I have a friend in recovery who, when he talks about the root of his problems and difficulties in life, says he can always trace them back to one of the three E’s: Ego, Envy and Entitlement. Whether it’s a problem with a coworker, or partner, how he’s feeling about a situation, or even how he’s been thinking about himself, he can always find one of the three as a key source to his approach to the situation.
Ego say that this is mine and you can’t have it. Envy says that what you have really should be mine. Entitlement tells me that it’s mine and I deserve it. Of course we can boil all three down to just the one: Ego; it’s all about me. What you have should be mine and you can’t have what I’ve got.
In an of itself Ego isn’t good or bad. It’s a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. I can have an inflated sense of self, thinking I am better than another or I can have an inferior sense of who I am When combined with the disease of addiction, or as I often hear it said, the desease of ‘more’, my sense of self is so great that everyone else is beneath me or I think the opposite where I feel I am as worthless as whale dung on the ocean floor. Like so much else in life, it’s hard to find the balance between the extremes.
I can often find myself with the desire for what others have. I think that’s normal. It can help to motive me to change and move so that I too may share in what another has. But envy has no such desire to change. I want what you have, and I feel I’m entitled to have it. I don’t want to work for it, you should give it to me. Or, I have something and you can’t have it. As with ego, it can be inverted too where I have the feeling that I don’t deserve anything, and am worthy of nothing.
In recovery, like many other things, the trick is to find that elusive balance between the extremes. When it’s in balance, I have a sense of humility; the acceptance of who, where and what I am at this present moment. Balance is difficult to achieve. A mote of envy or a pinch of entitlement on either side can tip that balance one way or the other and start the slide down the scale and away from balance. I used to be blatantly unaware of the three E’s in my life.
Today I usually recognize when I am envious, arrogant or ego driven while I am in it, or shortly after the fact, and I can do something about it. Keeping the balance between need and desire is not easy because the river of life is full of turns and current and rapids that constantly test my sense of balance and threaten to tip me into the water. Staying in the moment helps me to deal with that which is at hand and keep myself afloat. With practice, finding the balance does get easier.
I am grateful.