In my soon to be published book The Inner Tree, I write about the ego as our “social Fear System.” It is how I understand the ego’s purpose. But what does that mean? The primary job of our fear system is to monitor and protect us, keep us safe from bodily harm. By the time we get to human’s in evolution, the fear system is still primitive, but it is integrated into our ability to tell story.
Safety as Social Beings Our survival also depends on our social belonging. Any threat to our belonging in tribal society was a threat to survival. Like many other social beings, we are also creatures of status. Status equals more belonging. This is why I think of the ego as our social fear system. The ego’s job is to ensure our status and belonging. It takes this job very seriously. This is why we care so much about what others think. Even if our ability to shift tribes is greater in modern society, our fear system operates the way it evolved. Social fear is part of our make-up. Being aware of this leads us away from self-judgment and opens up space for choice.
The greater our belonging the more benefits we receive. To have status we create an identity to fit our tribe. When we are young children, we learn identity from our family of origin and then from our peers. In childhood we may not feel safe to make personal choices about our identity. There could be trauma, limited options and shame, which can have the impact of limiting how worthy we feel throughout the rest of our life. As we get older, under the right circumstances we may begin to heal and find ways to broaden our identities, opening up more options to be our authentic selves.
The ability to thrive is centered on a sense of safety. The ego takes its responsibility for our social safety very seriously. At times it can even send some into extremes of paranoia and unhealthy behaviors to make itself safe, even when those behaviors are no longer safe (as we are witnessing in the public political arena). We can get stuck in old stories. In fact we may not even be conscious of them.
The Healthy Ego? There is no use demonizing the ego. We are going to have one whether we like it or not. Furthermore, because we live in a Patriarchal system, which is all about domination and unhealthy forms of status and privilege, most of us do not have healthy egos. I wonder, do we even know how a healthy ego operates?
In The Fall (by Steve Taylor), the author identifies a huge difference in the ego structure in what he names Matrist Cultures. The need for filling lives up with things (ownership), the addictions, comparisons, the competition and constant productivity, all signs of inner discord, are not present. Matrist people seem to be more comfortable with themselves, are more relaxed and can more easily accept difference . They have no need to dominate or for ownership on a large scale and in fact discourage it. This is great food for thought.
The Ego and Choice We may not be able to totally rid ourselves of the ego as it has evolved in our society, but we can begin to be aware and make different choices. Who knows where that may lead us. It’s exciting to contemplate the possibilities. We can decide how we want to operate and begin to make the internal shifts to become more generous, kind, loving and compassionate. This starts by applying those things to ourselves.
When we realize the ego is acting out of the need for safety, it is easier to honor its role and have self-compassion for those places where it has literally gotten in our way or is operating on a program that is not serving us , our relationships and the world.
I found the ego was the biggest impediment to my intuition. This was very related to my inner dialogue – the stories I was telling myself - the shame and judgment with which I held my mistakes, the hurt I felt around rejection. My inner dialogues centered around my sense of belonging. Because I experienced so much rejection as a child, I focused on what was wrong with me, lack and negative self-judgment. My inner guidance was drowned out, or I was unable to follow it. I over analyzed everything through the lens of not enough and the need to fill the holes inside me. I lived trying to define myself by outward rules of success and perfection to which I could never achieve. It led me into a constant lack of ease and endless ways to keep busy and to holding onto a lot of resentment.
Unraveling Unconscious Story So how do we unravel this bundle? It starts with awareness and curiosity about our feelings. Rather than judging our feelings, we can ask ourselves about the underlying need. For example if we feel jealous – what is the unmet need underneath? What do we think we will gain if we had what they have? How will having that serve us? It can be helpful to use the following structure of questions to dig deeper:
If this (fill in what will happen, or the feeling), …….., then (fill in the expected result)……. (Keep digging, this is the key part of this exercise)…and then what, and then what, and then what?
Questioning this way takes us deep into our unconscious story, but it requires staying curious. Self-judgment stops the discovery. Finding the root beliefs behind our feelings and expectations can allow us to choose to let them go or redefine them. We can’t let go of that which we are unconscious.
The Limitations of Identity Our limitations are created when we create this habit called identity/ego. Identity was constructed to maintain our sense of belonging. An identity crisis is literally a break in knowing how we belong in our world. Who I thought I was is not who I am and now I don’t know how I belong anymore, or what I am worth.
Identity quite literally limits the possibilities in our life in the quantum field. You are a being (BE-ING). You are at core a consciousness that is aware. Identity is nothing more than a habit which we recreate through entrenched thought patterns (see Becoming Supernatural by Joe Dispenza for more on this). One the best tools I have found to get out of this habit is to become totally present in the moment. I use a simple awareness meditation to shift out of ego based ways of thinking. I have found no better practice than this one and it also supports building a relationship with my intuition, because my awareness becomes finely tuned.
Joe Dispenza says that presence awareness breaks the habit and puts us into quantum awareness – a timeless, identity-less, blissful experience. I can vouch for that, even though I learned my practice through working with the mystic Peter Kingsley and the method for getting there is slightly different. It relies more using the senses to move beyond,and includes the sacred science of inner sound which I will have been researching and will be writing about more in the future.
Which practice will you or do you use to work with your ego?
Learn more about practices, ego and self-compassion by reading my book when it comes out (early summer).
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