Saturday, December 12, 2009

Subverting ego

I want to talk about something that will strikes nerves in all of us. Subverting ego. Another word for it is compromise. For many of you, reading the word compromise probably elicits an instantaneous, visceral response. An inner shudder, dread, irritation, frustration, a dogged, militant digging in of stubborn heels, an instant need to avoid and avert, or an outright instinct to flee from the whole situation at hand. We are taught (it is to be hoped) from childhood to play fairly, to share, be kind, tolerant and understanding, to have respect, ethics, morals and firm convictions. From that early age, those lessons are either absorbed and embraced or they are tossed aside in the rush to succeed, gather wealth and worldly recognition. In this sometimes aggressive rushing forward process, we forget who we are.

Usually, by the time we reach our mid- to late 20's, we recognize as adults that all of life is about some form of compromise. Every relationship that exists on this planet involves this concept; relationships with business and professional colleagues, with friends, with family members, with romantic partnerships, with nature, with artistic muse, with education, with health....the list is endless and all of these require learning to compromise.

The intrinsic, guttural response for many is initially to fight and win at all costs when presented with a difficult situation. Many do barrel in and greet life with this approach, heedless of the chaos, pain and destruction left strewn behind them. There seems to be an innate fear that by choosing to compromise, this indicates weakness.

I posit to you that a willingness to compromise is perhaps the better example of strength. 

It is true that alone, we can accomplish a great deal. It is a stronger truth that by joining with others, we can accomplish so much more. The kicker here is that by joining forces with business, in marriage, in friendship....we have to learn the art of compromise.

  • "But my way is best."  
  • "I am always right." 
  • "I don't need any help." 
  •  "I want what I want now!"  

Do any of these sound familiar to you? We are all guilty of those moments. It is just human nature. At times, all of those statements are valid ones. Well, maybe not the "always right" one, because that's a physical and energetic impossibility in this world for any one person to "always" achieve.

The art of compromise requires each of us to do the oftentimes incredibly difficult inner work of subverting our ego. This can be a painful process, admittedly. Few of us embrace change on such a personal level with great enthusiasm, because it means looking at ourselves with clear eyes and ruthless honesty, admitting to flaws, failings and things that aren't necessarily very attractive about our behavior patterns. The good news is, none of us are perfect and we all have those less than pretty inner workings. Our job as individuals, I believe, is to operate on a conscious level each day, and recognize those moments that are presented to us to change, evolve and become better versions of ourselves. Compromise is almost an inevitable step in this process.

I am not one who marches through life with an aggressive tilt to my chin. My approach is calmer, more peaceful and thoughtful. Does this approach always serve me well? For the most part, yes. I can admit, however, that there are definitely times where a more aggressive approach is necessary and this is a lesson that I have learned, processed and absorbed over the years.

It is important to note that a calm, kind spirit does not indicate any degree of passivity or lack of strength. 

When the situation calls for it, I can present a harder demeanor and accomplish what I set out to do. The delicate balancing act is to do this with personal integrity and kindness, and that is the tricky part we all wrestle with on a daily basis. In order for me to learn this particular lesson and gain this valuable life tool, I had to compromise and be willing to change in an elemental manner. For many, the converse is true; that aggressive approach is second nature, and for them, the compromise and painful learning process is to embrace a softer, kinder application of energy.

The beauty of this whole concept is that through compromise, through subverting ego, we learn that by joining together with others for various purposes, we become more than would be managed alone. Compromise produces complement. My love of words rears its head and I feel the need to list the definition of these two words:

Main Entry: 1 com·pro·mise
Pronunciation: \ˈkäm-prə-ˌmīz\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, mutual promise to abide by an arbiter's decision, from Anglo-French compromisse, from Latin compromissum, from neuter of compromissus, past participle of compromittere to promise mutually, from com- + promittere to promise
Date: 15th century
1 a : settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions b : something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things

Main Entry: 1 com·ple·ment
Pronunciation: \ˈkäm-plə-mənt\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin complementum, from complēre to fill up, complete, from com- + plēre to fill — more at full
Date: 14th century
1 a : something that fills up, completes, or makes perfect b : the quantity, number, or assortment required to make a thing complete

So, to paraphrase..."blending qualities of two different things..." "...required to make a thing complete." I find absolute beauty in the marriage of these two thoughts. For those of us who have fallen in love, the merging of these two concepts make perfect sense, for we become a much brighter, more shining, aspiring version of ourselves through loving another.

The jarring, perhaps amusing fact to point out is that just beyond the first rosy glow of love comes the prosaic, mundane rolling forth of life that requires....once again, compromise. 

Subverting of personal ego then becomes necessary; subverting our own immediate wants, wishes and needs, subverting ego in order to create a happy and workable balance with that other person.

Yes, we can be happy alone. Yes, we can achieve success in business by ourselves, to a degree. The simple, inescapable truth remains that this planet is full of people and operates on the concept of personal interaction with others. Therefore, compromise and subverting of ego is an inevitable part of life. Friendship, companionship and family cannot exist in an isolated state for any of us; this is simply not possible. I find on a personal level that when someone close to me challenges me, or pushes me to adapt and change, ultimately the changes and refining of myself that occur enrich my life. I find more satisfaction in the particular area that was highlighted, and also find the relationships involved in producing those changes become stronger and more resilient.

A better, brighter, stronger version of who You are capable of becoming; this is the end product of subverting ego and considering the other side with a genuine desire and enthusiasm. It cannot be stressed enough - compromise produces complement.

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