…”well-being” and being “well-cared-for”…

“Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into.” – Wayne Dyer

I’ve made the point before:  the ego cannot be neutral.  The ego’s primary job  is to insure that we are well cared for.  And that’s fine…. provided our being “well-cared-for” means that we are self-actualizing and fully integrated. 

If you’re sensing that the ego doesn’t live up to its job descriptions, well … you’d  be right. 

There is a split between being “well-cared-for” and being self-actualizing and fully integrated, and that split, I think, has to do with the idea of “well-being.” 

As odd as it sounds, being “well-cared-for” doesn’t mean we achieve higher standards of “well-being.”  Being “well-cared-for” is outer-focused … whatever is tangible, external and objective … that’s what drives the ego.  On the other hand, “well-being” is inner-focused … whatever is intangible, internal and subjective … that’s what drives integration and self-actualization.

George Pransky in his book, The Renaissance of Psychology, looks at six levels of “well-being.”  The point here is that well-being is only achieved by releasing stress.  The more stress we release, the more we can experience the deep feelings associated with  integration and self-actualization.

Let’s look at the six levels – starting from the highest level:

Profound Well-Being – this is synonymous with being fully integrated and self-actualizing.  Here, we encounter the deep feelings of exhilaration, gratitude and compassion.  These are peak experiences.

Well-Being – this is synonymous with high self-esteem.  Here, we encounter confidence, achievement and respect which then leads to the deep feelings of participation and belonging. 

Chronic Low-level Stress  – this is synonymous with a low-level concern for safety.  Here, we are stable and have meaningful relationships but are bothered by worry, tension, and pressure.  We need to analyze our situation to support our feeling of safety. 

Chronic High-level Stress – this is synonymous with a higher-level concern for safety.  Our sense of worry has a degree of unconsciousness.  We are moody; there is relationship conflict; we feel challenged to remain composed and secure.

Chronic Distress – this is synonymous with exaggerated safety and security needs.  Here, our imagination senses doom and dismay around every corner.  We are consumed by self-destructive rumination, distorted perceptions, and poor decisions that we are essentially unaware of.  We are reactive and largely unconscious. 

Chronic Deep Distress – this is synonymous with psychosis.  Every thought creates a frightening reality and there is no escape from the threats that come from all sides.

While this hierarchy is descriptive and easy to understand, we often shift in and out of various states of well-being.  One of the skills that Pransky tries to instill in his readers is the ability to recognize our thoughts — to stop ourselves once we realize we are caught up in compulsive thinking which makes it difficult for us to hold on higher levels of well-being.

So why does the ego’s “well-cared-for” wish interfere with our “well-being?” 

The more we focus on what is tangible, external and objective, the less we are able to appreciate what is intangible, internal and subjective.  Integration and self-actualization cannot be measured, or even appreciated, externally.  We do not experience the deeper feelings of exhilaration, gratitude and compassion by being obsessed with externalized measures and signals.  So the ego’s “well-cared-for” drive is a drive to exploit and gather up external signals and markers.  And all of that is empty without the knowledge that you are completely OK without any of it.

 “Abundance is not something we acquire.  It is something we tune into.”  Truer words could not be spoken.

Thanks for listening!

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