“The ego is nothing other than the focus of conscious attention.” - Alan Watts
Yesterday, I was thumbing through a yoga magazine, and couldn’t help reading the word “Ego” in many of the interesting and enlightening articles. It had me contemplating the idea of Ego and how it figures into love and intimacy.
So, here’s my very brief take on the “ego”…
Almost a century ago, Sigmund Freud coined this Latin-derived term, meaning “I.” Ego is one of the three structural parts of the psyche and part of our basic personality structure. It has to do with awareness of self, and our basic functioning as human beings.
Our ego helps to separate out what is real and what isn’t. The ego helps us organize and make sense of our thoughts and our surrounding environment. This psychological phenomenon is about reason and common sense, rather than unbridled passion and contrived fantasy.
Ego is associated with self-esteem, our thinking process, and helps us to differentiate between ourselves and others. We need Ego for healthy development.
Being “Ego Syntonic” is about the development of healthy functioning; how we think, social skills (including love relationships!) and good personal boundaries.
We do need our ego…as if we could ever get rid of it!
The Not-So-Healthy Ego
These days, the ego is typically associated with that pesky “egoic mind,” that inflated sense of worth, or how do we say it, “being full of it!”
In fact, the ego is suspiciously viewed as something to be totally eliminated, that is, if you want enlightenment.
When we put too much emphasis on the external world and all that goes with it, prestige, money, “looking good,” our ego then becomes a problem. Then, we’re in danger of engaging in the “false self,” and putting out a “false identity” to the world (ie. Codependency)—and that ain’t good.
So, ego seems to be a double-edged sword, and it looks like we’ll have to figure out how to deal with our Egos, especially if we want love in our lives!
So how do we work with our Egos, and how do we keep them in check?
Dealing with the Ego
Well, we have ways!
Some of us practice breathing meditation to better get in touch with our “true selves.” Through this practice, instead of becoming our thoughts and emotions, we merely become observers of them. Through the following of the simple breathing in, breathing out, we can reconnect with our inner selves and hopefully discard those external “things” that only serve to cover up the truth of who we really are.
And like meditative breathing, an increasing number of us are engaging the Eastern practices, such as Yoga and Tantra, in order to keep in touch with our emotions and our true inner selves, as we eagerly and devotedly strive for more stress-free lives.
The Need for Ego & Love
We need our egos, but we don’t need them to dominate us with old, repetitive feelings from the past. We may just have to engage in the process of letting go to deal with it all. Hmm…
Working with our egos in a healthy manner, on one hand, means striving for authenticity, and on the other hand, letting go of those notions and emotions that take us away from our true selves.
Now, the more we become conscious and astute at dealing with our own egos, our friends, partners, and lovers will have a better chance to experience true intimacy with us—to better know us, thereby freely encouraging mutual love to flourish.
Be Gentle, Take Your Time, & Make Mistakes
So, when dealing with your ego,
1. Be gentle with yourself—you deserve it.
2. Recognize your feelings in the moment—don’t push them away.
3. Realize that working with the Ego is usually a life-long process—there’s no rush.
4. It’s okay to make mistakes along the way—we’re only human, right?
This is all good, right?
But, if we’re talking about engaging in meaningful and loving relationships with ourselves and others, we’ll not only need to deal with that stubborn Ego of ours, but may even choose to subdue it.
I think the brilliant spiritualist Marianne Williamson laid out the true essence of Ego. In her book, Enchanted Love: The Mystical Power of Intimate Relationships, she compares it to a snarling canine:
“There is, inside all our heads, the ego’s rabid attack dog. It is purely vicious toward others and toward ourselves as well. Learning to control that dog, and ultimately to end its life, is the process and purpose of enlightened relationships.”
So, simply put, be conscious of the awesome power of the ego and your partner will surely love you for it!
To participate in this ongoing discussion of the ego, feel free to add your (hopefully authentic) feelings, emotions, or suggestions, to the comments section below. It’s very good for the ego!