We humans have a fundamental need for 'peak experiences' in which we go beyond the self and feel connected to something larger than ourselves (whatever that may be).
We look for moments in which we become so absorbed in something that we lose track of time and forget ourselves.
We desperately need these moments to be able to cope with the exhausting lives we lead. Our civilization demands a lot from us: we must control our bodies, our impulses, we need to manage our emotions. We must play our designated role in a complex web of globalized capitalism. In order to cope, our egos have evolved to help us survive and compete. They do this by spending every moment of every day scanning for opportunities and threats.
This is very exhausting and it creates isolation. Many of us feel cut off from ourselves and others by walls of fear and shame, we feel overwhelmed by worries and ambitions and fear of our impending mortality. Isolation and exhaustion cut us off from the creativity we need to be happy and live the way we want to live.
The illusion of control
In contrast, many of us are under the illusion that we are in need of having total control of ourselves and others. In leadership this illusion proves to be ineffectual most of the time, but is still very much in vogue.
Managers try to impose top down what they think are the most effective work methods, the most effective means to produce required results.
Instead statistics show that work-related depression and burn-out numbers are growing every year.
To prevent exhaustion and depression we need to let go of the controls from time to time.
We all have our ways to unwind, some healthy, some not so or downright very unhealthy. We can lose ourselves in a book, going for a walk, sports etc. These activities create a pause, a flow that feels soothing.
But very often this is not enough to really 'unself' for a while.
Deeper forms of ego-loss can be created by various methods, ranging from deep meditation, psychedelics, incredible sex, close brushes with death. In profound moment of ego-loss, we can feel deeply connected to something greater than ourselves: nature, the cosmos, humanity, God. These moments can create a sense beyond 'I' and 'you'.
In short: ecstasy.
Moments of deep ecstasy can create shifts in perspective, can release much needed creativity, inspiration, compassion and understanding.
We all try to find ways to turn off the ego's chatter and feel a sense of connection to our true selves, to other people, to the world. To function as a healthy individual, to grow and evolve, we absolutely need to find the way that works for us, a way to reach the state of ecstasy in a healthy way.
We all know the temptations of the unhealthy ways: alcohol, food, junk tv, pain killers. These ways seem easy, but lead more often than not to addictions. How can we let go in a way that is healthy for us and the society we live in? A way that offers us real connection Does our society offer us good ways of losing control, or does it offer only toxic forms?
Could it be an important task for good leaders to offer healthy ways of losing control to their employees or followers, or at least inspiration to find these healthy ways?
Stay tuned for our next article on healthy ways for creating ecstatic experiences.