The world as we know it is mostly driven by egos. On all levels. From conflicts between nations and religious warfare via corporate competition and political campaigns down to workplace politics, family dynamics and intimate relations. Although to various degrees, all of us have this innate urge to be heard, respected and appraised by others. And when this doesn’t happen (and I dare say this seems to happen more often than not) we react in a multitude of ways ranging from mildly indignant to downright cruel. Because it is only normal to react when our egos are hurt, right? Maybe. But it is not the only way, and certainly not the best way. Thankfully.
As I see it, the non-physical part of what I like to call me, is comprised of three components: my soul, my mind and my ego.
First and foremost is my soul which is the subtle essence of who I really am. The soul is indestructible, eternal and divine and the only part of my whole being which is capable of love as well as the source of my intuition.
Secondly, is my chattering and at times ungovernable mind. A cognitive tool I have been given to navigate this life experience, and until not long ago my mind was more or less in charge of the whole shebang I call life. I am slowly but surely learning to put my mind in the place where it belongs, namely as my faithful and obedient servant.
Then there is this third part. Easily insulted and humiliated, never completely satisfied and on an eternal mission to detect and mercilessly judge flaws in myself and others. It is everything my soul is not. It is my ego.
My earliest memory of having consciously thought of the phenomenon of the ego was several years back. Someone I dated repeatedly exclaimed “Well, I do have an ego!!” in order to justify his less amicable actions. Having never thought of this before I sort of initially assumed that honoring one’s ego was a normal and just thing to do. -I deserve to put me first! Needless to say, our little union quickly became history.
In Alcoholics Anonymous on the other hand, you learn that an important aspect the 12-step program of recovery is ego deflation. The ego is the origin of Stinkin’ thinkin’ and something that should never be honored. This resonated more with me than the previous notion.
With time I sort of developed an attitude of trying to recognize when my reactions were ego based and if they were, then try not to honor those influences. This is of course something that is easier said than done when gallons of adrenalin are flushing pure, undiluted insanity through your system and a clear, loving thought is nowhere to be seen. I had however not yet discovered the true nature of the ego: Pure malice.
The ego is “suspicious at best and vicious at worst.” And we should not underestimate its vengeance. – Marianne Williamson
It was however not until I heard Marianne Williamson’s words on the ego in a recording from a workshop she held on A Course in Miracles that the penny really dropped. Never again could I be fooled into consciously believing that the ego should be honored some times and ignored other times. It will never have my best interest at heart. Not in a million years.
The Ego is an impostor that will make me self-sabotage everything good coming my way. It will set me up for failure and then mock me afterwards for having been so stupid to take the bait:
– Go on!! You know you want to! You deserve it!! You will enjoy it. Everyone else is doing it!! Come on now!
Then disaster strikes as if often does when I do something I shouldn’t have. And guess who stands shamelessly at the other end ready to assess my performance?
– How could you have been so stupid?? You should have known it would end like this!! It did the last time! You messed up again!! You’re hopeless!
This is only one of the numerous methods the ego has for making life miserable. Another effective trick is to convince me that I want, deserve and am worthy of something like a certain job or a romantic relationship, only to start finding flaws with my new job or special someone once it arrives. Never satisfied and always rejecting the now as anything but ideal and perfect. -There has to be something better out there!?! This can’t be it?!? Not to forget the oh-so-effective: This is too good to be true (-must find flaws)!
Marianne Williamson explained how she did not use to believe the Devil was real. She would convince herself: -The Devil only exists in my head, only to realize that in her head was the worst possible place in the universe it could be. Alas, meet your ego: The true Devil in your head!
So how do we get rid of this dark force within us? We can’t eradicate the ego any more than we can eradicate darkness. But just like darkness cannot exist when light is shone on it, the power of the ego vanishes in the face of love. We need to recognize it for what it is, namely a force that is not acting in our best interest, and then choose not to act on the impulses it sends us. Choosing one’s reactions and emotions sounds like sorcery to many, but this is completely doable with practice. Meditation is an excellent way to build the mental stamina needed to face your ego without fear or compromise. Your ego can only ever hurt you or boss you around if you let it.
Try to become aware of this the next time you feel the adrenalin pumping through your veins and you’re about to do something that may give you instant satisfaction but are likely to regret later. Like sending that angry email or buying that gorgeous thing you really cannot afford. Try to stop and ask yourself: Is this my ego trying to take over the show? And then try to choose a reaction that is in your best interest long-term. This is what true freedom is. Freedom from the ego’s cunning ways to make us screw things up.
In The Matrix the ubiquitous Agent Smith compares us humans to a virus on this planet. In our current state he might be on to something but I don’t think the human race is altogether incapable of harmony and sustainable abundance. That is if we collectively can learn to embrace our loving souls instead of our vicious egos. As a species we have the ability to create magnificent wonders as well as unfathomable destruction. Both forces are intrinsically embedded within every single one of us, in the form of the soul and the ego. Which voice we choose to make our master however, is entirely up to us.