Are you stubborn? Of course you are. Maybe not as much as a mule, but we all are to some degree. That’s the bad news. The good news is we can use it to grow. I’ll show you how.
First, what is it to be stubborn? Some examples:
You made dinner so your spouse was supposed to clean the kitchen. But they had to work overtime so they didn’t think they should have to. Four days later a Mt. Everest of dishes has piled up with both of you standing your ground. That’s stubbornness.
You’re in a political argument and somebody proves that a central fact you’re using is wrong. You still don’t budge. That’s stubbornness.
You haven’t spoken to your best friend in three months because she hung up on you for trashing her boyfriend. You refuse to call her. That’s stubbornness.
Stubbornness always comes down to, ‘I’m right, somebody else is wrong.’ And whenever we’re in the position of needing to be right, guess what is dominating the playing field? The egoic self. Not some of the time. ALL of the time.
Your true self doesn’t need to be right
Your conscious, present, aware self, i.e., the real you, NEVER feels the need to be right. It transcends that plane. All it wants to do is be present and show compassion for others.
Stubbornness provides the egoic self exactly what it wants — conflict, drama and a fortified (but illusory) sense of who we are. And as all things are when we feed the egoic self, the costs are high and the benefits nil.
How often do we feel good after a bout of stubbornness? I always feel like some level of schmucky.
“No way. I’ve picked the kids up at school five days in a row. You said you’d do it today. I made plans. You change your plans. I’m not picking them up.”
Do I feel good right then? My ego does. But I don’t.
But there is a way to turn this negative into a positive. As I’ve said in previous articles, it’s my strong belief that the goal of life is to chip away at and ultimately eliminate our egoic selves. When we do that, all that’s left in the end is that compassionate, loving, conscious self I described above.
Stubbornness is easy to spot
Sometimes identifying when our egoic self has reared its ugly head can be subtle and therefore difficult. Not so when we’re stubborn. It’s SO obvious that it may as well slap us in the face. We feel that tight contraction in our inner being (stomach for me) as we gird ourselves for the war du jour.
What to do? As I’ve written many times, the best approach to letting go of our egoic selves is the Mickey Singer technique.
The solution: stop, relax, lean away, let go
Singer teaches that the moment you feel yourself tightening up and readying for a round in the stubbornness ring, stop. Relax everywhere in your body, especially in your head, chest and stomach areas. Then lean away from where you’re feeling that stubbornness-tightness so you can isolate and create distance from it.
Then let it go. Let that egoic energy float up and out of you. It’ll be one less piece of emotional baggage weighing down your psychic airplane.
Some will say, “Sure, being stubborn isn’t fun, but I’m not going to just let everybody walk all over me. It’s a tough world out there and if you don’t stand up for yourself, you’ll get crushed.”
It’s not about letting people walk on you
Well, I’m not advocating that we let people walk all over us. It’s not about responding from a place of weakness. “Okay, whatever you want is fine with me, stubborn husband.” Not at all. It’s about responding from the strongest place that exists in the universe — our conscious, compassionate selves.
But even more than that is the “selfish” reason for recognizing when we’re being stubborn and letting it go. Again, the more we let go, the more conscious, compassionate, brilliant and still we become. That is why I suggest we all look at these stubbornness incidents as valuable opportunities for spiritual growth.
It ain’t easy
It’s not easy to keep our stubborn button in the off position when someone’s actions desperately make us want to turn it on. But it is absolutely worth the work of keeping it off and consequently ridding ourselves of a small valise of egoic guck.
Like anything worthwhile, it just takes commitment and practice.