Egomaniac. Egotistical. Superegoist. Having a big fat ego.
Wait, what does having an ego even mean? When we use the word “ego” we often automatically think of people that are self-centered or pompous, self-serving and sometimes even narcissistic. They might like to toot their own horn, be a bit of a braggart and be wrapped up in themselves.
But when we get down to the core of ego, the truth is that we all have one. And while having an ego might be a way to describe someone’s inflated opinion of themselves, it’s actually also assisting that little voice inside our heads. You know the one- running it’s mouth to you all day. Telling you what to think, do and feel. Yeah, your mind. Well, the ego is the mediator between a situation that occurs and how we react and then attach ourselves to that situation through feelings, emotions and thought processes. Basically, we overly associate incidents with ourselves (our “I” and our ego) and becoming overly emotionally invested in these incidents. Our ego can even convince us of quite the opposite of stuck-up; it might even make us feel insecure, unworthy, or incompetent.
As Dr. Mark Leary says in ‘Psychology Today’:
“Perhaps the broadest ego-based term, egoic, is also the least common, although it is coming into vogue. Egoic simply means “pertaining to ego” or “pertaining to I.” Egoic thoughts, motives, emotions, and behaviors are reactions in which I, me, and mine take center stage. An egoic reaction is one in which I am centrally involved. Much of the time, people’s thoughts, motives, emotions, and behaviors are infused with themselves, with their I. They are thinking consciously about what they want, what they are doing, who they are, what other people think about them, and how things are going for them. In these situations, people are being egoic; they are highly self-absorbed, and their reactions are all about them.“
Whether your ego is big or small, you might have some of these thought processes which lead to certain feelings which are mostly controlled by our ego:
“You aren’t smart enough.” (insecurity)
“You are a victim and you deserve this.” (self-loathing)
“You can’t do that, it’s too scary.” (fearfulness)
“Don’t walk away from this, you won’t find anything better.” (unworthiness)
“You’ll fail if you try. You’ll lose a lot of money, time…” (doubtfulness / indecisiveness)
“You’re too old.” (excusing)
“I need her to make me feel happy.” (lacking self love)
“People will think highly of you. It will improve your reputation.” (vanity)
A nasty judgement? Ego. Rude behaviour? Ego. Anxiety, stress, or fear? That’s your ego again. It’s also that scoff that arises when you dislike how someone behaves; it’s the anger that you suppress when your partner does something you dislike; it’s the disappointment of someone’s mediocre reaction to something you found beautiful; the let-down to a long-awaited, highly anticipated event; that pain of non-mutual attraction.
Our little ego weasels it’s way into our mind-thought processes and masquerades as our true identity. That is, unless we bring awareness to it.
A lot of us never stop to think that this voice in our head working on overdrive is assisted and translated by our ego. We don’t even stop to recognize that this kind of thinking is not really “us“. Perhaps you’ve read Ekhart Tolle’s famous book, ‘The Power of Now’ in which he speaks about the great impact our egos have on everything we do, an incessant stream of thinking that is mostly abusive and poisonous. In his second book, ‘A New Earth’ he gets to the “core of the ego”:
“Most people are so completely identified with the voice in the head- the incessant stream of involuntary and compulsive thinking and the emotions that accompany it- that we may describe them as being possessed by ther mind. As long as you are completely unaware of this, you take the thinker to be who you are. This is the egoic mind.”
In Hinduism they call this egoic mind ‘maya‘. It is adamantly advised that the mind and its mental fluctuations must be controlled through acts of mindfulness and reinforcement of living in the present (optimized by pranayama, asanas, meditation and all things yoga). Even “matter” or material things can be referred to maya- delusions of the ego. Wanting and needing more things to satisfy the ego.
We disidentify with true self, true contentment, and bliss of the present moment because of our ego. Our ego acts out in a variety of ways too: complaining, self-inflicted suffering, resentment, our need for recognition and validity, the need to be right, victimizing our situations, self-loathing, defensiveness, blind anger, jealousy, addiction, and much more. Everybody has their mental battle.
How do we learn to separate the “I” of our ego and our real true “self”? How can we control our egoic mind reactions to outside events? Can we better control our own minds?
The answer is obviously: YES.
In this somewhat dense video, Rupert Spira sheds wonderful light on our true state of consciousness:
In a nutshell: your mind is not literally made of thoughts, feelings and emotions. This coming and going of thoughts and feelings is only an element of your egoic mind. This egoic mind filters what we process from the outside world and we begin to believe what we see and immediately feel it is our truth. And remember this is shaped throughout our lives through upbringing, culture, society, education and a number of different things since the time we are able to conceptualize information.
An example might be more simple.
You are walking down Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. You see expensive designer clothing shops, beautiful and impossibly perfect blonde women immaculately dressed, lavish sports cars whizzing by, and what society beholds as “the perfection of Beverly Hills”. Your mind-thought process filters this observation: this is something beautiful, luxurious, reputable, and desired. But, you are not like what you see; you do not feel adequate or up to the standards of what you see. Immediately you are emotional: perhaps feelings of inadequacy, and uncomfortableness arise. Our ego rages strong in situations where we feel inadequacy. Nobody likes to feel “small” after all.
How strange that we live like this and feel like this all the time and so unconsciously. Since when did we begin to define consciousness as simply having our minds think and be “awake”. But true consciousness is so much more. It is fighting the illusion that is our ego. As Ekhart Tolle writes:
“When the ego is at war, know that it is no more than an illusion that is fighting to survive. That illusion thinks it is you. It is not easy at first to be there as the witnessing Presence, especially when the ego is in survival mode or some emotional pattern from the past has become activated, but once you have had a taste of it, you will grow in Presence power, and the ego will lose its grip on you.”
I grew up listening to that voice in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough. I let my temper rage strong because I was stubborn and hated to be proven wrong. Things had to be perfect and I needed to control everything around me. Even now, the struggle is REAL! I find myself in many situations where I must find my presence so I don’t revert back to acting out through anger, stubbornness, jealousy, or arrogance. This is only my ego talking! Believing your ego is easy, awareness and presence is not. And I know now intrinsically that the only way to really truly change, is through the daily conscious effort of awareness and understanding my own egoic mind.
So, we can fight this by becoming aware and changing our thinking habits. By understanding that awareness is an infinite state undefined by thoughts or emotions or material things. Of course this is so simply said and so complex to act upon.
But as Rupert Spira says in ‘The True Nature of the Mind’:
“…there are habits; habits in the way we think, habits in the way we feel, in the way we sense the body, in the way we relate with one another, in how we see the world that are still running on the old paradigm… It’s not just a one time recognition [that we have an ego, that awareness is infinite]….there are layers and layers and layers of habit in the mind and the body. [So], this understanding takes time to deeply penetrate the old structures of thinking and feeling. It continues to fill out and . . . colonize our experience.”
So, Stop. Slow down. Breathe. Change the way you do things. Make a daily effort to change one simple, destructive thought pattern.
Do Yoga consciously. Take time to breathe deeply and clear your head of your thoughts. Do not underestimate the power of 10 minutes of a totally blank mind.
Sing. Write. Journal. Get close to nature. Do something outside your comfort zone. Stop rushing. Boost your self-esteem. Stand up for yourself and others. Eat well, slowly, and consciously. Get off social media for a while. Do whatever your egoic mind tells you not to do! Try and reason with the ego feelings and train them that they are wrong and they don’t define you. No comparisons, no judgements, no right or wrong.
All these little things can and will reconstruct a more happy almost egoless mind (ok, we need a little bit of that ego too). It’s all to get closer to appreciating life’s greatest and most beautiful thing: right here, right now.