“Dad, how much did we win last year…a thousand pound wasn’t it?”
At the age of 8 his ego was in full swing, an ego that had developed from the breath of his parents. My ex wife and I taught our son to speak. We taught him how to string words and sentences together to form conversation. What we didn’t realise was we were also helping to form his ego.
This year I have won three online poker tournaments. Each time I have won I post my results on Facebook and Twitter and look forward to the praise. When I am working at a poker tournament I will mention to the players that I won $10,000 in a tournament. In fact, just this evening I told a poker player that I had won $10,000 in a tournament. When I play live, and win, I tell my mum, my friends and my girlfriend. When I have written something that I think is good quality I will ask people to read it. When I had my Mohican I asked people what they thought and when I shaved it off I repeated the same question. I am sharing a room in Monte Carlo with my friend. I just got back to the room and took my top and jeans off to do my sit ups and crunches. My mate asked me why I had taken my clothes off to do my exercises and I told him that it was because I would get sweaty. I wonder if my ego told me to take my clothes off to show my friend that I had developed a little muscle tone?
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre somebody had to dig through all of the rubble and recover all of the bodies. As described in the excellent book EGO: The Fall of the Twin Towers and The Rise of an Enlightened Humanity Peter Baumann explains how this horrific job fell to officers of the Port Authority (PA). For eight months these people climbed into the “Pit,” to dig out bodies twelve hours a day, seven days a week. Here is an extract from that book by Officer Karl Olszewski.
“When you are in the hole and someone passes you the torso of what used to be your fellow officer, who you knew, and then they pass the skull of a woman he tried to save, that is when the gravity of the situation starts to hit you.”
The state of trauma that the PA’s were subjected too was unprecedented. But there were a second set of feelings as well. The Port Authority were almost unknown to the media,
“We felt ignored. It affected us department wide. We communicated with all the agencies; we were the first in and the last out. We were forgotten about,” said Officer Peter Hernandez.
It was not enough for the Port Authority people to do the right thing. There was also the natural inclination to be acknowledged for doing it. The NYPD and FDNY were getting all of the media attention and the PA was nowhere to be seen.
We all need to be acknowledged and accepted in our society – our ego demands it. This is why my son wanted people to hear his story about his winning bet, why I tell all and sundry about my poker winnings and why the Port Authority personnel felt like they were ignored in the wake of 9/11.
We love it when people think we look great. We think we are pretty special if people think we have money. In school we wanted the best grades and to be captain of the football team. These events make us feel valuable and fill us with pride. Pride is the fuel for the ego.
Over time you fuel your ego and it takes over your mind and body. You cannot keep pace with all of the expectations and fear starts to set in. You start to compare yourself with your friends and try keeping up with the Joneses. This constant struggle to compete – to satisfy your ego – is tiring and causes a great deal of distress. The very loved ones that you are trying to impress quickly become your enemies as arguments rise out of the ashes almost from the mouth of the Phoenix itself.
I now understand that the root of all of my misery grows from the foot of my ego. I have allowed it to grow – unchecked – throughout the years, and it is time that I gained control. I am not sure how exactly I am going to win this battle, but for now I am reading about it, learning, meditating and being a hell of a lot more mindful.
Are you aware that your ego rules your life and creates misery for you? Tell me a story where your ego got out of control.
Extracts taken from the excellent book EGO: The Fall of the Twin Towers and The Rise of an Enlightened Humanity by Peter Baumann and Michael W.Taft
Photos courtesy of rhonda_liberman (cc @ flickr.com)