“It’s the effect of the ring” – A way to identify with our ego – A lesson from The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Last week I was quite busy watching the Harry Potter movie series on Netfllix. Believe it or not, I am one of the few who had never read or seen the Harry Potter series. I loved the series. I discussed about the movie with my friend and colleague Rasmi. This is when she told me:

“Nim, if you loved this, I think you should watch The Lord of the Rings.”

So close to 10 hours of the weekend just past, I spent in the fantasy land created by the movie series “The Lord of the Rings.” I spoke to Rasmi again yesterday and told her how I see any “ego stemmed emotional turbulence of self” as “the effect of the ring.”  

Last Saturday, I had my three-weekly session with my psychologist. It generally went well, but something he told me disturbed me. It hit one of my core values, and I felt enormously misunderstood. Although his delivery was gentle, and he tried to show his humanness, I was disturbed. 

But every time this disturbance came up, I tried to tell myself, “He is also human, and he can make a mistake.” or shut it down with an equally outward-focused statement. This morning, I decided to write an email to him to express my dissatisfaction. I thought, pouring it out would make the discomfort go away. 

But No, pouring it out got me closer to the disturbance. I now had to fight a battle in my head. I started getting angry, agitated, hurt, disappointed, and felt unworthy and misunderstood. I could not contain myself, so I decided to write another email. This time, I showed no empathy for him but solely focused on my own inner grieving. After I hit send, I was scared. I thought that was it. I did not know how it would be received. This entire episode brought back so much historical baggage that I cried. After a good cry, I felt really head-heavy and I couldn’t focus on work anymore. Thankfully, I was permitted to take the rest of the day off when I sought some rest due to migraine. 

It was around 2pm now. I was in bed, and my head felt so heavy. I could hear myself and I decided to hear these like how Smeagol or Gollum in The Lord of the Rings heard them.

Nim (Gollum): “I don’t want to see him again.”

Nim (Smeagol): “But Nim, we will get over this. He already said that he could be wrong. Let’s decide this later.”

Nim (Gollum): “No they are all the same. No one understands me. I don’t want him anymore. I will find another Psychologist. Or I will quit altogether.” 

Nim (Smeagol): “But you like him. Moreover, it will take so much time to build this relationship again.”

Nim (Gollum): “I don’t want a Psychologist then.”

This voice went over and over in my head. I got so tired. 

“The effect of the ring (ego driven emotional turbulance) is so draining”. 

I fell asleep. 

Around 5 pm I woke up. I felt like “Gandalf” and “Frodo” in The Lord of the Rings. I told myself:

“I need help. I need someone to slap me out of the ring effect. I need someone who can understand. I need to ensure that I don’t drop of out of therapy.”

I had to find someone unique for the situation. It could not be any friend. 

  • The friend should not collude with me.
  • The friend should not preach to me.
  • The friend should not judge me.
  • The friend should not be emotionally attached to me or the situation I was in.
  • I should feel comfortable talking about the entire story and asking for help.
  • I should feel comfortable enough to show them the emails.
  • They should have enough time to allocate for this request.

Finally, I managed to go through a list of colleagues and friends and landed on one. It was only later I connected the dots that it is the same person who asked me to watch “The Lord of the Rings”. 

Rasmi understood when I said 

“Rasmi, it’s the ring effect. I know. I want help to snap out of it.”

She listened to me quite intently. Read both emails. She was about to preach to me when I said:

“Rasmi, no.. do not advise me now. The power of the ring is too strong. Just check in with me in roughly two weeks. I just want to ensure I make it to the session.” 

Both of us laughed. I felt a little better. By this time, my psychologist also has replied to my email, which started as:

“Hello mate, thanks for your emails. I hear your feelings. Criticised. Inadequate. Hard-done-by. Judged. Embarrassed maybe, ashamed. Guilty, angry, resentful. Misunderstood. Maybe scared too.”

I don’t feel like quitting my therapy sessions anymore. I will continue to go on the journey to “destroy the ring”. 


Lessons from The Lord of the Rings

  • I loved Gollum and Smeagol’s conversations. It clearly shows two aspects of the same person. 
    • Isn’t this very similar to our own conversations when we face emotionally intense situations?  
  • I loved the fact that even Frodo was loosing the battle towards the end. 
    • Don’t we all have this weakness? Can’t we all drown in our ego sometimes.  
  • I loved the fact that Sam, Frodo’s friend, always knew “It is the ring”. 
    • Wouldn’t it be awesome if we can de-identify like this, when our loved ones get a massive ego hit and operate differently? 
  • Fellowship of the ring
    • Don’t we all need a few of us around us to help us when ego is taking over us?
    • Don’t we all need to assess who can help us in a given situation accurately? 
    • If the intention is pure, don’t we all get our prayers answered? 
  • Using the ring with best intentions – Frodo risked using the ring knowing it takes him to danger to avoid some other immediate danger (dissapear). But he did it when he had people around him that can help him with best intentions.
    • Isn’t this how we should use our ego? Or is it not? Maybe I haven’t fully grasped it there. But, in my lesson today with the emails, the first email actually got me close to more pain. Then I was in a lot more dangerous place. But, thanks to help from my friend and my psychologist I not only came out of it, I now have a lot of insight about things that were bottled up in me to discuss in our next session.

– Nim –

(Nimeshe Dilraj Madanayake)

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