Our ego is a function of our mind and is caused by our mind’s awareness of its self. This awareness develops from our early life experience as a baby, as we naturally try to make sense of being conscious in our body. We discover a sense of our self as separate and different from everything else, and that continues to adjust and develop over time. For example, as a baby, we learn where our body ends, and the rest of the world begins. Perhaps how we feel different from the mattress we are lying on, or the blanket over us. Maybe we notice we have influence over our own limbs, but not the objects around us.
Over time our ego reinforces a sense of separateness from people and situations, as we literally feel different from everyone else.
As we regard ourselves and compare the world around us, our story of ourselves builds further. For example, we develop descriptions of ourselves, or attach labels; perhaps we decide ‘I’m a sporty person, creative person, good person’ and so on. Some of these labels are healthy and positive and others less so, for eample, ‘I’m lousy at maths’ or ‘I’m not as successful as other people.’
By the time you are an adult, you have a well-developed concept of who you are, and who you are not. Some of this is practical; it’s useful to think of yourself as a ‘good’ person, as it gives you standards to judge your own actions against. You might stop yourself from saying or doing something unkind, simply because it didn’t feel like ‘you’ to do that.
Unfortunately, our ego is fearful and tricksie in nature; fear and doubt lurk in its depths and self-preservation is a strong and strategized compulsion. Core drives of the ego include the following tendencies:
Under its fearful influence, our ego can misinform us:
It’s also less useful when our ego perception of ‘I’m a good person’ develops into inflated righteousness; for example, ‘I’m a good person and they aren’t’. As a funky sort of self-preservation, the ego takes a position of being above judgment, and assumes we are always right, all of the time. Perhaps you know someone who does this? And perhaps sometimes you do that, too…
Over time, our ego becomes a mass of perceptions, ideas and beliefs we forget to question. Unaware of these, and how they affect our patterns of behaviour, our lives can become a restricted, less realistic place to be. Our sense of possibility and potential is reduced as we become programmed to react consistently, driven by thoughts and impulses arising from egoic fixation.
Use the following questions** to become more aware of your own ego; have fun recognising the forms in which your ego expresses itself!
If you’re comfortable, perhaps ask someone whom you trust to offer additional views on your typical behaviour and tendencies.
*Credit, Kevin Billet, Journey Seminars
** From Brilliant Coaching, by Julie Starr (Pearson)