HJ: The term ‘ego’ is thrown around pretty loosely these days yet seldom anyone truly knows what it is, why we have one, and how it is the root cause of much of our suffering in this life. Simply understanding these three things is enough to loosen much of its grip on our consciousness and begin the process of taming it once and for all.
In it’s simplest terms, the ego is a mental self-defense mechanism that seeks to protect us from perceived threats, however, the form that this typically takes is over compensation for internal feelings of fear, insecurity and lack. The ego projects whatever persona it feels is necessary to make up for these limiting, distorted beliefs and so we feel better about ourself. This is a form of cognitive dissonance and causes us to suffer greatly, while never actually addressing the underlying issues that fuel the whole scenario.
If we are truly to begin to heal and raise our consciousness to its highest expression, we must begin the process of understanding and dismantling the ego, which is truly an incredible, liberating process.
Tired of Feeling Hurt, Angry, Alone? Face Your Ego
By George P.H. | The Man Up Blog
“Ego" is a buzzword we hear all the time, especially when talking about men. Still, few people understand what the term means and how it affects their lives.
Believe it or not, most of your negative emotions – fear, loneliness, anger, etc – come from the ego. It’s the source of all mental resistance and pain.
But much like the boogeyman in a child’s closet, the ego disappears when you turn on the lights and take a closer look at it. Let’s begin by doing just that.
What Is The Ego?
In a broad sense, the ego is your self-image; who you view yourself as. It is the voice inside saying “I am this way" and judging, comparing and analyzing everything and everyone in your life.
It is easier to feel the ego than it is to understand it logically. Definitions of the term are deliberately vague in all traditions – Buddhism, Hinduism, modern spirituality – for this reason. The best way to “get it" is through examples and self-observation.
Let’s say a man walks up to you, says you’re a jackass and walks away. You haven’t been physically hurt and your life hasn’t changed. And yet you might feel angry or upset because your self-image – your ego – has been challenged. “How dare he say that to me? I’m not a jackass!" is what you might think inside.
The ego also tells you what “should be" based on who you think you are. Imagine a girl you were planning to bring home suddenly says she’d rather eat dry paint than touch you. You might get upset, even though the only thing being attacked is your expectation of what “should have been" and the image of yourself as a guy who can get this girl.
In both scenarios, nothing really happens – and yet most people would experience great emotional pain. This is because they are deeply invested into their self-image and the expectations that come with it. When reality interferes, resistance – the source of all mental pain – enters their lives.
Ego, Resistance and Pain
Your hopes, expectations and predictions (based on past experiences) are all extensions of your self-image; who you view yourself as.
Of course, what we want and expect and what happens in reality are often two very different things. The resulting gap creates resistance.
Resistance is refusing to accept what is; struggling against it. It’s the feeling of unhappiness and discontent associated with an unsatisfactory past. It’s the anticipation of a worse – or better – future.
Here’s how resistance creates negative emotions:
- Anxiety happens when we expect a future that we don’t want.
- Anger happens when our self-image is aggressively challenged.
- Jealousy happens when another person has something we feel we should have.
- Sadness happens when we yearn for something we can’t have.
- Heartbreak happens when we refuse to accept life without someone.
Do you see where this is going? Fundamentally, all pain comes from the resistance created by a gap between the ego’s wants and reality. If you were to accept everything that happens to you, you would only experience physical pain – e.g. from physical injury, hunger.
You Are Not Your Ego
Here’s what you must understand about your ego. It’s not you– but it wants you to think it’s you. The ego fears annihilation, and if you associate yourself with it strongly enough, you will begin to share that fear.
Imagine you approach a beautiful girl you’ve never seen before; she literally tells you to fuck off. Have you lost anything? Has the world changed in any real way? No, it hasn’t.
The only thing that got damaged is your ego with its expectations. Nothing happened to you, but your self-image is now one step closer to being destroyed.
To avoid such injuries and eventual “death," your ego will do everything in its power to survive. It will direct you away from situations that threaten it, pull you into meaningless arguments to defend it and take over your life however it can. This is how irrational fears like “approach anxiety" and “stage fright" are born.
The ego will also try to strengthen itself as often as possible. Whenever you compare, judge and resist – whether a person, a situation or yourself – it is strengthened. You, on the other hand, are weakened and eventually must pay the price in pain.
You might think that the ego is necessary for your survival. If you don’t have a self-image, how can you have a sense of identity? If you don’t have hopes and expectations, what could possibly motivate you to do anything in life?
This couldn’t be more false. The ego is only good for creating pain. You are never more free to take action or be yourself than when you let go of your self-image and live without resistance.
Of course, it’s not enough to explain what ego is and say “it’s bad" – there’s a lot more to it. In future articles, I will share more information, strategies and tools for understanding and reversing the ego.