Posted by: spiritthrive | February 19, 2013

What to Make of our Ego

Much has been written about the ego, often casting it in a negative light.Wikipedia states, “The ego comprises the organized part of the personality structure that includes defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive, and executive functions. Conscious awareness resides in the ego, although not all of the operations of the ego are conscious. Originally, Freud used the word ego to mean a sense of self, but later revised it to mean a set of psychic functions such as judgment, tolerance, reality testing, control, planning, defense, synthesis of information, intellectual functioning, and memory. The ego separates out what is real. It helps us to organize our thoughts and make sense of them and the world around us.”

Those sound like good things to me!

Often when people say something like “that’s just your ego talking,” I believe they mean that our defense mechanisms are in high gear, and we’re not considering the higher purpose an action may hold for us, were we able to stand down our defensive measures.

In other words, our ego does not like the risk of change, which may or may not bring reward, whereas the status quo is relatively safe.

Some Buddhist teachings recommend we work to rid ourselves of ego. Someone recently suggested ego may simply be a stage in our development, a necessary stage, but one we grow out of.

What if both of these ideas are partially correct?

What if our ego is a vitally necessary part of our early development, but some of its massive strengths shift to become weaknesses as we age and desire greater spiritual development (which always requires change)? What if one of the central adventures of our spiritual life is in identifying, assessing and mastering our ego? What if managing and mastering the spirit-ego balance in our life is key to our growth, success and happiness?

I believe that, in addition to the ego reformation process we undergo in our own life, developing a refined sense of recognizing when others are battling their ego is a quite useful life skill as well.

In our relationships with others there are three levels of ego mastery we can achieve.

First, merely recognizing that others’ egos are driving their actions, as opposed to their innermost spirit being in control, can be a very beneficial step in allowing us to deal with them gracefully. Just as someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol may have little control over what they mean to say and do, so, too, does an “egoholic” lose the ability to remain heart-centered.

Second, by identifying in another, work we ourselves have undergone, we become empathetic to their plight, and are much better positioned to bring success to an interaction otherwise predestined to disaster. Acknowledging someone else is struggling with the domination of ego and attempting to relate that battle with one of our own can lend great wisdom to the more blunt, carnal fight that may have ensued.

Finally, a high level of ego mastery in our relationships with others is when we are able not only to identify and empathize with someone caught up in an ego struggle, but also lovingly help guide them to a higher path than the one they are currently on. To gently say, in so many words, “I’ve been right where you are, and sometimes operate right there still. But I would like to show you a path that’s more loving, more kind and gentle, and will resonate more fully with your beautiful spirit.”

It is then that we begin to journey together towards peace, love and harmony for other brothers and sisters, and have achieved ego graduation—the realization that we are all connected.

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