Uzi Peretz was challenged on a recent shopping trip, but came through it with his ego in check…and something unexpected.
The ego is like a spoiled child. It always has to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants; or it makes a fuss. It’s what makes us cut people off, get in fights and demand to be treated like adults. Once I became aware of how it was controlling my actions/reactions to the world, I knew things had to change. For the last couple of years, I’ve been giving my ego a lot of attention and I discovered it really hates being observed. When it’s not in charge of everything, all the time; it begins to suffocate. Then it struggles and tries to take back control in almost every situation.
Each day I set an intention of noticing where my actions/reactions are coming from. Are they emanating from the ego (negative energy/emotion) or the true self (positive or neutral energy/emotion)? When I miss the opportunity to act/react from the true self, I’ll simply acknowledge where it came from and try again next time. The best thing about life is it will almost always give us another chance. Or as Mom puts it, “Lessons will be repeated until learned”.
Each time I’m able to circumvent the ego’s intended reaction; it has a significant, positive effect on my perception of reality. Of course, the stronger the negative energy; the harder it is to react positively or neutral to it. That’s why practicing with little bouts of negativity will pay dividends when the unexpected eventually comes knocking at the door. Sometimes, I notice weird things popping up in my life at seemingly just the right time. And I wonder what might have happened if I’d acted/reacted out of ego instead…
In the movie Fight Club, Ed Norton flips through an IKEA catalogue and wonders what kind of dining room set best defines him as a person. The wife and I were joking about that scene a few weeks ago when we came across the perfect coffee table; or so we thought. Of course, it was out of stock, back ordered for several months and a whopping $350. But; we really liked it so I called and asked the sales guy to check if the floor model was damaged. He returned a few minutes later and said, “Great news, it’s in perfect condition”.
We talked it over for a few minutes and I called the store back. I asked for the same guy and I told him the store was an hour away. I asked again if it was damaged (he said no) and if he would set it aside (he said he would). It took me almost an hour and a half to get there thanks to some shitty Google navigation. Then I ended up wandering around the store for 15 minutes before the guy finally acknowledged my existence. I remember thinking, “this must be some kind of test”.
He showed where the table was (it was not set aside) and immediately walked away. It actually wasn’t that great looking in person. I figured I’d driven all the way there and we “needed” a coffee table so I bent down to give it a closer look and quickly noticed it wasn’t just a little damaged – it was a lot damaged. It was so visibly damaged that I can only assume he put me on hold to go to the bathroom not to inspect the table.
I felt the rage building up inside me as I wandered around the showroom. I spotted him with another customer and stormed up. “Excuse me!” I interrupted. I paused just long enough for him to condescendingly say, “Sir, if you want to buy the table, you’ll have to wait until I’m finished with this customer.”
Suddenly, I realized what was about to happen. I could see the ego was taking over (as it had done so many times before). It was going to assert; it was going to judge and it was going to tell this guy just how much of an inconsiderate jerk he was. Although, probably not exactly in those words.
I stopped, took a deep breath and said, “Actually, I’m really disappointed. I told you it would take me an hour to get here and I only wanted the table if it wasn’t damaged. You said…”
“Oh is it damaged?” he interrupted me back while rifling through a stack of papers.
“That table is so damaged I wouldn’t put it in my house for free; but that’s not the point”.
He said, “Well – it didn’t look damaged”.
“Look (I used his name), I really don’t need a bunch of excuses from you. The table is clearly damaged so no, I’m not buying it. I would have appreciated a bit more consideration for my time. Perhaps you can give it to this customer instead”. I apologized (to the other customer) for my intrusion and walked away. The sales guy said something to provoke me into turning around but I didn’t.
I could have easily arrived home with an expensive coffee table I didn’t really like and the leftover emotions that usually accompany a bad situation. Instead, me and the wife jokingly continued our search for a coffee table that best defined us as a couple. We found one less than an hour after I got home for only $50 at (and I still can’t believe it) – IKEA!
The ego tried to make me feel superior for not reacting how it wanted me to. It wanted me to demand an apology and respect (and to speak with a manager); but I didn’t give in this time. I am no stranger to meaningless interactions like this and I’ve let them interfere with my happiness before. The ego is persistent and even now; tries to make me believe it was all a big coincidence. It demands I stop trying to make this article perfect and write a letter to the store’s owner instead. I know I could get an apology, a discount or both and for a brief second I almost give in. Instead, I smile at the notion that this inner dialogue with my ego will be shared for many years. I soothe it’s neediness by putting my laptop down on the perfect coffee table and recognizing how wonderful I feel from the entire experience.
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