There are very few egos that like to find out that they’re wrong, but a big part of the initial stages of the spiritual path show people just that. Particularly after a spiritual awakening, people find out that their ideas about themselves and about life are wrong in countless ways, and to go further on the spiritual path, they have to accept that. Yet, many people won’t.
It’s surprising how much people prefer their illusions to reality, and even when reality continues to frustrate them and confound them, people will choose to be “right” about their beliefs, their self-concept, their world-concepts, and many more ideas rather than to accept the truth.
But accepting the truth is the only sane way to engage with reality. Accepting the truth is the only sane way to understand ourselves, and without that acceptance, so many other stages of spiritual development and understanding are beyond our reach.
So on this topic, I want to offer some thoughts on coming through several phases of acceptance around discovering wrong ideas and how you can let go.
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If someone isn’t interested in going within to understand themselves, then a lot of false beliefs stay put. I’m sure many of you are good at figuring out other people’s false beliefs. It’s really easy. Finding problems with other people and the world at-large isn’t hard. However, many times people are wrong about the “mistakes” they find in others because they do not see reality. They see life through their ego filter, and that shows them whatever it is their ego is trained to show them. The ego, after all, is simply a program. Just like a computer program, it can only perform functions it is trained to perform. It cannot do something that it is not trained to do, and this is why so many people stay trapped.
It’s very rare for someone to be pushed by society to understand that their beliefs are wrong. The below TED talk is a very interesting talk about how social media actually did some good and forced a woman to see the error in her religious beliefs.
But as I said, this instance is rare. More often than not, a person would rather cling to their beliefs and decide that the rest of the world is wrong. Thus, humility tends to be one of the keys to starting the discovery phase of self-investigation. If a person doesn’t have humility, they generally won’t look. If they look with pride, they’ll find ways to justify the beliefs and characteristics they find without really digging too deeply.
The Shock Phase of Being Wrong
Because the ego likes to assume that it is right, it often goes through a phase of shock at discovering different levels of truth. Some types of discoveries people make include:
“Wow, my heart is really closed.”
“I don’t want to be in this marriage.”
“I never wanted to be a mom.”
“I really love doing art!”
There are countless more, and some that are like the art example may be less challenging and shocking than others. But part of the core of the shock is the simple understanding that what a person had assumed to be correct for them was absolutely not the case. It throws into doubt everything else about a person, and that can also trigger a sense of overwhelm. How much more do you not know about yourself? How much are you still unconscious to? These questions make the ego really uneasy, and the next step in avoidance for the ego may be finding a way to resolve only the one issue without digging up more, doubting the truth of the discovery and going into denial, numbing out to the truth in someway, some of the above, or all of the above.
Spiritual Aftershocks and Acceptance
Again and again, I can’t emphasize enough the power and simplicity of acceptance. Acceptance only asks you to see what is. If you’ve discovered that you are wrong about something within yourself, accept it. Acknowledge the blind spot. Acknowledge that you’re unconscious about a part of yourself. From there, you can take action, and even if it is not easy action, you are moving from a space of acceptance.
Furthermore, a person needs to accept that there will be more discoveries. It takes awhile of doing spiritual self-inquiry before someone knows basically what is going on within them. This spiritual work is ego deconstruction, and there are a lot of layers of ego that have been built up over years. There are all kinds of unconscious programs from childhood that are just layered in there like sediment. Since few people do much questioning of any of this (and how could we when were 5 years old and building up our initial egos), all of these inner systems have been running on autopilot and hidden for years. Thus, looking within is bound to create more than a few aftershocks as you find much more beyond the initial discoveries of the things about which you are wrong.
Finding Out You’re Right Too
Finding out you’re right comes up differently, but as a person learns to see reality, it arises as well. It’s not like the ego saying, “Haha! I was right all along!” It’s more likely to be shocking in a different way or nothing special in other ways. Some people know they are supposed to do something. Let’s say that they know they’re supposed to be a spiritual teacher. But if they have an ego that says that’s not something they can or should do, they could be in deep denial of it. A part of them knows they should follow that path, and they know they’re right about it. As the ego breaks down, suddenly, the person feels this calling come out. They suddenly feel the rightness of it, and it can shock them. Now there are aftershocks coming in terms of how they must change their lives to follow that path and potentially leave behind a lot of old ways of living.
Conversely, some things that people discover they’re right about aren’t necessarily big deals. People can find out that they’re right about many things, but there’s no ego need to shout that to anyone. It’s just observing spaces where a person was clear and was tuned in to reality. Usually, there are a few places in life where someone is already clear. These spaces tend to be the ones where a person has no ego investment in something being one way or another. So it’s kinda funny how being right ends up not being that big of a deal in many regards.
Finding Out Who You Really Are
Most of the early stages of the spiritual path are when people are discovering who they are NOT. They are discovering that they don’t know who they are, and most everything that they’ve relied on to tell them who they are has primarily been wrong too. Parents, siblings, extended families, friends, society, and more have plenty of labels for you, but most, if not all, are too blind by their ego to see anything clearly. They’re usually talking to their projection of you. Some of you have had this experience where a parent is still speaking to you as a child. What is happening? Their ego is stuck in an old projection of who you are, and this, of course, tends to cause friction in parent-child relationships particularly when the child is an adult.
So having all these external supports swept away and your internal beliefs broken down can be more than a little jarring at first. However, if you stay in the openness long enough, things get seen. The reality of who you really are can be perceived. Sometimes this is a real shock like in the spiritual teacher example in the prior paragraph. Sometimes, it is just so natural and easy that it feels ridiculous that you did not realize this before. Discovering who you are does not have to be shocking, but the more cut-off someone is from themselves, the more upheaval it may cause. That does subside through acceptance, and then a deep power emerges within us as we rest in this profound sense of knowing who we truly are.
The Continued Humbling of the Ego
By and large, finding out who someone is does not come particularly quickly. People are usually too attached to the beliefs to accept who they are, and so more spiritual realizations of being wrong continue. This continues to humble the ego and forces the individual to accept the reality of their ignorance about themselves. Being continually wrong makes people question everything they know, and all people need to do this. Otherwise, it’s too easy to stay in the perceived comforts of our present point of view. It’s very rare that anyone is free and living entirely in the moment because it’s just part of human development at this time to develop an ego based on whatever genetic preferences and local influences are part of a person’s life. So people must aspire to know themselves and to know the truth particularly when it challenges their beliefs.
If someone does that, they continue on in their spiritual development. They continue to be humbled and opened up further to life. If they don’t–if they choose to cling to their beliefs about themselves and others, they stagnate. They become blind or more blind than before, and any good work they’ve done for themselves in the past gets erased as old core issues regrow themselves in new ways.
So stay humble. Stay open. There is a whole world and a whole reality that is right in front of us when we’re ready to simply see the truth.