Your Ego – Understanding The Fall From Grace
What Separates You From Your Essential Nature?
We have seen that we in our ego feel fully alive and connected with our Self, we naturally express the wonderful qualities of our pure inner nature. We feel wholesome, at ease inside, content and fulfilled within ourselves. In our relationship our hearts are full, innocent and open. We come together to celebrate our love, not needing love.
Saints and very emotionally healthy people live this way naturally. They are fulfilled within and celebrate Life. But we have seen that most people do not feel unified with their pure Self. Instead, they readily feel the mood swings, the churning inside, and the desperate fear of emptiness inside.
You have seen that what separates people from their pure inner Self is emotional tension and distress. When overwhelmed with too much inner pressures you literally are “not your Self.” This is also when you suffer the most. And when you are suffering inside, your marriage suffers, your children suffer being around those tensions, as others feel the impact and pull away.
What Is the Cause of This Existential Split From Our Pure Self?
The build up of emotional tension is one thing, and emotional trauma is another. When just inner stressful pressure alone builds up inside, the turbulence of the tension can begin to overshadow our relaxed and free sense inside of our pure Self. The impact inside, however, is even more so when we experience traumatic distress. Experiences that severely overwhelm us can emotionally wound us, leaving emotional scars of the unresolved emotional tension imprinted in our brains. It is similar to the impact of traumatic assaults on parts of our body, creating long lasting deleterious effects and imbalances on our body and health.
Our brain is hardwired to protect us for emotional overwhelming experiences. There are natural “gating mechanisms” in the brain that function as voltage regulators, like a fuse box, to limit the amount of tension we consciously experience. They are designed to maintain our inner equilibrium and stability. Whenever the impact of inner stress is too overwhelming we could feel like we’re going crazy. So naturally the gates go up, and to that extent we go numb inside in order to survive.
As the gates go up, however, our consciousness severely contracts. The more traumatic the event the more we experience shock or numbness, like in a tragic accident. As the brain shuts down the overloaded circuit, we shut down emotionally inside, unable to feel much of anything. This is a fundamental survival mechanism in the brain. Whenever there is too much electrical voltage, it will naturally contract to shut down the overload, and as a result we lose our inner Presence of Self.
Even though we may go numb, the impact of the full range of emotions from these scary and traumatic experiences are still registered. They leave imprints of unresolved tensions — emotional wounds — that are now engraved in the subcortical areas in the emotional brain system of the limbic system.
These stressful imprints actually change the brain architecture. Those tensions become grooved-in pathways, which in turn alter our chemical balance in the brain that will then continue after the event. These are what become the basis for the areas of hypersensitivity and insecurity in our personality. When left unresolved, this is what becomes Post Traumatic Stress.
Of course, the time in our life when we are most vulnerable to being overwhelmed is at birth and into childhood. After all, eighty-five percent of brain growth happens in the first three years. That means birth and early childhood are neurologically our most fragile time where the brain is easily overwhelmed. This is when the slightest organismic changes can be overwhelming to our immature nervous system to self-regulate.
We all know that babies and children are too tender to be able handle much stress. With so little brain neuro-machinery as yet developed to absorb or integrate much distress, too much stimulation can dysregulate their whole nervous system. Distress and even neglect that would not seem threatening to us as adults can generate way too much electrical charge for a baby’s delicate brain to innocently integrate fully to resolution. Those tensions become the original psychic wounds imprinted in the fragile brain that have life-long effects.
This is why scientists call the birth and first months of life to be “the critical period” in brain development. Impacts and impressions that affect the survival of the neonate are locked-in in this period and then form the basis for our prominent hypersensitivities and emotional insecurities in our life.
For those interested, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child by medical doctor Thomas Verny documents the research on the effects of stress during pregnancy in the developing neonate. It gives you an appreciation of how potentially disturbing the impact can be on the developing fetus when a mother is filled with inner tension. Even at this stage in the formation of dendritic pathways, inner turmoil can lay the basis for inner sensitivities in one’s later life.
Arthur Janov’s book Imprints: The Lifelong Effects of the Birth Experience is the classic textbook on birth trauma and how its impact establishes the fundamental distortion of wiring that become the basis for our insecurities in our personality.
These emotionally overloaded imprints, like with all original incidents of Post Traumatic Stress, can be biologically very scary. Most people who have experienced PTSD as adults it is because of situations that were perceived to be life or death circumstances. However, for those who grew up in healthy, loving families and never experienced life-threatening traumas, this early critical period is the only time in their lives where they were so biologically vulnerable to traumatic overwhelming impacts. Impacts that can leave life-long scars as pockets of insecurity in their personality. So no wonder it is the human condition to be saddled with emotional sensitivities and insecurities in our personality.
This means that even those of us that grew up in wonderful, loving families can be saddled with inner unconscious insecurities. Those original grooved-in imprints of unprocessed turbulence are further compounded in the myriad of experiences that overwhelm a child growing up. So we end up with a pool of inner pressure underlying our consciousness that separate us from our peaceful and secure essential nature.
Fortunately, like a voltage regulator, the brain uses these gating mechanisms to shut down those circuits inside from entering our consciousness. For most of us, these repressive gating mechanisms in the brain are so effective in cutting off and burying these unresolved feelings and emotional wounds from birth and childhood that it can be very hard to believe that they still are alive inside, seeking resolution. We cannot help but live in denial of the source, and even the existence of core insecurities in our personality.
So no wonder as adults when we become emotionally triggered, many of us have no clue about the source of those tensions inside. How would we readily know? However, it becomes a two-edged sword. On the one hand, keeping those unresolved feelings out of our consciousness protects us as a primitive survival response. Otherwise we would be awash in those turbulent feelings all the time. Yet on the other hand, in keeping those painful unresolved feelings from intruding into our consciousness, and into our lives, we then become prisoners of our pain.
What happens is those original, early insecure grooved-in imprints are then further compounded, enlarged and deepened by all of the further tribulations we go through in our childhood growing up. This continues on into adulthood where we now end up saddled with a whole host of sensitivities and insecurities in our personality. These are also what each of us brings into a marriage.
So regardless of where our insecurities might come from inside, we all recognize that we do have them. It is human. The unrelenting pressures we are saddled with create the inner turmoil that separates us from our natural spiritual Selves. They disturb our natural inner Silence and Peace, our unconditional Love, confidence, and our own inner sense of emotional security. It is these areas inside our selves that we need to become aware of in order to heal and restore our pure, innocent Selves.
Of course you can readily experience this for yourself. Just notice the churning of this reverberating unresolved tension underlying those neuronal gates. This is the emotional pressure deep inside that drives in people distorted and compulsive needs — to overeat, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, take drugs or medications, overwork, act-out sexually, and use co-dependent relationships to anesthetize the underlying pain. So when someone taps his fingers, can’t sit still, becomes easily bored, talks incessantly, chews his nails, can’t concentrate, is depressed, or can’t go to sleep or sleep soundly, they are simply expressing this internal, unresolved, emotional pressure.
Another area where you can readily see the effects of this unconscious, subcortical emotional tension is in the effect it has on people’s physical health. Researchers believe that as much as 80% of disturbances in people’s health is due to inner stress. Look at all the ways underlying emotional pressures can show up affecting one’s health: high blood pressure, digestion problems, ulcers, migraines, PMS, fatigue syndromes, TMJ, backaches, and other psychosomatic diseases. These stress driven maladies do not come from inner peace and happiness inside as when consciousness is pure.
For more evidence, simply look in people’s refrigerator and you will see how they attempt to further anesthetize those feelings by the unhealthy foods they are driven to eat. Those are the foods that will make them emotionally feel better – high sugar, carbs, and unhealthy fats that help to override or numb the churning.
And This is Why So Many People Take Psych Medications
– To Anesthetize Inner Emotional Tension
You can also look in someone’s medicine cabinet and you will see where these inner tensions have affected one’s health by many of the medications they have to take. No wonder that according to CBSnews.com at least seventy percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug. And twenty percent were found to be on five or more prescription medications!
The second most common medication of all types taken in America are antidepressants. Antidepressants are designed to “take the edge off” of the inner pressures churning inside. They are make people feel better by heightening the neuronal “gates” that will anesthetize those uncomfortable feelings.
One of the most popular class of antidepressant drugs that people take are called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI). These include Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft, Paxil and Celexa. Serotonin is a powerful chemical gating mechanism that is produced in the emotional brain system (the limbic system) that inhibits emotional tension. SSRI medications are designed to maintain the brain’s supply of serotonin so that people can function free of those inner tensions. Although they do not heal those underlying imprints, they can keep those uncomfortable feelings from reaching your awareness.
Not surprisingly, stronger medications like sedatives and tranquilizers are designed to bind to sites that are deeper in the brain, in the visceral, reptilian brain systems. This is where the imprints of deeper unresolved trauma are registered — at our core. People who take benzodiazepines like Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Halcion, or Ambien do so in order to truly numb out the stronger, traumatic emotional churning. This enables them to finally relax, get a good night’s sleep, or cope with life.
Interestingly, it is commonly held that these medications are needed to correct a “chemical imbalance.” This is a helpful way to frame it as it takes the shame out of having to take these medications. In fact, it is a chemical imbalance. The overwhelming turbulent emotional distress in the brain is translated into chemicals (neurotransmitters and hormones) going out of balance. So the source of that chemical imbalance is the emotional experience itself. It is not simply due to some unexplained chemical imbalance.
This Is What Generates the Feeling of “Emptiness” at Your Core
Thank heavens for natural gating mechanisms that keep us in balance in our lives. However, this internal numbing of our unresolved stressful feelings inside is what creates the fundamental sense of “Emptiness” at the core of our being. When consciousness is pure and free of distress, we experience wonderful, lively, inherently fulfilling and blissful life-force energies coursing through our natural selves. That is not our experience when we have shut down inside to keep out the distress. Instead we feel this existential sense of “Emptiness” within our selves.
However, in reality it is not really empty inside. It only feels that way when those energy circuits are blocked to shut down the threatening, unprocessed feelings. Underneath those gates, those repressed tensions are alive. That is why they continue to reverberate stressful pressure in the brain and throughout the body, though for the most part outside of our consciousness.
Just close your eyes and you can readily sense it. These inner pressures are what keep you from naturally and fully relaxing into the Silence at the core of your being. Those Saints whose consciousness is pure readily experience that inner Silence, Happiness, and Love within their Self.
Note also that it is only “Empty” inside until those painful circuits become triggered and are re-stimulated and become inflamed. This is when you will feel those actual stored-up, repressed painful feelings, resentments and fears as they emerge into your consciousness. So even though you may feel “Empty” at times, the more empty you feel, the stronger the neuronal gates are necessary to contract your consciousness. And then the less connected you are from your natural relaxed, secure, and happy Self.
These Imprints Conform Exactly to the Patterns
of Your Personality Enneagram Types
Interestingly, no matter what the specific original traumas were, collectively they become generalized as the imbalances of your individual core Enneagram type, your strong wings and lines, and your subtypes. The accumulation of stresses and traumas in your life simply deepen and expand your fundamental Enneagram type’s patterns of sensitivities and insecurities.
For example, the more traumas experienced by perfectionistic Ones, the more likely they will become more obsessed with perfection in their world. This is the exact opposite of the easy-going, peaceful Nines who are saddled with the same traumas. The more unresolved pressures in the Nine, the more passive and tuned-out the Nine will become. Unlike the insecure persnickety One, the shut-down Nine typically does not even notice any mess or disorganization.
You see this clearly among the brothers and sisters who grew up in the same abusive family. Each of the children internalizes and responds to the collective traumas differently according to their individual Enneagram types. As adults, the shared experience has generated completely different patterns in their personalities. The stresses and traumas in life simply deepen and expand that person’s fundamental Enneagram type’s patterns of insecurities and imbalances.
So just as it is important for all of us to become aware of, and recognize, our natural gifts in the purity of our consciousness, it is particularly important to become aware of and recognize our core insecurities that create the problems in our relationship together. This self-awareness can make a huge difference in our lives. And it can even determine the success or failure of our relationships.
The Inner Enneagram shows each of us precisely what those fundamental insecurities are. They show up according to the patterns of our core personality type, strong wings, lines, and subtypes.
The Core Insecurity for Each Personality Type
That is Intolerable to Experience Inside . . .
Type Inner Essence Loss of that Essence, I find Intolerable to Experience…
1 Perfection. Idealism
Intolerable to experience: Imperfection in the world, and particularly within my self.
2 Loving Compassion
Intolerable to experience: Other’s Suffering or Pain.I’m not Worthwhile, Valued, Loveable.
3 Excellence – Beauty
Intolerable to experience: Failure, Feeling Inadequate, Unappreciated, “I Am Nobody.”
4 Divine Feeling That I am No One Special. Abandonment. There is No Passion.
Original. Creative. Unable to Express or Create in life.
5 Cosmic Intelligence Not Knowing. Irrationality. Being Engulfed by People or Emotions.
Silence. Observer Being Emotionally Vulnerable.
6 Cosmic Order Uncertainty in every situation because Bad Things Could
That Sustains Life And Will Happen! To Not Be Prepared!
7 Bliss – Optimism Boredom. My Wings Clipped. Negativity. Suffering. Pain.
Optimism Contraction, Suffering, Pain.
8 Cosmic Will Being Powerless, Weak, Dominated or One-down
– Power Being Vulnerable, Disrespected, Hurt-able
9 Peace-Harmony Tension, Drama, Conflict, Demands, Expectations.
Intolerable to experience: Chores. Being Blamed. Feeling Put Upon, Feeling Flawed.
We Desperately Seek Outside Precisely
What We Are Missing Inside
It is this human emptiness inside that creates in us “ego needs” in our lives. In our committed relationship these are what each of us fundamentally needs in order to thrive. These core needs conform exactly according to our Enneagram types.
It was an incredible revelation for me that came from my couple’s therapy practice. Day after day, couple after couple, I would listen to people of same personality type talk about what they needed in their relationship (and in their life!) in order to feel happy and fulfilled. As they opened up further, those of the same Enneagram type discovered the exact same deep and gripping insecurities that drive those personality needs. So what I am reporting here in these chapters comes from their own mouths, reflecting their authentic experiences with each Enneagram energy type.
It is in couple’s therapy where the singular importance of people’s ego needs become most evident. These are real needs within the person. They are what determine the person’s very well-being in their relationship. In getting married, the partners become locked in and dependent on the other for their core personality needs to be met.
However, most all partners marry someone who has a different personality type with different gifts and different sensitive needs. So their partner’s person’s ego needs can feel completely foreign to them. Or they could conflict with their own needs. But here is the key: if the person’s ego needs are not met, the person suffers. Over years together, that can wear down a couple.
This led to the biggest revelation in discovering that what each partner yearns to experience in their relationship was exactly the same specific quality of their individual essential nature that they have separated from. An easy going Nine has a core ego need for peace and harmony precisely because that is the quality of their inner nature that they have become separated from inside. They more distant they are from that quality within their nature, the more compelled they are to create an environment outside of them selves where they can relax and connect to that place back inside of themselves.
That is why they avoid conflicts as well as unpleasant chores or responsibilities. They instead seek pure peace — to relax and go with the flow as they try to hold on to as much inner peace as possible. Every Enneagram type is trying to find outside of themselves the very quality they are missing deep within their Self.
This Emptiness of that essential quality inside is what creates the yearning and fixation inside of our selves for that core need to experience that very same quality from outside of our self. What we do not have enough of inside, we are compelled to find outside of our self in order to thrive.
So we develop a personality growing up that unconsciously scans for that quality in every situation. A One immediately notices where anything is not perfect, driven by a core ego need to experience and stay connected to their essential nature inside of Perfection.
To the extent each Enneagram type is separate from their essential nature, to that same extent the person is gripped by that core ego need to constantly scan for those same specific qualities out in their environment. The more Empty inside, the more driven they are. It is survival — survival of the ego as it maintains one’s inner well-being.
In the chart above, the empty circles on the left side of the chart represent those areas of Emptiness inside our Enneagram type, strong wings, lines, and subtypes. This repressed, painful collective void inside represented by the circles is what generates the inner pressures in our personality.
The bigger the circles, the greater the sense of Emptiness we feel deep inside, and the more overshadowed is our essential nature. That means the less connected and fulfilled we are within our Selves. It is these inner pressures that are overshadowing our Self in turn drive in us the obsession to fill that core Emptiness. This drive is what tends to throw each of us over-the-top in needing those very qualities outside of our Self. This creates the desperateness to find and need that fulfillment.
So our entire focus is driven to the far right side of the above chart, seeking to constantly experience that big Black Dot, representing the experience of the specific qualities that would enliven our sense of missing Self inside. These are the experiences of all the things that we personally yearn for in life — that make us individually feel whole. We look for them to be fulfilled in our relationship, in our career, our friendships, and from the specific activities that we enjoy. These are what enliven us, relax us, fulfill us, and nourish our sense of Self. They are precisely what will fill the Emptiness of that Enneagram type.
Having ego needs is our common human condition. And seeking to meet those needs is how we are wired to keep our inner equilibrium and not go crazy from too much Emptiness and inner turmoil. This why we are unconsciously scanning the environment in an effort to keep ourselves fulfilled.
When we are successful, it feels wonderful. Those are the times in our life when we are most happy and content. However, this makes us dependent on our outer environment to fill us. However, if our consciousness was pure, we would be naturally fulfilled within our Selves. This is when we feel at Peace inside, secure within ourselves, naturally happing and fulfilled. So now there is no desperate “neediness.”
It is like after a full meal when we are content inside. Enlightened Saints who maintain pure consciousness all of the time do not have attachments, nor ego needs. Why would they? In that inner Silence they feel completely fulfilled within their own Self. Instead of human “ego needs,” they simply have “preferences.” Whenever a preference is not met in the world, there is plenty of fulfillment and inner security within to be content and satisfied. This is why they do not complain in life. Which is what you would expect in a Saint.
When we are free of underlying emotional and organismic wounds that generate inner insecurities, there is no binding hold of “ego needs.” This is everyone’s experience. There are plenty of things that do not really matter to you one way or the other. You do not have any “need” for the situation to be a certain way other than it is.
This is different than when you have ego needs that are generated from Emptiness inside from your Enneagram types. Then there is an inner pressure of “needing” that from the environment outside of the Self. You are now depending on your environment and the people in it to respond to what really matters to you. This is simply because you do not have enough of that quality in your current experience. The more intolerably empty you are, the more emotional pressure that grips you to getting that need met. Isn’t that what an argument is?
On the above chart, that fulfilling Black Dot that fills your need, however, is much like Sugar. When we get that need met it is like a sugar high — it feels great in the moment. We can even get “high” from it, as it hits the spot (of what we are missing inside). The problem is, like sugar, it eventually dissolves and goes away. You wake up the next morning and start all over again, running around and around on the same little wheel trying to stay fulfilled inside of yourself.
It never ultimately fills you, for these are empty calories. This is different from having natural peace and complete contentment inside. That experience comes naturally from the ground of your being. On the other hand, the sugar experience generates a semblance of wholeness inside. It enlivens your essential nature, but the “high” doesn’t last. So we constantly keep scanning the environment, driven by this inner pressure, to be sure those ego needs will be filled so that we stay in equilibrium.
The more distant we are from our pure consciousness, the more we have to keep our focus outside into the environment to keep ourselves filled up. We look for things we love to do. We depend on our partner, our family and friends. For when they let us down, we start moving towards that Emptiness inside. The closer we get to that pure hole inside of ourselves, the more distress we will experience.
Look at the Circle in the above chart again. Notice as you move from feeling In Balance to the left, towards the Circles of Emptiness, initially you will start to feel Irritated on that downward slope. This is where you experience inner agitation and become stressed out as Person B.
You are feeling some frustration inside. The restaurant or movie was a disappointment. Your partner did not respond as you expected or needed. Or you may feel slighted as your feelings were hurt. Or maybe you start to feel a little anxious about what you are anticipating and afraid of.
If you find yourself moving closer to the extreme turmoil at the core of the Circle, you will become Upset as Person C. If you get too close to the Emptiness you will become Furious, or you will just shut down inside in order to feel nothing. It is just too painful there. If you go further and find yourself living in that core of Emptiness, you will want out of the relationship. It is just too much pain.
But the reason most couples want out is that they are having to face their own inner, stored up pain that this relationship continues to trigger. What else to do? Without these shared awareness of these inner dynamics, and without safe tools and frameworks for resolving their differences, tensions, and issues safely, this trajectory can be very difficult.
The alternative is a “Conscious Relationship” where we learn how to safely and consciously resolve together those inner tensions whenever they emerge. Instead of acting them out or shutting down. So then, unmet needs, conflicts and triggers become an opportunity to heal within each other’s the source of the tensions what are emerging.
This is the purpose of this two-volume approach in a Conscious Relationship – to make this necessary process healing, even sacred, as you resolve your insecurities together and grow closer in the process. But the first step is be able to identify precisely what each other’s fundamental core ego needs are that need to be met in order to thrive together. So you can each honor and respond to them. In this orientation, Both Needs Matter, as they are fundamental to each other’s well-being in the relationship, and in their lives. And that is this next chapter.