I finally understood why the pull of compulsive thinking so strongly pulls us away from being in Present Awareness when I read the following passage from Eckhart Tolle's A NEW EARTH.
"In most cases, when you say 'I' it is the ego speaking, not you. It consists of thought and emotion, of a bundle of memories you identify with as 'me and my story,' of habitual roles you play without knowing it, of collective identifications such as nationality, religion, race, social class, or political allegiance. It also contains personal identifications, not only with possessions, but also with opinions, external appearance, long-standing resentments, or concepts of yourself as better than or not as good as others, as a success or failure.
Egos only differ on the surface. Deep down they are all the same. In what way are they the same? They live on identification and separation. When you live through the mind-made self comprised of thought and emotion that is the ego, the basis for your identity is precarious because thought and emotion are by their very nature ephemeral, fleeting. So every ego is continuously struggling for survival, trying to protect and enlarge itself. To uphold the I-thought, it needs the opposite thought of 'the other.' The conceptual 'I' cannot survive without the conceptual 'other.' The others are most other when I see them as my enemies. At one end of the scale of this unconscious egoic pattern lies the egooic compulsive habit of faultfinding and complaining about others...Because when I criticize or condemn another, it makes me feel bigger, superior.
Complaining is one of the ego's favorite strategies for strengthening itself...Applying negative mental labels to people, either to their face or more commonly when you speak about them to others or even just think about them, is often part of this pattern.
Nonreaction to the ego in others is one of the most effective ways not only of going beyond ego in yourself but also of dissolving the collective human ego...When you realize it's not personal, there is no longer a compulsion to react as if it were. By not reacting to the ego, you will often be able to bring out the sanity in others, which is the unconditioned consciousness as opposed to the conditioned."