“The real cause of human suffering lies in the lack of education about the ‘ego’ and how it controls our perception (without being detected).”
~Anon I mus (Spiritually Anonymous)
What is the Ego?
Before we can go beyond our ego traps, we should be clear about what it is. The human ego is commonly described in our society as having a self-absorbed personality (an inflated self-image) with overbearing characteristics of being selfish, cocky, neurotic, overly ambitious or competitive to the detriment of others, displaying arrogance, pride, vanity, and a sense of superiority or inferiority.
The ego is actually a primal function of the mind that has developed over the course of human history for the main purpose of ‘survival’. The word ‘ego’ is a Greek word that means ‘I’, a distinct sense of ‘individuality’. A baby is born without a disconnected sense of self; one could say that a baby is born without a ‘developed ego’ per se. It cannot tell the difference between self and not-self. Without an ‘ego’ a baby has no way to differentiate itself from others; they are naturally innocent, vulnerable and interconnected with everything. However, this feeling of ‘oneness’ is short-lived. By the time a child reaches the age of two, it begins to develop a skin-boundary sense of identity (it’s name, personal thoughts, emotions, gender, race, roles, etc.). This is how our ‘ego’ starts to develop; it is the creation of the version of ourselves that we believe to be true and how we perceive the world.
“In our first years of life we begin to form mental images and impressions of who we think we are; a fictional mode of ‘identity’ based on our personal and cultural conditioning in order to fit in, adapt, stand out and become a certain way. This facade that we had created was a defense and coping mechanism to help protect us from re-experiencing early feelings of powerlessness, self-diminishment, developmental trauma, disapproval, inadequacy, and stress in personal relationships. Children, during their separation stage of development, had unconsciously created this approval-seeking facade because they did not have enough support to become emotionally and psychologically independent from their parental figures. As we become older, the importance of social acceptance and validation start to dictate our life choices. When we identify with this mind-made sense of self (I/me and my story), we are unconsciously functioning in ‘ego mode’. Our ego is a learned phenomenon; an artificial construct that is built into the fabric of how we see, think, speak, feel and behave.
“The ego is a collection of ideas that we carry around about ourselves that says …I am what I have, I am what I do, I am what other people think about me, I am separate from what is missing in my life.”
The real cause of most the suffering in our lives is holding onto false narratives/beliefs inherited from the first seven years of our lives that we are powerless, defective, fearful, limited and disconnected beings. Childhood trauma consisting largely of different forms of abuse, abandonment or neglect that, over time, develops physical and psychological wounds. To protect our distorted, reinforced self-image (socially defined identity) we unconsciously had to adapt to certain rules and judgments handed down by our families, community and culture. Because of these unconscious attitudes, perceptions and stereotypes we unintentionally behave in ways that are fear-based, prejudice or intolerant that in turn influence our decisons in the world (implicit bias). We began thinking and acting out socially accepted behaviors that are the exact ‘opposite’ of what we internalized, in order to ‘compensate’ for our deep seated belief of lack or incompleteness. We cannot truly be happy or content with ourselves when we are trying to measure up to someone else’s standards. Our egos can be a formidable obstacle in our personal relationships with ourselves and other people. Ego-driven people thrive on perceiving life through the lens of division (black and white polarized thinking), believing that we must always fight for our differences, boundaries and survival (as an individual or a group). When we see ‘others’ as a ‘threat’, we are trapped in a perpetual state of paranoia, defensiveness, vulnerability, anxiety and fear. The more time we spend defending our ego-personalities, the more we reaffirm the ego’s reality.
Collective Egotism (the World Ego) is an association or allegiance to a group or ideology – political, tribal, corporate, club, sports team, military, race, nationality (national pride), religion, and so forth. The individual ego attempts to seek solace by joining a particular group to escape one’s own sense of dissatisfaction, powerlessness and lack of self-worth. Individuals affected by egotism (narcissism) feel strengthened through the identification or membership with a group. The legacy of collective egotism has been so successful throughout history because this social construct has been created to oppress others by sowing seeds of indifference and discontentment among people who are the same. The way to govern and control the population is by convincing its citizens that they are not one people, but separate and unequal groups of people.
Collective egotism is a reflection or extension of individual egotism that manifests the same fear-dominated traits such as the need to belong, to be in the ‘right’ (others wrong), the accumulation of more, complaining against this or that (me against the other; us against them), and the need for conflict and external enemies (opposition and competition defines its boundaries). All of this is done with the intent to seek out new things and causes to identify with, in order to feel ‘alive’; establishing disunity (through divide and conquer strategies), indifference, self-preservation and a larger sense of self-worth. The purpose of collectivism is to strengthen a collective identity (through disharmonious archetypes) with an inflated view of their group by creating the dichotomy of external enemies that do not share their views. The ego needs the the outer world to feel something and to have purpose. We will use others to reaffirm their addiction to judgement, we will use their external enemies to reaffirm their addiction to hatred.
What would racists be without the existence of other races? What would democrats be without republicans? What would believers be without non-believers?
When people are caught in the grip of the inherent collective ego structures, they no longer feel a greater sense of unity and equality with humanity.
Research has shown that being under the influence of our individual and collective dysfunctional mind-patterns (ego consciousness) can be held responsible for most of our emotional pain, conflict and suffering – self-importance, unworthiness, social hierarchical structures of power, inequality, prejudices, judging others, exploitation, feeling resentful towards others, hoarding, materialistic consumption, excessive thinking, escapism habits, abandonment issues, manipulation, rage, addiction, anxiety disorders, body dysmorphia, collective victim-hood, grievances, violence, survival of the fittest, racism, sexism, colonialism, road rage, environmental pollution, genocide, superiority, division, consumerism, lack of empathy, loneliness, despair, co-dependent relationships, religious and tribal wars, weapons of mass destruction, and so on.
All such negative and destructive traits have serious consequences in our society. We protect, preserve and project this individual and collective sense of identity (self-image preservation) at all costs in order to get our social needs met.
“Ego is the immediate dictate of human consciousness.”
If you ask people the fundamental question, “who are you”? You might commonly hear responses like, I am my name, my gender, my race, my academic status, my credentials, my characteristics, my pre-established roles, clothing choices, my religious or political allegiance, my labels and so on. All of these traits are socially constructed interpretations given to us by institutional patterns, practices and polices that bring about exclusion, individualism and inequality. The institutions and structures of our society have been set up, historically, to replicate from generation to generation the ‘great divide’ through cognitive conformity.
The ego is strengthened when we begin to identify and react from the small, polarized, conditioned voice in our heads that usually speaks first and is the loudest. This ongoing commentary in our heads is usually the one that creates a disturbance in our peace of mind, yet we unconsciously listen to it most of the time. Think of the ego like a computer virus that runs and operates in the background of our mind that limits our power, inner healing and potential. The ego is an illusory, self-generated identity that hides behind those declarative beliefs, opinions and statements beginning with the idea of who we think we are and the stories we tell ourselves. It is constantly creating imagined boundaries to reinforce thoughts of fear, past pain, a set of routine behaviors, emotional reactions, hardwired attitudes, scarcity, limitation and disconnection. In this way we guard ourselves from perceived threats from the outside world that are moderately to extremely threatening . This must not be mistaken for the ‘other’ voice in our heads (which is from our authentic self) that comes from the space of higher truth, intuitive insight, equanimity, creativity, compassion, and love.
The ego is often used as a barrier that protect us from psychological harms (rejection, judgement, humiliation, embarrassment and rejection). It aids us to fit in connect with other people’s socially accepted standards. Most of our ego drives are rooted in whatever supports our own safety, validation and existence. This creates emotional drama and struggles in our lives, feeding us false messages that ‘we are not enough’ as we are — not attractive enough, not smart enough, not successful enough, not rich enough, not competent enough, and so on. These beliefs and convictions become the filters that define our reality. We adopt these limiting, fear-based beliefs and we train our egos to obsess, re-enact and reinforce them (with strong conviction). The ego believes that we are separate and alone in the world which is the main cause of our struggles and distress. This leads us to constantly look out for our own best interest (becoming self-absorbed), which in turn gives rise to conflict, the need to be right, accumulation of more things, to dominate, to control, and the necessity to seek out external validation/recognition.
Our egos take everything that comes from our personal experiences and filters it through our past conditioning, fears, blame, judgement and guilt. We then unconsciously project our internal programming onto other people or situations, creating the illusion that the cause of our pain, conflict, frustration and sadness are outside of us. We often strike at the branches (traits/symptoms), not the root (original cause). People have a difficult time describing the ego because it is not one specific thing, it is based on the individuals diverse experiences acquired over time. The content of the egoic mind varies from person to person (on the surface level), but deep down it operates from the same mind structures built on fear, belief in lack, survival anxiety, tribalism, conflict and isolation.
We cannot get rid of our egos, the development of our healthy ego (the intellect/rational mind) is an integral part of human life; it is a necessary function to navigate, establish goals, follow directions, problem solve, create healthy boundaries and ensure our survival (self-protection) in the world. The problem is not that we have egos, it is in allowing the negative, unchecked parts of our egoic mind control our perceived reality, protecting our erroneous belief systems (through psychological defense mechanisms) and pervading all aspects of our lives. Identification with the compulsive mental noise of our egoic mind is a terrible affliction that almost everyone suffers from, so it is considered ‘normal’. Our spirit has been broken and we were turned into something that we are not (personifying an image that has been created for us). Holding on to these negative thought patterns prevents us from connecting to a deeper place of stillness, wholeness, joy, empowerment, and peace that is rooted in the depth of our being.
To transcend the prison of our egoic programming is to be aware of how the ego affects our mental health and cleverly hides behind the idea of the ‘I, me, and mine’ narrative (without being detected); so that we can remove our personal identification and attachment with it. We must run a virus scan in our minds – quarantine, delete and reprogram negative subconscious beliefs that are not in alignment with the best versions of ourselves.
The surest way to work for the betterment of the world is to be increasingly aware, mentally stable, and emotionally balanced. This will prepare you to become more skilled (finding your niche for communication) at delivering the tools of inner transformation to others, according to their level of understanding.
Come on board, be an ‘ego awareness advocate’ for May 11th of each year – Let us help transform the world, one ego at a time.
HEAL THE EGO – HEAL THE WORLD!
Anon I mus, founder of Ego Awareness Movement and World Ego Awareness Day [WEAD]