Category Archives: egocide

Egocide: an update

iStock_000002243886XSmall(For background on egocide, check out this post.)

The oddest thought crossed my mind the other day. I was driving on the highway, listening to music (which I rarely do) and the thought crossed my mind: “I am happy.” Now this may not seem like an odd thought to many of you but, believe me, it definitely is one of the oddest thoughts I’ve had in the last five years.

Now, I pause here for a moment or two because I’ve learned a lesson about talking about how good things are. Take my allergies, for instance.

I’ve had allergies all my life and everywhere I’ve lived. About five years ago, I went to a Chinese herbalist who was very successful in treating them. However, no matter how long I am allergy free, if I talk to someone about how good I feel the very next day I have a massive allergy attack. It never fails. I seem to live in that middle zone of “even Steven.” I get a little extra money and without fail I have an unexpected bill. I have a great week at work and am extremely productive and the next week I’m useless. It never fails.

So, with great hesitation and much knocking on wood I continue with my story.

As I was saying, the thought entered my mind: “I am happy.” This was such a strange thought to have that it really took me by surprise. I began trying to figure out how I could possibly have had such a thought. Here’s what I came up with:

As I mentioned in my previous post on egocide, I’ve been thinking that “computer guy Ken” is the part of my ego that must die. And it seemed that the Universe agreed with me because I’ve had only a handful of working hours the past few months. The Universe, however, was not providing an alternate revenue source which, in my current position, is really quite crucial to my longevity. So, as you can imagine, I was quite discouraged and disillusioned with the whole “the Universe will provide” mantra.

Upon further contemplation, I realized that I had made some decisions recently which had great bearing on the question at hand. For a long time now:

  • I have been living a life defined by depression.
  • All my actions and reactions have been modulated by the idea that, “I have depression.”
  • I monitored myself so that I did not appear too happy because if I appeared happy then people would not know that I suffered from depression.
  • I so lamented my life situation—work, relationships, lack of energy, &c.—that it was impossible for me to be other than sad and depressed because I was allowing external circumstances to dictate my emotional state.

In short, I was using my depression as a “scarlet letter A” (I guess a “blue letter D” would be more appropriate) and proudly bearing the stigma in front of the entire world.

Recently, however, I decided that

  • This attitude is extremely detrimental to my health and wellbeing
  • Who says I have to be depressed all the time?
  • I deserve to smile and laugh and I should allow myself to do both
  • Yeah, a lot of things suck right now but that doesn’t mean I can’t smile and laugh

So, almost unconsciously, I decided that my attitude needed to change. Drastically change. Well, that and I had to drink less. A LOT less.

When the thought “I am happy” crossed my mind the other day, and I gave it some thought, I realized that the ego I thought needed to die was not the ego that needed to die. “Computer guy Ken” was not the part of me that needed to die. Even though it’s the part I wanted desperately to get rid of, it was not the part that needed to die. What needed to die was the prevailing attitude I maintained about myself. And, guess what. After that “decision” was made, I found out that I am getting a semi-shit load of work in 2014. Since I’m no longer trying to kill off “computer guy Ken” this work is very welcome—I’ll be able to eat and put gas in my car!

The lesson learned here is that egocide is subtle; it’s not what you think it is.  I wanted a certain part of me to die but that wasn’t the part that needed to die. It took me quite a while to figure that out. Yet, once I did figure it out, other things seemed to fall into place. And that makes it difficult to talk and think about. When I read David Rosen’s description of his egocide and the account of Buckminster Fuller’s egocide it all sounded quite simple. Pick something and let it die. What could be easier? Well, it’s not easy. Not easy at all. My unconscious is far smarter and far more informed than is my ego. Yet it is my ego which does my thinking and it is my ego which wants to be in control and to survive. Getting my megalomaniacal ego to step aside and giving the unconscious free reign to decide what really needs to die takes time and patience and dedication. It takes the willingness to be surprised by and subservient to the unconscious.

But, if you remember that the unconscious really does have your best interests in mind, then it’s no different than following the direction of a mentor or spiritual leader. They don’t always tell us to do what we want to do and it’s oftentimes quite uncomfortable and disconcerting to follow their direction. But, in the end, we will see that their way was the better way.

Egocide and suicide

egocide and suicideLately, I’ve been thinking about egocide. (Why does my autocorrect want to change that to “geocode”??) I’m at the end of my rope and climbing back up is not an option. I’ve got to change. Drastically change. Kill off the “Ken” I think I am and reinvent “Ken.” Killing off, or sacrificing, my concept of myself amounts to killing off my ego—egocide.

David Rosen, in his book Transforming Depression, describes egocide as “a symbolic killing of the ego that is experienced as ego death: a sacrifice of the ego to the Self, a higher principle.” Rosen went through this in his own life. “It was the ego-image [he] had of [himself] as a husband that was sacrificed. When [he] released that image, [he] found [he] could surrender to a higher power within [himself]—the Self.

The other day, as I was starting this post, I found a blog post about Buckminster Fuller’s egocide. The idea was that he would throw away his ego. He would not work for himself or for material gain but solely for the greater good. He trusted that his needs would be met. Apparently, trusting the universe to provide worked out pretty well for ol’ Bucky.

Then, I was watching the last episode of Top of the Lake (streaming on Netflix) and there was the following conversation between Robin, the protagonist, and GJ, a guru-type. Robin had just gotten some very bad news.

Robin: I don’t know how to keep living.

GJ: So, you’re on your knees? Good. Now die to yourself. To your idea of yourself. Everything you think you are, you’re not. What’s left? Find out. … Stop thinking.

Robin: I need to help Tui

GJ: You people all want to help someone. Help yourself first. Like the airplane. Put on your own mask first.

Robin: How do I help myself?

GJ: Why should I tell you when you don’t listen.

Robin: I’m listening.

GJ: No! All you hear are your own crazy thoughts like a river of shit on and on. See your thoughts for what they are. Stop your helping. Stop your planning. Give up. There is no way out. Not for others. Not for you.

Egocide is about death. And that’s why it is an alternative to suicide. When in a depression, there is no future and no past. Time doesn’t move. Therefore, nothing changes. I can’t envision a time when I wont be depressed. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t depressed. All I have is this moment. This overwhelming, oppressive moment. But things must change because they are intolerable as they are. If things can’t change with time then death is the only answer. Death is the only way to make things change. Something must die. If not the body then, perhaps, the ego can be a surrogate.

The real question is: what images of myself, exactly, do I need to sacrifice? I’ve been trying to let go of “Ken the computer guy” for a while but the problem is that he’s the only one making any money. But, perhaps it’s my feeling that way which is preventing all the other Ken’s from bringing home some bacon? Maybe there’s also the aspect of letting go of negative images—the “I’ll never be a real writer/painter.”

I don’t think there has to be something there to fill the gaping hole left by the sacrificed ego. That’s too much planning. If egocide is a surrogate for suicide then there can’t be a replacement already in the wings. Perhaps some people can transition from one stage to the next easily. They know in advance what they want to do before they get to the point of needing to terminate the old “them.” But, not everyone. I’ve known for a while now that something’s gotta change but I didn’t know what/how/when.

Well, I’ll keep you posted on what’s going on and how I see the imminent transformation shaping up. So, keep reading!