is your ego healthy or unhealthy? here’s how to tell

Ego gets a bad rap.

I’m hearing more and more disparaging chatter about the ego – let go of ego, transcend the ego, fight the ego, destroy the ego, bad ego bad!

We can’t get rid of the ego; it’s as necessary for life as breathe.

The problem is not that we have an ego, it’s that we allow the unhealthy parts of the ego to take over and rule our lives.

We are born without an ego. Being born without an ego allows us to feel oneness with our mamas and allows us to survive during those extremely vulnerable early days.

Over time, we develop a social self {ego}. We develop an ego because we are wired for love – that big mysterious collection of cells in our skulls is an relationship organ.

Ideally, as we grow up we form a healthy secure attachment {bond}. A healthy attachment feels oh so good – like being wrapped up in a safe, secure, warm fuzzy blanket.

If, during our young lives, we develop a secure attachment and we have lots of positive experiences we develop a healthy ego.

A healthy ego allows us to grow up with a loving sense of self, rock solid resiliency, the ability to solve problems creatively, the capacity to develop meaningful relationships, and a sense of meaning.

If, during our young lives, we are slammed into trauma or didn’t get what we needed, our ego can be hurt. If we don’t have the opportunity to heal in a healthy way the wounded ego learns to compensate and protect the painful bits in defensive, reactive, and dysfunctional ways.

An unhealthy ego is like a shield, protecting us from the outside world, but also preventing us from loving ourselves and our lives.

An unhealthy ego will tell you to stick to what’s comfortable, to avoid uncertainty, and to have unrealistic expectations of yourself and others. Unhealthy ego is rooted in fear, anxiety, limiting beliefs, and toxic thinking patterns.

Here’s are a few things an unhealthy ego does,

  • feels not good enough
  • uses anger to control other people
  • uses substances to comfort, avoid, numb, escape or distract from uncomfortable feelings
  • is reactive, dramatic, defensive or easily triggered
  • repeats problematic behaviors that cause suffering
  • fights reality or wishes it away
  • refuses to face fear and challenges
  • believes that happiness only occurs when there’s no emotional pain or fear
  • often feels overwhelmed by emotions
  • expects perfection
  • personalizes what others say and do
  • uses blame, avoidance, criticism or denial to deal with difficult situations
  • feels a sense of entitlement or grandiosity
  • requires a lot of emotional validation and feels angry, anxious or depressed if it’s not available
  • is unable to demonstrate compassion or understanding towards people who hold different opinions or beliefs
  • feels a sense of competition with others
  • feels jealous or judgmental of other people’s success
  • avoids making apologies and taking responsibility
  • needs to be right and feel superior
  • is chameleon-like; changing to fit in or fulfill a role

These are the masks we wear to protect ourselves.
An unhealthy ego may wear some of these masks or all of them.

Before your mind spirals into a pit as you read this list and recognize some of these signs in yourself, or someone your love, let’s wrap you {or them} up in a cocoon of compassion.

I’ve never met anyone with a perfectly healthy ego. Trauma is part of the gig of being human. We can’t escape it, but we can work to heal it.

Now, let’s wander down to the other end of the egoic spectrum and explore the healthy ego.

When we have a healthy ego it’s easier to move through life with a wide-open heart, healthy boundaries and a solid sense of self. A healthy ego is essential for happiness, fulfillment, and resilience.

Here’s how a healthy ego shows up,

  • reflective, responsive, and resourceful
  • thinks in terms of possibilities
  • turns to healthy coping mechanisms during times of stress
  • optimistic and grateful
  • can understand, appreciate, and validate perspectives that are different
  • strong sense of capability and security
  • constantly growing in strength, confidence, and ability to handle triggering situations
  • can tolerate discomfort and regulate emotions
  • curious
  • does not personalize what others say or do; maintains a healthy perspective
  • embraces the imperfections of self, others and life
  • takes ownership of problems; let’s other people be responsible for themselves
  • understands the difference between wants and needs
  • practices acceptance, compassion and cooperation
  • acts with integrity and authenticity
  • can discern between what can be changed and what can’t be
  • has a strong sense of personal power
  • is adaptive and flexible
  • feels worthy and deserving of good things
  • can give and receive love and appreciation
  • is aware of interests, desires, and talents

When our ego is healthy we can navigate challenging moments in life, sit in vulnerability and not be overcome by fear, and develop healthy emotional connections to others.

Healthy ego allows us to genuinely appreciate our strengths, accept our imperfections, and love ourselves unconditionally.

A healthy ego is built on core beliefs that are based in love.
A unhealthy ego is built on core beliefs that are based in fear.

We cannot avoid, escape, destroy or transcend our ego.

We can heal early experiences, change fearful subconscious patterns, and redesign our lives.

Ego is doing its best to help us be whole and healthy humans.
It’s up to us to give ego what it needs in order to do its job in a loving way.

 

Photo : LOVE installation by Alexandr Milov, Burning Man 2015. This sculpture depicts the conflict between the physical bodies of man and woman while their inner children reach out to touch.

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Posted on May 26, 2016 | Posted In: thoughts & musings

9 strategies for surviving the holidays with an open heart

The holiday season can be a mixed bag – joy, laughter, generosity, drama, triggers, conflict.

For some it’s a season to look forward to; for others it’s a season to dread. No matter how you feel about the holiday season there are practices you can engage in to survive the holiday season with an open heart.

burn your to-do list

You know the list that has been running your life for the last month, year, decade? Burn it along with your Yule log. It has no business following you into the holidays, they are stressful enough.

If it’s really important you will remember it.
It will get done.

When the holiday spirit moves you into action, let yourself be moved. Until then, watch the fire burn.

schedule what matters

Over the holidays, schedule days to be completely off – nothing wiggles into your day{s} off except for what opens your heart.

It’s a day to spend time in nature, read the book you’ve been wanting to read, make green smoothies, call someone you want to call, sip herbal tea sweetened with raw honey, feel what you are feeling, write gratitude cards, do some belly breathing, share a meal with a person who opens your heart, go for a run, lay in Savasana.

If you don’t schedule what matters, the holiday stress may swallow you up and spit you out in the New Year.

sleep

Block off time in your schedule for extra sleep so your mind and body can recharge and recover.

When you block it off, schedule it in and make space for it, it’s much easier to stick to it. Putting it in your schedule makes it official and gives you permission to keep your commitment to yourself.

indulge

Indulge in things that nourish your soul – soaking in a bubble bath, creating a rockin’ playlist, throwing paint on a canvas, making snow angels.

When your soul is full, it’s easier to not fill up on things that make you feel gross {one more Nanaimo bar will compliment this bottle of Merlo perfectly!}

return to your roots, with love

When you spend time with family consciously choose to share happy stories, fond memories, and good times. No matter how small or fleeting those things were, they were there.

Often we’re so caught up in the drama we forget the peace.
Pay attention to the peace and it will grow.

Listen to positive songs from your past, reminisce over delightful photos, bring out the childhood book you loved and read it again.

gratitude

Make gratitude a daily practice – cards, text messages, phone calls, flowers, thoughtful gifts you can afford.

Think of all the awesome things in your life.
These things didn’t happen without the love and support of others.
Acknowledge and appreciate the good.
examine expectations

Expectations of how we should be, our family should be, the holidays should be are crazy-making.

When we expect to give the perfect gift, get the perfect gift, cook the perfect turkey, or have the perfect conversation we miss the messy, beautiful, imperfection of life.

It’s the imperfection that makes life real and interesting.
Honor it.
slooooooow down and tune in

You have a reliable internal guidance system. How is your body feeling when you say yes to making 6 dozen squares, hosting a 30-person dinner party and providing gifts for everyone? Are you light and energized? Are you heavy and exhausted?

Say yes to what you want to say yes to.
Say no to what you want to say no to.
Invite the people you want to invite.
Bake what you want to bake.
 
If you don’t want to buy presents, try giving the gift of your presence instead.
hire a pro

Holidays can be a rough time — emotions run high, triggers are flying, people are crying, drama is soaring.

You may be able to manage it and you may not.

If you can’t manage it on your own there are professionals who can help you. Reach out to your favorite psychologist or local distress center. You are not alone.

For better or for worse, the holidays only come once a year.
Follow your heart, do what matters, remember to love.

5 practices for a more peaceful life

I’ve been searching for peace for most of my life and, thankfully, I’ve found a few practices that help me live in a state of peace most of the time. Here are five of my favourite practices for peace.

1. Cultivate Mindfulness

When my mind is spinning into a vortex of future tripping, and I can’t seem to settle it, I gentle coax my monkey mind into mindfulness.

I laser my concentration onto my senses and notice the moment. What am I hearing? Seeing? Physically feeling? Smelling? Tasting?

If I really need to amp up my practice I’ll add something interesting and engaging into the moment – like a piece of raw, organic, superfood dark chocolate or crank up my favorite Songza playlist and dance around the living room.

2. Explore Meditation

I’m inconsistent with my meditation practice and I am a impatient meditator. I set my Peace Alarm for ten minutes and when I peek at the timer I’m shocked to discover only seconds have passed.

I haven’t found a practice I’m ready to devote to. But, I experiment and explore different meditation practices with the intention to find my practice. Even though I’m not a dedicated meditator, I still take time to add a dash of peace to my day by focusing on my breath, a candle, or loving kindness.

If I need a physical distraction to focus my mind I’ll play my crystal singing bowl or do a round of mantra meditation with my Precious Mala.

3. Drop Judgment

Training my brain to drop judgment was one of the kindest things I did for myself.

Judgment spins us into a world of tense frenzy and frantic chaos. Of course, you can never completely escape judgment, but being liberated from the drama that arises when we fearfully or harshly judge ourselves, or others, makes space for wholehearted living and loving.

4. Ease Expectations

Being handcuffed to expectations about how life should go, how others should behave, and how I should be creates buckets of misery and disappointment.

Easing up on my fearful, lofty, unconscious expectations leads me into a more compassionate relationship with myself, others, and life.

5. Embrace Uncertainty

In the past, my need for control was out of control. It fuelled anxiety and kept me stuck.

I would pass up amazing opportunities unless I was certain about the outcome. Of course, it was all an illusion. Even if I tried to control the outcome there was still no certainty, I just convinced myself there was.

The reality is, I have no idea what the future will be. Shit will happen no matter how much I try to avoid it.

Trading avoidance and control for trust and surrender brought a whole lot of peace into my life. And, there has been some really incredible things that have happened because I let love take the lead and put fear in the back seat.

 

Find the peace practices that work for you.
You deserve it, our world needs it.

 

10 ways to avoid seasonal affective disorder

Every year around this time, Seasonal Affect Disorder {SAD} settles into the hearts and minds of many.

I said goodnight to the sun at 4:00pm this week.
The winter is long and the days are short.
The conditions for SAD are ripe.

Feeling energetically drained?
Moody?
Hypersensitive?
Avoiding others?
Feeling fatigued?
Unmotivated?
Winter blues?
Need a drink at the end of the day?
Blowing off your workouts?
Watching too much TV?

The season may be messing with your serotonin, melatonin, and circadian rhythm. SAD may be setting in.

In the past I too could feel myself sinking a little lower when the days got shorter.

Here are 10 things you can do to help protect yourself from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is super important for mental and physical health. Vitamin D is linked to depression, cognitive performance, osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, immune system functioning, cancer, respiratory infection, inflammation, blood pressure. In Calgary, where I live, most people are Vitamin D deficient and don’t even know it. Make sure you’re getting your D.

Light

Many of my clients use light therapy on darker days to get a dose of good rays. Carve out thirty minutes to sit in front of a 10,000 lux light box to help boost your mood and protect your mind.

Exercise

Get your heart working to help ward of depressive feelings. Go for a quick walk, do some jumping jacks, greet the day with a sun salutation, take the stairs, strap on some ice cleats and go for a sunrise run, park further away, put on your favorite tunes and get your groove on. Every little bit counts — thirty minutes a day five days a week is ideal.

Omega 3

The feel good neurotransmitters can be regulated by Omega 3 to help optimize your winter happiness. Because I’m a vegetarian, I get mine through flaxseed and walnut oil but a good fish oil will give you a hefty dose too.

Nature

Have you seen Grounded? If they can get outside in Alaska and transform their health, surely we can add a little nature into our life. Be brave. Dress warm. Go outside.

Social.

Join a book club, say yes to the invitation, sign up for a yoga retreat, invite your soul sisters over for a tea-tasting party. Resist the urge to isolate and become a hermit. We are wired for connection. It soothes our nervous system and adds to our happiness.

Nourish.

I love eating salads in the summer, but when winter comes just thinking about eating a salad makes me cold. Nourish your body in warm, whole, healthy ways. Soups. Stews. Teas. By consciously nourishing your body you can avoid binging on food that will mess up your brain chemistry and make you feel gross.

Sleep.

Get into a sleep routine. Make it sacred. Stick to it. My routine {usually} includes cuddling with my boys, bedtime stories, a candlelit bath with a book of poetry, a super dark room, heavy blankets and sleeping by 9:00pm. You know how much sleep you need. Get it. It’s one of the kindest gifts you can give yourself.

Change.

If you can change your scenery, do it. Go somewhere warm. Take a few days off work and have a stay-cation dedicated to your wellbeing.

Love.

Yourself. Self-love is a necessity if SAD is setting in. Look in the mirror and appreciate every little bit of you. Get a massage or give yourself a massage. Practice radical self-acceptance. Treat yourself to a set of flannel onsie pajamas. Love yourself and do what you love – read the books you love, meet with the people you love, pursue the hobbies you love.

Connection.

You are not alone. Many people struggle with SAD. Reach out. Find a support group. Share your truth.

 

4 ways we stay stuck

Many of my clients struggle with fear, anxiety, depression, self-sabotage, and procrastination. There are many causes to these symptoms, but they often originate from living a life based on outdated beliefs, desires, goals, and roles.

We are always outgrowing the previous versions of ourselves. Who we are now is different than who we were ten years ago. When our inner world changes, we need to make changes in our outer world in order to feel aligned.

When our soul is ready for a life redesign and our ego is too afraid to change we can crumble, regress, distract, and numb in order to avoid making the changes we need to make.

Crumble

When our beliefs, values, and ideas about the world crumble we become vulnerable to a breakdown. People often experience nervous breakdowns when they are flooded with a new truth that goes against an old truth. When we are unable to process, accept, and make changes based on new information we can crumble.

Regress

Anytime we’re stressed or overwhelmed our natural inclination is to fall back on the behavioral habits, emotional strategies, and cognitive patterns of our past. We return to old assumptions, familiar roles, and tired beliefs in a desperate attempt to regain security. If we do this we stop growing.

Distract

We are surrounded with an abundance of distractions {working, television, gossip, drama, video games, internet porn, social media, shopping, to-do lists} that allow us to avoid feeling what we need to feel in order to make the changes we need to make.

Numb

We have an endless supply of ways to numb – cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, sugar, prescriptions, food. If numbing actually worked we would know by now; sadly, we are more in debt, obese, addicted, and medicated than ever before. Obviously, our attempts to numb are destructive and futile.

 . . .

Rather than avoiding discomfort and resisting change, we can make a different choice.

We can redesign.

In every moment, we are provided with an opportunity to make a choice. We can do what we’ve always done or we can do something new.

Redesigning means creating a fresh map of new habits, supportive thought patterns, aligned beliefs, and goals with soul.

It’s about consciously reflecting on what no longer fits.

  • What have you outgrown?
  • What are you pretending not to know?
  • Which parts of your life feel too small?
  • What do you want now, that you didn’t want then?
  • What did you want then, that you don’t want now?

At the deepest level you know what you want and you know what to do in order to live the life you want to live.

Seek the truth, be brave, and take action.

I’m not saying it will be easy {though, it might be}. I’m saying you don’t have to crumble, regress, distract, numb or hit rock bottom before you start to live a more authentic life.

You can keep your inner world and your outer world aligned by returning to these questions, calling on courage, cultivating consciousness, and trusting yourself to design a life that matters based on who you are now.

Sometimes, it’s hard to let go of the past, what is predictable and familiar often feels comfortable. But, the comfort you are holding onto from the past may be pushing away the great life that is waiting for you in the future.

The more you are willing to consciously examine your life, the more you will be able to design a life you love.

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