09 August 2014

Freedom and Ego

In the past week I've posted about having ambivalent feelings about getting well, and, within five days, unambivalent desire for the migraine pain to stop forever.

It seems a wide swing. I feel a bit embarrassed just thinking about it, especially that it's posted for all the world to see. Yet a couple comments on that first post tell me I'm not the only one honest enough to admit to such feelings. So I am certainly not the only one feeling them.

I can't write a long post today because my head's fuzzy with pain and medication, but I want to share a couple of thoughts about this seeming conundrum: that I can be both afraid and desirous of the same thing.

The first thought is about the ego. I have written before about Eckhart Tolle's writings on the ego that have helped me more than anything else to begin to find true freedom of spirit. (Click here and here to read posts; there are more in the Labels column to the right -- click on "ego" and "eckhart tolle.")

Our egos will grab any reason to form an identity. That grabbing targets the obvious and socially-acceptable identities like physical beauty, career and job, relationships (parent, sibling, friend) and talents. So we say, "I'm a painter." or "I'm beautiful." or "My daughter is a doctor." as ways to identify who we are. There are also less acceptable identities that are not so obvious and easy to name, like victim, sick person, or loser.

But, though some identities seem logical and others counter-intuitive, they're all the same mechanism: the ego clutching identity in order to survive. Where does freedom (in the title of this post) come in? Any clutching our ego does limits our freedom. If you cannot let go of your identity as lawyer or successful business woman, you are not free. I cannot let go of my identity as migraineur: I am not free.

There's more, but my head hurts. I am going to free myself of my identity as a writer who is thorough and finishes what she starts -- I'm ending
this post now. More later.

Thank you for reading this post. You can comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com


  1. Prayers for a short migraine.

  2. As a fellow sufferer and writer (for internal consumption only), I have taken great interest in your last few blogs about the "cure" - I too have tried many things to no avail and had mixed feelings at times - mostly about the side effects of both the medicine/mechanism and the change in my life. No problem though on the latter - I am 63 and the migraines are still with me. I remember reading at the end of Oliver Sacks first book on migraines - not sure it is in the subsequent re-writes - that he cautioned sufferers about going all out to be cured; he said that whatever it was in us that was coming out as a migraine might find a worse way to get our attention if we brought the migraines to a halt. While I do not believe I am wholly "responsible" for my migraines, they do slow me down and remind me that my time and energy are limited and that I am, indeed, mortal.

  3. Dear Anonymous: I apologize for taking so long to respond while I'm traveling. But thanks for your comment. I like the way you talk about the mixed feelings that come with looking for the 'cure.' Also like you, I don't believe I am responsible for the migraines, although I am responsible wholly for how I respond to them.

    When our time and energy are limited, don't you think we get an opportunity to be more appreciative of the small things? One of the ways to be responsible for our response to pain is to maximize gratitude for what IS good in our lives. Sometimes that's hard to do, but, like the 12 Steps say, we can also develop an 'attitude of gratitude' that makes that sort of response more available to us.

    I do hope and pray your migraines ease.