As I’m sure you can figure out from the title of this blog post, I am going to write about something that every one of us possesses in some shape or form: an ego. Ego could be described as a person’s sense of self-importance, however, I think a more accurate description is that an ego is a person’s sense of self. For example, if you were to ask yourself the question “who am I?”, the response would come from the inner voice of your ego. The response would be a list of observations about yourself and may be something like this: I am unattractive, I am smart, I am not good at cycling, I am a vegetarian.
Now I want you to ask yourself that same question: who am I? Write down your responses on a piece of paper – the first three or four things that come to your mind. It is not an easy exercise but I’ll do the same with you. Here are my responses:
I am intelligent
I am good at basketball
I am a socialist
Now I want you to look over the list you just wrote. Look at the first thing you wrote. Read what it says and while doing so I want you to ask yourself the question: am I really?
To help you with this exercise, I’ll use my responses above as an example. In my list the first thing I wrote was “I am intelligent”. So now I ask myself: Am I really? When I ask myself this, my egotistical response of “yes you are” is swept to the side and I begin to ask further questions. What is intelligence? How is intelligence measured? Can it be measured? Intelligence is often connected with knowledge. Am I knowledgeable? What is knowledge? Knowledge is knowing stuff. What do I know? I know I know stuff, but I don’t really know how much I know because I don’t know what I don’t know, however, I know that I don’t know much more than I do know. You know? [sorry couldn’t help myself – that was a mouthful] Does this mean I am not knowledgeable? Etc… Etc… Etc…There are many many more questions, and I haven’t given any answers to the questions I raised because that would take WAAAAAAY too long… But hopefully the questions are sufficient to give you an idea of the point of this exercise – don’t worry if not, I am going to explain it.
The questions I asked myself above are conscious reflections. That is, they are not an immediate reaction. It is my ego that reacts and tells me that I am intelligent… It is only through a process of conscious reflection, sweeping my ego aside, that I am able to begin to understand that I know fuck all about anything. Well that’s depressing isn’t it? NO WAY! That is so amazing. Consciously accepting that I know nothing is like taking a can opener to the can of beans that is my mind. The can has been sealed by my ego, which tells me that I am intelligent and that I therefore know shit about shit. This is a dangerous position. If I think I know shit about shit, then I probably also think I know better than other people. That is, if I accept my ego, then I will be far more likely to dismiss other points of view automatically without conscious thought as my ego tells me that I know better than whatever the view presented to me suggests. However, if I sweep my ego aside, it opens the can and frees my beans to explore. Or in other words, the shackles that my ego imposes on my mind (i.e. that I know better) are removed and my mind is liberated, free to roam, open to considering other points of view. This is great because other people know shit too! Shit that I don’t know.
So was my ego lying to me? Am I not intelligent after all? Does the ego have no value? I believe the answers to these questions are… No, no and no. Let’s go through these one by one:
- Is my ego lying to me? It is not possible for my ego to lie to me as it is part of me. It is possible for my ego to trick me. There is a difference.
- Am I not intelligent? I consider myself intelligent, however I am aware that intelligence is relative. I know a lot about certain things, and nothing about others. Intelligence to me is more about ones capacity to learn. Without freeing the mind, that capacity may be restricted.
- Does the ego have no value? Ego is valuable as a starting position or a reaction. This gives one a frame of reference. Be careful to make sure that it remains just that.
I believe the key point to all of this nonsense is that an ego needs to be acknowledged, but that is all. Do not let it define you. It is not you. I found this video very useful. Apologies in advance if you clicked on the video and begun loading it before realising it was 10 minutes long and then said “meh, fuck that” and closed the window – I am aware that watching a video that is longer than 20 seconds is hard work these days (sure is for me anyway)… With this in mind, if you do not want to watch the 10 minute video, see below for my bullet pointed summary of what I believe the key concepts to be:
- Ego is a reaction. It is pre-programmed response.
- Recognise it and acknowledge it.
- It is tied to fear.
- Change leads to fear of the unknown.
- Ignore that reaction!
- Test it further in your head (i.e. question, question, question)
- Bring it into reality and test it.
- Be conscious! Try not to be attached to any previously conceived structure (i.e. of yourself or anything around you).
Ego’s are dangerous. If we accept our ego as being our sense of self, then we risk trapping ourselves. We will be more likely to reject change – ego’s fear the unknown. We might miss something truly special – about ourselves or about others, or about the outside world.
Let me leave you with this to ponder: There are a lot of scary things happening in the world at the moment. Terrorist strikes, mass shootings, police shootings, hate. These events are frightening. However, there is something else that is far more frightening and that is people’s reactions to these events. People calling to close borders etc. I understand people are scared, but closing borders, or more broadly speaking, isolating oneself, is not the answer. Muslim PEOPLE are not scary. Homosexual PEOPLE are not scary. Transgender PEOPLE are not scary. Foreign PEOPLE are not scary. PEOPLE are not scary. We need to come together. However, as many react in fear to these events and turn to their egos for answers, the process of conscious reflection is ignored. I believe a direct result of this is that egos are now threatening to be put into positions of power in this world. This happened in the past, and while this comparison is fairly radical, the underlying similarities are undeniable. And that is rather terrifying.