I sometimes wonder how many words have been written by philosophers of all kind about the human psyche and personality traits within us. Perhaps what I am pursuing is that age old struggle between the id and the ego, or in my words good and bad.
I am a selfish person, or I was. I know we have an inbuilt survival instinct that is based strongly around self and self-preservation, but as we are also social animals we have to be keenly aware of the ‘pack’ and the impact our thoughts and actions have upon others. Selfishness is borne when we nurture an imbalance of self in relation to others and for some (myself included) and we allow it to become the norm in our lives.
It is like a seed that becomes a tree. The main trunk spreads to thinner and thinner branches and further away from the nurturing stem. Self-preservation evolves unchecked into selfishness, which in turn seeks to justify itself in order to be accepted and finally the self-centred ego proclaims that it is not only right, but just.
Simply acknowledging another person’s perspective is a slightly more subtle form or self, or to paraphrase it ‘Yes, he/she has a point, but ultimately I am right!’ You may wish to add condescension at this point, but the main thrust of that person’s argument is to concede a small amount to preserve the inner victory or being right. Thus preserving in the mind the higher ground so to speak.
I am a recovering gambler and few ailments have more selfish and destructive traits. So we work on recovery that is based on humility and selflessness. It is a daily task that goes on for ever. A job never done, but always ‘work in progress’ I have found that true selflessness seeks no praise or reward; to do so feeds the ego and tips the balance away from humility to false pride.
I use a lot of similes in my writing and in relation to this topic I use the idea of a bungee rope. I am tied to my ego and on the far wall is a half painted image of a selfless, truly humble me. I have a brush in my hand and whilst I have strength I can stretch to the other wall and add to the better me. Sometimes I am pulled back and end up against the ego wall, but my vision refocuses on the other me and I summon both courage and strength to go again.
Like the old Fourth Bridge, the painting will never be complete because as I stay on the ego side the selfless painting begins to fade again and I must constantly refresh it.
The funny thing is that if I stayed with my ego life would probably require much less effort for me, but seeing, accepting and conceding to others in true humility is much better for the social animal we have become.