Right now, I am going to attempt something. Either I will give you an awareness of something that is dragging every area of your life down, in order to be the catalyst of massive change, or I am going to give you another mildly interesting thought that was ultimately a waste of the time you spent reading it.
If you are tired or not feeling very alert mentally, I suggest you read this post some other time, otherwise, let’s get to it.
EGO – THE FALSE SELF
The word “ego” in the way that I use it, means a false sense of identity. It is an error that, in my perspective, the majority of people in the world have unknowingly made to a greater or lesser degree (the key word here being “unknowingly”).
I think of the ego as a false character that we often play, because even the thought of being our true selves is utterly terrifying (I did not say our normal selves, but our TRUE selves).
“I am a successful man”, “I am a crap person”, “I am the biggest pimp ever”. These are the words of the ego. Your true self is simply “I am”.
But let’s take a step back for a second, and paint a more detailed picture by looking at a few different levels of ego. You may notice a common theme running through these, and if so, you are starting to see what the ego is really about.
~ATTACHMENT TO ROLES OR POSITIONS
This is where a man or a woman gains a situational sense of confidence as they are performing a role they are identified with (career, position, social status etc).
If this person is taken out of the role he/she has identified with, this situational confidence disappears, and anxiety is the replacement.
“I am the boss”, “I am coolest guy here”, “I am the least coolest guy here”.
~ATTACHMENT TO OBJECTS
This one is harder to notice than the first. It is where a person adds more “things” into their lives to enhance their sense of self.
They may work hard to earn money, and then go and buy truckloads of “stuff”, and feel good about it…for a while. This feeling of satisfaction fades after a few days, and the person wonders why they own all these items but still aren’t happy.
Keep in mind, this is only a simple example of egoic attachment to objects that I am using to illustrate a point.
Some people say that being materialistic is bad. It’s wrong. It’s not good. And they go and get rid of all their stuff, or maybe just tell other people to. What sucks about that is that it was the person’s identification with their objects that was the problem in the first place; but they go and take it out on the objects instead! They are blaming the stuff they own for their unhappiness!
You can own objects and not invest a sense of self in them. Just appreciate them. Take a moment, and really be grateful that such a thing could even be created.
~ATTACHMENT TO THOUGHTS
The big one. A person who identifies with a thought struggles to tolerate the existence of ideas that are conflicting, as they are an immediate threat to their sense of self.
If this person’s thought (which they equate with themselves) is destroyed by being proven wrong, their sense of self is destroyed along with it. This is why people will continue arguing long after they have been proven wrong.
In mild cases, people may defend their identified thought with tantrums or shutting themselves off and not listening, and in extreme cases, unfathomable atrocities on humanity.
If you want to see the ego’s attachment to thoughts in action, simply look at the “debates” between religion and atheism. By no means am I saying that everyone involved is attached to their thoughts, but I think that a great number from each side may be.
C. S. Lewis wrote an awesome book called “The Great Divorce” which I highly recomend you check out. In the book, the protagonist, who lives in hell (depicted as a grey, endless span of dull buildings) finds himself waiting in line for a bus. It turns out this bus is going to heaven, and he and a bus load of passengers go along for the ride purely out of curiosity.
Near the end of the book, there is a fantastic scene that I think Illustrates the ego perfectly. Exploring the fields of heaven, the protagonist comes across a magnificent, shining angel who seemed to be talking to two ghostly figures; one a tall, dangly figure wearing a top hot, and the other a small, disfigured dwarf. On closer inspection, he saw that the dwarf was holding a chain which was attached to the larger figure.
As the shining angel came closer to the ghostly figures, the dwarf tugged on the chain of the taller, who then cried “AT LAST!” in an over the top voice. The angel looked past the taller at the dwarf ghost holding the chain and said “hello Frank.” It turned out that back when they were alive, the dwarf and the angel had a troubled marriage. The taller figure, whose chain the dwarf was holding onto, was the manifestation of his false identity.
“YOUU MISSEDD MEE?!” cried the taller ghost in response. The angel ignored this performance and continued talking to the smaller ghost, and began pleading with him to just let go of the chain. The dwarf continually resisted this, and as he did, he became smaller and smaller until nothing more could be seen of him.
Keep in mind, there is nothing “wrong” with the ego. It is just being asleep with your eyes open. It is not an enemy.
Think for a moment. Am I talking with you about the ego because I want you to go out and judge everyone else? No, that would only be strengthening your own ego. What I hope, is that this discussion has created a spark of awareness.
Awareness of your own false identity is the first and most important step. Once you are aware that you are clenching the chain, will you let it go?