In my post, “The Mystery of the Ego - An Answer,” I related how I realized that my ego-mind was in large part a function of “little Ronnie,” not just my learned experiences but more decisively my reactions to them as a little child. That all the torment and bad advice I receive from my ego-mind is actually the result of some basic defense mechanisms that little Ronnie developed to protect himself, not knowing how misguided and harmful his child’s perspective was. Thus its intransigence.
Part of that realization was understanding that my becoming a sex addict was little Ronnie’s way of protecting me from what he thought would be the inevitable failure of any relationship I was in. He couldn’t trust any relationship because he thought he was unloveable and so engaged in activities that increased his/my sense of independence.
But recently, I realized that there’s even more to the destructiveness of little Ronnie’s insecurity and the defense mechanisms he developed. Not only did he attempt to protect himself (and me) by increasing my feeling of independence while in a relationship. He strove to destroy those relationships in order to free me from what he felt was an unhealthy dependence on a love that was not to be trusted and would ultimately fail me. This occurred with each long-term relationship I’ve had.
My first long-term relationship was very warm and loving. During the third year of our relationship, I for some reason wrote an intense letter to a former lover, who I had always viewed as the love of my life. But I didn’t send the letter and instead just put it in my attache case. One day, my partner was looking for something and discovered the letter. The result was disastrous. The relationship imploded because he could no longer trust me.
For years I wondered why in the world I had written that letter and then left it in my attache case where it could be so easily discovered. I now know. Little Ronnie wanted to protect me by freeing myself from the relationship.
My next long-term relationship was everything you could want from a relationship. And it lasted for 12 years until my partner died of AIDS. But during this whole time, my sex addict activities continued unabated. My partner became aware of them because he found some video machine tokens in my bureau drawer. (Why did I leave them in the drawer where they could be so easily found?) But rather than stomping off, he just said that I could do what I wanted; he just didn’t want to know about it.
So little Ronnie’s defense mechanism didn’t destroy the relationship in this instance. But there is no question in my mind now that that was his intent.
I am currently in the deepest loving (although nonsexual) relationship that I have ever known, with my best friend. We have become family and have a mutual deep and complete love for each other. We are one, our lives are collaborative, and we constantly exhibit selflessness in supporting each other. My ego thinking-mind’s cries of “What about me! What about my perspective!” are viewed with compassion by me but have little relevance.
But over the course of the last few months, despite my knowing that a certain subject that I broached caused my partner much mental anguish, and as a result me as well as his pain is my pain, I continued to broach this subject again and again. I meditated on why I was doing this to someone I loved so much, to whom I wanted only to offer joy and help relieve his suffering. That is my main purpose in life. But my behavior just wouldn’t stop.
Then after the most recent episode, as I sat there stunned again by my words and their impact, I meditated and came to the realization I noted above ... that my ego thinking-mind, little Ronnie, was attempting to protect me by destroying the relationship. Making me independent once again. Thank goodness it didn’t work since our love is so deep and trusting.
And so I practiced tonglen on little Ronnie once again, receiving his pain and sending him my love and compassion and understanding. And this time, sending him the teaching of “not-two,” that we are all one and that our only security lies not in our ego’s focus on separateness, but in our knowledge of our true Buddha nature and in our interconnectedness, the development of a communal perspective rather than an individualistic one.
I relate this story because it has relevance to everyone. As I’ve written previously in posts and in my book, Raising a Happy Child, we are all insecure and both suffer and cause suffering in others as a result, both to members of our immediate family as well as to strangers. As our families and the larger society have drifted further and further from a communal model to an ever-more I-centric model the suffering of humankind has increased exponentially, as can be seen by the huge increase in the incidence of depression and the corresponding prescription of drugs to combat it.
The world would be a much better, a much happier place if everyone were able to feel at one with their family members and the rest of the human community and see that their only purpose in life is to offer others joy and help relieve the suffering of others. To follow the central moral maxim of every major religion ... do unto others as you would have them do unto you.