Single change to overcome your ego

Ego is the physical embodiment of your consciousness as we discussed in the previous blog entry. It is born with you and dies with you. It is born with a single instinct – the survival instinct! But the ego does not know where the limits of that survival instinct are. What constitutes survival and what is a step beyond. The ego has a very important role in your life. One of self-preservation. It is hard wired into your system. It constantly attempts to break that barrier. You are the one who has to set the boundaries and the parameters under which it will operate. An ego allowed to run free will create misery for you and others around you. Too much ego and you get arrogance and self-righteousness. Too little and you lose the will to live and perhaps the ability to make harsh decisions. A balance is essential. To achieve this balance, you will need to get to know yourself and separate your ego from who you really are. It will require perseverance and commitment.

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Like a thief, ego lurks in the shadows and waits for opportunities. But if you are on guard the ego will not know where to hide.

Meet the ego

How do you fight or hunt an enemy if you don’t know where to look for them? The answer is you can’t. To meet the ego you have to know where to find it. It makes an appearence often and you don’t have to wait long if you want to meet it. You don’t even need to be on full alert. Simply watchful. There are some well known places where it will appear. Here are some of them:

  1. Compliments: All compliments increase self-worth and make you feel good about yourself. They act as food for the ego. That smile when someone said your dress looked nice. Or that glow when someone complimented you on your looks. You can almost feel what it does to you ego. A quick nod of approval from the ego and you carry on with your life. Not realizing the boost ego got out of it.
  2. Insults: Where compliments increase the self-worth, insults hurt it. Somebody insults and you feel bad about yourself. How dare they? You are worth so much more. The ego is secretly telling you that you are superior to the insult. Why would the insult hurt if the ego did not feel that way? You can almost hear the conversation you have with your ego. The ego is damaged and responds with negative energy. Perhaps even anger. Yet, it gains strength through this encounter.
  3. The need to feel superior: At the heart of any conflict or in everyday living, like the train station, you will find that all humans are caught up in proving themselves to be more superior than the other. Examine any family conflict, office meeting or a road rage incident. It is rarely about the issue but more about finding out who has the stronger ego. The ego wants to increase the self-worth so it will want to feel superior. And the cost of that superiority sometimes becomes insignificant. The more insignificant the cost, the stronger the ego.
  4. Why me: Ask anyone caught up in adversity if they deserve their misfortune. Now ask a rich man if he deserves his wealth. Nobody thinks they deserve bad luck. And everybody feels like they have a right to the riches. The truth of the matter is that there is just luck. Good or bad is how you see it. Those who see it as bad luck often carry the feeling of “Why me?”. The ego wants to feel superior so it will ask that question. Indulge the ego and you make it stronger.
  5. The need to be right: To learn to walk, we have to learn to take a fall. We do this countless number of times in childhood. Yet our perceptions and expectations change as we grow older. The experience we accumulate gives us the ability to make better decisions. And we foolishly believe that everything we learnt through experience is correct. We justify our decisions through various means. Because we need to be right. We forget that to be right we need to be wrong at least some of the time. The ego does not see any high ground in being wrong so it always seeks to be right.
  6. Anger: Taking control of you when you are angry is ego at it’s best. What are you angry about? And who are you angry at? The ego feels threatened and like a tiger, it responds with a viciousness you don’t see elsewhere. This is anger is all its glory. The intensity of negative energy running through your system is exactly what the ego needs. It blocks your mind and takes control. Inability to think and rationalize gives the ego a free hand to wreak havoc in you.
  7. Greed: We live our lives by comparison. Most of us in the middle class western society would feel like kings if we saw the lives of our ancestors. If you compare the lifestyle to a hungry child in a war torn African country then again you live in the land of plentiful. But compare yourself to your neighbor and the picture looks very different. Yet we are busy competing with the Jones’s than being grateful for what we do have. Being greedy comes naturally to us because we allow the ego to go beyond the survival instinct by wanting more.

In all the examples above, you will meet the ego. At first you may not recognize it because your voices are fused together. Like a couple married for decades, you and your ego sound like one and behave like one. You have forgotten that you are in fact different. It takes conscious effort to separate yourself from the ego, but it can be done. Next time you are in a family setting or an office meeting and you want to show how much you know, or if someone compliments you… look out for your ego! It will be right there with you trying to infliuence your thoughts and make you feel a certain way. Wanting to establish your superiority by increasing your self-worth.

The Single Change

Here comes the moment of truth you have been waiting for. The single change that you can make which will transform your life is… Awareness! Wake up and become aware of the ego. That is it. Nothing more. Just know that the ego exists and learn where to spot it. The ego loves to hide. It confuses itself with who you really are. It needs to feel superior and rule your emotions and so it changes your perspective on everything. It is never about the situation or about you. It is about how the ego can feed and strengthen itself. What you have to do it is to bring the ego out into the open. Take the veil off and let it be recognized. If it can’t hide and it can’t run then it has no option but to stand up and be counted. The first step to humility.

A person who undergoes heart surgery does not feel the pain because they are not aware or in fact conscious. An anesthesiologist has given them a drug to knock them out so they don’t feel anything. Your ego, over a period of time, has the potential to do the same to you. You will become unaware and live life unconsciously, dominated and controlled by your ego. Wake up and take charge or your life again. Become aware. Acknowledge the ego and welcome it into your life.

Once you get to know your ego and become aware of it, you can become friends with it. You two know each other. But this is a new relationship because no one is hiding fromg the other. You are aware of each other. The thing to remember is that you are friends and must co-exist. It is not war! You can never defeat the ego and it will not die. Death of the ego means your death. Besides, you have no reason to kill it. Under control, the ego will serve you well. It will look after you. Every now and then it will test the boundaries. Just make sure that the ego is never in doubt about who is in charge.

Other Reading:

Eckhart talks about the ego extensively in his book A New Earth.

Osho has also done an excellent job on talking about the ego.

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