If you listen to certain spiritual teachers, particularly from the east, you’ll eventually hear about how important it is to break free from the hold of your ego in order to reach God consciousness. “God please help me get past my ego, so I can be with you,” might be a prayer they recommend. This idea about the ego comes out of an ancient culture built around spirituality over centuries, and there is validity to what they’re saying. But there’s also some confusion around it.
The ego was given to us for a reason, and it’s not our enemy. Although it gets a bad rap, the ego is a crucial part of our earth suit. It’s necessary for us to have an ego, in order to make our way through life and get things done, in any sort of healthy way. A quick trip to your local psych ward will show you what happens when egos have become so damaged that they’re not able to function properly.
The ego can be used for its intended purpose, and sometimes it can get us into trouble. But it can also be used in service to love. It takes a lot of spiritual growth and healing to get to the point where we learn to use our ego for love, on any kind of ongoing basis. And in case you’re wondering, I don’t claim to have that bit of business all tidied up. But I’m working on it.
One of the things our ego does for us is provide us with the sense that we’re OK, that we’re safe, that everything is copacetic. It does that so we can sleep at night, and be confident enough to get up in the morning and try life again for another day. It’s like a sort of gyroscope that keeps us in balance: vertical during the day, and horizontal at night. That’s a good thing.
But our ego can also do too good a job. Our ego can make us so comfortable and defensive that we don’t bother to get honest about what’s not working so well in ourselves. Self honesty tends to always be in short supply with us, in part because our ego does such a good job. Maybe you go to a therapist for a while, or take a personal growth seminar. You learn a few things, perhaps get some healing done inside, and you go “I feel better now.” Your ego says “OK, now you can relax, no more personal growth. It’s too hard, and too stressful. You can cruise now.”
The ego has two agendas here. One is its mission to help you feel confident and safe, and the other is its own self preservation. The ego has a good job, and tends to like things they way they are. Part of its job is to keep a lid on the scary stuff inside you, so you don’t see it and fall over. And if you should let go of that scary stuff, the ego’s importance becomes smaller. It tends to resist that.
And that’s when you get stuck. That message, “I’m fine, no work needed here,” begins to pervade your mind, and you settle into complacency. The ego is happy with that, because it likes the status quo, so to reinforce this situation, whenever growth stuff comes up, it gives you soothing messages like “I know.” “I already know that.” “I learned all that before.” “I’m fine on my own.” “I don’t need any more help, because now I know.”
So here’s a big tip. Whenever you hear yourself saying “I know”, get alarmed, because it means your ego has kicked in and you’ve stopped paying attention. Life is very tricky about slipping in opportunities for new learning and growth. It doesn’t always make a big announcement about it. But if you pay attention, there are lessons and growth opportunities everywhere. (And when I just said that, did you just tell yourself, “I know”?) Next time someone is talking, and you find yourself bored because you already know what they’re saying, wake yourself up, and listen more deeply. The message you most need is probably coming out of their mouth that very moment.
So, this ego situation is a tricky one. We need our ego to stay healthy and get through life, but it can lull us into complacency, wall us off with defense mechanisms, and inhibit our growth, if we let it. It does that by telling us not to bother, and that we’re all good. And as I mentioned, one of the things it’s best at is keeping our biggest issues, our unresolved fear, anger and sadness — in our blind spot.
Again, it’s trying to give us a sense of safety and confidence, so we can keep moving on through life. So it hides from us the really scary stuff inside that might otherwise paralyze us if we know how bad it was. We all have that stuff to some degree, and it’s just waiting to be let go. The ego keeps it hidden, until we’re ready to clean ourselves up.
You know we all have stuff we don’t see, because everyone you know has some kind of flaw. You can see it, but they can’t see it. And guess what, they see you the same way. You’ve got your own problems that they can see, and you can’t, because your ego is just doing it’s job, hiding it from you.
And we’ve learned that in order to get along with each other, we should avoid talking about each other’s flaws. It’s sort of an unspoken agreement between egos. “I won’t point out your stuff, and you won’t point out my stuff, and no one gets hurt”. It’s OK, really, because if that weren’t in place, no one would ever have sex, and we’d die out as a species.
But there has to be some way for us to get our stuff looked into, so we can clean it up, and keep on growing and evolving into the amazing loving beings we can be. That’s why going to counselors, therapists, and groups are so important: To help you get in touch with the stuff your ego has hidden behind your blind spot. Your friends can’t do that for you, its not their job. But when you go to a counselor, or attend certain kinds of meetings, you’re making an agreement to listen and be open, and your helper is agreeing to point out your stuff. And hopefully they’ve been well trained to help you see it and let it go. But first you’ve got to make yourself available to the help, and put yourself in the chair.
We can’t do this for ourselves. We were not designed to, and our ego won’t allow it. We need the outside help. Get some, and you’ll heal and grow faster.
I’ve been fortunate to have received a lot of great outside help in my life, and have been extensively trained to provide it for other people. Learn about my work at my intuitive counseling website, at MaxHighstein.com. And you can find all of my published work: guided meditations, programs, courses, and even all of my music, at The Healing Waterfall website. Thanks for listening.