Kill Your Ego with Kindness

James Titchener / @mistertitchener

I think I might be a little racist. I’m currently on a three week trip in Mexico City, and one of the first things I noticed upon arriving was my superiority complex. I found myself craving attention. I wanted the Mexicans to marvel at this pasty gringo who stood a head or two above them. I not only felt unique here, I felt like I was better than the people here. 

Now, this isn’t easy for me to admit. It’s one thing to accept this racial bias internally. It’s quite another to share it publicly—especially in the cancel culture of our day. Frankly, if I wasn’t my own boss, I’d probably keep this one to myself, but I want to share this unflattering personal insight as I think it points to something important. 

None of us are as great as we think we are. And recognizing this is hard, but worthwhile. 

Travel along with writing, psychedelics and meditation can act as mirrors for seeing our flaws. And while humble pie is a dish we’d rather avoid, learning to accept and overcome our flaws will make us fuller humans. 

Breaking Routines with Travel 

There’s not much jars you awake like landing in a foreign place. New people, new languages, new sights and smells and sounds and tastes all serve to wake you up from the routines of home. 

When routines are broken, a fresh slate begins. I notice in my travels I become more open to new ideas. This is why I end up spending most of my time reading, meditating, thinking and writing  in seclusion. Things that I previously wouldn’t have paid mind to now can be looked upon with fresh eyes. 

The downside is you can become open to seeing things you don’t want to see. Like that you think you’re physically, intellectually, and emotionally superior to Mexicans. Which (unfortunately) some part of me believes. 

So—what the hell do I do about it? And if this bias exists, what other flaws are hiding from me? 

Pulling on Threads of Embarrassment Through Writing

For me, I lose thoughts if I don’t write them down. And often what starts as an inkling of something on the surface of awareness, ends up being an iceberg of deeply rooted habits of mind that are waiting to be uncovered. 

Let’s use my racial biases as an example. I’ll start by admitting such in writing. I could then list off some external reasons why I might have this bias. My parents, negative memes against Mexicans in the US, over-representation of white people in power and in the media, etc. 

But is there something deeper? I like to sit on a question like this, and just write the first thing that comes to mind. 

Insecurity. 

I almost never feel like I’m enough. Growing up, love from my mother came in waves. One day I’d feel supported and cared for, and the next minute she’d go full bipolar mode and lose her shit without any rhyme or reason. I think I internalized these breakdowns as somehow being my fault. And if I could just be better, I could find the lasting love I so craved. 

And what’s the easiest way to feel that you’re better? Believing that you’re better than someone else. And so that’s what I did. Or rather, it’s what I do—I compare myself to others. Constantly. And it’s not just Mexicans. I compare myself to everyone, and frankly, some part of me believes that I’m better than almost everyone

Seeing these words burning on a page is different than just  thinking about them. The realization becomes inescapable. It’s right there staring at you. What would have been a passing thought has become a step-by-step account of just how big of a piece of shit I am. 

Kidding. Sort of. Looking at yourself in the mirror is important. Sometimes you might have a ketchup stain on the corner of your mouth. And for me, I’d rather wipe it off instead of pretending it’s not there. 

But before I go into how to wash the ketchup off your face, I’d like to offer some other tools for seeing your reflection more clearly. 

Using Drugs and Meditation to See Clearly

I wouldn’t have noticed my lightweight racism without meditation. If enlightening yourself to your racial prejudices isn’t enough to get you off your ass and start meditating, I don’t know what is. But maybe a handful of magic mushrooms will help. 

Taking LSD for the first time was the best day of my life. And not because of the far-out visuals. Taking LSD gave me my first taste of life free of ego. For moments, I lost my sense of self. I became temporarily free from identifying with thoughts and what remained was the world. I’d never experienced sights, sounds, tastes and the body so clearly. 

While psychedelics like LSD and mushrooms can be highly effective in dissolving the illusion of the self so as to see reality as it truly is, these drugs come with a cost. 

While I think “bad trips” can take you to scary places, they act as a mirror to your psyche in a way that’s similar to that of travel and writing. Some of my most valuable takeaways have come from moments like these. But nonetheless, without the proper framing, bad trips can be emotionally damaging. 

And given a high enough dose, operating as we normally do becomes impossible on psychedelics. Driving, doing any physical work, or even following a conversation are off the table. 

So while psychedelics can act as a shortcut to the insights on offer, meditation is a safer means of recognition. But I value psychedelics so highly, because without tasting selflessness on LSD, I wouldn’t have understood why this something to seek in the first place. 

I’ve since been on two silent meditation retreats and have spent about 500 hours meditating deliberately. I am only just starting on this journey, but more and more I’m recognizing the subtleties of my mind that were previously hidden. 

If you’re lost in thought, you’re basically stuck in a dream without realizing it. Meditation is a means of waking up. It’s learning to recognize thought as thought on a moment-to-moment basis. Doing so allows what was once noise to become a signal. A signal that you literally think you’re better than Mexicans. Or whatever your biases, be it racial or otherwise, might be. 

How to Kill Your Ego

Once you can see your reflection clearly, and you can see all the blemishes and wrinkles that you were previously unaware of, it’s time to fix your face. Or at least come to terms with it. 

My problem is not that I’m imperfect. We all are. My problem is that I think I’m above this reality. For in perfection, I am worthy of love. So I have to be perfect. Admitting otherwise is to be unlovable. Or at least this is what the confused six-year-old in me thinks. 

With this setup in mind, is there any doubt that this troubled boy that is trapped in my psyche  should be met with compassion and kindness? Fast-forward 20 years, and accepting a privileged, white man for his racial biases among other flaws becomes more difficult. Especially when it’s you that’s flawed. 

I didn’t choose to be like this. Obviously if the choice was mine, I’d consider all those around as equals. And the rational part of me does. But we’re victims of habit. And thoughts drive our habits. Unchecked, thoughts and habits will take control of your life, and I fear that most of us fail to realize this. 

Mediation, psychedelics, writing and travel can be used to wake up from our patterns of mind, and develop new habits. Better habits. But I don’t think you can do this from a place of self-loathing. None of us are perfect. Accept your imperfections, laugh at your flaws and meet your ego with kindness instead of aversion. 

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Footnote: 

I just want to make it clear that this is not my attempt at publicizing my white guilt. I don’t care what color you are, you probably have some racial biases among other unflattering character flaws. And if you doubt this, try paying a little closer attention.

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