Should we drop the ego?
One of the most confusing subjects within many spiritual teachings is that of the ego, what is it and how should we deal with it.
Within these teachings the ego is often regarded as a separate and negative entity, being the cause of all our suffering and misery, together with the rational mind. This troublemaker is thought to keep us from experiencing eternal bliss with a heavenly smile on our face.
The solution usually brought up is this: erase the ego and step away from rational thinking as being a minor source of information, and highly rely on the subconscious.
Silence the enemy by killing it! Well, not really.
It is very difficult to become whole if you cut off a piece of yourself. Ego and the ratio were given to us as useful tools for development.
First of all: what exactly is the ego?
It is the Latin form of the word “I” or “self”, and especially used to distinguish between you and me or any other self. It is a conscious part of ourselves, and its function is to protect us, feed us, and define and adapt oneself within daily reality and society. The ego is the spark of independence making it possible to express and experience ourselves in this world of matter and free choice. A healthy ego will use its free will and speak up.
During a retreat several years ago I got vivid visions of an enormous transparent beam of white light connecting the heavens and earth. The light had no real form, yet I knew it was a spiritual being. Inside this beam of light, near the bottom, a young child was playing. Something told me that this child, which only formed a tiny part of the complete being, represented the ego, and that it functioned as a key on our existence on planet Earth.
Appearantly the ego is that part of us able to unlock our potential as gods and goddesses in the flesh, our tool to make it manifest.
Problems arise however when the tiny ego forgets its original size and imagines to be the king or queen itself, instead of being a guiding and accompanying force for the higher Self on earth.
This happens when we identify too much with physical life.
Just like the ego, material life is a part of our reality, but not the whole thing. As long as we accept that we live in several realities at the same time of which the seen world is only one option, we can understand that we are unique beings with separate bodies and independent thinking minds, while at the same time perceiving ourselves as an interconnected whole or unity. And if the other one is not only your opposer but also your brother or sister, would you still attack that hard?
This also happens when we rely too much on the opinion and judgements of others, parents, teachers, politicians, the media, societal standards or religious dogma. Because then our sense of self needs constantly feeding by the attention and approval of others, since it is not nurtured by an inner sense of Self.
Early in youth our personality has developed from the attention and reactions and lessons of others. We’ve learned to value ourselves through the eyes and opinions of others. Later on in life we added our imagination to these experiences to get what we want. Conclusion: living from the ego is living, loving and giving on condition. Exchanging tit for tat. And if we don’t get what we want we are angry and unhappy, because somebody outside failed to fulfil our needs. We feel empty inside, because others did not value or satisfy us.
And it happens when we identify with our emotions or our thoughts.
Our emotions are a tool, a language to feel and experience life from various sides. Thoughts help to make distinctions and choices, and they can be both internal and external. We tend to be attached to thoughts and emotions, to declare them our possessions, although that usually means that they possess us, instead of drifting by once they have given out their information. And so we tend to take things much more personal than they were meant to and we feel hurt by them.
An out-of-proportion-grown ego regards itself as a separate entity assuming itself to be the whole being, instead of forming a valuable facet of our body of light. And it feels this emptiness inside, for it has not learned to value and love the inner center unconditionally, since its attention is directed outwardly, towards others.
In response it develops a number of defence and survival mechanisms which can really cause suffering and blockage of inner progress. That of course is the reason why spiritual groups would like to eradicate the big voice of the small ego. Some of these mechanisms are:
Being overconcerned with one’s own wellbeing and importance, in other words egoism and egotism, in which interests of others are overlooked.
Regarding oneself as being superior or swaying around with one's knowledge or possessions. “I am better than you are” is a typical ego-voice, as is “I know it better than you do – even if I have not asked you one question I already know what is best for you and who/what you really are like”. Hail prejudice!
The eternal helper, the one who needs it to be needed, and who gets angry if his/her unwanted efforts are not appreciated.
Fear of anything new, since new equals unknown what means that you haven’t figured out yet what the best approach is in keeping up appearances. What if somebody notices your insecurity, and will they still love you if you make a mistake? Is there acceptance for you if your opinion differs from the viewpoint of others? Therefore change is difficult, even when you’re not happy with the present life. After all you know what you have right now, but you cannot predict what the new time will bring.
Attack on beforehand as aggressive defence against enemies who might only exist in one’s imagination.
Repression and denial of feelings, self-expression and desires and even forgetting about them.
Projection; this is the process in which you see in others what you fail to see in yourself, and next react on it as if the other one is attacking you.
A great need to control situations, time, emotions, other persons, one’s behaviour, etcetera.
A victim mentality, attracting negative persons or destructive situations, a chronic disease which brings negative attention, or declaring yourself of no worth, can be other ways of trying to get into the picture of someones attention. Not every expression of the ego is aimed at mega manifestation; more subtle forms can be found in humbleness and lack of selfworth which desire to be somehow noticed or appreciated by others.
The ego remains in disbalance as long as we agree with it; after all it follows the course of our free will. Once we decide to live up to the whole beam of light we are, in a renewed understanding of our Self, it is time to also see the ego in a new light.
It is of no use trying to erase it, since negative food for the ego is food anyway and it will not shrink.
But it helps to understand the mechanisms behind your beliefs and behaviour. Simply watch them without judgement; accept that it is as it is for a reason so far.
Try to step a bit apart from yourself and watch yourself with loving understanding of your darker side.
After a while parts of the ego will drop by itself when held long enough in the light. With increased love for the Self the fear of the ego and the hurt of the personality will become smaller and the courage for change will grow. At first this period may feel a bit chaotic or scary and insecure. But hold on, for persons with balanced, healed egos show great inner strength.
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