The mind is a wonderful tool, but it also has a dark side. You must educate yourself about the ego by seeing it for what it is; it is one of the most empowering things you can ever do. It will help you to learn more about who you are, your behaviors and gain a more compassionate understanding of others. Becoming free from the ego brings you more in touch with your authentic self. Your relationship with your ego is an essential part of having a long lasting, loving relationship with yourself and others. Try not to associate the ego as just having a deeply compulsive fascination with one’s own inflated self-image with overbearing characteristics of being cocky, vain or selfish. Everyone has an ego, it is our separate, unique sense of individuality that has a tremendous influence over our thoughts, belief systems and actions. The ego’s primary role is to clarify and defend our boundaries and look after our safety and security. It functions primarily as a survival machine (pre-programmed automatic responses) to protect us from real threats and danger that show up in our lives. The ego is a tool that our physical body uses for identity, to stay alive and spread our genes by mating with others; it is what gives us the feeling of individuality and being separate from everything else.
The ego is not bad thing (it is just misguided), it is our mind-made sense of identity that mainly operates from the unobserved state. The paradox is that the ego is both an essential and detrimental force in our lives. It is an important resource for thriving in society, but on its own it is unable to successfully sustain our inner peace, happiness, health, spiritual growth and wellness.
The ego draws a great amount of energy from the oldest part of our brain (reptilian brain or R-complex) , which is our limbic system. This embedded system is mainly responsible for our emotions and prepare ourselves for instinctive reactions such as fight, flight, freeze and fear. Although our limbic brain complex helped us to survive in our early stages of human evolution, it is not so much of a vital necessity for our safer lives in the modern world. This had made room for our egos to replace our hunter/gatherer pack mentality with other perceived threats to protect us from creating mostly unnecessary, internal fears (self-esteem, competition, past trauma, not good enough, money, infidelity, failing, offending others and etc).
When we live too much in ego consciousness (inherent flawed perception) life eventually becomes increasingly stressful and affects our mental stability, health, success, fulfillment, inner peace, relationships and well being begin to psychologically suffer. The ego is likened to a undisciplined child that is immature (ruled by automatic irrational behavioral attitudes and responses) and does not desire to experience real inner change. It is our responsibility to see it for what it is in our lives; creating an intervention by reprogramming its unconscious patterns and negative tendencies from the center of our consciousness.
We begin our inner journey from and beyond our egoic programming. Most of us are suffering from a case of ‘mistaken identity’, taking ourselves to be what we are not (a mind-made story outside of this present moment). The egoic mind is constantly searching for an identity through the temporary formation of thoughts, narratives, complaining, opposition and grievances. This is how it survives and thrives by adding more to itself, recreating a pseudo identity to feel more special, better than others and complete.
One must cultivate unmoved present-moment-awareness to be free from the dominance of our compulsive thinking. Whenever you find yourself entertaining narratives of fear, unworthiness and insecurity, allow those limiting thoughts to slip into your witnessing presence. Recognize that you have momentarily contracted your awareness from the natural, all-encompassing state of wholeness into a perceived state of boundaries and disconnectedness. Your initial step to transcend these ego trappings is to observe, detect and deter egoic thought-patterns with mindful detachment (when they are intruding your mind). Who you are is not the compulsive voice in your head, but the silent observer who is aware of it. Being a detached observer requires you to be aware of your thoughts, emotional reactions and sensory perceptions as they are unfolding in each moment.
Conscious presence (our underlying, creative intelligence underneath the mental noise) gives us a seat from which to objectively observe the movements of thought (fears, anger, approval seeking, need to control, negative self-talk, fault-finding, complaints and so on). The moment you rest in perceiving awareness, you become effortlessly aware of your thoughts and emotions when they arise and subside. This will help you to break your identification and investment with them. The more you are in the neutral space of quietude to observe your ego (without judgment, resistance or bias) when it is triggered or resurfaces, the more it will lose power over your thoughts and begin to naturally recede.
It is possible to awaken from the hypnotic trance of egoic identification. When you become more conscious of your own ego (by giving no power to it), you take it less seriously and it loses it’s stranglehold (controlling influence) over your mind and emotional state. You stop limiting yourself to traits associated with the reptilian brain that include: fear, dominance, aggression, obsessiveness, submission, rigidity and a narrow point of view. You rise above life’s problems with a calm sense of non-attachment and begin to recognize that you are the unaffected space of awareness in which judgment and suffering are perceived. You are not the one who personally suffers, because you are no longer energizing the internal dialogue of the egoic mind through unconscious identification with it.
The root cause of suffering lies in the way that we have been conditioned to perceive which is dysfunctional and unnecessary. The intensity of our psychological pain depends on the degree of mental resistance to accepting the deeper truth of who we are and how strongly we personalize with our unobserved mind patterns. When you take the time to go deeper within yourself (through mindfulness, meditation, and/or self-inquiry) you will come to the realization that you are the unperturbed living presence behind all of your thoughts, feelings and choices. This is your calm, natural state of inner well-being, simply waiting to be discovered.