Michael J. Formica MS, MA, EdM

Enlightened Living

Is There a Digital Divide in Your Relationship?

The ego, the witness, and being present.

Posted May 14, 2018

It’s no secret that our obsessional attachment to our devices can cause friction—and sometimes even provoke direct conflict—in our relationships. They interfere with communication, diminish our capacity to adequately respond to social cues and increase the opportunity for, if not the incidence of, emotional infidelity.

In some ways, when we consider the consequences, it’s more important to think through the meaning behind the behavior than the behavior itself. What does it mean when we are more invested in our Facebook newsfeed or a Snapchat story than in the person sitting across from us? More to the point, what does it mean when we are sitting across from someone—particularly someone important to us—and we are texting someone else?

Now, the obvious line of thinking here is the emotional infidelity mentioned earlier. If we take that off the table, then what we’re talking about is simply not being present. Not being present with ourselves, our companion or partner, or even the person with whom we’re texting. Despite common wisdom to the contrary, human beings are incapable of multi-tasking. If we’re not present in one place, we’re not present in any place. Let’s deconstruct this a bit.

Not being present with yourself means hanging onto your shoulds, rather than releasing them. Shoulds are self-created. They are the voices in our head—our self-narrative—that come from other people, as well as our inner critic. They are also the engine that drives our decision-making and patterns of behavior.

Human beings may not be able to multi-task, but we have a marvelous capacity to be of two minds, as it were. There is the attached mind, or ego, and the witness, or witness consciousness. Not only can we engage in behavior, but we can simultaneously observe ourselves engaging in that behavior. The value in this is not so much observing our behavior but being able to observe our attachments. In doing so, we can, by association, observe our shoulds. In other words, what’s distracting us from being right here, right now with ourselves.

In terms of texting or messaging when we’re in conversation with our companion or partner, the should there is missing out, not being in the loop, not being on top of things; in short, it’s fear. It’s living with a ‘what if’ mentality—a poverty mentality—rather than an ‘as if’ mentality, confident of our place in the world.

Not being present with your companion or your partner means not honoring their presence by giving him or her your complete attention. Just like your shoulds, not honoring another person is a trap of the ego. It’s saying, ‘I’m more important than you’, rather than recognizing the playing field is always level. For instance, when you’re making your morning coffee, is it you making your morning coffee, or is it God pouring God into God to serve God? This is the essence of duality of the ego and the witness.

Not being present with the other is irrelevant, because the other is emblematic of not being present in the first place. It is the foil of fear, simply a mechanism of distraction that invests you in the ego and deflects your being present in the moment.

This is not some deep teaching on the psychology of human interaction or the spiritual aspects of relationship. It is, like all wisdom teachings, simple, clear and straightforward. Put your phone down and be here now.

What has your experience been with others being distracted when you are engaged with them, and how have you felt about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

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