Updated: Apr 7, 2018
As part of the Immersion Program, students are asked to reflect deeply on who they are and how their ego formed and functioned in their lives up to this point, and they are invited to write one or more essays, as well as engage in other forms of creative expression. In June of this year, Hanna wrote this essay, which we share with you today, with Hanna’s kind permission.
My Soul Speaks About My Obsolete Ego
by Hanna Jenshagen
My first thought when I was starting to write this essay was, “this is going to be hard”. My ego is always doubting and trying to make me believe that I am unqualified for a new task or challenge that I have not done before. The difference now is that I am aware that this is my ego speaking. I know that I do not have to listen to it anymore. In one way, I almost appreciate it because I connect those feeling with tasks or assignments that challenge me—and that I know my ego does not want me to do since I will grow through completing them.
I believe that I have always been pretty interiorized, in the sense that I’ve known how I’ve reacted in different situations. The difference is that now I understand why I’ve reacted as I have. I knew I loved and needed to be around people, socializing and being part of the social game. My ego needed constant confirmation and compliments to know that I was good enough, that I did well and produced what was expected from me—preferably more than expected so that I would be even more appreciated. I suffered from lack of love, fear of loneliness, and fear of not being liked or wanted.
The personality strategy that I have used most is the “Sweet Molasses” strategy (a “personality strategy” that is unconsciously utilized by the ego, which is explained and deconstructed in the Sat Yoga curriculum). If you ask my friends, family, or former colleagues they would most likely describe me as a very happy, social person that is very easy to both communicate and work with. Most of them had no idea what was going on in inside my mind, beneath the happy face they saw (which many times was honest, but was also a façade that I had to put up to be able to function in the society).
The ego needs confirmation from other people to know that it is doing the right thing, because it has no idea who it really is. For this reason, I was craving confirmation from everybody and would easily feel low if someone did not seem to like me, and I felt I had made a mistake etc. I was very unstable and could go from feeling happy to going into the Lower Death Drive (a downward spiral in consciousness) within seconds. I would also fly high with joy and happiness if, for example, I got rewarded or compliments for an achievement, for feeling unity with someone, or if I simply felt liked and understood. Someone was mirroring me and this, or any other positive energy from another person, was my fuel to stay in a good mood. Quality time with my closest friends was therefore one of the most important parts in my life. My emotional state was dependent on how I felt that other people perceived me. The ego had me fully within in its claws, and I was totally unaware of this.
One of the biggest reasons I decided to go to Costa Rica and come to Sat Yoga is the price I paid for the personality strategy of the Sweet Molasses: I had lost my identity and did not know who I was. Growing up (and frequently as an adult), I focused most of my time on pleasing and helping everybody around me, giving me no time or even interest to look inside of myself. As long as people around me were happy and liked me, I was happy and did not understand that there was another way. My ego was a specialist in keeping me busy, either with activities or thoughts about planning, food, exercise, how interactions with people went and anything to keep me from being silent or analyzing what was really going on. My mind started chattering as soon as I woke up— even at 4am in the morning.
My personality strategy has made me a master of adjusting to every situation, every group of people, and every setting. A few of the (many) fragments from my mother relate to the importance of being responsive. It was all about her, so I always paid full attention to her, reading what she really meant and wanted between the lines. My fragments created the illusion that this is how the world works, and I suppressed my own emotions and wishes. My priority was to be very responsive to my mother and all other people around me. I could be happy when I had made sure that people around me were happy.
This was a lot of work, and I often felt drained of energy. I often felt split, being super social, always helpful and supportive. The next day I would do the opposite: lock myself up alone at home doing as little as possible, refueling the ego from all activity by shutting off and spending time in the lower chakras: cuddling up in the sofa with a big blanket, cushions, and nice food watching TV or movies, and I would sometimes drink a glass (or a couple off glasses) of alcohol to relax, sleep, and to basically “just be”. I always planned free days every week to be sure I would be able to recharge and have enough energy for being out in the world.
The spiritual world was relatively new for me when I came to Sat Yoga. I am learning new tools and a new vocabulary that I did not know existed in either English or Swedish. This has made me much more interiorized in the sense that now I do not only know how I function, I also understand why and can handle different situations in a lot better ways. For example, as mentioned earlier, my ego made me feel anxious about writing this essay. When it comes to producing anything that I have not done before or do not feel confident in, I get performance anxiety. Now I know that that is only my ego trying to take me down the Lower Death Drive by saying that I am not good enough, not clever enough, and so on. Before coming to Sat Yoga, this would keep me in the Lower Death Drive feeling miserable for days! Luckily, I can laugh at it now, knowing that whatever I will produce will be good enough, it does not define who I am or have anything to do with my worthiness.
Love never made any sense for me before. I knew that I did not feel or really understand what love was before I came here. For me, love was always painful in some way. My mother would give me the feeling of never being good enough and then say she loved me; so I thought that love was some kind of love/hate relationship. I also was confused and frustrated that no one seemed to love me unconditionally. Only when I had helped someone, achieved something, or shared a beautiful moment with someone did I feel a touch of love. At the same time, I felt I had something inside of me, an energy or power that I did not know how to get out or use. Finding the connection with God here made me realize that it was actually love that I had inside of me all this time. It is the most amazing feeling I have ever felt. I feel love for nature, animals, everybody around me, the world—and most importantly—the love for myself. This is the very first time I am not doubting myself in every moment or getting feelings of not being enough, worrying what I did wrong, if people dislike me, what a stupid comment I made and all other negative thoughts the ego so easily produces. It is bliss to (most of the time) only have positive thoughts and a heart full of love.
All my positive changes did not happen overnight just by coming here. I have had some tough and heavy days, but I have taken every day as a lesson and opportunity to grow. What I have found really interesting, especially in the beginning, was to analyze what I project on people and why I feel more or less connected to different people here. The people I feel more connected with are most time the people that I feel that I get along with or had a nice conversation with. They mirror me or I project positive qualities on them. I also tend to like the people that have a quality that I wish I had, or I am still unaware of that I have. The times I get frustrated with someone else, I am frustrated with myself. I have had a harder time liking people that have the qualities that I do not appreciate in myself or people that are not as responsive as I am. It has been very revealing to study myself and learn about myself through the interaction with other people.
Today, I know that this world is just an illusion: a beautiful and complex creation. But my soul is ready to stop dreaming this dream of the world and to awaken. It makes it a lot easier to handle the less joyful situations that appear in my life now. I do not take things so seriously anymore and can smile, laugh, and know that it does not really matter anyway—it is just a dream! Interacting with people still makes my mind feel obligated to come up with things to say, mostly just to have something to say (compared to having something meaningful to say) and to keep the conversation going. I see through this now and know that it is only my ego trying to get confirmation from other people. Now, I finally have the peace to sit quietly and do not have to say a single word through a whole meal, meeting, or other social situation. I know that I do not have to say or do anything to make people like me; it does not affect my worthiness. Even though my ego still loves to get compliments for doing a job well, completing a task quickly, for having a great idea, I now smile and know that I am amazing and loved despite all of that, just like every beautiful soul around me. We are all the same, all one, but with unique qualities to serve God and to contribute in different ways within this dream that we are in now and to be able help each other so that we all can re-dream this dream one day.