A Simpler Concept: To Not Personalise Things, Events and Situations

In my earlier posts, concepts were quite spiritual, quite… conceptual. (ha)

In today’s post, I want to talk about a perspective, that’s helped me make all of this being-free-from-the-ego thing more practical.

When discussing spirituality, the ‘ego’ refers to “the thinking mind” or “the mind-constructed idea we have of ourselves and act out into the world”. In a weird way, while we all have an ego, it’s always something hard to grasp because for most people what they are is the ego -the thing they identify with. And so ironically we ‘kind of’ get it, but we struggle to really understand it.

Naturally, if we did understand it completely, we would be totally disidentified with it… and that’s what the ego doesn’t want, that’s what the mind doesn’t want, as it feeds on and is fuelled by our unconscious identification with it.

A great way to frame the idea of being free from the ego is the following: to just not personalize things.

The above isn’t a deep statement, really. It’s just that when situations unfold, you let go of immediately -reflexively- relating them to your little self. If you pay attention to it, we do that with everything, absolutely all the time, and it’s exhausting, it sucks the joy of life out of you.

Think about simple stuff: the weather, how you feel when waking up, a technical bug when a website is loading. Or think of bigger stuff: you were rejected or loved by an amazing person, a financial situation turns for the best or the worst, your health. In all of those examples, from the insignificant to the admittedly more significant, we’re always thinking: what does this mean for me? How does that impact me? How does me have to now act or behave? Essentially we first judge a situation as good or bad based on our expectation of what our life should be, then we have an emotional response to the perceived good/bad thing to our life and what we have to do or get to do.

I’ll give some examples again because it’s so shocking -once you let go of it- how much one usually resists life as it is.

Say you wake up and it’s rainy outside. Immediately, without you wanting to do it, an image forms. Maybe you’re working from home and like the rain, and so it’s deemed as positive. Maybe you have to head out in a suit and leather shoes and already dread the discomfort, potential wet feet or socks, etc. and so it’s deemed as bad. One might be tempted to think that one is good and the other is bad. Nothing could be more wrong. They’re both symptomatic of this dual feeling, this automatic like/dislike view of life. And it’s bloody exhausting and draining. Some people might feel some pain when they actually get so tired of their own perpetual judgement and sense of restlessness that they let go of it naturally, and feel good in their surrender. But then typically the automatic humdrum of the mind comes back soon enough. The switching from good to bad keeps us trapped, it dangles the hope that at some point we can reach a point where we keep the positive and discard the negative. Some people probably mistakenly imagine enlightenment to be that: seeing things as constantly good and positive. Enlightenment is just blissful equanimity, it’s the letting go of that personalised judgement, letting go of experiencing life as either good or bad for me, as something to evaluate and deal with. Instead, enlightenment is just looking at and experiencing life as it is, and relishing in that -because then almost everything is genuinely enjoyable. And you realise that a big part of what made life unenjoyable was precisely that judgement, your own self-inflicted personalisation of Life.

How do you let go of that judgement? When you stop taking things personally. No more relating things to the little definition of what I am, what other people perceive me to be, what I’ve done in the past, what I suspect the future holds. Just look at things and go about your day.

I’m of course not making the case for becoming a blob of passivity. If you step into a puddle, you can take your foot out of the puddle and still not take it personally. In that example, you don’t need to start having an emotional response because it means that “your day is ruined, now” or that “this always happens to you” or that “someone should have filled that pothole but of course no one takes responsibility for things nowadays”, etc. This moment is. You have stepped in a puddle. You can take your foot out and wiggle it off and carry on. Things are as they are.

I’ve used the example in an earlier post but I love watching animals evolve, in nature or inside a home. They do what suits their need or their fancy but there’s no judgement or personalisation of what has happened, is happening, or might happen to what they are, whether it means they are better off or worst off, etc.

Stop taking things personally. It’s not a big spiritual shift. It’s not a superhuman thing. More importantly, it doesn’t have to be a permanent thing if somehow you find that this mindset (or out-of-the-mindset) isn’t for you.

Give yourself a rest and see how nothing changes. Sit on your couch without worrying about grocery shopping, laundry, that call you had at work, that girl or boy you won over, that person who wronged you, that compliment someone made, whether you feel full after your meal or not.

I’m reticent to say, almost see yourself, what you are, as someone else. Not who you are. As someone and something you can look at with total objectivity.

When you try that, you will find yourself still going through life, still doing the things that need to be done, still pursuing goals or making plans, still sometimes thinking about things that have happened, but you will find yoursel be more present as well. You will also find, strangely, a fantastic increase in vitality — the weight of life, all the seriousness, has evaporated. Things aren’t as dramatic as you thought of them. Life flows through you, you allow yourself to be carried by this moment and, of course, the universe becomes cooperative (or was it you that started cooperating, finally, with the universe?).



Passionate about financial markets, long-term investments, the occasional short-term trade and disruptive technologies.

Justin d’Anethan

Passionate about financial markets, long-term investments, the occasional short-term trade and disruptive technologies.