Monday, July 9, 2012

Gríma Wormtongue as a Metaphorical Ego

The character of Wormtongue is well known from "Lord of the Rings."  Well known and despised.  Wormtongue went after a King and nearly destroyed him.  How did he do that?

When Gandalf and the others first approached  King Théoden, he was in terrible shape.  Hiding in the dark in his palace, tired, weak, failing.  Wormtongue had done this to the King.  What do you say to a person to ruin them?

Things Wormtongue told the king to maintain control:

Don't talk to strangers.

Other people want you to fail, I am your true friend.

Those who try to help the king will be belittled, insulted, or even attacked.

Other people disguise their true intentions, I can be trusted.

Any call to change or improve the self will be answered with any combination of the following:

1.  It's impossible.

2.  It's impossible for you.

3.  It won't do any good even if you pull it off.

Your enemies are immensely powerful.

Your enemies are numerous and conspiring against you.

You are weak. You must conserve you energy.

Do not go outside.  It is too dangerous.  I will be your eyes.

Has anyone ever said any of these things to you?  I have heard some of these from friends, so there are people like this.  More importantly, are you like that?  I don't mean with others, but with yourself.

Have you ever sabotaged yourself?  Have you tried to improve yourself, by say dieting or exercise or education?  I have many times in the past, but they always failed in the end.  Why?  What happened to the motivation and drive I may have had at the beginning of the process? Why is this time different?  The changes have been dramatic and have stuck.

Do you have a Wormtongue in your own head?  I did.  Always ready to tell me that I can't do it.  I may not have heard a voice in my head saying that, but the message was clear.  The harder I tried, the harder it became to continue.  I was stopping myself, but I didn't know that.

The key is recognizing that our toughest enemy is in our own head.  This is done by thinking of the ego (wormtongue) as a seperate identity, like an alien lving in your head.  This alien ego only cares for itself, and for the status quo.  It identifies with all your flaws.  Correcting a flaw is seen as a direct threat, weakening or destroying the ego.

So the key to growth is to recognize that you have an active antagonist in your head, and you must not identify with it.  You must establish an identity for yourself apart from the ego.  This is harder than it sounds.

More to come.

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