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Dear Beloved Ego - A letter to my inner shadow

Dear Beloved Ego,

Last November, while lunching with a girlfriend, you barged in on me like an uninvited guest. Your tactics involved the usual - approaching me from behind, stealthily at first, then waiting ever so patiently for an opening to inflict your spell of self-righteousness into our conversation.

Still hidden under the cloak of your invisibility, you managed to infuse your way into my thinking as I crafted highly judgmental and selfish observations about a mutual friend. I'd hoped my comment would remain under the radar and that my lunch companion wouldn’t detect the deep resentment I still harbored against this person. No such luck! No sooner had I begun justifying my stand that she immediately caught on, pouncing on me like an angry cat and reprimanding me, unabashedly. The sting sent me into an immediate tail spin as I quickly looked for ways to defend myself, my pride, and save face.

If I hadn’t recognized you in that very instant, you would have continued without reservation to feed my cesspool of shame, adding more flames to my thoughts and words. But upon discovery, your ghost-like veil dropped to the floor, revealing a scrawny silhouette in its place - a mere shadow of your former disguise. Standing alone, you gradually backed away into to the dim recesses of the room, shoulders hunched, face down.

Taken aback by my new-found mastery at pre-empting additional damage, I expected my sense of triumph to soar, much like the phoenix above the ashes. To my credit, I’d managed to stop YOU before you could inflict any additional poison into my words and my justifications. And yet, to my surprise, my satisfaction was short-lived as a wave of compassion broke over me. While watching the contours of your former identity dissolve, your true essence began to emerge, allowing me to see the genuine protector and defender that you are. At that moment, my feelings could only be described as akin to Dorothy’s upon her discovery of the famous Wizard’s true identity, even when camouflaged behind the fanfare and thunderous voice.

Slowly, I was able to discern how you were designed to be my guardian - as early as my first breath – and that you carried out this role with precision and consistency since the beginning of time. Nonetheless, in the wake of protecting me from my own vulnerabilities you also led me down countless paths, mainly of pain and destruction, which came in the form of dashed expectations, the need to control and fix things, and the reluctance to give up my ‘stands.’

For years, you and I have been involved in a never-ending game of hide-and-seek, something that started off as fun because you were so clever at hiding from me. I was your puppet and you, my master - ever tightening your grip on my fragile strings. But as our games evolved over the years, I’ve grown wiser to your tricks, to your traps, and our playing field has leveled some.

In closing, my dear and fragile friend, I expect this game will go on forever as you are so skilled at it, and ever so intent on keeping me engaged. As much as we enjoy each other’s company, however, might I propose a new strategy? Could we add some timeouts in order to get reacquainted? I need to be reminded why you stand by me - to shield me from pain, from hurt and suffering. You, on the other hand, beloved ego, need to be reminded that the very pain from which you are protecting me is, more often than not, the key to my own growth.

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