exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity
How To Sit Quietly
In A Room Alone
feeling "less" when others have "more"
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It’s not possible to sit quietly alone in a small room if you believe that the center of your life resides externally.
Picture yourself chatting with a friend. You share a certain sense of affinity and you enjoy the other’s company. The conversation turns to work and career, and you learn that your chum has found a new job or has been promoted. This advancement, however, is not of marginal significance but one that elevates, virtually, into a new higher social status. Before this announcement, you two were fairly equally “valued,” you might say, but – this changes things.
Why does it change things? Before we proceed, it’s good to understand that this sudden sense of inequality might have been variously precipitated: your friend just won the lottery or inherited a large sum of money; their child was accepted to medical or law school; a new larger, more prestigious house will be purchased; someone in their family has written a book or created some work of art or has been honored with an award.
But, here’s the interesting part – interesting like a train wreck: Outwardly, you might express congratulations, praise and accolade, and even try to mean it. However – what’s happening to you on a deeper level? Can you feel it? - the unexpected burning sensation, the cognitive dissonance, the internal upheaval. You suddenly feel “less” at your friend’s glad tidings of “more.” Feelings of diminishment now lead you to the precipice of anger, resentment, envy, and even retaliation.
What’s really going on in all this mayhem? The truth is, the “Needy Little Me” ego has no friends, only accomplices. It allows others to come close only that it might “hold court,” bolster itself, gain relative advantage.
Is this judgment too harsh?
Thirty years ago, one summer evening, I was walking with a young couple. They were having financial difficulties. He had no gainful employment, and she’d just had a baby. However, she then announced that she was planning on making things better, that she’d be going back to school to become a nurse. Also, in the course of conversation, extended-family problems were revealed, a certain disdain for education from the in-laws. Sensing what might be coming for her, and for them, I offered a comment, something like this:
“All of your plans are very good, and they will help your family a great deal. But, you should understand that when you become an educated person, when you improve your resume and credentials, the people around you will begin to see you differently. You might not like to hear this, but your whole circle of friends is likely to change.”
I still recall her reaction to my jeremiad. Surely, my prophecy was a little extreme, she thought. Would not others be happy for her success? Two years later, the newly-minted RN found herself rejected by her husband, divorced; further, he now sided with the angry in-laws who now blamed her “for everything.” Her crime? She’d improved herself, had reshuffled the power-structure in the family, made everyone feel “less” by her “uppityness,” and none could forgive her for such capital offence.
I said that the ego believes that the center of its life resides externally. What does this mean? It means that the ego identifies with, attaches itself to, things or concepts of the world in order to bolster itself, to become "more." Through a derivative existence, it seeks to enhance or to add to itself. It doesn't realize that it already has "enough" via the deeper true self.
Try this. The next time you hear news of someone's inheritance, the new house, the promotion, the honored child, the new college degree – anything that threatens to upset relative dynamics between associates – instead of allowing the ego to drag you into feelings of "less," quiet your mind. Turn a mental spotlight on the process. Observe, with inner eyes, what the ego is trying to do to you. Don’t fight it, just watch it, as you become the witnessing presence. Allow yourself to experience: “Oh, so this is what it’s like to feel diminished and less.” As your sense of awareness grows, you begin to reclaim energy from the “false self” and cause it to shrivel.
Feeling "less" when others have "more" is a common reason why people cannot sit quietly in a small room alone. Instead, they will be rabid to get out there, in "ego repair mode," to "do" something about a perceived poverty.