Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician with experience working with adults, couples, families, adolescents and older children since 1976. His aim ...Read More
Transcending the Ego’s Right/Wrong Game and Self-Righteousness
An excerpt from his forthcoming book
Awakening to Sanity: Being Sane in an Insane World
—A Traveler’s Guide
“Until you transcend the ego, you can do nothing but add to the insanity of the world.”
—John Randolph Price
“I fear nothing, I hope for nothing, I am free.”
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Under the radar, in thousands of different disguises, beyond all reasonability and immersed in being right is the wily imaginary ego’s attachment to being positional in everything from politics to religion, opinions to interpretations, judgments to explanations, soup to nuts. Holding beliefs and positions are virtually identical given that the ego “makes up” or “dreams up” each, is attached to each, and refuses to release and surrender either given it is incapable of this. All it knows how to do is hold on tightly and even more tightly to its attachments, desires and wants by ever defending and justifying the status quo while avoiding, denying and excusing not changing and transforming.
Being positional is characterized by one ego taking a “position” of any sort on anything, that is, declaring it is right, good, fair and just to hold a specific point-of-view. Such a position is typically held strictly, tightly, strongly, rigidly and strategically to gain some advantage, power, control, influence or other ego desire. Another ego can join in taking the same position so they are now positional together in conformity. Alternatively another ego can object to the position by taking a counter-position so they are at cross-purposes in acting oppositional and rebellious. The first is what you could call the “right-right game,” while the second is the “right-wrong game.” Both of these purely express the ego’s self-righteousness and its refusal to take any honest ownership, responsibility or accountability for anything.
Being positional may be one of the greatest hindrances to true cooperation, collaboration and respectfully, reasonably negotiating any workable common ground on this planet! You can be positional about anything by taking a position over anything. For example, you can be positional about the weather being beautiful or nasty, business being rotten or terrific, a favorite sport team coming through or caving in the clinch, and an elected official being the worst ever or a hellava leader.
Good luck in having a discussion with anyone so positional since it typically degenerates into an argument, debate or fight ensuing with no real winners coming out of this melee. My father once remarked, “God save me from the man who thinks he is right!” Just how do you engage in a useful discussion that provides clarity and yields workable agreement with anyone who is closed-minded, self-righteous, unwilling to see or hear you, doesn’t know you, isn’t present and brings no intention or vision of forging common ground? Your guess is as good as mine.
Being non-positional is relatively unknown. Learning to be non-positional preserves your apparent choice and dissolves self-righteousness. For illustration, one person may say that it’s only right and fair to go the restaurant of their preference, while the other person reactively opposes that restaurant, refuses to go to it and insists on going to another restaurant or making a meal at home. Thus, position and counter-position-a deadlock producing only increased polarization, resistance, separation and opposition. Once again, because any position and counter-position is inherently interdependent, that is two aspects of the same pattern, the way out is to refuse to take either. By refusing to take any position, whether joining them in their position or fighting them by taking a counter-position, you are beyond all positions and being non-positional. The game crumbles. If we let it go, it will get gone.
Being non-positional is not to be confused with being wishy-washy, ambivalent, indifferent, apathetic, permissive, non-principled or laissez faire. Being non-positional can be seen in a person refusing to argue a hot political or religious issue with a friend or family member who is extremely invested in what’s right or wrong about it. If you don’t show up for the debate, there is none. Since it takes two to engage in an argument, excepting those who can do it all alone, there is no argument and the game is moot. Being non-positional and having strong principles and values are neither incompatible nor oxymorons. Being and acting in a non-positional way acts as an antidote for the ego-mind’s “right-wrong game” and its self-righteousness since it points to universal love.
Being non-positional is illustrated in a person refusing to argue a hot political or religious issue with a friend or family member who is extremely invested in what’s right or wrong about it. When you don’t show up for and engage in a debate, there is none. When you don’t feed energy and activity to highly positional folks, there is no battle. Since it takes two to engage in an argument, excepting those able do it all alone, there is no argument and the game is moot. Being non-positional and having strong principles and values are neither incompatible nor an oxymoron. In fact, being non-positional is a trademark of universal love and the One.
An individual can have different views on specific issues and voice them while still supporting the person’s right to hold any position they want. The non-positional person might say, “That’s O.K.” or “I hear you” or “You’re certainly entitled to see things like that.” The non-positional person can also abide in equanimity and silence when there is nothing to say and nobody who is present and able to listen. The non-positional person freely offers simple kindness, love and compassion to everyone, beginning with this one, being of the One. You can even do all of this without getting emotionally triggered or taking any position. You’re free.
“Taking a stand” is both non-positional and proactive. How did Lao Tsu, Shakyamuni Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. be both proactive and non-positional? By “taking a stand” in accord with their values—the virtues, qualities and sentiments of divinity, that is, our True Self, who we truly are and Truth itself. Not one explained or justified or aimed to convince anyone of anything. Not one argued, debated, battled or fought anyone. Each spoke and lived the Truth that uncovers and reveals our Self that is already free, even as all great faiths, religions, mystics and sages have affirmed throughout the ages.
By not allowing or permitting their ego to take a position while embodying the virtues, qualities and sentiments of Spirit and our luminous essence, each of these “radicals” empowered their fellow human beings to elevate their consciousness, evolve in a vertical ascent through stages of development and arise in being as one in Divinity. Oftentimes people are unaware that the very first definition of the word “radical” in the Webster’s New World Dictionary, coming from the Latin word radix meaning “root,” means, “of or from the root or roots; going to the foundation or source of something; fundamental; basic.” The very same ever-present opportunity to go to the root of the matter in living in doing the very same in our lives right now.
Global activist and fundraiser Lynne Twist advocates “taking a stand” in how you earn your money in choosing work congruent with your values. “Stand-taking” is a proactive, honorable way of power and possibility to move the world of emerging ideas and the people who act upon them. 1 Taking a stand” is simply bringing a vision in the present moment into your life without division or separation on any plane or level, whether within your Self on physical (body), cognitive (mind) and non-tangible (spirit) levels, in relation with other people’s Selves on all those levels, as well as “all that is.” Charismatic leaders throughout time have taken a stand and brought a vision that was alive, present and real for them, no matter what the outer circumstances or situations were. Each excited and riveted their listeners to be empowered in making the impersonal stand and vision not only an inner reality and realization, but make it an outer reality and inhabited, lived embodiment. Such active “faithing” is highly uncommon if not rare, and it is completely available in each conscious moment of living for every one of us.
“Taking a stand” offers lived activism and powerful support of universal “policies” in accord with Love, Truth, Freedom, Respect, Trust, Faith, Kindness, Generosity, Gratitude, Acknowledgement, Acceptance, Surrender, Not Knowing and “live and let Live.” It may take many forms, both in what is offered and in what is surrendered. It may take the form of a spacious, still silence when there is no need to say anything and nothing to say. It may take the form of informing others that you now have a policy of not speaking or listening to malicious gossip that only harms the living and only speaking that which affirms and uplifts Life. It may take the form of doing “random acts of kindness” purely for the joy of giving these that gives so richly in the very act of giving. It worth looking and see what calls, beckons and summons taking a stand over.
1. Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money. New York: W.W.Norton and Co., 2003, pgs. 184-204.
Browse excerpts from Dr. Friedman’s forthcoming book
Awakening to Sanity: Being Sane in an Insane World—A Traveler’s Guide