DSCF3230In a one-minute video spot Eckhart Tolle read a question from a woman who asked, “I’m currently married but I can’t seem to get over an old boyfriend. I haven’t seen this man in over ten years but I’ve had minimum contact with him. I understand that these thoughts are my ego and that I need to remain present but is it possible that I’m really meant to be with the old flame?”

After he read the question, he smiled and paused, and the audience laughed. And then he said, “Very unlikely. It’s one way to create an almost fantasy situation. The mind sometimes likes that so that it can stay in control. It creates some kind of fantasy that draws you in every day, you can go there, it’s like a room in your mental house. And you go there every day to live out the fantasy in your mind. That’s how the mind can deceive you because you can believe that there’s something real there. It’s very unlikely that there is something real here in this case.”

Although there’s lightness in his response, for those who are truly obsessed with an ex there’s no lightness at all. To be stuck in this mental prison – in “this room of your house” – is nothing short of torture in that it prevents you from enjoying your current partner. His response is spot-on – brilliant, really – but it leaves you wanting more, desperately wondering, “So now that I know that obsessing about an ex is a mental distraction, what do I do about it?”

The first step is name what’s actually happening. It’s a powerful first step, and when you can name your experience with conviction repeatedly, it’s like casting a powerful spell that breaks the allure of the fantasy. As Tolle said, the thrives on control, which is really the illusion of control. Once you identify its tactics it begins to lose its power. The inner dialogue would go something like this:

Ego: “There you go, thinking about your ex again. You had such amazing chemistry and you dream about him (her) at least once a week. That must mean that you’re meant to be with him (or her).”

Self: “I know that’s what it feels like, but that’s not actually true. It’s an illusion of my mind, your way to distract me from the risk of the here and now, of opening my heart to my present, available partner. I’m not going to indulge those thoughts anymore.”

Ego: “That’s crap. Just admit it: you’re still in love with him. You’ll never feel as excited about your partner as you did about your ex. Why do you keep feeding me these ridiculous lines?”

Self: “It’s you who’s feeding the lines. It’s you who can’t let go. It’s you who is trying to convince me that I don’t really love my partner. I know you’re scared. I know you don’t want me to risk making myself vulnerable. I know that when I think about my ex I feel safer in some way, sequestering myself in that same, familiar room in my mind. But I’m not going to do that anymore. Instead I want to know what you’re afraid of.”

Ego: “I told you: I’m not scared! I’m telling you the truth and if you choose not to listen you’re going to settle for less than what you deserve.”

Self: “You sound incredibly convincing but every time I listen to you I feel anxious and confused. Listening to you ramble about my ex isn’t serving me. But if you want to tell me what you’re scared of I’m happy to listen.”

Fear: “I’m scared that I’ll get hurt. I’m scared I won’t be good enough. I’m scared that once my partner really knows me he’ll leave. I’m scared to be vulnerable. I’m scared to show him my heart. I’m scared to really, really let him in without having a wall up. I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m scared.”

Self: “Thank you. I know. Tell me more.”

***

And so it goes. When the Self can hold solid and confident in its stance, knowing that the ego is feeding lines as a way to avoid and protect, you can break through and arrive at the truth of your experience. The fantasies of the ex, the wondering, the confusion  – it’s all a bunch of clever smoke and mirrors designed to keep you safe inside your familiar, protected box. If you’re ready for the box to break open, you have to take the first essential step of calling ego out on the mat, exposing its lies, and gently, like the bully that it can be, softening into the truth, which is that inside every bully is a scared child. If you could meet that part of you with enough love instead of cowering in the corner every time it pipes up, your life would transform.

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