What is the ego? Are you the ego? What is the meaning of this word? How would you define it?
Are you your name, individuality, personality or body, or are they just tools you use for expressing yourself in the external world?
These are not strange, meaningless questions. Have you ever questioned your identity or wondered who you really are? It is most likely that you never did.
The Illusion of the Ego
If someone calls your name, you would turn your head to see who called you, but you are not your name. Your name is only a certain sound that identifies you when someone wants to address you.
What would happen if you change your name, wouldn’t you still be the same person?
You change the clothes you wear. You change your hairdo, and you may dye your hair sometimes. Does this change who you really are? No, it does not. You only change your outside appearance and believe that you have changed yourself.
You can change your job, your car or your house, but you are still the same person. These are external changes, but the “inner you” does not change.
Most people also consider their possessions, name, job, status or what they are wearing as being part of them. If they lose one of their possessions or if something gets broken, they feel as if they have lost a part of themselves.
What Is the Ego?
Let us try to define what the ego is.
The ego is the sum total of of one’s thoughts, beliefs and habits, together with the identification with one’s body.
The ego is the identification of your awareness-consciousness with your physical body, emotions and thoughts. In order to express itself in the outside world, your awareness-consciousness needs the physical body, the emotions and the thoughts, and identifies itself with them. This creates the ego.
Your thoughts evoke feelings and desires, which lead to action. If a desire cannot be fulfilled, anger, unhappiness or frustration might arise.
Your consciousness-essence-spirit, infuses life and vitality into the body, the emotions and the thoughts, and expresses itself through them.
As you see, the ego is not an independent entity. It is composed of the components listed above, together with the consciousness- spirit-life that activates it.
The identification of the consciousness with this trio is very strong, and most people do not realize this erroneous identification.
The “real you”, your essence, is free, perfect and independent.
The body, thoughts and feelings are temporary and constantly change. This mixture creates the ego, and this often leads to various desires, fears and worries, to conflicts with other egos, to misunderstandings, anger and conflicts.
Each ego considers itself as real, and desires to protect itself and gain power over other egos. This can lead to clashes, fights or even wars. Each ego is chained to its belief system, thoughts and ideas, and will do everything to defend them.
The ego is like a mask that you put on yourself and act in accordance with it.
If you continue to identify yourself with your ego, you limit yourself, your thinking and your actions. You think and behave in set ways, and can become intolerant and inconsiderate of other people.
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The Group Ego
So far, we have talked about the individual ego, but there are also shared, bigger egos – group egos, with which people identify. These are also called aggregate egos.
Most people tend to join and be a part of a larger ego. They might do so consciously and intentionally, or it can be part of their upbringing and education. This larger ego could be their family, religion, workplace, neighborhood, political party, city, country, and even their football or basketball team.
Some people identify with a certain thought, idea or a common cause, and join groups of people with similar thoughts or goals. This might sometimes leads to conflicts other groups that believe and support different set of thoughts and ideas.
Let us have a look at what happens at sport contests. If you are a fan of a certain sports team, and your team loses, you get depressed and angry. If it wins, you feel happy and elated. The same thing happens with political parties and with other kinds of groups.
In this case, anything that happens to the group you support affects you deeply, because you feel that you are a part of this group. You will also defend it if someone says anything against it.
Often, these larger egos oppose each other, speak against each other, and might even fight against each other. Each ego-group believes that it is right and others are wrong. Isn’t it a bit funny, and at the same time tragic?
It is the same life force passing through all egos, activating them and giving them life. Identifying with the ego, makes you see the differences, but identifying with the life force, lets you see through the ego, and perceive reality as it is – one and undivided.
Rising above your ego makes you realize that it blocks clear sight and understanding, making you believe that you are a certain individuality-personality, and that other people are apart from you, your opponents, rivals, and sometimes, your enemies.
The life force manifesting through each one is the same power-force. It is one homogeneous power, but manifesting through different personalities.
The life force – spirit- inner essence is like electricity. It is the same electricity making different instruments work, such as your TV, computer, oven or air conditioner. In the same way, the life force is one homogeneous power, activating the various egos.
The life force, which is one with your consciousness, manifests in myriads forms. What would happen if we become aware of the life force, sometimes called Spirit, and we shift our awareness into it? If we do so, we would rise above the ego, broaden our consciousness, drop limiting identifications and thinking, and expand our awareness.
In order to rise above the limited ego, some inner work is required.
Every one of us enacts the role of a specific actor on the stage of life, through the ego. This ego is the mask hiding the real Spirit that we are. Identification with the role that we play makes us forget our real essence, and think and act in accordance with the ego with which we identify.
This is the reason for suffering, unhappiness, anger, conflicts, lack of satisfaction, and every other negative feeling.
How can you rise above the ego? Through inner work, getting out of your comfort zone, becoming tolerant and considerate, learning emotional detachment, and through some other means, such as concentration and meditation.
Is this worth our time and effort? Yes, it is worth the time and effort. You will gain many benefits on the way, such as inner peace, better focus, more common sense, better judgement, happiness, the ability to get along with people, and many more.
Thoughts and beliefs make us see the world through certain colored eyeglasses. If we remove the eyeglasses, we will see life as it is, without the differences. We will then see beyond illusion, limitations and set beliefs.
“The ego is only an illusion, but a very influential one. Letting the ego-illusion become your identity can prevent you from knowing your true self. Ego, the false idea of believing that you are what you have or what you do, is a backwards way of assessing and living life.”
– Wayne Dyer
“The ego, however, is not who you really are. The ego is your self-image, it is your social mask, it is the role you are playing. Your social mask thrives on approval. It wants control, and it is sustained by power because it lives in fear.”
– Ram Dass
“Complaining is one of the ego’s favorite strategies for strengthening itself.”
– Eckhart Tolle