It is such a privilege to be in the trusted position of empowering people. It’s true that with great influence comes great responsibility. For me an education on the concept of EGO and a regular ‘sanity check’ on the way it can impact my environment has paid dividends.
I’ve long considered that I might possess quite a strong ego. Always confident my intentions are pure, I wonder if that on the odd occasion, when gripped with passionate belief, others might misinterpret this as arrogance and become over-whelmed.
Hey – none of us our perfect right? I guess this is all part of the Human condition!
The flip slide to this coin is my indomitable ‘warrior’ spirit. My inherent drive to counter any type of injustice. Heartfelt compassion for others and a sincere wish to help educate by sharing knowledge – not to seek fame and fortune (the guru complex as I call it) – but because I’m compelled to create more peace, love and healing in the world.
Surely strength of character is a good thing?!
What is EGO and is it positive OR negative?
In his Psychology Today blog Gregg Henriques Ph.D. – Theory of Knowledge defines it:
Although in everyday language, ego means the extent to which one thinks highly of one’s self, in psychology is means something different. It is an old term, being most popularly coined by Sigmund Freud in his tripartite model of the mind (id, ego, superego, as “it”, “I” and “above I”). Freud conceived of the ego as the psychological apparatus that regulated sexual and aggressive impulses and navigated the tension between those impulses and the demands and values of society.
A more modern conception that is certainly related to Freud’s is to consider the ego as the self-consciousness system. The self-consciousness system is the narrating portion of human consciousness that reflects on one’s thoughts, feelings and actions and inhibits or legitimises them to one’s self and to others. In this sense, ego is very similar to what is meant by the term identity, and ego functioning refers to the components of the self-consciousness system that relate directly to mental health.
When you start digging, EGO is a complex subject. The basic premise is that it’s our sense of identity (personality). The degree to how well it functions within society is reliant on the capacity to understand others in a complex manner.
Put simply: insight = understand oneself and empathy = understand others.
The field of psychology recognises that we all create storylines for our lives based on what we feel is meaningful and what values we wish to uphold. If these storylines are conflicted or lack coherency then we can start behaving in erratic and inconsistent ways. Treatment teaches individuals the steps to develop a more complex, richer, less judgmental and reactive narratives for explaining the actions of others.
The extent to which we develop a philosophical point of view provides us with a sense of direction toward what is good (virtuous) or not. From a spiritual perspective the EGO is said to be an illusion and distracts us from our true nature. That said it can manifest in two ways:
– one that forgets the rights of others, exploits them and considers themselves to be more important (lacks reason). This is incorrect and ultimately results in suffering.
– one that says “I can do this and I want to help all beings no matter how long it takes”. There is a tremendous determination in the people who possess it. They have unshakable positivity, which is necessary, constructive and must be developed.
In the words of Ven Robina Courtin (Tibetan Buddhist Nun) “Frantic fear causes EGO to cling desperately to what it wants, like a junkie for only the nice things”. A fixed sense of self creates a mistaken conception of how the world exists and a self-centred narrow viewpoint.
Wonder Woman vs Hulk
I tend to think of myself as big H vs. little H. When triggered by anger, my little ego throws the toys out of the pram screaming “I want it my way no matter the cost!”. In those times it’s so easy to blame others for my discomfort OR worse I point the finger of blame at myself, which really doesn’t help the situation. Usually it starts with some feeling of inadequacy which escalates out of control if I let it!
At these times I try to activate big H. This is my inner being, higher self / consciousness. Rather than focus on blame I get curious and ask “what is it that’s pushed my buttons and is making me suffer?” Being mindful in this way interrupts the usual automatic response. I treat my little H with kindness and empathy and I seek to understand rather than punish.
When I let go of resistance (usually through meditation) and shift my focus to the potential for joy and creating harmony with others, I re-connect with big H (my true essence). I know I’ve been successful when things become less complicated / dramatic, I feel good and life just flows. I come into alignment with who I really am!
Changes in attitude can be so gradual. As the saying goes ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. Plus why hurry, there’s no end to the journey. So much can be gained by focussing on ways that empower and serve, rather than that which defeats us. Personally, I want to enjoy the ride!
Lightbulb moment: We are each responsible for all of our experiences!
Useful resource: Dr Wayne W. Dyer – The Ego Illusion