them to feel that they are getting even with the ex-partner (which is 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 the children when they are actually physically together, to continually badmouthing the other parent, or deliberately withholding the children in some fashion from the other parent, making phone calls difficult, and impeding easy visitation in whatever way they can. Such a parent might carry on a vicious custody battle, only to leave the children to the care of a nanny, in the event they win. Or they might drop off the children for a weekend with the non-custodial parent with the wrong clothes or too few clothes, to ensure that the non-custodial parent has to spend more money and time during the short hours they have with the child/ren. There are as many modalities of this kind of behavior as there are imaginative minds. The bottom line however is this: 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 I find that we are perhaps a bit more blind in recognizing ego-based behavior when it comes in connection to concepts such as pride and honor, and even more nebulous concepts that somehow involve self-righteousness, such as you are wrong and I am right. You have insulted me, and you think perhaps I have been lacking in respect, and now both of us get up on our high horse regarding the matter, and completely lose sight of the fact that beyond all of this we actually 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. Or it can happen that the person with this ego simply doesn't know how to let go of the ego in order to let love rule. Not knowing how is often a huge factor. 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. And of course it's also possible that both are coming from the ego, and neither is letting love be the decisive factor.

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: 'the time when they shape-shift into 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 much more heart-based than ego-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), by showing that they are the mature ones (for this to work, they - the parents - actually must be the mature ones, and that unfortunately is often not the case). This involves speaking to their offspring in ways that 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. Add to that the full acceptance of total responsibility for yourself. All of this is strongly related to emotional maturity. 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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