I recently had a client who was in the habit of berating her ego. She had a very active and loud critical mind that she blamed for sabotaging her efforts at healing. While it is very true that the ego/critical mind often gets in the way of achieving one’s goals, anger and resentment towards the ego is not the solution.
Many spiritual philosophies talk about the ego. I was first exposed to this idea when I studied Buddhism in college. I learned that, according to the Buddhist tradition, desire is the root of all suffering and to get rid of suffering we must get rid of desire. While there were a lot of aspects of Buddhism that resonated with me, I found this particular concept difficult to live with. It seemed impossible to me to function as human being without desire.
Later, I learned to distinguish between the ego’s desires and the soul’s desires, which made it easier. At least then it seemed that SOME desires were acceptable while others were not. It still caused a good amount of suffering for me, trying to distinguish between the two and then attempting to squash the ego’s desires while focusing on the soul.
But after years of inner conflict between my soul and my ego, I discovered a much better way to go about it. Once you’ve discerned the difference between the two and created a strong alignment with your soul, it becomes not only unnecessary to abolish the ego, but it becomes possible to elevate it.
Your ego can be your friend! A positive ego can be helpful in all kinds of ways. It can help us stay motivated in the face of challenges, it can help us assert ourselves and stand up for getting our emotional and physical needs met.
The ego and all its desires are a natural part of being human. It only becomes a problem when a person aligns their identity with their ego more than their soul. Then, one becomes a slave to it, and many varieties of pain and suffering are inevitable.
But fighting, resisting, blaming and resenting the ego is counter productive. You see, the ego is afraid. The ego knows that this human body is highly perishable. The ego is trying to protect you and keep you alive as long as possible, but it knows that its efforts are ultimately doomed, because death comes to us all sooner or later. Fighting and berating your ego only makes it MORE afraid.
I told my client to imagine her ego was like a crying baby. And to try treating her ego with some kindness and care. I told her to comfort her ego, to metaphorically pick it up, cradle it in her arms, pat it on the back and tell it everything was going to be okay. Some gentle shushing wouldn’t hurt either.
Much like a crying baby, we want the ego to feel safe so that it can settle down and allow us to hear the voice of our soul.
To elevate the ego, you must first begin to love it.