By Tina B. Tessina, PhD
In reading philosophical teachings and writings, I often wonder why the body and the ego are seen so negatively, as if they somehow are antithetical to spirituality. Although ego, body and mind are not all we are, each is part, an expression of the whole self, included in our precious gifts from God, the Universe, Life, Spirit. It would be as sensible to hate or degrade a mathematical problem given me by a teacher for learning purposes. Of course I can be frustrated in my efforts to solve a difficult problem; that is merely an expression of my eagerness to achieve. How much easier on me, however, to enjoy the puzzle, to marvel at my reasoning processes and their growth and development as I draw nearer, bit by bit, to the solution. Even so, frustrated or not, I learn.
There are those of us who love school, and those who hate it. Nevertheless, we are all in school. And the ego, the mind and the body are our major learning tools. Through them, we learn the concepts of attachment/detachment, freedom/responsibility, joy/pain, wisdom/ignorance. These concepts, once grasped and mastered, are our prerequisites for the next level of learning in which we are (perhaps) freed of body/ego and introduced to new tools.
If I reject my body, my ego, or my so-called negative emotions, I am rejecting myself. If I reject myself, I am rejecting a holy creation and gift. If I reject or denigrate integral parts of my self, then I am split, dysfunctional, not whole, and not comfortable in my body and with my sense of self.
How much more joyful it is to regard my life as the finest Montessori School of all time, where the sandbox and mudpuddles offer learning experiences equally as rich and essential as do the books of poetry and lofty philosophy.
We couldn’t enjoy the many sensory and sensual experiences of this life
We wouldn’t learn the invaluable lessons of getting obsessive about those experiences, and learning the self-control they teach us.
We would miss out on learning to love and cherish our brief moments on this planet, the fleeting nature of which is reflected back to us by the body’s aging process.
We wouldn’t be able to interact on a cellular level with the air, food, minerals, water, and the other beings, literally becoming one with the planet on a daily basis.
We would miss the powerful lessons we’re learning right now, that if we pollute our environment, we pollute ourselves – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
We would not have the viceral (gut) experiences of the physical components of our emotion – the hormonally driven ecstasy and agony of emotional joy and pain.
We’d miss out on so much of artistic expression – dance, the musical beat that originally was born of heartbeat, sound, light, color, poetry, theater and all the rest of that exuberance.
We’d have no control over our emotions, and be battered around by them, like a ship in a stormy sea with no rudder.
We wouldn’t be able to protect ourselves against others’ emotions and feelings, and every little thing others said and did would cut us to the quick.
We wouldn’t be able to make plans and follow through to reach goals
We couldn’t keep ourselves going in a productive direction when obstacles come along
We’d have no sense of who we are, how we are the same or different from others, and we’d never learn the lessons of shared humanity.
As a psychologist, I seek to help people integrate all the components of ego, body, emotions, mind and spirit until they all work together in a healthy human way. Perfection is not the goal – healthy living is. When your body (with all its human flaws and imperfections) functions well, all its many cells, organs, hormones, fluids, muscles, bones, nerves and sinews cooperate and work together to help you experience and express your life. When your body, mind, spirit, emotions – and yes, your ego -- work together, spirit doesn’t have to work against ego, ego doesn’t have to work against spirit, and there’s no internal fight – no struggle for supremacy, no inner denial or right/wrong battle. Each component does its part, and all work together to help you become the most shining example of who you are. That’s what the old song about "this little light of mine", and "ET", and "inner light" or "inner spirit" means – when all of who we are works together, we are free to be the best of who we were born to be.
When I think of my body with all its billion miracles and exquisitely effective methods of expression both conscious and unconscious; with all its components of which I approve and those for which I have enough self-denial to disapprove – I am suddenly reminded to regard my whole self (body, mind, spirit, emotions, and ego ) with the awe, gratitude, and gentleness I deserve. I know I can count on all my component parts to help me through my lessons for when my body, my ego, or my feelings you insist I focus my attention I cannot deny them.
My Ego has a sharply focused viewpoint; boundless pride; a fine-tuned sensitivity to others' egos; and the ability to keep me focused: on my uniqueness (often auto-interpreted as weirdness); my responsibility to me; and my essential human aloneness. It is a precious, irreplaceable tool. When I can manage to see myself, not as a disparate collection of separate parts, but as an amazing, cohesive design of interconnected, finely designed components working smoothly together, I am filled with awe at the miracle of each one of us, myself included. When I stop trying to resist, resent, overpower, deny or ignore parts of myself, and instead seek to help the whole human package be the best I can be, I find myself as peaceful and joyful as I have ever been.
I sense that when the time cones to exchange my body/ego for new tools, I will feel bereaved. Let me not waste a moment of this opportunity to learn with such companions as I may not know again, my ego, my emotions, and my body! (From It Ends with You © 2006 Tina B. Tessina)
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., (www.tinatessina.com) is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California, with over 25 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 11 books, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page); How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page); The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) and The Real 13th Step: Discovering Self-Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs (New Page.) She publishes the "Happiness Tips from Tina" e-mail newsletter and has hosted "The Psyche Deli: delectable tidbits for the subconscious" a weekly hour long radio show. She is an online expert, answering relationship questions at www.CouplesCompany.com and Yahoo!Personals, as well as a Redbook Institute expert and "Psychology Smarts" columnist for First for Women. Dr. Tessina guests frequently on radio, and on such TV shows as "Oprah", "Larry King Live" and ABC news.