Ego and Self-Awareness

It seems much of the time we can diagnose what is “wrong” or how things “should” be when talking about others. Most of the time, people already know what should be done in life until it gets down to talking about and thinking about themselves. This is caused by ego problems.

Ego is not necessarily a problem but almost without training and diligent work, for most it is a chronic source of trouble.  Ultimately your ego is an image, like a personality set of clothes that you wear so to speak.  You show it to the world, it is a mode of behavior and expression.  It is yours, it is something your make, it is not YOU but as people have ways they would like to see themselves various obsessions develop about being perceived by others a certain way. Perhaps as a tough guy, a warrior, or perhaps as a victim, or as a “righteous” person or as a “rebel”, “loner”, etc.

When one maintains self-awareness, meaning that they are aware of what facets within themselves are motivating their decisions, then they can avoid ego problems.  Truthfully, our real personalities are free and can operate through an unlimited spectrum of ego images. When one uses their ego resourcefully to present the “face” that is effective in each situation then ego is a part of the solution.  When one buys into their ego and thinks, “this is me” then the maintenance of that image becomes the predominant motivation and character suffers.  Poor choices quickly and continuously follow, leading to a deterioration in life overall.

Having an ego problem is something that some come in and out of, some are seemingly eternally plagued by and a rare few are able to avoid almost all of the time. Warriors must control their ego as “pride cometh before the fall” and real handicaps are chronic gaps in awareness. The amount of repeated problems that generate from one ego problem can be enormous, like a bad piece of programming code multiplying exponentially into all facets of life.

Ultimately self-awareness is the only cure, but that comes from humility.  Humility is a key and undervalued attribute upholding all people of character. It means being acutely honest in your evaluations of yourself, having thorough introspection of your motives and what drives within that you are actively working to express.  Often it requires observing your own pattern of behavior as though you were someone on the outside rather than asking yourself easily deniable questions like “am I really doing that?”etc.

Being honest in your evaluations of yourself is only painful to your ego so if it seems painful for YOU, then this is a sign that there is a problem.  Humility further drives us to give credit where it is due, both to ourselves and to others.  The accuracy in this aspect is critical to the self-awareness which breaks the haze of ego problems.

Sun Zi said famously, “Know yourself and know the enemy and you can face 100 trials without danger, know yourself yet know not the enemy and you lose one for each one you win, know neither yourself nor your enemy and you fail every time”.

Controlling ego by maintaining accurate self-awareness is the key to “knowing yourself” and by extension being able to accurately perceive others around you.  People’s real character is not made of the way they would like to describe themselves, but rather it is understood automatically without words by what people actually do with their lives.  In the end no one can fake who and what they are forever.

Everyone runs into ego problems in life, but that imperfection does not mean that no one is able to effectively control their ego enough of the time to be able to avoid their ego determining the course of their lives. Observe your patterns of speech, thought and behavior at times from pure enlightening objectivity, acknowledging both the GOOD and the BAD.

Sometimes these sessions of “Self-Awareness” are revealing of problems needing correction, but not always and rarely is it all negative or positive.  Often “self-awareness” work reveals comfortingly the things that we are indeed doing correctly where others have misdiagnosed us and accused us of wrong never committed.  The key is to detach and to perceive things accurately.  It is not about feeling good or bad but rather wanting things to be as they are and then responding to move forward from where you actually are.

When lost in any problem, it is like being lost out in the wilderness, self-awareness is simply reading your map and then re-orienting to where you actually are. Maintain self-awareness at all costs, consistently call your own BS. Correct misbehavior and inaccurate communication.  Your character, health, happiness, family, community, work and spiritual aspects of life will all be tremendously enhanced.

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Life Is Combat-A Hidden Benefit of Martial Arts Training

Life is complex, how to you characterize it?  In general many people grow up being taught and believing that life is like a type of game, or race, or climb of a mountain.  Often they are taught that if they play fair and they are nice to everyone then they will be kept safe and should expect to have a good measure of success. In my opinion, if a person digests the baseline societal paradigm, they will find that life seems highly unfair, and that they are consistently frustrated by the fact that their expectations for how life is supposed to go is so far removed from how it actually goes.

Practical martial arts which focus on self-defense against criminal assaults in particular provide a tremendous hidden benefit.  “Martial Arts is internal, it is a way of life and living, of thinking and behaving”. When you focus on dealing with realistic fighting, even when it is just a study, it helps you to refine and complete your life paradigm and to understand all conflict as a greater whole.

People generally have the life is like a game perspective because fortunately we have laws and generally our social interactions are governed by law or at the minimum are highly influenced by law and thus kept within the bounds of our social game.  However, in a criminal assault you are dealing with life outside those social laws where the only limits on what the enemy will do is what they are personally able to do.  A sort of empowering and enlightening realization about the animal law reality behind social law comes from studying fighting.

We then also begin to recognize that many times in life, often when we are frustrated by failure it is because those who ended up winning were playing the game of life with a larger spectrum of resources and options that exist outside the normal “rules of the game”.  Take competing for a promotion for example.  Naturally we are supposed to believe in this being a fair competition, especially in modern times.  Yet animal reality while certainly restrained by social laws, stealthily creeps into the equation out of sight.

Perhaps, although you have slightly superior qualifications, your competitor has fostered relationships with the decision maker which results in them getting the promotion over you.  In dating, work, family, and nearly all facets of life we are confronted by conflict.  Of course there are rules and blatant violation results in losses, but there are many instances where you deal with opponents that do not exercise the ethical restraint that makes up the shortcomings in the rules.  There are those people in life that are wired to take advantage of others as much as they feel they can get away with.  How do you deal with such people?

The general life model that good people have often precludes them from successfully navigating conflict which in turn makes achieving their goals near to impossible.  This is why many good people are left with a paradigm that makes them play the victim in their own lives.  Martial arts offers the alternative to a false binary life choice between being an attacker or victim.  One CAN be ethical and yet effective.  The alternative is the warrior mindset. The ideal of the warrior is to be both powerful yet moral or you could say to be good and yet strong, to be formidable and yet trustworthy.

You start recognizing that at the end of the day, life is combat.  Combat is defined as anytime that you have an objective and various forms of friction are present which must be overcome to achieve the objective.  If you really reflect about the nature of life you will see a very real element of combat.  Combat clarifies life in this sense.  For example, if you are attacked by someone with a knife, you either are able to do what it takes to stop them or you are not.  You are given full use of all the resources you possess and so are they with no restrictions on anyone except the limits their personal capabilities provide. There is a clear distinction between success and failure in the form of whether you survive or not.

In the rest of life we often forget to consider this reality in its symbolic form which disempowers us from effectively engaging our goals.  While this is a symbolic understanding about life and combat, the results are very real.  Generally people have goals of being healthy, of having fulfilling relationships, of having a successful vocation, and doing enjoyable things that keep life interesting.  These are all good goals.  Yet how often do people live in the obscure space between success and failure and have to concede that they are “trying”?

With health, there are various forms of friction, both internal and external.  With the benefit of a warrior mentality replacing a victim mentality, you recognize that if you do not do what it takes then the friction will win and you will have poor health despite desires to be healthy.  In relationships it is similar, if you do not do what it takes to keep good communication, to keep in touch, etc then relationships deteriorate regardless of assertions in one’s own mind of caring.

Life as combat is certainly not the only paradigm analogy to utilize but it is a critical model to have mixed into any healthy paradigm and there is no better way to relate to this than training in an effective combat art.  When we only have a model that looks at life as though it were a socially normal activity that is governed by rules and assurances then we begin to have a false feeling of safety which inevitably leads to painful surprises as the animal nature of life weighs in and shapes outcomes away from what you are taught to expect.  Generally when people play games then the loser is still insulated from certain losses and there is always a socially enforced external safety net.  This can cause people to believe in the availability of a third outcome in life other than success and failure.

When thinking about combat, outcomes are cut and dry.  There is survival or not.  When meaningful life goals are looked at as a broader whole, the reality is the same.  Maintaining good health through your life is something that you did, or you didn’t, doing what it takes to have healthy relationships is either what you did or did not do, there is no third outcome in reality.

When people are failing in life goals, it is typically from one of a couple sources.  One source of failure is to have chosen a goal that is either not meaningful enough to motivate or which is actually impossible.  The other source is to self-sabotage. Viewing life as combat teaches you to pick your battles carefully so that they are winnable and expedient.  Supposing that you have selected a good goal, then it is simply a matter of doing what it takes to adapt and prevail.  This means getting rid of personal weaknesses and ultimately refusing to take consolation in place of the result that your personal code requires.

Consolation seems a nice friend in the short term as it provides numbing comfort but in the long run it prevents correction of bad habits and practices and leads to self-sabotage and regretful failure.  If all the energy that is spent in giving oneself consolation is spent rather upon the goal pursuit then almost every time there will be no need for consolation because you will have succeeded. This is a warrior’s perspective and may seem extreme to some but it is a uniquely healthy way of looking at life which warrior training promotes.  Training helps us to confront some of the cold, hard realities of life and to be better at achieving meaningful goals. Paradoxically, by embracing such a perspective the result is almost always a significantly more peaceful, fulfilling and happy life.

January 2018 News

Tang Wei Martial Arts Association with major plans for expansion in 2018!!  The Tang Wei Association will launch a central training center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Likely to be early in 2018. More details to follow so stay tuned.