What is the Ego?
There is a lot of negative writing out there about Egos, and advice on how to overcome the ego to obtain personal growth. For anyone who doesn’t know what the ego is, it is your sense or definition of self. It is the part of you that tells you “this is me, that is not me.”
Some spiritual teachers only emphasize the negative part of the ego, as if “the self” and “the ego” are two separate things. When defined that way, the ego is the part of any person that acts negatively to other people.
When the part of someone’s ego that says “that is not me” gets out of control, it becomes much easier to act in ways that hurt other people. Polluting the environment, causing other people to lose their job, or harming other groups of people are not a big deal. It doesn’t have anything to do with you, so it doesn’t matter.
Sometimes there can also be a type of group ego, where I am this group, and that other group is not me. That makes it easier to see another group as an enemy and act in ways against them which you might not for people that are “in your group.”
When you view your life strictly from your ego, you may believe you need more resources, because a person who is alone needs quite a lot of resources to support one’s self on one’s own. You might also be afraid of things that could destroy your currently defined sense of self. The ego is concerned with definition (is me, is not me), destroying such definition seems like it could destroy the ego. This potential drive for self aggrandizement, and potential drive away from self discovery are why many personal growth writers warn of the ego’s pitfalls.
The Gift Of Individuality
By providing you a sense of being separate from other people, the ego allows you the experience of being an individual. Various spiritual traditions talk about the idea that the world is an illusion. One of the things they mean is that the sense that you can be separate from anything is an illusion. You are able to have an ‘experience of being you’ because of this illusion. This means that the illusion is a gift.
Through this gift you have the opportunity to recognize the beauty of the other. You have the opportunity to recognize the beauty of your self. Because if we were not able to be separate, we would never be able to look the way you do when that distance is created. To stand back a little way and look at something, to try to see it and know it and feel it.
How can anyone experience the joy of love, without first being separate from the one we love?
What is a true miracle, and somewhat amazing, is that you are a unique person. You have something to offer the world that no one else can offer in quite the same way. You are standing on a unique place on the web of life, interconnected, but unique.
Understanding the gifts of the ego, the opportunities it offers is just as important as understanding its potential pitfalls.
Everyone you have loved, every joyful experience you have had, and every moment of coming together in union with any other thing has happened because you knew yourself to be a separate being first.
In some ways the entire world is the ego. I think if we intend to enjoy the world, perhaps we are enjoying the ego at the same time.
Lauren Torres – Lansing, IL
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