Making a distinction between your soul (your ‘true’ self) and your ego, is possibly the most important step on your path to enlightenment. Realizing that the ego is not ‘you’ is giving yourself permission to find joy in any situation. However, rejecting the ego state can be very difficult if you don’t recognize the process that gets you there.

The ego keeps you alive. It says you need food for you. As long as you get food when you’re hungry, the ego’s influence can remain a whisper. But if you don’t get fed when you’re starving, the ego will often kick in to full gear and scream at you to scream at someone. This is ego’s cycle of desire, lack, and outrage. Emotional fragility determines the level of outrage you’ll feel and display for any lack of fulfillment. So diminishing your emotional fragility is key to coping with feelings of lack and outrage.

When you don’t perceive any immediate lack, it’s easy to laugh, love and feel joy. But how can we feel joy in the face of (perceived) obvious deficiency? It is most difficult if not impossible when you are emotionally fragile. Emotional fragility comes with allowing the ego to run the show. It is the ego that feels wronged, not ‘you.’ It’s the ego that desires and requires reality to be shaped just so. The soul feels no desire. It’s safe and pure.

So how can we diminish the sway of ego and increase our emotional stability? For starters by letting go. Know that you can make a choice in any given moment to let go of desire and control. To do so, you must first realize that feeling desire, lack and outrage is of ego. Then understand that this perceived reality is not happening to ‘you’ but to ego. Then you can allow reality to be just as it is, and feel joy in the knowledge that you are not alone but connected to everything in the world through your soul. To reach this passive state of being, you must shift your priority from wanting to allowing. To allow joy in the face of wanting, you have to dismiss the ego state.

To be unaffected by any perceived drama playing out before you, when it appears to be directed at you or someone you love, might seem like a most difficult task, especially when there is potential for physical harm. But even when a situation appears grave, your understanding that you are not your ego (nor is anyone their ego) may help you find peace in that moment, and may even allow you to make a real connection and to possibly diffuse a dramatic situation.

When someone is yelling at you, criticizing you, or making fun of you, your gut reaction is to defend yourself or attack them as well. You’ll probably feel anger, guilt, shame or fear. And you may even want to physically attack the person or to simply run away. All of these feelings are products of an ego state. It is natural to react to attack in this way. However, it is also natural to react without ego. Reacting with a smile but feeling anger is still ego state. You have to be smiling all the way to your core. You have to truly believe that what you’re seeing happen to your physical body is not happening to your soul, the real you.

When being attacked you have to keep in mind, that you are witnessing one ego attack another. The person attacking is in an ego state. But that ego is not who they truly are any more than your ego being who you truly are. You can remain in a zen state in these situations through the understanding that there is but one ego in all of existence and that ego can only attack itself. It can’t attack ‘you’ as it has no point of reference for what you truly are. Ego is the bi-product of our belief that our souls are separate from one another. To believe in this separation is to misunderstand the nature of what we really are. This misunderstanding is the nature of ego.

There is no need to defend yourself from personal attack. A defensive response happens only in an ego state. If someone tells you that your actions have resulted in bringing them pain, just listen. You can diffuse outrage through connection. Listening while in a zen state is the first step to making a connection. After listening, state that you intend to understand how the person feels, even if you believe that understanding is not warranted or possible. Saving face is not necessary. Your soul is safe. Knowing this truth will help stabilize you emotionally, and therefore diminish the influence of ego’s ‘desire, lack and outrage’ cycle.