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Transcend your ego... the ego is an illusion...
Many of us would, if we knew what on earth the ego was. Indeed it's complex -- trying to understand the totality of the human psyche. Plato and Aristotle divided it into three parts; so did Freud with the id, ego, and super-ego.
Modern psychologists describe the ego as the inner-narrator of our self-consciousness, umpiring our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Its judgements produce inner-conflict, and creates identity crises for many. It's the part of our mind that's impulsive rather than logical, visceral rather than reasonable. When we argue with ourselves, we're having a conflict with our ego.
Understanding the different ways the ego operates leads to overcoming it. Here are eight manifestations:
The Vedics called it Ahaṃkāra: tying your self-worth together with objects -- a car, a house, a piece of jewelry. Ahaṃ refers to the Self; kāra is "any created thing." When an object has more than a subtle ability to make you feel better or worse, you're caught in Ahaṃkāra, of ego-attachment.
Advertisers exploit the ego and make us believe we'll feel better buying their product. Ironically, it's low self-esteem that increases materialism. But it's reversible; increasing self-esteem through highlighting our immaterial qualities -- our sense of humor, our drive, and passion -- breaks the ego's materialistic bondage.
Find your value and identity apart from external objects, things that cannot be taken away from you.
2. Trapped in the Past
The ego can go from romanticizing or embellishing the past to haunting and trapping us in our past. When scars begin to heal, it rips them open again; when working toward a great future, it whispers that our best days are behind us.
Our egos are afraid of the unknown. Our past experiences -- good or bad -- are familiar, and we're comfortable with what's familiar. It's the reason many stay in bad relationships.
Realize your past does not define you, nor will it dictate your future. Although the ego's intention may be to keep you safe -- by being comfortable -- the pull towards the past cripples what is being created in the present, and for the future.
3. Inferiority Complex
The ego doesn't just live next door to the Joneses, it mows their lawn, for free. It constantly speaks the language of "not good enough." Any achievement is undermined, any accomplishment is mocked. Overcoming the inferiority caused by ego means ceasing to play the comparison game, stepping away from the rat-race.
The ego dissolves when you run your own race, and step to the beat of your own drum; with self-satisfaction in who you are today, and who you will become tomorrow. When the ego keeps looking to others, simply keep looking in the mirror.
4. Limitations and Scarcity
Our brain's reticular activation system (RAS) brings to attention what we subconsciously mark as important. If you're considering a new BMW, you'll start noticing them everywhere.
The ego's focus is one of limitation; it's short sighted, and driven by fear of running out. As a result our RAS sees everything in a limited sense: not only finances and food, but also happiness and healthy relationships.
The ego always see the glass half empty; and the cloud without the silver lining. Our perceptions shape reality, if you focus on limitations, you will surely experience them. Silence the ego, and choose to see the world of abundant possibilities.
As Alfred Lord Tennyson said, "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." The ego doesn't think so. It's more concerned about keeping us in bubble-wrap rather than risk being hurt. And so when anything seems to be headed in a good direction, the ego plans and orchestrates irrational and destructive behavior, to avoid the "impending" pain.
Whether it lasts a lifetime, or a week-long, we're to enjoy and let the love in every experience run its course. Never let a sad ending overshadow an incredible experience.
6. The Stoic
The ego doesn't like being naked -- emotionally. It equates transparency and vulnerability with weakness, so it puts up walls. But these walls truncate the full expression of our human selves. Emotions are healthy, and should never be bottled up. It causes us to live less than who we truly are.
To let fear, ridicule, and judgment block our unabashed emotions and beliefs is to hide behind the veil of ego.
7. Reacting Rather Than Responding
The ego is like an electric fence protecting a false identity -- ready to react at any minute. Every comment is an insult, and any advice is criticism. It's not just wearing your heart on your sleeve, it's wearing your self-worth on your sleeve, and then picking a fight.
The ego-free person is able to process before responding, to restrain the visceral and make room for the reasonable, to think before acting. Understand that personal attacks reflects more of their character than yours; that should help our hyperactive-bodyguard ego to relax.
8. The Tyrant of Productivity
We're workaholics because the ego measures our value by what we achieve and produce. But there's profoundness in simply who we are as human beings; our lives are equally complex, mysterious, beautiful, and fragile. We're surrounded with infinite galaxies, yet we're a speck -- but -- a speck with the consciousness to process the infinite. We're the nail that understands it's part of a mansion.
But the ego lives in the rat-race and knows not reflection, awe, and appreciation. To create is a amazing ability -- but it's a byproduct of our amazing being. From being comes creating, not the other way around.
This article first appeared on The Utopian Life.