Thursday, July 30, 2015

The fallout of 'Ego' & 'Egomania'

"Your BP is high today. Had a rough day?" I asked a patient in my office a few days ago.
"I am sick of my Boss," he exclaimed. "He bosses me around so much!"
"Well....." I said. "Isn't he supposed to do that?"
"No. He can supervise me, but he should not manipulate me. He inserts his nose in everybody's business," he replied. "He is a control freak. He even wants to control my personal life."
I could see that my patient was really very upset.
"Try to calm down, you are only hurting yourself by getting upset. Some people are just built like that" I said.
"His ego is as big as a football field," my patient continued, shaking his head.
"I know a few people like that," I said, trying to soothe him. "Best way to deal with folks like these is to stay away, just don't step on that football field."

Anyway, he did calm down a bit in a while. It did however set me thinking about 'Ego'. We hear this all the time. People complain about others having a big 'ego', and to top it all, the complainers sometimes have a bigger 'ego' than the folks they are complaining about!

So how do we define 'Ego'? What the heck is this ill-defined, subjective "thing"? In the present day world, it can have many meanings -- it can mean one's self esteem, or an inflated sense of self - worth. I read about it a little and here is my 2 cents worth of research.

How do a few people get such an inflated Ego? In the initial phase of life, people around us build our ego. When a child is born, the first thing he or she becomes aware of is the outside world. The eyes open to see the immediate world, the hands touch others, the ears listen to external sounds, the tongue tastes food, and the nose gets a sense of the smells & fragrances. All our senses relish the experiences of the world beyond ourselves. As the child grows, self-esteem is built with the love, attention and affection from others. Ego is an accumulated phenomenon, a by-product of living within a society.

After a certain stage in life, we start to control our own ego. The problem begins when, in certain individuals, it grows so much that now the roles are reversed. The inflated ego now controls the individual. According to a research study from Oxford University a few years ago, there is a very striking paradox in people with an unrealistic sense of self - worth. These folks are more insecure and exhibit attention seeking behavior most of the time, while interacting with their peers. There seems to be a constant need to impress people all around, at all times.

We all have and need an ego, for its the sense of our being. That's what drives us in our daily lives. But the keywords here are 'realistic' and 'control'.

"If you want to reach a state of contentment and bliss, go beyond your ego and relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved by all and the need to judge." ~ Deepak Chopra


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Living in the moment........

"How long do I have, doc? Before I go over to the dark side?" This was a question posed to me recently by an 81-yr old patient, who was beginning to have signs and symptoms of early Dementia.
"The dark side?" I asked.
"You know what I mean. Before I forget who I am.... can you put a time on when I won't recognize my family?" he asked.
I though for a long second.
"I can't. I am sorry." I replied. "It varies a lot.... a few months to a few years."
"But it is going to happen?" he persisted.
"Can't be sure of that too... but probably yes," I said. "I'm sorry."
"No, doc. You don't have to be sorry. In fact, I appreciate you being straight up with me. I have always believed that we all should live in the present," he said, smiling. "It's not going to help me if I rue the past or worry about the future, the present is what it is. I'll make the best of it."

That was inspiring for me indeed. So often, we wander into our past and have difficulty getting back. At other times, we tend to drift into wishful thinking, hoping for a perfect future. And between the past and the future, we forget to embrace the present. Waves of nostalgia overcome us off and on, especially in the company of friends, and we often say that "those days were much better than today." I am guilty of that too. But on reflection, I don't think that is true. Those days were good, but so is today. I don't want to wait 5 years before admitting today was great! 

The past is a good place to visit off and on, but we should try not to live there. We learn from our past mistakes and the smart ones among us will try not to repeat them. But the most important revelation the past bestows on us is about the people who are a part of our lives. Folks who stood by us through good and bad times, get our respect and affection. The past also has some unpleasant experiences and memories, pertaining to people & situations. If that part of the past calls, let it go to voice-mail. It has nothing new to say.

There is no living in fantasizing about an imaginary, future garden of Eden over the horizon. Today is the day, now is the moment. Embrace it, enjoy it, live it. 

"Pile up too many tomorrows and you'll find that you have collected nothing but a bunch of empty yesterdays." ~ The Music Man 


Saturday, July 4, 2015

The definition of "Being nice"......

The usually gregarious, funny sixty-five year old gentleman was uncharacteristically quiet, when he came in for a physical.
"What's up? Not feeling good today?" I asked.
"No... I am okay. One of my good friends passed away a few weeks ago," he said.
"Oh..I am sorry to hear that," I said.
"Well, Doc, my friend was very rich, and he had a good, busy life. He was financially stable, was involved in every organization in town."
"That's good, isn't it?"  I asked.
"It is," he said slowly. "But hardly anybody remembers him... and it's just been a few weeks! When his name comes up in conversations, he is just remembered as that 'Rich Guy'. Nobody says anything else about him."
"What would you like them to say?" I asked.
"Well, doc," he said with his usual wide smile. "I'll tell you what I hope people say about me - now and when I'm no more."
"You still have a long time on mother earth," I replied lightly. "What would you like people to say about you?"
"I just want people to say that I'm a nice guy. That's it. Nothing more."
"That shouldn't be tough. You are a nice person," I said.
"Well...I think I am nice to nice people. The key is to be nice to everybody, even to people who are not nice to me. It's tough, but I'm going to do it."

His words lingered with me all day. What does being nice mean? Is it being polite... remembering birthdays...does recycling count? We can add all the flowery adjectives here -- pleasant, compassionate, humble etc. Maybe its an amalgam of all of the above, to a certain degree. The more important thing is to be nice to your "immediate world." That would be the people you interact with on a day to day basis. 

I researched the topic of "Being Nice" a little bit. I went through a few research studies by social scientists on the topic. The conclusions of all these studies was unexpected, but not surprising. Majority of the people (more than 85%) equated 'being nice' to being 'sincere'. It was less about being polite or humble or about etiquette.... it was overwhelmingly about keeping promises, and "walking the talk". So you want to be on the right side of your social peers? Then be true to your word -- "Do what you say and say only what you mean." People are intelligent, and can spot a fake when they see one. They might not say it to your face, but they know.

"A person who is nice to you, but is rude to the waiter, is NOT a nice person."