Emotions and the Ego

The ego is not only the unobserved mind, the voice in the head which pretends to be you, but also the unobserved emotions that are the body’s reaction to what the voice in the head is saying.

We have already seen what kind of thinking the egoic voice engages in most of the time and the dysfunction inherent in the structure of its thought processes, regardless of content. This dysfunctional thinking is what the body reacts to with negative emotion. The voice in the head tells a story that the body believes in and reacts to.

Those reactions are emotions. The emotions, in turn, feed back to the thoughts that created the emotion in the first place. This is the vicious circle between unexamined thoughts and emotions, giving rise to emotional thinking and emotional story-making.

The emotional component of the ego differs from person to person. In some egos, it is greater than in others. Thoughts that trigger emotional responses in the body may sometimes come so fast that before the mind has had time to voice them, the body has already responded with an emotion, and the emotion has turned into a reaction.

Those thoughts exist at a preverbal stage and could be called unspoken, unconscious assumptions. They have their origin in a person’s past conditioning, usually from early childhood. “People cannot be trusted” would be an example of such an unconscious assumption in a person whose primordial relationships, that is to say, with parents or siblings, were not supportive and did not inspire trust. Here are a few more common unconscious assumptions.

Nobody respects and appreciates me.
I need to fight to survive.
There is never enough money.
Life always lets you down.
I don’t deserve abundance.
I don’t deserve love.

Unconscious assumptions create emotions in the body which in turn generate mind activity and/or instant reactions. In this way, they create your personal reality.

The voice of the ego continuously disrupts the body’s natural state of well-being. Almost every human body is under a great deal of strain and stress, not because it is threatened by some external factor but from within the mind. The body has an ego attached to it, and it cannot but respond to all the dysfunctional thought patterns that make up the ego. Thus, a stream of negative emotion accompanies the stream of incessant and compulsive thinking.

What is a negative emotion?

An emotion that is toxic to the body and interferes with its balance and harmonious functioning.

Fear, anxiety, anger, bearing a grudge, sadness, hatred or intense dislike, jealousy, envy—all disrupt the energy flow through the body, affect the heart, the immune system, digestion, production of hormones, and so on.

Even mainstream medicine, although it knows very little about how the ego operates yet, is beginning to recognize the connection between negative emotional states and physical disease.

An emotion that does harm to the body also infects the people you come into contact with and indirectly, through a process of chain reaction, countless others you never meet.

There is a generic term for all negative emotions: unhappiness.

Do positive emotions then have the opposite effect on the physical body? Do they strengthen the immune system, invigorate and heal the body? They do, indeed, but we need to differentiate between positive emotions that are ego-generated and deeper emotions that emanate from your natural state of connectedness with Being.

Positive emotions generated by the ego already contain within themselves their opposite into which they can quickly turn. Here are some examples:

What the ego calls love is possessiveness and addictive clinging that can turn into hate within a second.

Anticipation about an upcoming event, which is the ego’s overvaluation of future, easily turns into its opposite—let down and disappointment—when the event is over or doesn’t fulfill the ego’s expectations. Praise and recognition make you feel alive and happy one day; being criticized or ignored make you dejected and unhappy the next. The pleasure of the wild party turns into bleakness and a hangover the next morning. There is no good without bad, no high without low.

Ego-generated emotions are derived from the mind’s identification with external factors which are, of course, all unstable and liable to change at any moment. The deeper emotions are not really emotions at all but states of Being. Emotions exist within the realm of opposites. States of Being can be obscured, but they have no opposite. They emanate from within you as the love, joy and peace that are aspects of your true nature.

Me and My Story

In The Power of Now, I mentioned my observation that after two ducks get into a fight, which never lasts long, they will separate and float off in opposite directions. Then each duck will flap its wings vigorously a few times, thus releasing the surplus energy that built up during the fight. After they flap their wings, they float on peacefully, as if nothing had ever happened. If the duck had a human mind, it would keep the fight alive by thinking, by story making.

This would probably be the duck’s story:

“I don’t believe what he just did. He came to within five inches of me. He thinks he owns this pond. He has no consideration for my private space. I’ll never trust him again. Next time he’ll try something else just to annoy me. I’m sure he’s plotting something already. But I’m not going to stand for this. I’ll teach him a lesson he won’t forget.”

And on and on the mind spins its tales, still thinking and talking about it days, months, or years later. As far as the body is concerned, the fight is still continuing and the energy it generates in response to all those thoughts is emotion, which in turn generates more thinking. This becomes the emotional thinking of the ego. You can see how problematic the duck’s life would become if it had a human mind. But this is how most humans live all the time. No situation or event is ever really finished. The mind and the mind-made “me and my story” keep it going.

We are a species that has lost its way.

Everything natural, every flower or tree, and every animal have important lessons to teach us if we would only stop, look, and listen. Our duck’s lesson is this: Flap your wings—which translates as “let go of the story”—and return to the only place of power: the present moment.

 

The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle In his insightful look into humanity's ego-based thinking, Eckhart Tolle provides practical teachings for waking up to a new, enlightened mind-set.

More From Tolle:
ARISING NEW CONCIOUSNESS
NOW 
EGOIC MIND
EMOTIONS
PAIN-BODY
LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIPS 
SPIRITUALITY VS RELIGION 
 
 

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