Big Fat Ego Syndrome (BFE)

But first . . . Have you ever heard of the “pain body”? It’s an important concept in Eckhart Tolle’s philosophy of life in his famous book The Power of Now. It was a book that literally changed my life, as I know it changed millions. It’s probably about time that I read it again, actually.

Anyway, the pain body is a collection of historical unresolved emotional experiences that hang around in our energy field. It reacts to current situations through an old lens. It separates us from the Now – what is. The pain body has all sorts of reasons to distract, complain, and otherwise block our experience of full presence. Why? 

Because the pain body helps both to construct and to protect the Ego.

If we are fully invested in the Now, the negative, selfish elements of our Ego are obliterated in the fullness of our connection with everything around us. Our increased awareness allows for so much connection that we’re filled with love and contentment. 

But the negative Ego wants to be the only thing in us – our sole source of connection and satisfaction. It wants us to remain small and contained, rather than growing big and expansive, so it has to protect itself from too much generosity.

Hence, the pain body becomes big, swollen, grumpy, and very persistently uncomfortable. It makes the Ego un-ignorable; the pain forces our tiny personal awareness, thereby disrupting our ever-present connection with what is far more infinite than ourselves. For example, all of society, nature, and other people (ie. everything).

This, by the way, is my own personal interpretation of Tolle’s own concept of the pain body. I haven’t put this by the guru himself, so forgive me if I’m totally off-base. But that’s what I took from his idea, anyway. He’s got a lot of money, so he can sue me if I’ve got it wrong.

The pain body has a great deal to do with BFE Syndrome, a relatively recent cultural, social and medical phenomenon occurring predominantly in the wealthy areas of the world, but by-and-large proliferating in North America.

Big Fat Ego Syndrome, or BFE as it’s also known, comes with a very strict, near-total emphasis on ME. Me and My. Me, my device, my camera, my things, my clothes, my causes, my conditions, my social media accounts, my opinions, my lifestyle, my needs, my limits, my space, my pictures of me with my friends and me with my family. You see how it goes.

Along with this required emphasis on the self – and especially, above all, “self care” – BFE is normally accompanied by an inordinate preoccupation with the pain body. ME and MY PAIN.

BFE Syndrome also presents with a diverse array of symptoms including but not limited to: allergies, numerous coffee dates cancelled last-minute, food sensitivities, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, noise sensitivities, chronic lifelong PTSD, autoimmune disorders, hypochondria, fatigue, exhaustion, missed work, and ongoing addictions to Netflix, bed, and the language of “self-honouring”, “self-care”, “boundaries”, “healing journey”, and “triggered”.

Now, it’s not that the uses or meanings of any of these terms should be seen as negative in themselves. However, taken together and in constant repetition, they represent what is collectively a lifestyle-induced syndrome of self-obsession. 

Many theories abound as to the main triggers and causes of BFE. Along with the above-mentioned excess of North American privilege and also large amounts of leisure time, typically people who suffer from BFE are prone to be Indigo children or the parents thereof.

Sometimes they manifest a general preoccupation with wooden toys, organic food, wool mattresses, and “practicing what you preach”, but this is not always constant. Many are vegetarians and vegans, and many practice yoga, but these are not symptoms of BFE – rather, they only correlate slightly.

Many BFE sufferers have travelled the world and found it possible to live and learn alongside a multitude of other diverse humans in ashrams, universities and every other sort of learning environment. They’ve ridden subways packed like sardines. When they come home, they regale others with stories of their exotic adventures.

However, if a co-worker should come to work wearing a certain brand of shampoo with a synthetic scent, the BFE sufferer’s world falls apart. Their pain body wakes up with a vengeance, shouting about injustice. If anyone has a contrasting opinion about controversial topics such as transsexuality, mental health, or proper eating and digestion habits, a victim of BFE is quick to accuse them of being a “hater”.

The havoc wreaked upon public spaces by BFE Syndrome varies in intensity, depending on the situation. A few of the rules include not being able to smell like anything; not being able to smoke, except in a small unventilated closet at home; and, not being able to voice an opposing opinion without being labeled a social justice terrorist.

Weirdly, BFE Syndrome can also be linked to an excess of spirituality, even though spiritual values normally include acceptance, tolerance and equanimity. Sufferers of BFE are more likely to engage in spiritual practices all alone, or with others who believe exactly the same things as they do. Faced with diversity of belief or challenging personalities (or smells), they feel offended and run quickly in the other direction.

BFE Syndrome is found in parts of the world where the pain body also dominates. The result can be a startling society-wide dependence on pharmaceuticals and other drugs, including alcohol, to medicate emotions and difficult life passages such as grief due to death, divorce or ageing.

The solution? 

If you suspect you are a carrier of BFE Syndrome, the first thing to do is stop feeling sorry for yourself. When the pain body rears its head with yet another complaint of not feeling quite well enough to head outside and get some exercise, or volunteer, or meet up with that acquaintance who isn’t your favourite person in the world – get up and do it anyway. 

Look your pain body in the face, when it occupies your mental space. Ask questions of it. Make demands of it. Ensure that it faces plenty of uncomfortable situations where it is not the centre of attention. Stop doing drugs (legal or otherwise) to soothe it. Cry, and shake, and move, and then get over it. Don’t stay home. Go help somebody else.

Also, if you want to address this problem is society-at-large, take a chance. Call someone out. Notice and identify their preoccupation with their pain body, and remind them that in millions of households around the world, there are folks who share a bed with 5 other family members, eat from one bowl of stale millet, and may consider themselves lucky if they have cardboard walls instead of a tarp.

It’s time to put things in perspective and reign in our collective Ego. It all begins with noticing and identifying BFE Syndrome in ourselves and in others, and by compassionately but firmly limiting the ever-burgeoning presence of the pain body.

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