As we have seen, the global human predicament is pathologically dysfunctional and also unsustainable. The ego culture is destroying the biosphere and causing endless suffering. Circumstances request that we individually break free from this thousand- headed monster we call the (super)ego and the ego culture that it has spawned over thousands of years.
The Toltec culture shows two ways of breaking free: the ego recognizes its dysfunction and progressively “dies,” withdrawing from its addictive function; or it lets go of the emotional charge. This is rare. More common is to cut off one head of the monster at a time.
The ego program is very resistant to letting go because it is programmed daily at a very early age to obey and to pretend virtue. It has generations of history. The focus of the dysfunction is the grossly bloated superego resulting from tens of thousands of corrections, scoldings, putdowns, shame and guilt during the first 15-plus years of life.
All these corrections displace a child’s inherent confidence, curiosity, creativity, joyfulness, spontaneity, magic, courage and self responsibility (the true self). The superego, which is the active principle of the ego, drives emotional addiction/conditioned emotional reaction patterns. The “good” “bad” split forced on children by well-meaning, but equally condition parents and authorities, results in a hyperactive, hypersensitive inner monitor/judge that evaluates us minute by minute for success-failure, better-worse, should-shouldn’t, gaining or losing, progress or falling behind. This vicious cycle carries emotional weight: suffering.
So diligent is this program in fact that it leaves us no peace. We have no escape, no peace of mind [theme song for our era: “Can’t get NOOO satisfaction!!” Rather than “letting each day be sufficient unto itself” and waking up to a clean, fresh innocent morning, we wake up into the ego daydream. Even experienced meditators usually can’t maintain thoughtless meditation for more than a few seconds. This is a miserable, enslaved existence, and totally unnecessary. But to break free, we need to intentionally understand the trap we are in.
The evidence of dysfunction can lead to a quantum of evidence that leads to a conviction that leads to a decision that we don’t need to be driven by our egos/superegos. We urgently need to get free. Once we have the solid and unwavering conviction/decision the breaking free process has already begun. The Zen paradox is that the ego cannot free itself: we cannot “try”, because all trying and efforting is ego. But “the truth can make you free” is workable… IF the commitment is solid.
To understand our trap, we must understand the dynamics of emotional addictions. We know now: 1) All compulsive addictions are heavily conditioned into us and get reinforced every time we indulge them. 2) Addictions get triggered reflexively, and are therefore faster than thought (mentally uncontrollable). 3) All addictions are triggered by attachment: for or against. 4). All addictions have history that develop into sub-personalities. They take over control (i.e., we become possessed) from our normal well-being. We become compromised and displaced. 5) Once triggered these emotional addictions are extremely hard to clear because emotions trigger thoughts which trigger emotions in a cycle. 6) Because of their early origins, they are juvenile and regressive. 7) Usually defensive. 8) Generate physical and chemical reactions that result in tension, body armoring and suffering. 9) Mechanical and robotic. We become driven by the addiction. 10) The addiction distorts our perception and therefore our responses. 11) Emotional addictions are just programs that we can reprogram if we know how. 12) If one does nothing, the program remains and becomes reinforced.
• Arius Hopman lives in Hanapepe. This column, part of a series, was adapted from his manuscript “The Ego Empire Exposed.”