In a previous post, I introduced the concept of the quiet ego, a state of self-awareness and balanced concern for self and other that is correlated with well-being and better mental health. There are four components to the quiet ego state:
Inclusive identity, or a balance of concern for self and others, and seeing yourself as part of an interconnected whole.
Perspective taking, and compassion for self and others.
Mindfulness, which here means the ability to detach from a situation enough to observe your own reactions neutrally.
Growth orientation describes an interest in personal growth and the ability to think long-term.
Research shows that even learning about the quiet ego construct can be helpful. But, as a therapist who is familiar with the quiet ego, I also see connections between many coping strategies I teach clients and the quiet ego traits. Here are a few strategies that can help many people cope with stress and difficult emotions, seen through the lens of quieting the ego.
Practice mindfulness as self-observation. The word practice is key here, mindfulness is like a muscle that gets stronger as you use it more. Mindfulness meditation has many benefits, but even if that’s not your thing, you can strengthen your skills of self-observation through practice. An exercise I frequently teach my clients is simply to be still for a moment and pay close attention to your physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions, in that order, without trying to change them. This only takes a couple of minutes, and can support your ability to care for yourself, as well as take a more neutral perspective on a situation and on your own reactions.
Use self-compassion. Learning to acknowledge your own suffering, know that you are not alone in it, and turn toward yourself with kindness and care, can be very powerful and strengthen your well-being and perspective-taking. Most of us find it much easier to be kind to others than to ourselves, but our ability to care for others can grow out of care for ourselves. Like mindfulness, self-compassion is a skill and habit that we can strengthen with repetition, working with a therapist or with self-directed activities.
Zoom out. Consider having some go-to questions to help yourself get perspective on a situation and take a longer-term perspective when you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or angry. One set that helps some people is time-based. Will this matter in five days? Will this matter in five months? Will this matter in five years?
Reevaluate the story you’re telling about yourself. Part of the quiet ego state is an interest in personal growth, and part of seeing growth and change in our lives is being able to tell our own stories in a helpful way. If your story is full of thoughts of self-blame or hopeless damage, it can corrode your well-being and limit growth. Reconsidering how you tell your life story, on your own or with the help of a therapist, can be transformative. Of course, if this means confronting significant traumas, you will need to go slowly and possibly work with support to heal.
Calming your defenses, experiencing personal growth, and getting a new perspective on yourself can make life more rewarding and meaningful. If you want to work with a therapist to address depression, anxiety, trauma, or a feeling of being stuck in your life, reach out today for a free consultation!