“The ego constantly competes with the spirit for control over your inner voice.” – Darren L. Johnson
The ego is the part of us that is always self-conscious and wants to be in control. It comes from a place within that is totally absorbed with our safety, reputation, personal interest, and survival. For more information about ego, check out psychology online classes that can teach you how Sigmund Freud defined ego. The ego separates us from our surroundings, rather than connecting us to the oneness between humans and the natural world. This can lead to being out of harmony and full of distress. If we want to enjoy the unfolding of life we can’t let the ego distract us. The ego is the exact force that gets in the way of experiencing a balanced, meaningful, and significant life. Before going any further, let me state that the ego isn’t going to go away, though they are many ways to begin noticing when it’s calling the shots, and many things to focus on in order to break free from the trap of self-serving motives. By doing so a higher consciousness involving humanity as a whole can evolve, and we can give back and contribute to the greater good.
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Warning signs the ego is calling the shots
1. You always have to have more
Do you always have to have the best, and be the best? The ego is never satisfied and is always craving more. The ego lives from fear that there won’t be enough or that things will run out. When nothing is “good enough,” life with not be satisfying, and we will always be in search of something to fill this void. Find things that you can appreciate and be grateful for instead.
2. You have to be right
How many times have you seen someone’s need to be right cause serious damage in a relationship? When the ego is in charge and conflict ensues the situation just gets worse. Recognize when you’re guilty of dichotomous thinking, where something is either “right or wrong,” “good or bad,” and where no common ground can be found. This type of thinking is narrow-minded and leads to judgment and criticism. When we have to be right it stifles creative potential and leaves many opportunities unseen.
3. You feel tense, uncomfortable, and overwhelmed with stress
Do you always have to be in control? The ego will always communicate the need for control and safety. If there is uncertainty the ego shouts “Danger!” and rings the alarm that impending doom is on the horizon. The ego focuses on survival and becomes easily concerned when things aren’t going “right,” or as they “should.” Stress and emotional discomfort is a sign you’re out of alignment and being victimized by these false warnings and defensive thinking.
4. Things get too serious and nothing feels like fun
Do you have a hard time taking a joke? The ego may be at the root of this. The ego can easily steal your joy by filling you with worries, concerns, regrets, and embarrassment. The ego struggles with anything that threatens the self-concept and damages worldly notions of self-worth. It goes on guard to point out all the negatives. Be aware when the ego is clouding your joy.
5. You must always be winning and you hate losing
A healthy drive to succeed is different from ruthless competitiveness. Competitiveness has serious disadvantageous when it takes away from the potential for mutual benefit and expansion. The ego thrives on outdoing and being the best. Achievement and accomplishment is an important piece of self-realization, though when this distracts us from the bigger picture of love, happiness, and peace of mind, competitiveness has become a perpetrator.
How to overcome the ego
Focus on generosity – Practice giving of your time, energy, and resources. This will squelch the egos focus on “mine” and having more. Practicing loving unconditionally – When you are able to love someone or something despite what’s in it for you, the ego has been transcended. Show love unconditionally, and stop asking, “What’s in it for me?” Be compassionate and kind – Help others in need and recognize how you can be of service. Be observant about how you can help others, and do something kind for someone today. Encourage unity and embrace differences – Spend time and get to know someone who is different than you. When you notice judgments emerging, stop to find the value in others uniqueness and background. Be in the present – The ego has a hard time staying content in the moment. Be careful not to get stuck ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. Be mindful of your breath, your environment, and your five senses. Align with a higher power – Self-transcendence is a major facet of overcoming the ego. With an authentic spiritual relationship comes a shift from focusing on the self to focusing on others, and ultimately to focusing on the society at large. Focus on courage instead of fear – Don’t let the ego scare you out of following your heart and living from your purpose. Uncertainty scares the ego and sends signals that whatever change or idea is being considered is “bad.” Stay in faith and be courageous in the face of fear. When we are able to dis-identify with the ego, we can alleviate much unnecessary suffering. Our responses and interpretations will no longer be driven by the anxiety, fear, and shame that the ego communicates. You can begin making decisions from the higher-self.
This is where I provide my personal connection to the ideas in the post. I hope you will join the conversation by leaving a comment, and offering your personal connection to these ideas as well. It’s difficult not to use the words “I” “me” and “my,” when thinking of our relationships, possessions, and life in general. Our self-concept is the starting point for making decisions and navigating through the world. Ironically, while writing this, I got a tinge of irritability as my girlfriend wanted to take a drink from “MY” coffee cup! Pretty pathetic I know, but it was one of those days. Breaking away from this habit is about gaining awareness and slowly altering these patterns of thinking. As I continue developing the capacity to accept more, expect less, not take things personally, and give more generously, I am able to live a more whole and fulfilling life. I must admit that a major area of growth for me is to be more generous and selfless in my motives, and I have been striving to do this for some time now. It’s getting easier to stop myself and notice situations where my ego is attacking. Sometimes it’s with relationships, sometimes with work and finances, and other times with general responsibilities. I notice myself thinking “I shouldn’t have to deal with this,” and “this isn’t my problem.” I reframe these statements in order to focus on all the things I have to be grateful for, and how insignificant these events really are for my life course. Life is beautiful, people are amazing, and love surrounds us all when we stop and acknowledge it. Connect spiritually and release the burden the ego imparts, and your problems will lessen. Photo by: Www.CourtneyCarmody.com