The Longing for and the Fear of Happiness—Also, the Fear of Releasing the Little Ego

Pathwork Guide Lecture No. 142 | April 15, 1966

Greetings, my dearest friends. Blessings for every one of you. Blessed be your abilities to understand, absorb, assimilate and utilize what you may receive in this hour. This lecture is a continuation of the topic already raised last time:  humanity’s deeply ingrained longing for and its simultaneous fear of happiness.

This fear is at a very deep level of the human psyche, way beneath the ordinary neurotic misconceptions and fears human beings harbor in their unconscious minds. The fear of happiness is directly related to the fear of letting go of one’s outer ego faculties. By the same token, the longing for happiness must also be a longing to be released from these ego faculties. While we have discussed this topic in the past, we now have to approach it on a deeper level with a new outlook and a new understanding. Many of my friends have on their personal path now reached, or are about to reach, awareness of the deep-rooted conflict between the longing for and the fear of happiness, which is the same as the longing for and the fear of letting go of one’s little ego.

As you have heard me say about so many other aspects of being, everything exists in both right understanding and distortion. It is the same with the letting go of the outer ego. Such letting go can happen in a distorted, unbalanced, and therefore unhealthy manner. First of all, let us be clear about what I mean by the ego faculties. These are the capacities you have direct access to:  your volitional thinking and the faculty I often call the outer will whose force can be directly exerted. A simple example will clarify the difference between direct and indirect will on the physical level. Your direct will can determine that you will move a hand, for example, how you will move it, and what action you are going to perform. Over your heartbeat or circulation, however, you have no direct control. The same difference between the two wills exists on a mental and emotional level. It is an exercise in futility to force yourself to harbor certain emotions, but by determining the direction of your thinking you can eventually change undesirable feelings. In a similar way the heartbeat and the circulation can be regulated indirectly by using faculties you control with the direct will.

When direct volition is used the wrong way, the psyche is thrown into disorder. Overexertion of the will and attempts to direct it to areas which cannot be controlled directly wastes energy and debilitates you. Can you imagine yourself forcing with all your might, and with sheer outer will, a change in your blood circulation?  If this effort would have any effect at all, it could only worsen your condition. In truth, human beings have many means at their disposal for improving their circulation, but these must not be executed with the outer will. It is the same with your mental and emotional faculties. You human beings often adopt the wrong approach by exerting your outer will in the wrong direction and neglect to use it where it would help your development. When the will is not used sufficiently, the ego gradually weakens. When the will is overexerted, it becomes so exhausted that it leads to escape from the self out of weak motives. Letting go is then an escape which may become dangerous.

To properly let go a healthy, balanced ego is needed, not indoctrinated with false concepts, false fears, and destructive attitudes. Only then can the ego give up the direct, over-tight control with the outer will, which then becomes possible and actually desirable. The deep longing for the happiness and harmony that comes from letting go of the ego faculties stems from the knowledge deep down in every human being that all great human experience is a result of letting go to some degree of the ego faculties with their too tight control. All creative manifestations are the direct work of an inner intelligence and wisdom which by far surpasses the conscious, directly available ego-intelligence. Therefore, the latter must be used deliberately in order to activate the greater wisdom within. Your inner being appears to exist quite independently of your outer volitional thinking apparatus. At first human beings are completely unaware of this powerful inner intelligence; then they begin to experience it occasionally as totally separate from their conscious, deliberate selves; and finally they integrate these two parts of themselves. In order to accomplish the integration, you must learn to use your conscious ego for the purpose of activating your inner self. You must learn the fine balance between when and how to use the outer ego, and when to let it step aside.

All truly great human experience comes from the inner, non-volitional self. It can never come from the outer ego, unless the ego is already integrated with the inner self. All acts of creation in art and science, all great inventions, all truly enriching and lasting values emanate from the inner being, as do all spiritual experiences, the experience of the ecstasy of love between the sexes, and finally the great experience of physical death itself which human beings erroneously assume to be sad or horrible. This is no more true of death than of the other two experiences, which are almost equally feared although the fear is not as conscious. Human beings fear a great spiritual experience. They fear the great act of total love and the letting go of the little self during the ecstasy of union. People are afraid to muster the courage required for letting the inner self manifest with its wisdom and truth. You are less aware of these last two fears, while the fear of death has been exaggerated and made into a big and seemingly rational fear.

The fear of letting go of the outer ego faculties is a further result of the misconception that life can be maintained only when the ego is tightly held together. What does life mean in this connection?  You do not want to lose your sense of identity, your sense of being an individual with a distinct and unique existence. Unfortunately this sense of identity is associated exclusively with the outer ego faculties of direct volitional thinking and willing. Because of this misidentification you fear losing yourself without the ego faculties. Loss of ego means death to you because you feel nonexistent. Threatened by this “I am not,” you tightly hold yourself together.

The history of spiritual evolution has brought humanity temporarily into a state of holding onto the ego too tightly until it learns to reestablish the balance. In the more recent course of its evolution, humanity has overconcentrated on using the ego faculties only, so that people cannot get beyond the seemingly solid wall of matter that, as the ego perceives it, separates them from life. Thus you equate your physical separateness with individuality. It is of course true that a weak and ineffectual ego diminishes your sense of individuality. Hence the ego must be strengthened, but for the sole purpose of relaxing it again, so that it can integrate with the indirectly accessible deeper and wiser self. Putting your identity exclusively into the outer ego, you must fear to let it go. To actually do so appears like annihilation, because your very existence seems threatened. Humanity’s separateness is the result of this threat; it is the deepest root of your fear when it comes to letting go. As long as the ego’s hold is not loosened, true happiness cannot come into being.

Any overexertion of the ego prevents real experience. All really beautiful, valid, constructive, meaningful experience comes from a perfect balance between the volitional ego and the non-volitional self. The latter manifests in a spontaneous, unbidden, indirect way and is not controllable by the outer volition. Those are the experiences which make you feel your oneness with the universe. The fact that humanity constantly longs for this oneness — whether or not you are aware of the longing — is only too understandable, for this is your destiny, your natural state, the direction toward which your evolution pushes you. The deep inner need to reach the state of perfect integration between the outer ego faculties and the inner, non-volitional self must exist in human beings as long as this need has not been fulfilled. This is where you have to go. When you unwittingly block your way to your destiny because your fears and misconceptions lead to self-alienation and escape from life, then a conflict arises in the deep psyche. The destiny of integrating the ego with the deeper self simultaneously becomes your greatest longing and your deepest fear. Such dichotomy between desire and fear is particularly strong in those life experiences where its strict control does not allow the ego to step aside and let the inner self manifest.

Where such over-control has existed for some time and exhausted the personality, people often resort to false means to liberate themselves from the burden of the too tight control. They cannot stand the state of overloading the faculties and thwarting the inner, non-volitional self which is infinitely better equipped to serve them. They look for relief and so often inadvertently grab for false and even dangerous means just to be able to experience the wonder and richness of the universe. The most extreme forms of releasing ego over-functioning are alcoholism and drug addiction. Less extreme forms are self-alienation and mental states of disassociation from the self. These are unconsciously instituted to effect a flight from the ego. You know how many ways exist in which a person can escape from himself. These are the false, misunderstood, inadvertent ways in which the self vainly seeks to liberate itself. When a person experiences the negative results of such an escape from the self, he or she is all the more convinced of the danger of letting go. Falling back into the other extreme of holding on too tight to the very ego which created the imbalance in the first place is no solution. Only a strong, healthy, robust ego can afford to let go of itself. Such an ego can give itself up and integrate with the larger self.

This is the story of the imbalance of the human psyche and it explains why you must constantly be caught up in the tremendous struggle between longing for and fearing happiness and the healthy letting go, although it affords the larger self the opportunity to manifest, to create, to guide, and to be. Genuine control is not established in the soul through tight and anxious holding on but through a harmonious, effortless movement which increases awareness of the power each individual possesses, without ever making this power a burden.

When you consider those areas of your life which function perfectly well, you will understand better what I mean. Perhaps you have come into this life liberated and healthy in those aspects, or else you have established the healthy patterns through working on a path such as this. Whatever the case may be, the positive self-perpetuating principle has been at work.

All aspects of living and of being, all of humanity’s outer and inner activities — especially the permanent and repetitive ones — are based on self-perpetuating processes. Each of these is like a magnetic field. The attitude a person harbors about a certain area of his or her life, together with the thoughts, feelings, impressions, concepts, and the actions, reactions and interactions which stem from these, together form a nucleus of energy. The new energy constantly arising from this nucleus creates what might be called a magnetic field.

For each human being a number of basic life experiences combine to establish such a field of force. The fundamental ones, applying to all human beings, are:  attitude toward work, human relationships in general, material values, physical health and outer life, appearance and activity; there is also one’s attitude to nature, art, pleasure and leisure, spiritual reality, self-development and permanent values, together with collecting and assimilating knowledge. All these form separate magnetic energy fields. In each human life, some are positively and some negatively self-perpetuating. Where they work positively, everything goes smoothly. You do not have to struggle. Desirable results come by themselves, effortlessly and harmoniously, never creating problems or conflict. The right action happens at the right time, from outside and from inside. You think of the appropriate things to do, say, or undertake at precisely the proper moment. Nothing stands in the way. Things fall into place by themselves. Inspiration, guidance, one’s own best resourcefulness — all function well. In such areas you are apt to take the smooth functioning so much for granted that you are unaware of its mechanics. Once you pay attention to these areas, you will see that the ego does its part, but is not exclusively in charge, for it would be incapable of causing so many external as well as inner factors to function so well together. What I have given you is a typical description of a positively working magnetic field, or positive self-perpetuating energy.

The negative magnetic fields of one’s life experience denote not only failure, but pressure, difficulty, wrong timing, and frustration. Things do not work out. When closely observed, the ego presses and pushes, assuming that thus it will overcome the obstruction. Pain, disappointment, and complications follow.

People are usually so shortsighted that they call the positive energy fields good luck and the negative bad luck. When you try to directly control the result itself, you must be wasting your energy without being able to change a negative field into a positive. However, you can directly control all that which makes up the negative magnetic field. That is, you can examine yourself, your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes in this regard. You can directly control whether you wish either to continue the same thoughts, feelings, and attitudes, or to change them. You can determine whether you remain in a vague climate of helplessness and hopelessness, or whether you decide to clarify this inner climate by properly formulating it and subsequently stating your desire to change it by creating a new positive attitude.

No one is more superstitious and fatalistic than the materialistically oriented person who ignores the spiritual realities behind manifestation. This is particularly true of those who believe in “good luck” and “bad luck” because they cannot see beneath the surface. Since these people refuse to conceive of spiritual realities, they cannot perceive them. Neither can they see that they have an influence over those areas of their lives in which they appear to be unlucky. These areas cannot be changed without deep and honest self-confrontation. First the realization must be made that a possibility of change does exist, and then the desire has to awaken to follow through, without shirking the effort that such a deep change requires.

When caught in a negative magnetic field, a person cannot press for change with the outer will; the outer will must be used to discover what the negative self-perpetuating field consists of, why it exists, and what is it in the self that has created it.  Having done this, the person will automatically be able to institute a positive field.

As long as there is negativity and destructiveness within you, you must fear to let go of your outer, controlling ego. Since your destructiveness comes from a negative magnetic field and perpetuates it still further, letting go of outer control means giving this uncontrolled force free rein. From this point of view your refusal to let go of the ego is understandable and even healthy self-protection. It is understandable then, my friends, that you would fear to let go as long as there is a negative magnetic field in any area of your life. You will note your fear of letting go when you use your volitional faculties to uncover in what specific areas negative magnetic fields manifest. Ask what are the specific areas of the negative magnetic fields?  See them clearly and precisely. However, it is very important that you see both the positive and the negative areas side by side. There is no one among you who has only negative magnetic fields. When you compare these two modes of functioning, you will find it much easier to feel relaxed about uncovering the nature of the negative magnetic fields.

This, of course, is your path, but I would now like you to do the work with a more exact understanding of how self-perpetuating force fields operate. This will lead you to immediately understand the existence of particular negative fields. You will also see that until now you have lacked this precise awareness. You will observe how you pressure ego energy into the wrong channel and will be able to change its direction. The negative fields contain all your destructive patterns of believing, thinking, feeling, and willing, which make you fear giving up the little ego. You will understand clearly why you fear happiness, why you fear letting go of outer control. But once the negative magnetic fields are known and understood, they already begin to weaken in effect, and thereby a positive self-perpetuating magnetic field is slowly beginning to form.

Wherever positive fields are at work, whether consciously or unconsciously, there must be trust. The more positive and the fewer negative fields exist in your human psyche, the greater must be your trust in the energy fields which create your life apparently independently of your volitional ego. The more such trust exists, the less problematic will it be to give up your little, outer ego-self. Let it flow and integrate with your inner greater being which has all the forces and resources you will ever need.

This is the only way in which trust in life, in self, and in God can be established. How can you let go of the little ego with its tight control if there is no trust?  And how can trust in the universe be established in any other genuine way than by correcting negative fields with their ever-repeating undesirable and painful patterns?  To say you must trust in a faraway God outside of you is a completely meaningless command, that becomes an impossible demand. The trustworthiness of life and therefore of God — or of cosmic universal powers and laws — will be self-evident when you understand how and why negative fields work, why they exist, and the fact that they need not exist. Even before they are transformed into positive fields, you will already know in principle that trust is justified, that underneath these negative fields there is something that can be trusted and activated by your outer mind, will, and thought orientation. The more this vaster power, even underneath the strongest negative self-perpetuation, is contacted — because such negative process is only conceived in your own outlook — the easier it is for you to switch the energy currents from destructive into constructive channels.

Only in this way can the ego become strong and healthy and integrate with that utterly reliable inner being which functions in an indirect way. In this “indirection” life happens effortlessly, yet you are not a passive recipient. Things do not happen for you; they happen with and through you and make you automatically respond in an adequate way. When people want to be left out of the life process and remain passive recipients, they have not grasped the nature of life and the part they are to play. The same holds true when they want to take too great control of the reins. The ego must neither be shoved aside nor overburdened. The balance cannot be established until people realize that they each possess a powerful inner being which can be activated. If there were no such inner power, how could a person help but overburden the ego and charge it with tasks it is not equipped to execute?  Only by activating the inner being is harmonious integration between it and the ego possible. This, my friends, is how integration, trust, and the relaxed state of the inner, richer, wider being can manifest:  not by escaping into cut-off spirituality, but by complete integration of the ego with the inner self.

Now, are there any questions?

QUESTION:  What is the intermediate process for reaching that state of integration?  Is there any particular process?

ANSWER:  The particular process is the work of this path which I have given and continue to give to you. It is the process of recognition, which sounds like an easy word, my friends, but it is not so easy to do; for human beings are often governed by impulses and drives they can very glibly rationalize but whose real nature they fail to understand. Deep self-recognition is a long and consistent path requiring the greatest courage of truthfulness with oneself. This is the only possible way that leads to such integration. There is no other way.

QUESTION:  Lately, I have had mental blocks. Whenever I concentrate and work and use the methods you just described, there is just a blank. It is very difficult to go through it, and very tiring and energy-consuming. Can you help me in this?

ANSWER:  In the first place, when you observe yourself very closely, you will find that when certain topics come up — topics that you want to discuss or meditate about, or even topics that come to you from the outside — you feel an anxiety. First this anxiety may register only as a vague feeling of unrest, of impatience, or irritation. Instead of immediately trying to penetrate the anxiety or explain it away, put down some key words in writing. It is important to do so, because otherwise it eludes you so easily. Just what are these moments when you feel uneasy?  What was the occasion?  What fleeting thought passed through you when the camouflaged anxiety came up?  Try to pinpoint it. Hold it fast. When you collect this information over a period of a few days or a week, you will have a whole list of key words. Out of this a clear pattern or a common denominator will arise. This may be comparatively easy for you to do and you will soon sense an overall larger negative energy field which you block because you evade the truth.

Such evasion always causes needless suffering, an oppressive burden, fears, and escape from the self. Once this area is totally faced, relief and growth become possible. As you acknowledge that you fear the truth, you can then say to yourself, “I will not fear the truth. This is an irrational, illogical, unfounded fear. My fear has no foundation in reality. I will not give in to it. I determine to make up my mind to face whatever it is. And I request all the help to do so.”

When you thus determine with your outer, volitional self what the negativity is, the way will open again and the blocks will yield. If you cannot see the common denominator and therefore the problem which you are still reluctant to face, perhaps one session with the medium may open the way. You can then go on from there. Sometimes an opening can occur in one session of good and deep discussion. If you can discover the negativity without such outside assistance, you will know the way automatically. You can also ask me again and I will try to help you from another angle. Do you understand?  Do you think you will do this?

COMMENT:  I will work at it, I think I will…

ANSWER:  If you say, “I think I will,” you are capable of observing how you are deliberately blocking, even quite consciously. This is exactly where you have direct recourse to your outer will faculties. This block is not completely out of your reach; hence you are not a helpless victim of it. for it is within the realm of the possible for you to say, “I will do this” instead of “I think I will,” and mean it, too.

QUESTION:  I think I have some very positive magnetic fields. And then there are some very unhappy ones. Now, where the ego is concerned, I have the feeling that either the ego runs the show or it goes away completely. It is sort of an either/or business.

ANSWER:  That is exactly what I meant in this lecture. You are a wonderful demonstration and example and it is therefore good that you bring it out here, for it shows what I mean in an actual case. Because the negative magnetic field exists in you, letting go of your ego is naturally very frightening to you. It appears as if you were giving yourself up to something dangerous. The other alternative is that you hold on too tightly which, of course, is what you habitually do.

It is therefore necessary for you now to use the approach I have outlined in this lecture, where you first of all assert the fact, “Here is a negative field. This negative field need not exist. It is not something given to me by a fate which cannot be changed. It can be changed, provided I understand exactly why the negative field exists and what makes it a negative, self-perpetuating process. Therefore, I declare that I am going to build a positive field which can only be done when my own negativity and destructiveness in this particular area becomes conscious. Where in this respect is my pleasure principle attached to a destructiveness?  I intend to see all this.”

This then will show you quite clearly how the energy is constantly regenerated through the attachment of the pleasure principle to the negativity. This is the way you can go about it. As I have indicated in the past, a negative self-perpetuating field can only exist when the pleasure drive is negatively attached to a particular destructive pattern. Part of your resistance to correcting these unhappy areas is a hidden, irrational fear which comes from the misconception:  “If I give up this entire structure, this entire field, consisting of my negativity and the pleasure attached to it, then there will be no pleasure.”  The fear is that your pleasure will be taken away when the negativity is given up. The fear must be countered by the conscious, rational thinking self, once it has been ascertained that one’s pleasure is not being taken away. Pleasure can be yours in infinitely better and more desirable ways in a positive situation. In fact, a human being’s natural, original inclination before any distortion has taken place is to be in utter positive pleasure.

COMMENT:  Very often we put a false price on paying for pleasure. It is not necessary. There is no price.

ANSWER:  Right, exactly. Any other questions?

QUESTION:  I started a new relationship and I think I could be very fond of this person, ultimately. I would like to be somehow appreciated by this person more than I actually am. There is a compulsiveness in me about this relationship because I feel I can’t progress more now than the pace of my work allows, and my still-existing problems may impede the relationship and ultimately cut it off.

ANSWER:  I will first answer the last part of your question. You fear that your still existing blocks will impede the relationship and might even jeopardize or destroy it. Now this, of course, is perfectly true. It would not be honest of anyone to tell you that this could not happen. But think of how much more this could happen again and again until you would become so bitter that you would completely withdraw from living. Think of how much more painful it must be when one ascribes these occurrences to false reasons, and how much more constructive your life is when you learn from everything you experience. For no one, absolutely no one, goes through life without destroying some chances. Every single incarnated soul has unresolved problems and blocks. The healthy approach I recommend would be this:  “Yes, I have a problem here. It is very possible that my still-existing problems might contribute to an imperfect relationship which might finally cease. But this is life and I intend to learn the utmost from everything and bring the most constructive attitude to what comes to pass.”

You also must know that you cannot be drawn to anyone who does not have equal problems — more or less. Therefore the other person must be equally responsible if the relationship does not work. It is not only your doing; it cannot only be your doing. It is neither yours nor her doing exclusively; it must be the creation of you both. When you feel that others cannot blunder and you feel guilty for not being “like others,” then you will feel compulsive and overanxious. But when you know that perfection does not exist and that no one can do more than his or her best in any given phase, you will be more relaxed. The most important thing is that you accept your present limitations with all their consequences. This is a fundamental requirement to eliminate the limitation. In that spirit you can still derive a great deal of joy, even increasing joy, out of each encounter. And each new contact will be an improvement until you are no longer afraid of people, of contact, of love, of yourself. In this way you will derive more of a lesson, more help, and you will also contribute more to the other person which in turn will increase your own security. With this attitude, you will not be in illusion or in distortion and you will see reality and grow from what you see. You cannot expect to have your blocks disappear in one fell swoop. And yet you will get more pleasure out of such encounters than before. Do not think that on the other side of the fence are all other human beings and that they have no problems and only complete relationships. Do not believe that they never destroy anything while you are all alone on this side. Do not think that if only you could quickly get rid of this block, you too would be among the privileged ones. All people destroy chances constantly and inadvertently in the sphere of human life. But mistakes are not the end of the world. If you learn and look at it in this way, you will not need to be so frightened.

The fact that every relationship is a mutual proposition, whether or not that relationship is good, must be brought home to all who are involved. Relationship cannot be a one-sided thing. When you know this, you will also discover your own power. There is a strange and apparently paradoxical balance:  the more egocentric the little child within a person is, the more one-sidedly it expects only to receive. The weaker and more helpless such egocentric people become, the more they tend to blame themselves alone for the failure of a relationship. Since they experience only their own needs and desires, and since they believe only they count, they cannot share the brunt of failure when the relationship does not work. Nor can such a person be aware of his or her inner power to give to another person.

On the other hand, when egocentricity has been outgrown and you can experience yourself as being on the same level, your concern for the other in a relationship must grow. This will automatically give you the feeling that you have as much power to make someone happy or unhappy as you had hitherto ascribed only to the other person. Hence you will feel much more secure. Once you are willing to give, you will feel entitled to receive. When that shift occurs, you will experience a certain fluctuation between blaming the other and blaming yourself.

When you do not go to the other person as a begging child, you will know your strength and your potential to give. This will enable you to use intelligence, observation, and intuition. It will also help you to distribute your energies between making both active and passive contributions to the relationship. It must give you freedom and a sense of proportion to realize that both of you are involved. If the other person were free of problems, his or her healthy state would overcome all difficulties, for this is the strength of true spiritual health.

My dearest friends, the spiritual food I have offered you can indeed be taken in by all of you. It can indeed enrich you in your expansion, enabling you to find and determine where positive and negative magnetic fields exist in you. It can also help you to consider the possibility that the negative can be reversed if you truly desire this and are prepared to go through with it. Be blessed, my dearest ones. Be in peace. Be in God.