“The real cause of human suffering lies in the lack of education (social awareness) 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, we should be clear about what it is. The human ego is commonly described 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 ‘person-hood’. A baby is born without a fragmented 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 boundaries; 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 2 it starts to develop a skin-boundary sense of identity (its name, personal thoughts, emotions, gender, race, roles, etc.). This is how our ‘ego’ starts to develop; it is what we believe to be true about ourselves and how we are perceived in 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, and become a certain way. This facade that we have 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 starts to dictate our life choices. When we identify with this mind-made sense of self (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 real cause of most of our suffering is holding onto false narratives (largely picked up from early childhood trauma) that we are powerless, defective, fearful, limited and disconnected beings. Childhood trauma consisting largely of different forms of abuse, abandonment or neglect that both physical and developed psychological wounds. To protect our distorted, reinforced self-image (social mask) we unconsciously had to adapt to the certain rules and judgments handed down by our families and society. 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. The ego thrives on perceiving life through the lenses of division (black and white 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.
Collective egotism 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 its views. Who would racists be without the existence of other races? Who would democrats be without republicans? Who would believers be without non-believers? When people are in the grip of the inherent collective ego structures, they no longer feel a greater sense of oneness and equality with humanity.
Research has shown that being influenced by our individual and collective dysfunction of the egoic mind can be held responsible for most of our emotional pain, conflict and suffering – including self-importance, hierarchical structure of power, inequality, prejudices, bigotry, judging others, exploitation, hoarding, materialistic consumption, excessive thinking, escapism habits, abandonment issues, manipulation, rage, addiction, anxiety disorders, body dysmorphia, collective victim-hood, violence, survival of the fittest, racism, sexism, colonialism, road rage, environmental pollution, 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 and the world at large. We protect and preserve this individual and collective sense of self-identity at all costs to get our social needs met.
“Ego is the immediate dictate of human consciousness.” ~Max Planck
If you ask people the fundamental question, “who are you”? You might commonly hear responses like, I am my name, gender, race, academic status, credentials, characteristics, pre-established roles, religious or political allegiance, 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’. 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. The voice of our ego is usually the one that creates a disturbance in our peace of mind, yet we unconsciously listen to it most of the time. The ego is your perceived identity that is constantly creating imagined boundaries to reinforce thoughts of fear, past pain, memorized 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.
Most of our egoic 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 become the filters that condition our reality. We adopt 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 (symptoms), not the root (cause). 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, survival, tribalism, conflict and isolation.
We cannot get rid of our egos, the development of our ego is an integral part of human life; it is a necessary function to establish goals, 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 it hides behind the idea of the ‘I, me, and mine’ paradigm and functions inside of us (without being detected) so that we can remove our personal identification and attachment with it.
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 for May 11th of each year – Let us help transform the world, one ego at a time.
REMEMBER TO SPEAK UP AND SPEAK OUT ABOUT EGOTISM!
Anon I mus, founder of Ego Awareness Movement and World Ego Awareness Day [WEAD]