There are phrases aplenty we use when somebody displays behaviour or talks in a way which strikes discord and rubs us the wrong way. Quite often when we perceive ourselves or an individual as being boastful or coming from a place of competition and dominance we will call this out as ‘ego-driven’. Whereas it is true that this can indeed be the case we often overlook subconscious motives and rationale. So few of us realise that the ego drives itself in more ways than the characteristically boastful, competitive or domineering manner we commonly recognise. Let us then take a look at the beginnings of the ego and how it has found itself as a prominent discussion point in the spiritual journey. We will also explore its other guises, why it presents itself and ultimately how we can enable ourselves to feel beyond its motives and free ourselves from its grasp.
The term ego found fame with Freud in his description of the Psyche. Here he described the structure of the ego, superego and the id. Imagine if you will a see-saw. On one end we have base irrational acts, feelings, desires and the unconscious pleasure principle all sat together wanting to soar high and be free. These are directly opposed by the superego, judgement superiority and societal obligation “thou shalt”. Here we have id and the superego in juxtaposition. They are both tempered by the central pivot or the ego.
In this context, actually we should pity the ego. For many it would be an overworked neurotic administrator trying desperately to hold the reigns of two diametrically opposed wild horses. It at once wishes to allow the expression of the id as well as allowing for the temperance and authority of the superego. Its function here is to judge, understand, plan, test and synthesise. The ego (according to Freud) is also at the mercy of the external world. It represents reason and common sense. As he so perfectly puts it:
“Thus the ego, driven by the id, confined by the super-ego, repulsed by reality, struggles.. bringing about harmony among the forces and influences working in and upon it,” and readily “breaks out in anxiety—realistic anxiety regarding the external world, moral anxiety regarding the super-ego, and neurotic anxiety regarding the strength of the passions in the id.” 1.
Let’s make that 3 wild horses with the addition of reality.
Nowadays, certainly in the new age and spiritual arena the term ego is used to denote the vibration of thought and action resonating on a low level or frequency. It is that which cuts out or negates the higher spiritual self, with a misaligned focus and way of being. In a way Frued’s ego has some commonality with the modern day interpretation in that both struggle to maintain order and control, to feel ‘safe’ as it were, so yes it has some similarities in that it is overly concerned with judgement shame and fear yet today it is mostly seen as the sole driver of this within the mind.
I believe that anybody wishing to examine and correct their ego should come from a place of love and sympathy. If we are overly critical of our ego, its thoughts and responses to the world we are using the exact same mindset! Remember that your ego is a remnant of a fear based existence, your survival mechanism. We are moving beyond survive to thrive so the ego needs to be understood loved and put to bed. Go higher in both authority over yourself and stance. The higher path is always love so seek to self correct and nurture not to discipline and punish, please.
The mind, as we know, is a tool. It is not who we are but a part of our body we use to translate our earthly existence. You are not you mind and you are not your ego, they are filters and as such they can be trained and reprogrammed to focus themselves in a completely different way. Many people think that once they have reached adulthood they are ‘fixed’ and they have grown the way they have grown. Whereas it may be true of a lot of our external parts-for example I am 5 foot 2 inches in this life and shall remain so- this is simply not the case with our brain. We all have something called ‘neuro plasticity’ which metaphorically sees our brain a lot like clay. What we mean here is that it can be remolded and reshaped into a different constitution a more pleasing design if you will, but first of course we need to know how we wish to shape it.
If we begin by examining the rationale or ‘modus operandi’ of the ego this will give us a much better starting point in hunting it out in its various guises. Once identified it can be changed. All ego based thought and behaviour is coming from one of two perspectives: Lack from the past and fear for the future. It is that simple. Where it gets tricky is this ‘ego law’ inserting itself into your everyday existence. It has the capacity to sneak itself in to your life as both self defeating thoughts and actions. Let’s give an example here to show what we mean:
Steven is alone. He has had several disastrous relationships which have all ended badly and he has been hurt. While out in town a potential love interest strikes up conversation and gives him their number. Steven has an internal breakdown, externally panics and runs away. “I’m not doing that again, I know where it got me last time though I am so lonely and want to be loved”. In one instance lack and fear have both dictated to him to the point where he has refused to engage in a potentially rewarding experience and allowing himself to expand in his experience here (for those of you who don’t like a cliffhanger let us say that Steven did a lot of internal work, meditation, healing and engaging in the sacred space of the moment to realise that not only was he worthy of his own love but equally that of another’s. More importantly he completed himself therefore should the relationship end he would not be destroyed. The relationship didn’t end and they are together very much in love to this very day. Good on Steven for taking control of his life I say).
So can you see? Your ego is not simply an outward appearance of an overly inflated sense of self worth? In fact in this context it can be difficult to see how any of this directly relates to the archetypal behaviour of the ego but lets move on and hopefully this will become clear. The pitfalls of the over inflated sense of self are equally as treacherous and in fact I have seen the archetypal ego manifestation rife within the spiritual community.
We are tested and tested again until we release the ties that bind us and allow ourselves progression on our spiritual path. It would make sense then that we are tested the most when we begin our journey. I have seen a lot of outright snobbery from individuals who look down upon people who do not share their beliefs, practice what they do, eat what they do etc etc. to the point where I have seen certain individuals calling out other people for having no soul. Yes, no soul. To this day I question how they have ascertained this- I call shenanigans. Many also demand to be looked up to and set apart by declaring themselves superior in terms of their experience in kundalini awakening, out of body experience, manifestation and so on. These experiences are deeply profound and life changing, that isn’t up for argument here today but equally they are not a ranking system to make others feel inferior to the person in question and nobody should feel ‘less than’ in comparison to anybody else. We are all on our own journey and in competition with nobody. Be you and love this. What is being translated in these types of instances is insecurity deflected on to others in an attempt at validation.
It is clear to see that insecurity and fear does not leave us, quite the opposite when in search of the divine and aligned life. Although outward appearances may suggest the person who’s ego is in full command of them may not seem insecure and fearful believe me they are-it is simply the ego being incredibly cunning in its desire to prevent growth and keep blocks firmly in place. Consider this- if a person believes they know everything, are superior to others and are fully convinced of their damning and judgmental opinions how free are they to truly learn and grow? How much love do they have in their heart in comparison to fear? The ego here once again is preventing progression and expansion. This is not for us to judge them as bad people, it is not for us to judge at all- but to realise they too are suffering under the conditions of the ego and to send them love and compassion regardless.
When striving for a higher purpose how can we help ourselves to rid ourselves of our ego or at the very least lessen its control over our lives?
Do not neglect your spiritual routine. We have spoken before about the necessity of this but lets re affirm why it is so important. Keeping yourself grounded within your practice is the most effective way of opening yourself up to let love guide your actions and also to be mindful of the moment. By opening up your heart space and being present you will dramatically lessen the ill affects of the ego and begin to break free of a fear based existence. It will also enable you to remain calm and non reactive in situations where the ego is at play in another with the potential to invite yours to join it! For those who are empathetic and susceptible to feeling or sensing the emotional energy of another this is key. By keeping yourself tempered you will refuse to allow yourself to be pulled into another’s lower vibrational frequency.
The ego is never ever in the now, in the present is the only sacred space we have available to us here. That should tell you all you need to know about the validity of the ego. The now is where meditation and also mindfulness come in to their own and teach us so much. Both of these practices nurture within us an appreciation of what we are and where we are with the underlying understanding that we are enough. There is nothing outside of us that is needed to complete us, there is nothing else and nowhere else that we need to be. This acceptance and tolerance will radiate out from ourselves and encourage us to develop the same feelings for others.
You are NOT a product of the past and equally fearing the future is a futile exercise indeed. If you allow these premises to dominate your life you will shape it to your detriment and to unfold in a way which will not bring you fulfillment and happiness. It is only by releasing the lack and fear that we can truly let the love in and live as we were designed to do. If we were not meant to self correct once we have assimilated and processed our experience thus far we would not be able to but we are and this is totally by design. The greatest gift we have is the ability to create a better way for ourselves and start afresh, in the moment, any time we choose.
I do hope this has been a helpful post for you and please do keep your questions and correspondence coming. Your confidentiality is my privilege and equally if you have anything you yourself would like to contribute and post here I warmly invite you to submit to the contact details provided.
1. Sigmund Freud . New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. Penguin Freud Library 2.