Let’s start with the definition because ego is thrown around a lot but rarely clearly defined. I was taught a specific definition by one of my spiritual mentors and it’s the one I’ve come to use in my work. So by ego, I don’t mean what society equates with “someone having a big ego,” as being full of yourself, boastful, prideful, or cocky. And I don’t mean the Freudian ego, which I will not attempt to summarize.
The ego, for our purposes, is defined as the learned negative self-chatter and negative self-beliefs we carry. It’s the part of you that compares yourself to other people and talks down to yourself. The part of you that wants and then suffers when you don’t get what you want. The ego is the part that gets offended, has its feelings hurt, and takes things personally. It’s the part that seeks validation from other people.
Therefore, the ego may seem like an overwhelming burden. It definitely knows how to create drama… have you seen an episode of any reality TV show pretty much ever? Despite the ego’s flair for dramatics, it has a beneficial purpose. The ego drives us forward. Ego and desire push us towards accomplishments. To do better. To be more. Taller buildings. Technological innovations. More education. Higher salaries. The ego is what gets us out of bed in the morning. Without ego, we would be blissful meditating beings with no incentive to eat or to move because there would be no desire to do more than just be.
The ego also serves as an emotional defense mechanism. This can serve a positive or negative purpose depending on your intention and myriad of other factors. As an example, let’s say a young lass is feeling rejected because her partner just broke up with her. So, because of this gnawing feeling of rejection, she rounds up her friends to go out and wants to find someone to take home. Consciously or unconsciously, her ego is looking for someone to use as a band-aid on the emotional wound left by the recent break up and to prove that she is desirable. Who is she proving this to? Great question. (I know, right?) Herself. Her ex. The first person she felt rejected by. The lucky one to go home with her. All of the above. These types of wounds and subsequent knee jerk responses can be layered and complex. The ego is fearful and, in this example, seeks to avoid the pain of rejection by using another person to fill the void. Yet from experience, I’m sure we all know how temporary this “fix” is.
But how nice is it to avoid pain? Not suffering is, like, the best and emotional pain is…well…painful. The danger of the ego comes in when it starts running the show. The ego is that frenemy that, if you give them an inch, they take a mile. We call this “living from a place of ego” or being “ego-based” or more colloquially among my circle “ego’d out.” Because of social media, we all get to see amazing (*sarcasm*….mostly) examples of this behavior on a daily basis. Social media has become the perfect vehicle for ego-based living but that’s for another post.
The ego and the soul are two different things. For the purposes of this blog and the healing opportunities provided here, it’s important to not confuse the ego and the self or the soul, as I usually equate the two. The ego is a human aspect we incarnate or come into this life with. The self and soul is who you are before you had emotional wounds, before you were hurt, before you learned pain and fear. The ego is all those layers of wounds, fear, and hurt that have been laid on top of your true nature, your true self. The soul is who you are through this and every lifetime. The soul is inherently love and connectedness. We catch glimpses of our soul nature in those quiet moments of meditation and those blissful moments where we’re inexplicably happy and at peace. Living from your soul means different things for different people which is why I will not limit what this means by trying to define it. But you can easily recognize those who live from a place of love (our true soul nature) just by being in their presence. Those who live in this space and are truly at peace with themselves and fully love and accept themselves don’t seek validation from others. There’s no need. The ego makes you fear that if another’s love is taken away, it proves you’re unworthy. But the soul knows that we are all love and we are inherently worthy. Someone else’s attention cannot add or take from that. Where the ego is loud and screams, “hey, look how worthy I am!” the soul is quiet and knows, “I am worthy.”
As mentioned, it can be helpful to be able to separate the ego, defined as it is here as the negative self-chatter and learned negative self-beliefs, from the self. My mentor taught me to name my ego. Naming and giving it a face can help with identifying when you are operating from a place of ego and create space to disassociate from it and diminish it. Working with the ego is a great method to identify our wounds and triggers. Now that we have defined the ego, I’ll add posts to further explore this and minimize the power of each of our ego’s, which creates our suffering