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  • Writer's pictureAnnelisa MacBean

Unique Self, Unique Path

Participation in various therapeutic and/or spiritual practices these days, requires a degree of ego strength. Without a functional sense of self, some ‘healing’ practices might be unconsciously used as ways of dissociating or avoiding. What might, on the surface, appear to be a blissful dissolving of resistance into open awareness, might also require careful discernment to determine whether we are instead sidestepping, bypassing, or repressing. Differentiating between a functional and supportive path of self-development and “being self-absorbed and ego-identified” is important. We can get confused by spiritual jargon and exhortations about developmental needs, emotional immaturity, and relational trauma being in the mind or ego-based. We can internalize shame because of this kind of confusion, and wind up creating more suffering for ourselves as we wonder why we can’t transcend the human condition!

It’s ironic that many personal growth methodologies or spiritual approaches highlighting concepts of “no-self” or ego transcendence, are using techniques that circumvent or bypass one’s developmental gaps or deficits . . . which ultimately render these approaches unsustainable and ineffective. I'm fond of saying "You have to HAVE a self to be Selfless . . ."In other words, ego transcendence, by definition, requires that an ego be relatively established in order to be transcended. Take notice if you sense a trend in the modern marketing of spirituality or in mainstream personal growth and therapy toward a uniform or one-size “way to be.” If you are questioning your capacity for "accomplishment" on your personal journey, take a pause and reflect. Inner work is unique to each individual and does not always conform to current collective norms.

If a teaching or practice is not working for you, before you conclude it is because you are not “surrendering,” or you do not have enough “faith,” “discipline,” or “commitment,” or you are “stuck in a low vibration” or you should be able to “just get over yourself,” you might wish to consider deeply whether the practice or teacher or teaching is truly serving your individual situation. Perhaps you are not “lost in your ego” but are in touch with your heart, with your body, and with your innate intuition. Just saying . . . perhaps! In my experience, imposing a method or practice upon someone because I think it is the “best” or “most spiritual” one and then subtly or not so subtly shaming them when they are not achieving the identified outcomes or results - when they don’t actually possess the actual developmental capacity (or individual resonance) to engage that practice - is tremendously unkind, needlessly aggressive, and even violent in certain situations. I’ve done it to clients, partners and friends. I regret it! It is one thing to honor the innate higher capacities in others and respect the brilliance of their true nature by inviting them into new, perhaps higher or advanced conceptualizations of reality. It is another thing entirely to force my personal realizations upon a person in a way that does not respect their capacity for relative functioning and the current situation of their lives. It is my own ongoing learning and deepening intention to truly love those with whom I consult and counsel, to push them a bit, according to our agreement . . . but always remain aware of the threshold, the edge, the container, so that I don’t send them spiraling outside their window of tolerance, into overwhelm, re-traumatization, or dissociation as a result of my own unresolved relationship with these energies.

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