There is a part of our minds that functions to limit us. Some call it ego; others refer to it as egoic mind. This idea does not refer to Freud’s concept of ego; in his model the ego is the mediator between our instincts and our social self. The term ego has undergone multiple transformations since it first appeared in Freud's psychoanalytic theory. Eric Berne brought the ego into cultural narrative with his theory on ego states. Berne divided the emotional states, or ego states, into the parent, the adult, and the child. Berne and others further subdivided these ego states until there are too many aspects of mind to keep up with without being trampled by the intellect! All respect to Berne. I think he was a genius.
People refer to someone who has an exaggerated self-image by saying she's all ego or that that's his ego talking. We say, “He has a big ego.” We use the term egotistical as a pejorative. People have even turned the word ego into an acronym. Easing God Out or Easing Good Out. Some people define the ego as a useful part of the mind; they prefer to befriend it. Others think the ego should be annihilated, and some realize that the ego must be carefully watched and tamed, lest it become the gatekeeper of our mental prisons. A Course in Miracles invites us to “Watch your mind for the temptations of the ego, and do not be deceived by it. It offers you nothing. When you have given up this voluntary dis-spiriting, you will see how your mind can focus and rise above fatigue and heal. Yet you are not sufficiently vigilant against the demands of the ego to disengage yourself. This need not be.”
While many people dispute the circuitous route ACIM takes on the way to peace, the course nails the destructive element of the mind and refers to it as ego. Just as one uses the word love in different ways, people use the term ego to refer to different things. Regardless of whether we use the word ego to refer to someone’s grandiosity or use it to describe a part of our mind that takes part in the organization of the personality, it is helpful to have a word that describes a part of our mind that limits us. Egonomics provides that clarity and defines the ego as a part of the mind that limits us at every turn and thwarts our best efforts at healing unhealthy and ineffective beliefs, emotions, and behaviors.
Using the concept of the ego as a limiting device, here are some characteristics and thoughts about the ego and its function.
- The ego’s foundation is fear. This is emotional and psychological fear. This is not the same fear one has when a bear runs toward them.
- The ego bases its operation on protecting one from this fear.
- The ego’s fears are illusory.
- The ego fears its own destruction. The ego takes on a life of its own and uses the personality to fulfill its needs and pass on its legacy. This legacy is spirit poor and rich in control and divisiveness.
- The ego feeds the mind endless stories of travail in order to cement its position in the psyche.
- The ego’s motto is, “Seek, but do not find.”
- The ego feeds on special relationships to get what it thinks it needs to stay alive and be in charge. This is “loving to get.” Naturally, this faux love has a self-serving agenda.
- When we are afraid and upset and there's no bear around or other life-threatening circumstances, we are operating under the influence of the ego. When the ego rules, we live in a drunken state of fear.
- It takes an ego to point out an ego.
- The ego gets all its material from the past and then diverts the mind away from the present.
Operating under the influence of the ego is like having a road map that only goes to New York City. We load up the family to go to Florida, take out the New York City road map, and head out. We never get where we want to go using the New York City map. We use the same map on all trips, so whether we're headed to Hong Kong or Hilton Head, we always end up in the same place, New York City. That's what the ego wants. It wants us to end up in the same place with every mind trip we take. The ego wants us under its spell and it’s not a magic spell. It’s the spell from hell.
What is the way out? How can we sober up from the ego drunkenness? We sober up in one of two ways. We can go directly to wholeness or we can use stepping stones to wholeness. Either way leads us away from the ego and into the promised land.
The Direct Approach - Love. Love, accessed in the moment, dissolves the ego’s effect. Love is always present, and the direct approach is the fastest, easiest, and most accessible option.
The Stepping Stone Approach - Forgiveness. When blinded by ego’s effect, forgiveness walks us away from the ego. It heads us into our essence, which is love. We forgive others for not acting the way we want them to act because we want peace. Forgiveness means letting go of the upset that surrounds the situation, and, while it is difficult to let go of certain situations, it is never impossible. Why? Because we always have help.
“If you knew who walked beside you on the way that you have chosen, fear would be impossible.” (ACIM) When we believe life is hopeless, we are ego drunk. When we believe nothing works for us, we are under the influence. When we think situations or people hold the key to our happiness, we are under the influence. When we think the world is evil, we are under ego’s influence. When we stop and turn toward ever-present love, we stop the ego in its tracks. All doubt, all pain, and all hopelessness disappear. And that’s the good news. “Delay does not matter in eternity, but it is tragic in time.” (ACIM) The way out of pain is here. Jerry Jampolsky wisely proclaims, “Love is letting go of fear.” This path stands waiting, loaded with love, for a decision to abandon the map to New York City and to choose the path of love, and when we do, life is always EZier and EZier.