photo: Lori L. Stalteri on flikr

Step aside Carl Jung. Step aside Ken Wilbur. There’s a new psycho-spiritual theorist in town and her name is . . . . Dr. Z!

It doesn’t matter that I’m not actually a doctor. That didn’t stop me from coming up with a new theory that totally explains the entire scope of human spiritual and psychological development.

Not only that, it’s based on elves. You heard me right – elves. Those little creatures who run around in pointy shoes and hats and occasionally sell cookies on TV.

Elves!

Sure, my version of “elf” is heavily influenced by Western culture, specifically the television of my childhood. But like any good theorist, I’m using a simplified – and arguably superficial – model to explain a complex and ultimately unexplainable phenomenon.

Remember, I’m a “doctor”! You can trust me!

Are you ready? Here goes. 

Most theories of human spiritual development like to harp on about the ego. You know, that pesky little sucker that thinks of itself as separate from the Divine.

The ego gets a bad rap in spiritual circles. It’s like this demon we want to get rid of.

photo: Orin Zebest on flikr

But what if it wasn’t so bad after all? What if we rebranded the ego into something more palatable, something more . . . loveable?

Enter the elf. 

Any spiritual theory that’s worth its salt will tell you that we’re all One. There’s only one power and one energy in the Universe, and this one power makes up all things, including human beings. We are each an inextricable part of the whole.

Part of us knows this. Let’s call that part the Self. The Self is intimately connected to the All and never loses this connection.

But what happens when we forget? What happens when the big “S” of Spirit appears to leave our lives?

See where I’m going here?

Take the S out of Self, and you’re left with . . . elf!

The elf is the part of us who’s lost sight of the big “S,” who thinks it’s separate from Spirit. The elf is the part of us that goes to sleep and thinks that it’s all alone, fighting for survival without allies.

The elf is the ego, but cuter. 

You know how Nature makes baby animals really adorable so that their parents keep them around?

photo: Bri Lehman on flikr

It’s like that.

Referring to the ego as an elf is good for three reasons.

1. Elves are adorable! 

How can you hate an elf? The impish grin, the zany knickers, the inexhaustible industriousness!

The part of us that sees itself as separate and alone needs love, not condemnation. Whenever we denounce this part of ourselves, we find ourselves that much further away from the Divine. The only way back to Oneness is through love. Embracing the “elf self” helps us get there.

2. Elves can’t do much damage.  

They’re elves! They’re only two feet tall! Those pointy little shoes aren’t doing any harm.

It’s the same with our elf self. Our elf self thinks it’s separate and alone. It thinks it’s been irreparably torn from Goodness, and that everything it does only increases its sense of loneliness and isolation.

Not so fast, little elf.

The sense of separation from Love is an illusion. The elf thinks it’s lost its S, but it hasn’t. Spirit is there all along, like Dorothy and Kansas, like fish in the sea, like the tasty cookie wafer surrounding the delicious creamy filling.

photo: Kelly Bailey on flikr

When we view our scared little self as an elf, we’re reminded of its essential ineptitude. In a good way.

We can’t hurt the Divine. And we can’t hurt our connection with the Divine.

No matter what the elf says.

3. Elves are hard working.

They never quit! Do you want five thousand cookies manufactured by tomorrow? The elves are on it! Do you want seven billion Christmas toys delivered by yesterday? Done!

In the same way, the ego is always on the job, serving us in the path toward greater realization. Seeing our ego as an elf reminds us how hard this part of us is working. It reminds us to appreciate the inexhaustible efforts on our behalf.

Sure, the elf gets in snags and snares all the time. Primarily because of fear. But ultimately, the industriousness of our elf has a purpose: to take us Home. And loving this scared, little part of us is the best way to get there.

So there you have it!

A new way to view the previously maligned and misunderstood ego. The Elf Theory of Spiritual Growth brings back the love! The fun! The knickers!

So here’s a prescription from Dr. Z: 

The next time you catch yourself acting out of a sense of separation or fear, remember to view that part of yourself as an elf. A cute, little, well meaning-and-ultimately-misguided elf.

Once you’ve firmly established this view, your task is to love it. Love the elf! Tickle its chin. Rub its little belly. Read it a bedtime story. The one about the lonely elf who finds a special human to love and care for it.

Got it? Good.  Now, take two elves and call me in the morning.

photo: Mikko Luntiala on flikr

How have you rejected your elf self? And how have you learned to love it?

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