Most people hear the word ego and think of someone who’s arrogant and self-centered. Others believe it’s what protects you from what you couldn’t understand as a child. And psychologists see it as your identity and personality. It can be confusing, but everyone has an ego; it dominates your behavior, so it’s important to understand it and why it remains elusive.
I’ll explore this in more detail in my upcoming book, which is about mastering the ego-mind to heal the past and uncover your own divinity (so stay tuned!) Outside of working with clients, the book has taken most of my time and is also the reason why I haven’t been blogging as much as I used to, although I’ve been sharing a bit of it here and there as well. So, first of all, what is ego?
The term was popularized after Sigmund Freud conceived it as the function of the psyche that deals with reality, acting as a mediator between the instinctual drive for pleasure (Id) and the moral and cultural standards of society (Superego). In a nutshell, the Freudian ego is the reality principle meant to satisfy social demands by restraining the primitive forces of the subconscious.
For Carl Jung, the ego is a smaller part of the self, one of the main archetypes he used to describe the psyche, which is the unified conscious and unconscious content that motivates the process of individuation. The Jungian ego is a “complex” at the center of your field of consciousness, that is, a core unconscious pattern of perceptions, emotions, memories, and desires organized around a certain theme, such as status, power, or trauma.
From a psychological view, then, the ego is the conscious mind, identity, or personality with which you navigate life as an individual. When psychologists speak of a strong or healthy ego, they usually refer to a well-adjusted person that is able to achieve social goals within the moral guidelines of their culture. But I think the ego is more complex and tricky than that.
Your Ego Has Been Hijacking Your True Self
The Vedic system offers a broader view that includes but also goes beyond these psychological definitions. From a spiritual or yogic perspective, the ego is the principle of individuality that attaches the mind to sensory perception, thus blocking the truth of your eternal essence, which is the totality of pure Awareness (God, the Self, Divine Consciousness).
Awareness is what makes everything real by projecting itself onto the human mind. First, as the cosmic “I am” that becomes ego—individualized consciousness—and as the illusory world of duality and multiplicity the ego creates. When your attention is directed outwards, the world appears, for without your awareness of it, nothing exists.
The ego allows you to experience life in individualized form and see things as separate from you, but it also creates a sense of isolation and deficiency through your false identifications (“I am the one taking action”; “I am this or that”; “this is my experience, my life, my pain”). To put it simply, the ego hijacks the eternal Self you truly are to have human experiences, but the price you pay is the suffering of your human condition.
In this sense, suffering isn’t rooted in painful events, as the ego-mind wants you to believe, but in the perception created and distorted by the very essence of your ego that disturbs the truth of who you really are. Your perception creates your experience, so by fixating your attention on external things and people in pursuit of sensory desires, it remains hidden and in control of your experience of reality.
The ego-mind is the ongoing flow of thoughts and desires that keeps you busy and distracted so you won’t look within, where everything you’re seeking abides and emerges from: love, peace, joy, freedom—all of which is your true essence. By fixating on the idea that you will find them outside of you, the ego holds the control of your behavior.
Ego Causes Suffering With Identifications
Since life is fluid and constant change, this outward fixation invariably leads to pain. If you chase a desire and are able to fulfill it, the enjoyment it creates is temporary, so you yearn for more and keep chasing more desires, in a constant state of dissatisfaction. If you cannot achieve a desire, then you experience a flow of negative emotions (anger, frustration, self-pity, etc.) that create discontentment. In any case, the end result is dissatisfaction, which is the nature of desire, and pain, which is the nature of ego.
The ego is your attachment to pain. Yes, you need an ego to navigate the world and accomplish things. Yes, you need desires to keep you going, looking forward to new experiences. But without self-awareness, you can spend your whole life chasing desires and dealing with the drama of your ego-mind without experiencing the peace you truly yearn for.
Life is a play of Consciousness, so the function of the ego is to create individual experiences but then also transcend the need for worldly experiences as a result of the pain they produce. However, as the ego acquires power by producing more and more thoughts and desires, your ability to recognize and master it is greatly reduced. Your mind gets bombarded with too many desires, thoughts, and memories to process and discriminate.
This is why an ongoing self-exploration and spiritual practice are essential to break free from the control of your ego. You’ve become the slave where you should be the master, and it uses you instead of you using it as the tool it should be, along with your mind and body, because of your identification with them. They’re mere tools for the expression of the pure Awareness you are. So contact me today to embark on your inward journey to achieve real emotional and spiritual freedom, and stay tuned to learn more about mastering your ego-mind!
© 2021 Yol Swan. All rights reserved.