I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday to write this week’s article ahead of time because of a packed schedule. Yet, after a few hours of shut-eye, here I am, rewriting the whole thing with what little time I have in my already full day. Why am I doing this? Because, with the post I deleted, I had reverted back to doing what’s safe, i.e., writing from my head. My heart has been troubled of late, and, out of reflex, the put-together persona I normally show to the world to hide my vulnerabilities automatically took over.
When I woke up this morning, I realized it’s precisely because I’m feeling vulnerable that I needed to take a few deep breaths and write from this space. This is the perfect setup to talk about what our mind does reflexively to try to protect our heart and our soul—our real authentic self—when we feel vulnerable for any reason. It’s something we all do subconsciously since we were young children to defend ourselves from further hurt. Over time, we pieced together different acceptable behavior to form a “defensive personality” to face the world, tucking away our soul for safe keeping. Since this is a subconscious process, without awareness building, we continue to live from this constructed, defensive self, never truly knowing our soul. That’s how so many of us end up drifting in the land of the living dead, unhappy and disconnected.
Pat Wyman, the author of Three Keys to Self Understanding, is the genius who enlightened me to the concept of the defensive self before I realized it was just another name for ego. I’ve mentioned her book in a previous article. In particular, based on many years of research and working with clients, she says that the Enneagram shows us what our defensive self (she calls it our “defensive system”) is like, while our Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) profile reveals our real, authentic self, our soul. Her claims about the Enneagram are rather controversial, but it’s way outside the scope and purpose of this article to go into that debate. I only wish to provide a little background.
Internal Tug of War
Until meeting Wyman early this year, I couldn’t place myself on the Enneagram for 15 years, whereas I had no trouble recognizing the INFJ (MBTI type) in me from the start. I didn’t know the Enneagram type is meant to paint the picture of the defensive ego. With Wyman’s explanation, I finally realized I’m a 3, who must always have it together, and failure is simply not an option. My ego’s logic is that, if I don’t show any signs of weakness, no one and nothing can hurt me. Leading most of my life from this ego-based defensive belief means that my rational mind got tons of practice in running the show. It automatically kicks into overdrive at the remotest hint of my feeling vulnerable.
The tug of war between my soul, which is all about being authentic and heart-based, and my ultra-composed and overly analytical defensive ego is the source of much internal turmoil over the years. Even as I’ve worked very consciously and deliberately on connecting to and expressing my soul—and have pretty much overhauled my hard-fought, carefully constructed life in the process—lifelong habits take some time to reprogram.
Your true and defensive personality combination is quite likely different from mine. However, I offer the above as a case to talk about what happens behind the scenes when we have much more practice living from our defensive ego vs. our soul. If you find yourself among the living dead or feeling internal conflict that you can’t quite understand, I hope this discussion serves to shed a little light on what underpins the inner tug of war between your soul and ego.
Know Your Soul
With the above said, how do we move from living from our defensive ego to our soul? In my opinion, it really helps to learn about our authentic and defensive selves. There are established tools and trained professionals to help with that. Short of and in addition to that, below are some steps you can immediately take to live more from your soul:
- Quiet your mind. Cultivate a consistent spiritual practice. Connect with nature regularly. That’s a quick way to shift from analytical, doing mode to allowing, being mode.
- Let your soul speak. Through meditation, journaling, painting or any number or combination of practices, give the real you some regular airtime. Don’t judge or doubt what you see, hear and/or feel. If what you get doesn’t make any sense, it’s just your mind again trying to assume control.
- Nurture your soul. You don’t need to overhaul your life immediately. Do little things regularly that feed the real you. Like #2, it’s about spending time with your soul.
- Observe your reflexive behavior. Pick the most recent unpleasant situation in your life that you can remember. How did you handle that? What’s behind that behavior? Was it the same thing you’ve done over and over again because it has worked to allay, if not resolve, the issue? Do you feel good about that, or is there somewhere inside you that felt it wasn’t quite right? Bring that awareness to the next time a similar situation arises, and intend to act consciously.
- Be around similar others. One of the reasons we get trapped in the land of the living dead is because we’re surrounded by people who are similarly dead alive. It’s difficult to break old habits, even if they’re bad for us, if we don’t have support. Get yourself involved in community groups and organizations that attract those who share a similar intention to know your souls and live more from that place.
Live from Our Soul
When you start taking steps toward knowing and honoring your soul, you’ll become more and more tuned into the real you over time. You’ll also find naysayers naturally falling away from your day-to-day life, while more and more like-minded others join your network. That’s what has happened in my life. While my defensive ego is still in the driver seat more often than I care to admit, I’m much more aware of when that happens so that I can do something about it—like rewriting this article. People with whom I spend time are from my spiritual community who are equally vested in raising their consciousness. I keep meeting women at professional events who feel intuitively like soul sisters. My life keeps getting better, more authentic and more reflective of my soul.
Living from our soul doesn’t mean every day is peachy or that we become immune to challenges or a heavy heart now and again. After all, they are all valid and unavoidable parts of the human experience. Our soul holds both light and darkness, as it knows that desires are birthed out of contrasts, and that’s how our spirit expands and grows through our humanness. It’s our defensive ego that can’t tolerate the dark side of our soul and continues to wage the internal war that torments us. When we’re conscious of the defensive strategy of our ego and embrace our soul, we can ease this inner conflict. More importantly, we learn just how strong we stand in our vulnerabilities. Our soul doesn’t need protection. It’s the real us who holds the highest vision for our lives and our dreams. Why wouldn’t we want to live from our soul?
What are your thoughts and feelings about living from your soul? Please share in the comment box below so that we can all learn from each other.
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