How is your relationship with your ego? Can you distinguish its voice from another aspect of the self that we might call "soul"?
Something that few people understand is that the ego is not working to make us happy. It is seeking to be right. On the contrary, soul is seeking something much more expansive. Soul is seeking for you to have the experience of freedom. Soul is free, and wants that for you too. If your happiness level is not where you'd like it to be, then understanding these dynamics could open the awareness required for more peace in your internal landscape.
ONE MINUTE INSIGHT
There are a few telltale signs which can help reveal what is the work of the ego. One of them is fighting, or resisting against something.
▶ What in your life are you seeking freedom 'from'?
Whenever we have trouble to accept things the way they are and get caught in a loop of overthinking, we can expect that ego is at play.
▶ Where in your life do you think things "should" be different?
While ego qualities are contracting, soul qualities are quite the opposite. They ask for us to think bigger and to realise more of what we have to offer the world in terms of our potential.
▶ Where in your life are you yearning for the freedom 'to'?
Perhaps that's a whisper from your soul that is worth paying attention to...
DEEPER DUE DILIGENCE
It's a common recommendation in pop-psychology for the ego to be rejected, or even, heaven forbid, killed?! Please, disregard that advice. Delete it from your awareness immediately. It's unhelpful. As a general rule of thumb, it is never a good idea to attempt to deny, repress or disown any aspect of ourselves, ego included. This would be the ultimate act of throwing the baby out with the bathwater… which reminds me of my favourite metaphor for the ego. The ego is like a toddler that is strapped into the booster seat in the car. When content, we can expect a nice family outing. But if that toddler isn’t having it, the car trip is really going to suck big time. It pays to know how to deal with the ego so that it doesn’t hijack our experience and make for the road trip from Tartarus (did you know there is a place deeper than hell?).
What is ego?
The ego is a complex structure within the psyche that is at least partly responsible for our sense of self, or “I” concept. Entire books have been written on the subject, and given you too have Google at your disposal, it's not my intention to describe the ego in detail here. Rather, it's to offer you some ideas that are actionable and insightful, and can assist you in understanding and integrating this important part of your-self. What you might not easily find in the psychology books is this idea that being right is more important to the ego than being happy. Why is this so? Because only when one can fully believe and accept their view of the world as "truth", can they create the illusion of being able to control it, and hence create a sense of security. When it comes to being human, security trumps happiness. Put simply, ego = self-preservation. Inconveniently for the ego, author and mythologist Michael Meade was on-point when he said "A false sense of security is the only kind there is." The ego-approach of creating the illusion of control is at odds with the nature of life, which is uncertainty. More on that in a moment.
Partnering with your ego to make room for soul
Given we’ve already established that the ego is aligned with security and not happiness, it makes sense that we might want to find a way to disarm the ego so that we can retain our ability to choose our own way, rather than letting ego hijack the show. From the very idea that ego seeks security, we already have all the clues we need. The opportunity here is to put ourselves in charge of creating security, consciously. This task is two-fold: 1) Get really comfortable with “I don’t know” being a full and complete answer to many of your questions. Simple, but not easy. Practice. (Remember, the nature of life is uncertainty.) 2) Perform conscious actions to intentionally create safety for yourself through the meeting of your own needs. Combined and carried out effectively, these steps will provide the conditions that enable the ego to let go. No more hijacking (well, at least less!). You’ll know it's time to carry out one of these two tasks whenever you notice that the voice of ego is in command instead of the voice of soul (the latter of which pertains to your truest and immovable sense of self–Who You Are). Here are some additional clues to help you determine who is in charge: Ego is trying to feel safe. Soul knows that it is safe. Ego is trying to feel loved. Soul knows it is loved. Ego says “I told you so.” Soul says “this wasn’t right for us, let’s adjust and try again.” Ego communicates wants from a place of distress or agitation. Soul communicates desires through stillness, from a deeper sense of "knowing". Ego screams. Soul whispers. Ego wants to be right. Soul wants to be free… It is free.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time...
This is one of the biggest topics in personal development. And one of the most misunderstood. So if it feels a bit fuzzy after reading all this, don't worry. Balancing the power between ego and soul will likely remain a constant process for all of us for our entire lives. Life will keep revealing to you further opportunities to learn. The kicker is, that the more committed you are to freedom, the more your conviction will be tested. Learn to love the ride, and bring as much curiosity to it as possible!
MORE TO MUSE ON...
What I'm listening to: A song I'm vibing with lately. Pay attention to the lyrics - it's possibly everything you need to know about ego.
Further reading: A while back I wrote an article about the myth of Narcissus. It relates to ego and shame concepts - worth a read if you're curious to add some depth to your understanding or found yourself lost in another pop-psychology lie that almost everyone is a "narcissist" (some people are, but fewer than you might think).
What I'm curious about: Why is it that so often we feel a need to destroy what is inconvenient, rather than integrate it? Perhaps the world would be a much different place if we were able to do the latter. Especially when it comes to the parts of ourselves we find inconvenient (hello ego).
If something stood out to you in this week's newsletter (or challenged you, or triggered you), I always like to hear about it because it helps me think and be better, too. Likewise, your questions are welcome. Is there something more specifically you'd like to understand about ego? Thank you for staying committed to your growth. Stay compassionate.
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