Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit
Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
Articles by Dr. Friedman (except where noted otherwise)
Questions Egos Use
to Control Your Life and
© 2011 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
An excerpt from his forthcoming book
Recognizing the Ego at Work To Control Your Life
How can one tell whether one is listening to the imaginary ego or to witnessing consciousness? The ego is highly recognizable given its incessant thinking, time-obsession, emotional reactivity, comparisons, negative criticisms, and preoccupation with "me". "It" is ever finding problems, making judgments, inducing stress, and orchestrating emotional dramas out of everyday living challenges. It exists in past programming that it continually projects into future plans, expectations and fears. It tends to bellow, even when it is complacent about having one deeply wrapped around its finger.
Alternatively, witnessing consciousness is essentially absent of thought, time, emotions, reactivity, comparisons, negative criticisms and any sense of "me" whatsoever. What does show up is right here and right now, along with finding every circumstance endlessly fascinating and remarkable unto itself. It has no agenda to push, plan to enact, goal to accomplish, or need to become somebody. It accepts and embraces everything in a deep and abiding peaceful reverie. It perceives the Oneness and unity in all it surveys.
What occupies, even compels, the great majority of thinking? When the mind habitually questions and answers in a knee-jerk pattern, what is learned? The questions reflect opinions and beliefs. Observe for yourself. Does almost all thinking spring from ego-based questions like these? While buried within each question below is a kernel of "reality-testing", what is really revealed is who is asking, no matter what the answer is.
See which of these questions preoccupy your mind. Doesn't each question lead to "crazy-making". What is particularly convoluted is that the very nature of asking these questions presumes a mistaken identity, that is, each is being asked from a place of mistaken identity! In other words, the very nature of asking what some imaginary I is feeling, thinking and doing inevitably loads the deck and distorts whatever comes forth. Does asking these questions contribute to the quality of life? If the response is "No," then consider an ego "catch and release" proposal. When one "catches" the mind tossing up one of these questions, have one's will or self naturally "release" it. Again turn attention to the present. Clear a space for original sanity to bloom once again.
Asking Questions to Reveal the Ego and Claim Your True Life
impertinent question is the glory and engine of human inquiry. (. . . )
Mystics, "mad" visionaries, and iconoclasts throughout the eons have asked impertinent questions that challenge the sacred cows, politically correct ideology and small-minded orthodoxy of the status quo. Free thinkers are rare gifts to humankind, for they dream the undreamable, speak the unspeakable, and transform an outrageous vision into a life-transforming manifestation. Freethinker Thomas Paine authored the pamphlet Common Sense and is widely credited for igniting the American Revolutionary War, the war of American independence. Most modern Americans are unaware of Paine's politically incorrect activism that created freedoms they take for granted every day.
There are questions one sincerely asks in yearning to discover "who one is." These are questions of "ultimate concern," a phrase coined by German theologian Paul Tillich for matters of existential relevance (e.g., "What is God?"; "Who am I?"; "Where do I belong?" and "What is my true calling in life?"). Questions of ultimate concern require a complete surrender to what is being claimed. Paul Tillich says, "Whatever claims ultimacy demands the total surrender of the person who accepts this claim and it promises total fulfillment-even if all other claims have to be subjected or rejected in the name of that ultimate concern." 1 If, as Paul Tillich proposes, our ultimate concern is what you would devote your life to and what you would give up your life for, then what you are willing to die for is precisely what are you dying to live for.
The critical impertinent question is whether your attention is on asking questions of ultimate concern that bring forth experiencing the promise to fulfill your calling, or give your attention and be ensnarled in questions of the ego's shenanigans. Playwright Eugene Ionesco observed, "It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question." The power is in asking the question; the answer is often obvious. When one "catches" oneself absorbed in "me" stuff, consider from what realm this question is coming from-ego or True Self?
The depthless value in asking the following sets of questions is that each question is asked not from the place of a false self or imaginary identity. Instead, each question is innocently, cleanly asked from an objective space, that is, from impersonal non-duality. Asking a loaded question, that is, one already slanted or biased in presuming some fictive identity, is a set up for an equally loaded, slanted or biased answer. Straight honest questions without loading have the genuine possibility for straight honest responses.
These questions expose the ego's pretense and posturing. Ramana Maharshi asks, "To whom do these distracting thoughts arise?" "Who am I?" and "Who is this me?" Ramana encouraged letting thoughts arise, letting thoughts go, and going to the origin of the ego: "Investigate what the mind is, and it will disappear." For Ramana, since all thought begins with the "I-thought", so the seeing through the "I-thought" through self-inquiry of asking "Who am I?" is the dissolving of all thought and mental objects. It is powerful to ask whether a question or statement is from the ego or who we truly are. Ask:
The power of asking ego-revealing questions is not in figuring out any answer, only in directing attention to what is the source of the emotion or thought, which is then obvious. Such queries dissolve being stuck and fixated by deconstructing the fictive who behind the sell-job, fear mongering and emotional tempest. Author Chuck Hillig asks: Whos the who? John ODonohue astutely observes, When falsity masquerades as power, there is no force that can unmask it as swiftly as a question.
As turning on a light disappears darkness, so knowledge of the Self disappears all Self-ignorance. Ego-revealing questions ferret out what is unreal, and operate as catalysts for the phantom egos dissolution. Lightly with little energy, you can free the ego and end this conversation by saying: I dont get it, I dont see it, I dont buy it, and I dont believe you. Whats left to say? Each surrenders hooking with the ego and firmly sends it into the pasture to roam. Creating a level of optimal frustration sparks the greatest growth. In this epiphany, the separate self is exposed. An ego revealed is an ego dissolved.
In pointing beyond ego-driven questions, questions of ultimate concern inherently contain the answers in Awareness on some level. How else could the questions be formulated and asked? David Carse asserts, "You can't ask a question about Self, or Truth, or the Understanding, that you don't already, on some level, know the answer to: if you didn't know the answer, the question never could have occurred to you." 2
1. Tillich, Paul. Dynamics of Faith. New York: New York: Harper and Row, 1957, pages 1-2, quote: page 1-2.
2. David Carse, Perfect Brilliant Stillness: beyond the individual self. Shelburne, VT: Paragate Publishing, 2006, page 173. (No copyright)
© Copyright 2013 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
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