The Possessed Self

The Possessed Self

Cat portrait by iezalel williams
Cat portrait by iezalel williams

The distinctions between aspects of self have been a regular topic here.

The I-sense ego (Ahamkara) is that sense of being distinct, separate from others and objects of the world. This is my hand (self) and this is what it’s holding (other). This begins when we’re very young and learning to differentiate self from mother and what is self and what is not-self.

Soon after, around the age of 2, we develop the possessive self (Asmita), the sense of mine. My body, my toys, my family. Children can be very black and white about this.

While these are important and necessary steps in childhood development, we’re designed to outgrow them and recognize our universal nature that underlies our personal experience. This is our sense of being, of being conscious.

Without this step, we remain in an identified ego state and unconsciously act out what is unresolved for us. The possessive self expands to include my emotions, my concepts, my stories, and so forth. We defend them like we defend our well-being, as the stories keep us feeling safe. This makes the my-sense problematic. While separation can cause alienation and lack of compassion, many woes come down to that possessive self identifying with its narratives and unmet needs. It’s not unusual for that to conflict with reality, causing suffering.

If we consider things like the Ten Commandments of Moses, many are about issues created by the my-self. Coveting, adultery, theft, and so forth.

The possessive self is also insatiable. We can never have enough to satisfy the possessive self because it remains empty, however much we get. Notice, for example, how you respond to a new purchase. Often, there is a short period of satisfaction. Then that fades. If we chase that feeling by continuing to buy things, trouble develops. The satisfaction always fades.

It’s common to compare ourselves to others with different karma, wanting what they have. Feeling thwarted, we can develop anger and frustration, even violence.

We end up making false narratives about the world to support our position, irrespective of how that affects others and ourselves. We can see others as objects to serve us, even if this isn’t overt. For example, in seeking happiness through a partner we possess. Then blaming them for our own failures to see things as they are. Or in treating the world like a garbage dump.

As a possessive self, all this becomes part of our self-sense. We thus defend it, however irrational and out of sync with what is.

On a large scale, this shows up as conflict, destruction, and loss. It’s an appalling waste driven by false notions. As Buddha said, in war, there are no victors.

The long-term effects are far greater than any value we may have gotten from trying to possess. People are still working out karma from conflicts thousands of years ago.

And when some of that old baggage arises in our experience, if we don’t know how to process it, it can become the impetus for more trouble. An opportunity to heal becomes more suffering.

In all the talking heads across cable news, where is the voice of peace? So much of it is projection, story-telling about what might happen, mixed in with narratives of blame. Little is actual news and little of that is a realistic picture.

If peace is not in our experience, how do we speak to it?

The only resolution is the recognition of our infinite Self by itself. Infinity can satisfy any desire.

If more people understood the basic principles of life, it would help. And it would drive people to spiritual practice and further growth.

Some describe our larger dramas as a great purification. Others, as a battle of good and evil. Both are the path for more enlightenment.

There is a massive shift in consciousness unfolding. This has to happen gradually so that the process doesn’t destabilize the world. But it is unfolding surprisingly quickly. New people are waking every week, and that’s just what I’m aware of.

The possessive self isn’t something to try to control. That’s just ego trying to control itself. Following sensible principles can help make acting out more conscious. But the real magic happens when we let go and settle the mind. When the noise of the mind settles, consciousness becomes much clearer and we can recognize our deeper nature. Our inner being is a field of peace, happiness, and infinite fullness.

With that reward, we can let go of trying to possess anything and just be. That is sat chit ananda, infinite bliss consciousness. When someone is living that, it’s not separate from your consciousness. When enough people are living it, it raises all of us.

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  1. Hello Davidya, what you say about people waking rather quickly…I see it in my counseling practice. There has been a shift lately where clusters of client’s are “getting it.” They are recognizing the Self that is larger than their stories and thoughts. My work with them seems effortless lately…not as much down in the trauma muck but more in the wider space around it. It may also reflect the space I’m now able to hold, but I sense that there is something larger going on collectively. What amazing times we are living in!

    1. Hi Carolyn
      Yes, the space you hold makes a difference in how they can show up but also the collective itself is going through a big shift. The emphasis will change this month as the trends of time shift but the larger trend continues.

  2. Guilherme

    Beautiful as always David ! This website and its content is a blessing for the collective, thank you for your courage to be yourself ! And is your treatment working well ? I hope so ! xoxo

  3. Neville

    Hi David

    As always the clarity and insight you bring is immense, thank you so much. I hope whatever treatment you are having is going well, I was unaware of your issues.

    Kind Rgds


  4. Hi! I hope you’re well . You’ve been helping me so much, and I just read your update about how you’re going through quite a lot yourself . You’re a great example for me of what’s possible when it comes to approaching suffering.

    I have a question about depression. I read your article about how paying attention to it makes it feed on itself, so I’m wondering, is the depression the actual contraction my attention keeps being drawn towards?

    I want to relax the contraction, and I know I shouldn’t spend all my time doing that anymore, but when I do have downtime, I want to relieve the pressure.

    I appreciate you !

    1. Hi Andrea
      I’m no expert but depression is on the heavy side of the emotional spectrum. It has an inertial quality and attention on it tends to increase that. So part of the solution is doing what gets things moving. Physical activity, things that bring you joy, social contact, and so forth.

      The thing about healing with attention is with what is attending. If we’re identified with what is playing out, putting attention on the emotion tends to draw us into it, potentially amplifying it.

      However, if we culture presence through samadhi, we begin to be able to experience without identifying with the content. (non-possessive) We can then put our attention on it neutrally. This allows it to be experienced and resolved.

      The difference is between “I am depressed” and “depression is arising.” And I don’t mean making a mood of being unattached or similar. That’s just a further mask.

      However, I’ll note that depression is often not the cause but rather a further effect of something else unresolved, like loneliness, sadness, or similar. Resolving the depression may lead us into the deeper cause.

      Some can get insight through talk therapy in exploring what feels unresolved for us.

      It’s not easy “facing our demons” but the net result is a much better quality of life and much clearer feelings. Sometimes, it can seem endless but there is always an end.

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