The safety of the womb shell shatters as you are propelled into a split world. One moment you are cocooned in oceanic bliss with no sense of separation and then, bam, you’re cast out of heaven to go it alone! Cue bright lights, loud noises, a slap on the backside, a gasp for first breath, the feel of cold steel and the terror of disconnection. Expelled from oneness with the source of all creation to be ejaculated into a fragmented universe. Welcome, baby, to the world of form, the ten thousand things, as they say in Zen.
Despite the shock entry into this planet, your sense of separation is incomplete. You are not wholly detached from source because your ego has not yet established its stranglehold. As Wordsworth said: “trailing clouds of glory do we come from God who is our home”. You retain a sense of glorious oneness for around 12 months and then slowly the developing ego charts your downhill course from unity to separation. The boa constrictor ego tightens its grip until, by the time you are a toddler, your true Self is shed. Instead of emerging free like a butterfly you materialize imprisoned within a false self, a persona. The supreme, eternal identity that was manifest at birth has crawled under the carpet of your mind and has become lost to your consciousness. The shriveled persona with which you are left is a poor, frightened creature terrified of removing its many masks. Your whole sense of being is now locked up in this fragmented, contracted small self we call the ego. You have split from your higher Self.
My research* shows how only Aha experiences can begin to heal your split self. It also shows the ego for what it really is, a many-headed beast with constriction at its core. Self-sabotaging inner talk is its specialty. Gremlins, or egoic attack thoughts run the show you call your life. You are on automatic pilot as your life is guided by these unconscious Gremlins. They resonate throughout your bodymind and shrink your whole sense of being. Here, for instance, a client is guided to awareness of how her attack thoughts affect her whole experience of living:
“My coach was encouraging me to reflect on the voice of the gremlin at the same time as exploring the feelings and sensations in my body. The “Aha” moment came as I saw the link between the gremlin and the body and mind response. I felt myself shrinking as I realised that this is too often my tendency” (J. Mc L., client)
Practices for the ego
Gremlins lurk in the shadows of your mind, keeping you stuck in the status quo of who you think you are. They attack you by continually pointing out your weaknesses and failures. They are an ingrained habit of mind that run you like a puppet until you WAKE UP and realise that you are doing this to yourself. This is how:
Whenever you are feeling resistance, fear, or backtracking and focusing on your limiting factors, then be warned, your gremlin has taken centre stage in the drama you call “you”. It tells you variations on the themes of “You are too stupid”, “It’s too risky”, “You’re not ready”, “You’re not equipped”, “You should be stronger”, “They won’t like it if you . . .”
Gremlins appeal to our sense of reason and their “advice” often sounds like constructive analysis: “I’ll be more productive if I wait until Monday”, “I have to earn a living after all”, “I should give xx more consideration”, “No need to be hasty”. They don’t care about your values but make your life a misery if they see that you are not following them: “You’re spineless”, “No follow through”, “Give it up”.
Gremlins can’t stand too much scrutiny, so bring them out of the shadows and get to know him / her / them intimately:
When does he / she / it show up?
How, exactly, does it make you feel?
What does it look like?
What is the name of your gremlin?
Draw / sculpt / make a collage of it /. Write a poem or letter about it.
List the common statements that it tells you.
What is the tone of its voice?
Count the number of times it appears to you this week.
Treat yourself to a great little book called “Taming your Gremlins: A Guide to Enjoying Yourself” by Richard Carson or watch him on youtube.
The trick is to just observe, very gently and with simple curiosity without judgment the nature of your gremlins, or attack thoughts. Is it possible to stand back and simply watch them? If so you’ll derive huge self-awareness.
So commit to smashing through the shell of the ego by drenching yourself in Aha moments. Like a baby bird pecking its way out of its shell, each Aha moment breaks through your wall, taking you closer to the freedom that lies beyond it. And from there you can take flight. All you need do is take on board the ideas set forth in these articles about ego and you will begin to transform your life.
* All quotes are genuine responses from the participants in my research. These participants were clients of Co-Active Coaching who filled in diaries about their Aha moments just after sessions with their coach.