Written by Shane L Taylor
The human ego is a fascinating thing. It is the cause of much strength and much destruction at the same time. It can drive people to amazing achievements and it can drive people into extreme behaviour. We all experience the highs of victory and personal success some time in our life. We also experience the devastating lows of what we would call failure. The level of pain we feel from these so called failures, are relative to the connection we have with our own ego. When we derive our significance from what our ego dictates as real, then we can be riding a very turbulent wave of exciting highs and devastating lows.
I was listening to an interview with Dr Wayne Dyer and he mentioned six aspects of the ego which I found fascinating and very illuminating in my quest to understand why we think and behave the way we do as humans. These six aspects outline beautifully why the human world is divided between peace and chaos, love and hate, fear and faith. An out of balance ego will drive people to extremes causing these drastic mood changes and irrational behaviour.
Firstly, What is ego?
Ego is the part of our mind that gives us our feeling of individuality. It allows us to feel separate from other people, our surroundings and our creator. The Ego causes us to create attachment to material things and other people. It plays an important role in our survival on this planet, as it drives us to seek protection and think ahead to maintain the physical elements of our existence. It drives us into relationships which ensures the continuance of the human race. It drives us to be constantly searching, researching, inventing and exploring new ways to survive and overcome problems.
Therefore, the ego is not inherently a bad thing. In fact, without ego we would not have free will. The capacity to choose what we want to do with our lives. A balanced ego working alongside the spirit and soul of a person provides great peace and wellbeing.
However, when our ego gets out of balance and completely drives a human life, that life becomes unbalanced. When the ego gains most of the control over our lives then our lives become very materialistic and self centred. We become very volatile and susceptible to stress because we are constantly seeking to protect ourselves and what we “own”. We feel out of control, vulnerable and disconnected.
The following six aspects of the human ego outline the areas in which we do this.
The human ego causes so much destruction when it gets out of control. It can cause destruction on the global stage with war and conflict. It also causes great destruction in a single human life when that war turns in on itself.
It all comes from this feeling of separation and isolation that we all experience at times throughout our lives. It causes much confusion and leads us to develop a false understanding about our lives and the world around us.
It seams to me, that keeping our ego in balance is the great challenge of our lives. For when we do, as we have all experienced from time to time, then the peace we are searching for manifests.
These six aspects of the human ego are divided into two halves. The first three deal with material nature. The second three with spiritual connection.
Here are the first three aspects of the human ego which will give us a better understanding of why the world can be so materialistic, irrational and self centred.
Our ego seeks to have us believe that:
- I am what I have:
Our ego causes us to believe that our material possessions are actually a part of us and define whether we are “successful” people. We all know that our things are not part of us, but that doesn’t stop us from living in fear that we might lose our things. Look at what we do and how we act when our things are threatened. .
Ego driven desire for things can create much anxiety about the future which causes us to be in stress and anxiety. Which ruins our well-being in the present moment.
When we look at ourselves honestly and with humility, we can see that we are all very attached to our things. We define ourselves by our things. We can define ourselves as poor because we don’t have many things. We define ourselves as rich, because we have many things.
As hard as it is, it is important to remember, that at the end of our lives, the amount of things we have is meaningless. We will leave this planet with nothing. Therefore, the ego’s belief that “I am what I have” is false.
When this belief is strong in us we experience such highs and lows in our life because we are basing our self worth upon our possessions. Therefore the stress we experience trying to hold onto these possessions and get more possessions, often drives us to very irrational and detrimental behaviour. We literally become possessed by our desire for possessions.
Wanting things is not the problem. We are all entitled to desire and have pleasurable things. It is how we define our lives by our things that causes the conflict. If we can create a mindset that we are abundant and significant no matter what possessions we have, then we will live a much more peaceful and fulfilling life. Fulfillment will never come to the person who must always have more to show others how “successful” they are.
If we want to experience peace of mind. Our significance must come from who we are as human beings, not by what we possess.
- I am what I do:
We love to define ourselves by what we do. Our jobs, our careers, our businesses, our talents. We often hear of people who were once famous, being depressed and struggling mentally because now they are “nobody”. Making the shift from once having a place of significance to now being retired, layed off or irrelevant to an industry, can be a very difficult pill to swallow. Particularly for people who are listening to the voice of the ego saying, I am what I do.
I am a perfect parent. I am a successful sportsperson, I am a doctor, I am a musician, I am a business person etc. In reality we are none of these things. We are way more than these things. What we do, is merely what we do with the life and resources we have been given. What we do is not who we are. Yet we can wrap ourselves up so tightly in the significance we get from what we do, that when things change, we struggle.
Having gratitude for what we do and have achieved, is much healthier than building our identity on a foundation of egoic pride. Allowing the ego to get puffed up with our own importance is a dangerous journey. Life often has lessons coming for this mindset. Life likes to keep us humble. Not to punish us, but to lead us in the right direction. An out of control ego will experience great stress at some point. It is inevitable because it is contrary to how we were created to live. We are created to serve and be connected to the whole of creation. We are not created to serve our own selfish desires at the expense of others. This is what the ego drives us to become, when we start to believe “I am what I do”.
Good quality mental health comes from keeping this aspect of the ego in check. When we find ourselves overindulging in our own importance or lack of importance, it is time to be reminded that life is not only about what we do and achieve.
- I am what others think of me:
This one is totally out of control in our modern day. Social media has poured petrol on this fire and it is burning out of control. We get easily caught up in the illusion of external validation. Looking for our self image in the approval of others. Rather than being grounded in ourselves, confident and in faith. Led by our ego we chase the approval of other people to determine our self worth. Many of us are devastated when our precious image doesn’t live up to the standard of those we are watching.
What if I lose my job? What if I lose my house? What if we become poor? What if we become rich? What will people think of me? Often we think we have this under control and consciously think we aren’t too attached to these things. Have a good look at your stress levels when you are challenged in any of these ways. That could reveal a very different subconscious story.
We let our self worth and mental well being be diminished, when we believe our image doesn’t live up to those we are watching. The ego operates at two extremes of experience. The ego drives us to boast and be puffed up by our “perfect” image. The ego also drives us to feel inadequate and depressed because our image is not good enough.
The best way to live is to be balanced in the centre. Where we are grateful for what we do have and grateful for others people’s success. This is the realm of fulfillment. It doesn’t matter how wonderful our image looks or how insignificant our image looks, the ego will always find a way to tempt us into despair. By showing us someone who has an even better image.
When we find ourselves depressed by what we “think” people “might” think about us, it is time to remind ourselves that this is the ego talking. To diminish the voice of the ego we just need to make a decision to not listen. It only seems hard to change because of all the complicated mental gymnastics we think we need to do, the answer is simply learning to make better choices before we get carried away with our emotions.
Becoming aware that we can get control of this thinking is the first step. Remaining aware can be tricky, as the ego likes to slide in very quietly and slyly to get us off balance again.
Often we just pass up all this crazy human behaviour as human nature and decide there is nothing we can do about it. “That is just the way I am”. That is absolutely incorrect. It is just how you have decided to be.
The Egoic Challenge
The ego offers a challenge to all human beings. That is, to learn how to overcome it’s desire to dominate our lives. Keeping our ego in check is a lifelong challenge. It is a lifelong competition or tournament we are playing to see who will win. It is like we are playing this ego in a tennis match. When we are winning we feel great, peaceful, at ease, energetic, connected and abundant no matter what “things” we have around us. When we are losing we are in stress, fear and anxiety. Disconnected, isolated, weak, angry and depressed.
When we are losing we can also inflict these negative emotions upon everyone around us. This is the effect of the person with the out of control ego who must dominate and stand above everyone else. The alpha dog, who bullies and belittles anyone they see as inferior. It also plays out in the depressed and fearful person who has developed a strong egoic connection to self loathing.
Humility and Gratitude
The challenge against our ego and the ego of others is constantly at work in our lives to bring us to humility and gratitude. To bring our thinking to higher ground where we remain in control of our mental health, unshakeable and full of peace. This state of being is the true wealth we must seek. Our lives are always being challenged and tested to exercise and expand us to the point where we become conscious of our ego and our need to control it. Life will provide many experiences to get our attention, unfortunately we are stubborn beings and often have to endure great suffering to learn the lesson, if we learn it at all.
The second half of the 6 Aspects of the Human Ego deal with our spiritual well being.
No. 4. I am separate:
If you have read this far into this article then you are probably ready and able to hear about each humans deep spiritual connection to all things. It does take an open mind, which is not one of the strong points of the ego.
Our true nature is to be in total connection to all things in the whole universe. We are made of the elements of the universe. We are not separate at all, yet we can feel so separate. It is very contradictory. It’s like a drop of water in the ocean making the decision that it is not connected to the ocean. That it is somehow a separate entity, living by its own accord. No, it is a small drop of the whole ocean. Just like we are small drops of the whole universe, or small drops of God. Whatever your belief is about the source of life, the reality is, we are all small drops of that source. Therefore we are inherently connected. We cannot be otherwise.
Yet our ego makes us feel so disconnected. It does this by making us believe we are our things, what we do and what people think of us. The ego takes our attention off the spiritual nature of life and focuses us on the material/physical.
Modern science has even made discoveries to prove this point. At the core of the atom, the building blocks of life, there is nothing but energy. It is what they call the quantum field. This energy doesn’t behave like we would expect it to by our laws of the material world. It is not separate forms of energy for each individual, it is the same energy field operating at the core of every living thing. This shows that at our core, we are all aspects of the one energy. Therefore not separate at all. We are inherently one energy expressing itself in a multitude of forms.
When we learn to diminish the influence of the ego we begin to feel this oneness. We don’t even have to understand it, we probably can’t because it is so vast. We just become aware of it. Because it is what we are. Any confusion over what we are, is the product of the egoic mind.
No. 5: I am separate from what is missing in my life.
If we can accept that we are all aspects of the one source energy. Then we can come to understand that the objects of our desire, that we are not experiencing, are also not separate from us. What we desire to experience in our lives is made of the same energy that we are. Therefore it is not impossible for us to achieve our dreams and desires. Living beyond the control of the ego we realise that “all things” are possible and what stands in our way is nothing more than our own beliefs.
Probably the most prevalent desire for many people is to have more money. Not many people get to experience a life of having more than enough money. We always believe we need more, but are not capable of making more. We believe we have to get lucky, win the lottery or be blessed from above.
We can have more money when we believe we can have more money. We just have to grow into it. Raise our expectations and make changes and develop the beliefs necessary to attract the money we want. But our limiting beliefs will fight against us when we seek to drastically change our lives. The ego has spent a long time and a lot of effort to set up limiting beliefs in our subconscious mind to keep itself in control.
The ego is all for going out and dominating other people to get what you want. The ego is all for cheating and stealing. It is not in the nature of the ego to live by spiritual connection. We must move beyond the ego to experience the truth of our divine connection to all things. Including the money we need to fulfill our purpose.
Concerning money and material wealth.
When we move beyond egoic thinking. What we thought we absolutely must have, suddenly feels unimportant and new desires come forth. The need to be materially rich is replaced with a different definition of wealth. One full of connection, relationships, giving and serving others. When the need to derive significance and status from what we have and do diminishes then our desires change too.
No. 6: I am separate from God.
Growing up, I was always asking myself these questions. How can I feel so separate from God when God created everything? And “If God is real then why don’t we see, hear, smell or touch God? These are common questions people are asking all around the world and throughout history. Many of us come to the conclusion that because we can’t perceive God with our five senses then God must not be real. What we are missing is that it is our own ego that creates this barrier between our consciousness and the source of our creation.
If we are lucky we might meet or hear about someone who is spiritually connected. It can be a shock to our mind and it seems like they are from another planet. In some ways they are on another planet. Certainly experiencing a different world than the majority of people. They are not living in the egocentric world of materialism. They have moved beyond that level of thinking into the spiritual realm where everything is connected and flowing from the one source. They are on higher ground. Nothing seems to bother them, they are peaceful and at ease all the time. They have exactly what they need in life to be doing what they are doing. They are optimistic and always finding the positive perspective. They are grounded and in love with all people. Wouldn’t it be nice to live with that kind of ease and peace? It is no fairytale, we can have this level of awareness and peace, we just have to understand it and practice to build it into our lives.
It looks easy but it is a great challenge to develop this level of awareness and minimise the strength of the human ego. To a world that thrives on full blown egoic expression, the spirit filled person is very strange. The spiritually connected person is a total weirdo and living in some sort of fantasy land. Sound familiar?
We are in no way separate from God. We can only be made from the source that made us. How can we be anything else? It is impossible. Therefore we all must have the ability to connect with this source. It is a clearing away of sin (wrong thinking) rather than “putting on” of spirit. We need to clear away all this ego based thinking to reveal our true nature as children of God. Drops of God or whatever you want to call it. The ego is what separates us from God, our source. These six aspects define exactly why that is happening. If we develop our consciousness to exist beyond the ego then we can perceive the presence of God, ourselves and our connection to all things.
The confusion over our existence and purpose is a product of the ego. Just like Ryan Holiday’s book says, Ego is the enemy. It is human ego that ruins so many good things. It has derailed so many great careers. Destroyed millions of families. Created wars and deadly conflicts. Driven talented people to all sorts of addiction. It drives so many promising young people to depression, anxiety and suicide.
How do we get control over the ego?
By becoming more aware of this sneaky assassin. An enemy is defeated by knowledge of its tactics and building strength to fight it. These six aspects of the human ego gives us a good understanding of the ego’s tactics. It is then up to us to build our mental health to a state that is unshakeable. To achieve this we need to develop the ability to stay mentally relaxed under pressure.
What makes us give in to the temptation to live in stress? It is our inability to stay relaxed under pressure. In order to stay relaxed under pressure we must develop a peace practice. We must train ourselves to be strong enough mentally to not be driven into fear and stress every time something goes wrong.
Examples of peace practices are: meditation, yoga, qi gong, tai chi, martial arts, conscious relaxation, worshiping God, being in nature etc. Anything that causes us to focus our awareness upon our natural connection to life and is a practice of relaxation will build up our ability to stay relaxed under pressure.
There is no magic pill. It takes dedicated practice. It takes living a lifestyle of peace and relaxation. It is absolutely attainable for anyone and it feels so good.