It’s not uncommon to get caught up in the trickiness of how to perceive our egos. Once we become aware of it, we are then met with the crossroads of how we should approach it.
The patterns and behaviors of the ego are often portrayed as a mental structure that does not serve our true selves, but if opposing it only makes it grow, then how should we go about treating it?
Better Understanding The Ego
A simplified definition of the ego is a false sense of identity that our mind creates for ourselves throughout our lives by identifying with different things like certain thoughts, beliefs, opinions, stances, forms, etc. In our thinking mind, it is who we often mistake for who we are, but who we truly are goes far beyond any conceptual structure built within our minds.
What I consider to be two of the most common misconceptions of the ego are that:
- The ego is a conscious entity that we have no influence over.
- Once we dissolve the ego, we can live without the presence of it.
To address what I consider to be the first misconception (based on my own experience), instead of conceptualizing the ego as its own entity beyond our control, I like to think of the ego as a set of programmed beliefs.
The ego trying to “survive” is simply an analogy for our minds defending the beliefs that we have identified to be either true or untrue, good or bad, right or wrong, who we are or who we are not, and so on.
This is what Eckhart Tolle means when he says “the ego loves nothing more than to be right.” In our minds, “right” is what we have identified and programmed ourselves to believe as true, or “good”, so this belief is what our egos will continue defend. The main thing to realize here is that although we are not consciously choosing to defend this stance, we are the ones who have unconsciously programmed our egos to take that stance, and we do in fact have the power to change these programs to ones that serve us.
To briefly address the second misconception that I listed above: We as human beings will always have an ego. Now, whether it be subtle or inflated, whether we be conscious of it or not, that it up to us. It is not about eliminating the ego, it is about learning how to live with it.
Observing It Without Judgement
When we first learn of becoming aware of the ego, and are able to observe its behavior, it is common to instinctively become judgmental towards it.
When we judge something, we are also making the implication that the thing in which we are judging is “wrong”, which also implies that we are then “right”. When we judge the thoughts, patterns, and behaviors that come as a result of our egos, this judgement is also the work of our egos, as we are perceiving the “ego” as a new enemy that is “wrong” or “bad” and must be defended against.
I made the mistake of doing this constantly when I first became aware of the patterns and behaviors of my own ego, not realizing that this judgement was in fact inflating it even more. Once I realized that this was in fact causing me more suffering than liberation, I made the connection that although I was able to observe and become aware of my ego, I did not have to react to it. “What you resist, persists.” had never rung so true.
Treat It Like a Child, Not An Enemy
Lastly, the greatest advice that has helped me when coming to perceive the ego: Treat the ego like a child, not an enemy. Fighting the ego only makes it grow stronger, so the more one tries to resist the ego, the more power it will have over them.
This does not mean that we have to give in to the ego, it simply means that we must guide it, as if it were a child and knew no better. Like our thoughts, although we may not have control of what passes through our mind, we definitely have control over how we choose to perceive it.
As we alter the way in which we perceive the content that rises within our minds, we will begin to see that over time, this change in perception alters the content itself. This is what Dr. Wayne Dyer means when he says, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.“
When we approach the ego with a loving presence instead of attacking it with labels and frustration, our mind will begin to reflect this peaceful and loving state, and the limiting behaviors of the ego will begin to dissipate.
We can still be aware of the ego without fighting it. It is simply about replacing these thoughts, patterns, and behaviors to ones that serve our true selves, not our self-constructed identities that live within our unconscious.
So if you ever get caught trying to determine whether something is arising as a result of the ego or as a result of your true self, choose love over fear and you will never be wrong. Namaste and all my love, I hope this helps!