Avoiding the Ego Trap: “You” isn’t Real
Science of Success
AVOIDING THE EGO TRAP: “YOU” ISN’T REAL
“You” isn’t real. This seems to be nonsensical even crazy, but consider it. The idea you have of who you are and the idea others have of who you are doesn’t actually exist moment to moment as a concrete or fixed reality. Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher born in 544 B.C. said it like this,
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”-Heraclitus
Even if you turned right around and walked right back across the very river you just crossed, the river is constantly moving and changing and so are you. Neither you nor the river is what it was just a fraction of a second before.
Is ego really a trap? Is your identity of who “you” are grounded in factual, unbiased information? What is so wrong with believing that you know exactly who “you” are? In a phrase, maybe A LOT. What if the reason you are unable to see yourself as a winner is because you have a mentality that you have lost more than you have won? Does that force you to identify yourself as a loser?
What if what our mind has summarized as “self” is flawed, faulty, distorted, or worse focused on primarily negative past outcomes due to our lack of ability to fully detail every event we have ever experienced? We know our memories are flawed at best.
The act of remembering something requires a mix of conscious and unconscious processes so complex that it’s a near-miracle we’ve been able to glean the tiniest insights into it, and so automatic that we often take it for granted. The process is also easy to screw up which is a point that criminal psychologist Julia Shaw demonstrates in her new popular book, The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting and the Science of False Memory. Shaw’s debut book is a frightening exploration of how we remember, and why everyone remembers things that never truly happened.
What if this means that the “you” that you have felt is you is just a mental model created by your mind summarizing your experiences and isn’t really you at all? Now, I want to invite you to consider how embracing this type of thinking might empower you to abandon your limitations and soar to new levels of thinking.
The Ship of Theseus: We are Constantly Changing
Here’s the thought experiment:
In Plutarch’s Life of Theseus, Plutarch describes how the ship of Theseus, an Athenian hero, was preserved by the people of Athens in battle-ready condition for many centuries. Each time a board decayed, it would be replaced until eventually every stick of wood in it had been replaced. Plutarch therefore asks:
“Is it still the Ship of Theseus, or is this a new ship?“
The ship of Theseus is a thought experiment that raises the question of self identity by questioning if an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object. That’s you, every moment of every day, each cell in your body is decaying and being replaced by new ones. You are the ship of Theseus.
Plutarch thus questions whether the ship would remain the same if it were entirely replaced, piece by piece. Centuries later, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes introduced a further puzzle, wondering what would happen if the original planks were gathered up after they were replaced, and used to build a second ship. Hobbes asked which ship, if either, would be the original Ship of Theseus.
If it is then supposed that each of the removed pieces were stored in a warehouse, and after the century, technology developed to cure their rotting and enabled them to be put back together to make a ship, then the question is if this “reconstructed” ship is still the original ship. And if so, then the question also regards the restored ship in the harbor still being the original ship as well.
How can relating this thought experiment to ourselves help us avoid the ego trap? If you are constantly being updated cell by cell, memory by memory, experience by experience, in what way is the you tomorrow the same self as the you of today? Is it more empowering to allow yourself to just embrace the experience of being human? Abandoning a strict view of self can empower us to be who we want to be rather than being bound to an idea of who we thought we were.
Focus on this next exercise to help you connect to the traits, habits, and qualities that you admire most in yourself when you are being the best version of yourself.
Imagine you are waiting on a flight to the vacation destination of your dreams. You are packed and there is no shortage of time, energy, or money for this journey. As you notice how excited you are to embark on this trip, you happen to hear your name being spoken to another person just over your shoulder. As you turn, you recognize these two people chatting about you and you realize that you admire and respect these two very much. These could be a fictional, historical, or living figures, but you just know you care what they think.
The first person says to the second, “do you happen to know (Insert Your Full Name)?” The second figure then lights up with approval and says an emphatic, “YES!” and continues with, “Do you know what I love most about them, they are. . .”
Now, write down 3-5 character traits, behaviors, or habits that you would want them to say about you. If you walked away and everyone saw these few traits in you and believed that this is who you are, it would matter and it would be good enough for you to be proud of the impression you had made.
This is an exercise called Preframing Self, by connecting with these traits, you generate the physiology and a template that your subconscious will adhere to in order to convey that message to everyone you interact with resulting in the version of you that you feel is most important to you. If you need more help with this exercise, try the following video tutorial. Remember, “You” isn’t real, so choose the version of You that you present to the world and don’t let a faulty memory tell you who you are.
“Be Your Own Hero.”
JAMES PESCH WELCOMES YOU BACK!
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James is a Human Behavioral Specialist living in Tulsa, who is skilled in Linguistics, NLP, Mentalism, & Counseling, creating content so YOU WILL “Be your own HERO.” -James Pesch
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