The word ego is common in our everyday language, although it’s usually used to refer to someone’s self-importance, pride, or arrogance, as when we say that such and such has a “big ego.” Psychologists also speak of a “healthy ego” when an individual seems to be a well-adjusted, productive member of society.
But the ego is more complex and dynamic than that; it’s what you consider your identity or personality (ego means “I” in Latin). Sigmund Freud saw the ego as the conscience or reality principle acting as the mediator between primal, pleasure-seeking impulses in the subconscious and socially or morally acceptable standards of behavior.
For Carl Jung, the ego is a “complex,” that is, a core unconscious pattern of perceptions, emotions, memories, and desires organized around a common theme, such as status, power, or trauma. It experiences itself at the center of the psyche, so Jung often represented it as a dot at the center of a circle symbolizing the self, or the archetype giving a sense of unity to your experience.
Different schools of thought describe it from different angles. In my upcoming book, I explore in much more detail how its mobile, shape-shifting qualities make the ego so elusive, but for now I’d like to point out a few aspects to help you understand how it operates so you may start reclaiming the control it has over your perception, to develop greater emotional and spiritual freedom.
Ego Creates the World As a Delusion of Duality
From a spiritual or yogic viewpoint, which includes but also transcends the psychological, the ego is a false identity that creates the illusion of individualized experiences by hijacking the eternal Self you truly are—and everyone is. It’s known as ahamkara, which can be translated as a false or made-up “I am.” This original egoism produces the world of duality and multiplicity for the Self to experience its endless potential forms.
But this isolating feature also causes an ingrained sense of deficiency that keeps you discontented, craving pleasure and validation to escape it. It attaches to things and people, providing a temporary sense of purpose through the roles you take, which ends up distorting your self-perception according to other people’s opinions and needs.
Just like we are all the same eternal Self, the ego that arises from the identification with the body and mind operates in the same way in everybody. We are one Self and one collective ego-mind we perceive as the world of forms and appearances. Within the delusion of duality, these are polar opposites.
When you direct the mind outwards, you see the world as something external through the physical senses. When you direct it in inwards, it leads to your true Self, where the world disappears. This is the purpose of meditation; without it the ego-mind traps you in the suffering of its delusions (see 3 Reasons Why Daily Meditation Is Essential and Why You Need Super-Conscious States To Be Truly Free).
I use the term ego-mind to refer to the ordinary consciousness or lower mind that lacks the capacity for discrimination and wisdom of the higher mind or intellect. In other words, it’s the aspect that follows hidden impulses and beliefs, simply reacting to life without self-awareness—on auto-pilot.
Trust Your Heart To Reclaim Your True Self
It needs the higher mind to reflect, learn, and judge between what’s real and what’s imaginary, and what leads to suffering or joy. However, the spiritual ignorance of the ego can also cloud the higher mind to build a sense of superiority or to rationalize emotions. In this case, it blocks the heart, which is the source of all life, love, and fulfillment.
In order to give you individualized experiences, the ego controls your perception by disconnecting you from the totality of the Self. The only way to reclaim that sense of unity and Oneness is looking within, which starts by listening to your inner voice, no matter how faint it may be.
It is that “gut feeling” or intuitive sense that allows the light of your own wisdom to come forth. But you have to remain aware and question any hidden motivations to stop the ego from taking over and turning “spiritualized” (see The Difference Between Spiritual Growth and Spiritualized Ego). That is, you always check in with your heart but without following or identifying with your emotions.
You must observe, witness, and accept things, people, and your feelings as they are without reacting to anything or trying to “fix” or fight life. From this place of neutrality, the truth emerges on its own and you act spontaneously, without the usual push-and-pull of the ego-mind. Be prepared for it to resist this process, making things fuzzy or triggering negative emotions, to regain the control of your perception.
Your inner voice is silent, subtle, immediate awareness while the ego-mind makes a fuss with emotional fluctuations and drama. You have to uncover all the tricks and attributes of the ego to break free from it and discover your own truth. But you need guidance to see what you cannot see. So contact me today to embark on a journey of self-exploration and knowledge to experience life with greater emotional and spiritual freedom!
© 2021 Yol Swan. All rights reserved.