The ego is that part of ourselves that we want to cast away, never to hear from it’s nagging, judgmental, and critical voice again. We all view the ego as the antithesis of living mindfully, something that if we have an ego it’s a sign we’re not truly enlightened or following the “right” journey forwards. It is true that the ego often causes pain, stress, and certainly isn’t the most mindful part of our consciousness, but surprisingly it can be a powerful tool for growth when we accept its existence.
The ego did not form out of conscious malevolence, it formed out of survival. When we enter this world, we have to quickly learn to adapt to our surroundings. Some of us, albeit probably very few, were fortunate to have conscious and evolved parents who were aware of their own egos and actively worked through the grip it had over them. Most of us had parents that carried the egos of their parents down to us, leaving us with the necessity to cope with these unhealthy patterns in the way that was the most easy to adapt to.
Humanity (and I would argue all conscious beings) is incredible at using mirroring and mimicking to adapt. When we see a coping skill that someone else uses and recognize that it appears to work for them, we learn to add it to our internalized tool set. When we see our parents acting a certain way, we often believe that we must act similarly so we are not excluded from the individual(s) who provides for us. All of these adaptations are natural mechanisms for survival. Almost all of these adaptations, interestingly, are also what we later call ‘ego.’ So, when we think of the ego as having really just been us learning to survive, does it seem so evil?
Certainly, the ego is not something we want to hold onto once we’re aware of the ways it hurts us. We might learn that shutting off our emotions, like we learned to do as a child to not feel overwhelmed when we were reprimanded, doesn’t help us now. Presently, we’d consider this mechanism to be our ego—a tendency in our consciousness to drive us towards shutting down rather than exposing our vulnerable hurt selves to a loved one and moving compassionately towards our own emotions. But is the ego bad for having saying “hey, shutting down your emotions has helped in the past, do it again”? I certainly don’t think so.
The ego has an incredible potential to lead us towards mindfulness and actually aid our enlightenment. It almost universally arises when we are hurting. The ego will reject the pain, cope in a way that doesn’t help us anymore (like perhaps shutting down), or throw the pain onto someone else. All of these, at some point in your life have helped you. Look back and find a moment where what you call your ego has been your best friend, and a truly helpful friend then.
Now, when we experience pain, our ego comes back up. It says “look here, remember me! I’ve helped you!” We can choose to be angry at it, which I think many of us embarking on spiritual journeys do at first, or we can choose to thank it. Gratitude for our ego is where the biggest lesson lies.
First it takes recognizing why the ego formed and how it helped you in the past. This opens up the doors for empathizing with your past self in a time where your ego was essential for your survival and health. When you start to see your ego for its past benefits, it becomes easier to forgive yourself for still having the ego. It’s that idea of “don’t throw it away if it still works.” Our egos do still work for us! They just might not work quite as well as we want them too.
We’ve all started to recognize that there are better and newer options for handling the situations our egos have guided us through in the past, and now we’re ready to reach towards those. But, in doing this, we need to value the lessons our egos have helped us cope with in the past. Then we can say “ego, you were great for me once, but I don’t need you to help me in this way now. I know a new skill I can use.”
Forgiving the ego in this way helps you distance yourself from it. Instead of seeing your ego as you, it now becomes a tool you have within you. At times, in new situations, that skill of shutting off your emotions may be essential. In other moments, you may find that it would be the worst skill to use in a situation. When you witness the ego as a tool, it becomes and invaluable and respected part of living as a conscious human being. Instead of being the antithesis to your spiritual evolution, it becomes a tool you can employ to get there. When you consciously use a technique the ego has taught you in the past, it no longer is ego. Ego and consciousness cannot coexist, so the best way to “rid” yourself of the ego is not to damn it, but to accept it and love it’s skills so you can bring it into the light of consciousness. You will then live “ego-free” and simply have a greater repertoire of tools to approach the challenges of the world with.
Self-forgiveness, especially when it comes to relinquishing the ego, is an essential step towards living a joyous life. Because of it’s importance, understanding how to forgive yourself is a lesson we’d focus on during a mindfulness life coaching session. Forgiveness can be hard to implement, but guidance through a one-on-one coaching relationship makes it much more accessible. Here is all the information about the coaching.