The Ego

Written by on March 23, 2014 in Commentary with 0 Comments

The Ego
by Christian Joore

The Ego is a part of consciousness that identifies with the ‘self’. Because we are aware of a world that is separate from ourselves, the ego interprets our experiences of it. And like any good interpreter, language is very important.

Inside each of our minds is a inner monologue, a voice in the head that narrates our lives. This is quite normal so not to worry. This voice exists because we are so apt at interpreting our world through language. And so, the ego is created as a by-product of language.

As words bring meaning to experience, thoughts begin to form and feelings begin to arise. The ego becomes a record of these feelings and then also a filter to our reality based on them. This is the human psyche at work.

What if we don’t have a language? like when we are infants? What does a baby think about? What does a baby tell itself? My guess is that what ‘is’, just ‘is’, in its purest sense. An unfiltered, unbiased, pure experience of the world. Nothing is bad, nothing is good. Nothing to be hated, nothing to be loved, nothing to be judged at all. Perhaps a baby has no sense of being separate from an outside world either, no sense of self. But then as language develops we begin to have feelings. And then memory of feelings which we ultimately identify with to create a sense of ‘self’.

People generally know what they like and dislike, and can judge things to be wrong and right based on our feelings and experiences. This is the human mind. However the trouble starts when the ego occupies the thought-system entirely. If there is no place in your consciousness to see the ego objectively, you identify too strongly with it and may suffer because of it.

“I don’t like this, I don’t like that. This is wrong. This is right. My house is bigger than yours. I am more beautiful than you are. I am worthless. I always do everything wrong. Nobody can beat me, I am so strong. I am more good looking than most people. Who would love me, I am horrible. I hate that person.”

These are small examples of the ego at work. Its function is to propose thoughts to be taken seriously by the mind. When all you have is ego, these thoughts are proposed and accepted readily, they flow freely and re-affirm themselves at will, strengthening their bias inside of you.

If, as a child, your parents told you that you were lazy and stupid, your ego will string this thought along all your life. The ego will look to new experiences to affirm that this is true. “Ah, my parents were right. I am stupid, I can’t figure my life out. Many of my friends have already done so, but I am struggling. Yes, I am stupid.”

When your ego conditions your mind like this, you look to the world to affirm this ‘delusion’.

To control the Ego isn’t to be rid of it, or ignore it. Rather you need to break identification with the ego, slowly. If you can realize that there is a larger space in your mind that is not your ego, what is known as the ‘awareness’ or ‘presence’—this space has the ability to look upon your ego objectively. Find that space, find that larger consciousness.

Just being mindful of that space when the ego flares up will help you to manage it. “There goes my mind again, why must I always react this way”, once you see your mind in action you can deal with it better. This is not a quick fix. You are merely watching your mind, possibly for this first time. If you watch it long enough you can manage it much more easily, like a misbehaving child. You might not know what to do initially but after a while you will develop strategies to control it.

The ego may remain with you all your life, but at least it will be put into a  context that you manage. With your ego controlled you can begin to recondition your mind, which is very important. There is a saying; “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

Take for instance the thought, “I hate people that are greedy and self-centered”. When you feel strongly about this idea, you begin to scan your world for examples in order to confirm your belief. When you succeed, you say “A ha, I was right”.

You must be careful though, because now you are a collector of hateful thoughts. You look to the world for what is wrong, and it tells you. This conditioning imposes a feedback loop onto your psyche. It begins to sour your perspectives and hence sour your experiences too. It robs you of happiness in your life.

Practicing being more present reduces identification with your ‘conditioning’. This ultimately balances your reactions to the world and makes for a more healthy relationship with it. Here’s a little story:

A man sitting in a cafe is met by a stranger wanting to move to his town, the stranger asks angrily, “I am sick of the city I live in, and I am thinking about moving. The people are greedy and deceitful and I don’t like it. What are the people like here?”
The man in the cafe says, “Mostly the same actually”

The next day another stranger comes to the man in the cafe and asks, “I wish to move to your town. what are the people like here?”
“What are they like where you’re from?” he asks in return. The stranger says “quite nice and well tempered”
“Mostly the same here”, the man in the cafe responds.

–CJ–

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