Updated: Nov 25, 2020
Ah, the ego. Referred to by Sigmund Freud as "das Ich" or "the I", the ego is the villain of most spiritual and new age texts that can have you running from shadows or running towards the most toxic situationships imaginable. Probably both at the same time, honestly. The ego is the personality that has developed throughout the years of your life - in response to trauma, familial bonds & values, and other influences from your outside world. It's the part of you that has formed opinions on things based in history. Opinions like, "I dislike my father" or "I don't trust easily" or even, "I'm not THAT type of person."
Woah, woah, woah says your ego, those aren't things based in history, those aren't OPINIONS. Those are WHO I AM! And that's when I whip out my finger-guns and whisper "gotcha." We did it! We found your ego. Depending on how much you identify with the ego it can be kind of tricky to pinpoint exactly what it is and when it strikes, which is probably why its been thought of as the bad guy for quite some time. The key is knowing when you're reacting out of anger, fear, sensitivity or maybe all three. Where there's a reaction, there is an ego that has been triggered.
My empathic ability has notified me that I've lost some of you, bear with me because I've got an excellent analogy that will leave you with an "aha" moment. Ahem.
Let's think of the ego as The Wizard (Wizardess if you're nasty) of Oz. You know the one, lots of smoke, big face, loud voice. Calls all the shots and gets really out of sorts when things don't go his way...
The wizard/ego is not great and powerful (although she likes to think she is), he is not magical or mystical (although he wants you to think he is), the wizard isn't even all-knowing! The Wizard just posted up in his emerald castle and was like, "it's my way or the highway b*tches!" and when that didn't work he bought a smoke machine and a loudspeaker. Boom, instant authority.
The Wizard (your ego) is just a human. A physically inclined entity that is trying to run a show that's way too big for him. Your ego's job is essentially to keep you alive. It is directly linked to your survival mechanism, which means keeping you from situations IT deems dangerous. It relies heavily on your past experiences and how you felt when you experienced them.
In cave-man times, this means that your ego was keeping you from trying to hug tigers (because that time one almost bit your face off was sCaRyyy) and urging you to mate. It was fight or flight, feed or fornicate. It was ego heaven! The ego was a strictly physical entity concerned with strictly physical circumstances. Tribes were small, feelings/emotions were easily handled. Our primitive times were, well, primitive. They were effortlessly managed by the ego and we should be thankful for that.
Fast forward to now, we as the human race have become extremely advanced. Our survival is ensured as our numbers have grown unimaginably since our debut on the planet. Our brains have developed to accommodate an array of thoughts & emotions and our personal worlds have grown to include the globe as technology continues to advance. So where does that leave the ego?
Well remember what I said about the ego keeping you from scenarios IT deems dangerous? Well, depending on the person, that situation could look like a little embarrassment in front of the coworkers or even posting something on social media and not getting enough likes. Yikes! Your ego was not made to handle these conditions, and depending on your upbringing - abandonment issues, emotional unavailability from those you love, feelings of unworthiness - it may have developed your personality in order to avoid certain traumas while also chasing others because that is what it is familiar and comfortable with.
So where does that leave us? Are we meant to live out our traumas over and over (and over and over...) again wondering why "this" keeps happening to us like a really f*cked up version of Groundhog Day?? Well, I mean, you COULD totally do that and no judgment here because it IS your life. You spent all your galactic tokens in order to come here and play this game (stay with me) where free will is the rule. So yeah, if you don't want to do anything about it - DON'T!
However, if it's just not working out for you, it might be time to make some adjustments. Journaling was my go-to when I first started out "getting to know" myself. In the self-help manual, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron (not an ad), she offers a weekly set of activities that will assist you in getting to know yourself and getting to understand what makes you tick and why. I absolutely loved it.
If you don't have that kind of time, just try making a note of the goings-on in your life and your responses (or reactions) to them. "So and so said this and I responded/reacted this way because it made me feel..."
I get tingles writing a sentence like that. There is something so miraculous about self-awareness. It's so empowering. Soon you will see, "oh, the reason I don't trust easily is because I trusted my parents (who may have been working 3 jobs each so you could get a good education because they never had that opportunity and wanted to create it for you) to show up for me and they always let me down. I can see how that outdated belief that I will be let down has led me to only let in people who will let me down (self-fulfilling prophecy) and also push those people away who may exceed my expectations and really pull through for me. Which is why up until now I didn't trust easily." BOOM BABY.
THAT WAS A HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION AND THE CLARITY OF IT STILL MADE ME GO OFF, WHOOOO!! So, back to when we were talking about how those opinions that have been formed based in history are what directly create your ego/personality and everyone got triggered: You don't come into this world with trust issues, you don't come into this world with abandonment issues, you don't come with prejudices, with generalizations about specific groups of people, with fear of illness & death (has a 2 year old ever told you they're afraid of dying?), you don't come in with anger, resentment, hatred, sadness. You come in as love. Pure shining love.
Your issues (and I speak to myself too when I say this) are just programs. They're just defense mechanisms your ego has adopted in order for your survival. Your ego doesn't care if you're surviving but in emotional turmoil. The ego doesn't care if you're miserable at a job deemed safe for you but lacks the creative outlet you need to be happy. Your ego looks at a clipboard every night and checks the box next to "surviving" off and goes to sleep happy.
Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to get to know the "small self" as Paul Selig and the guides call it. Life, your life - every beautiful aspect of it - is far too grand for the ego to be able to predict what is dangerous and what is an opportunity for growth. You will have to find the secret room behind the curtain and confront the ego one on one. Get it to tell you why it is the way it is, see the situations for what they truly are. From the viewpoint of what you truly are, what you were when you first entered this world - Love.
For some, you're ready to go into the thick darkness with your torches blazing. Others have read the last couple paragraphs and have deemed it a tall order, maybe even pointless to try. That's okay! Allow yourself to be wherever you are. Love yourself however you show up. I don't go around throwing flower petals and shining light every day either. Sometimes I throw tantrums and let the rain clouds gather over my head and there's nothing my guides, ancestors or angels can do to help me... but it's my awareness during those times that are key.
So, as some of you are about to sit down around a table full of family and possibly encounter triggers a-plenty, how about a little practice in (small) self-awareness? Our society values quick wit and a devil may care attitude, but hear me out: When Uncle Pete brings up politics or your Italian grandma says something like "you look like you no eat." (I'm looking at you, nonna) Instead of reacting, *pause*, feel the sensations as they arise within your body, identify the feeling(s) - defensiveness, resentment, judgment etc - and sit with it until you are ready to respond from a place of balance. If someone has crossed a personal boundary don't be afraid to say it. I enjoy starting a sentence with "I love you..." to remind myself and the person that that IS the case: "I love you, but you are being inappropriate and crossing a personal boundary of mine." Wow, its like we're adults and can communicate from a place of maturity or something.
I joke, but it can be easier said than done, especially if you've been sacrificing your boundaries for the comfort of others your whole life. I personally have had a hard time setting and maintaining boundaries, so if you're in this boat with me - I feel for you, but if I can do it after 31 years of not even knowing what personal boundaries are, YOU CAN TOO! Some people just cannot respect boundaries and that's their own sh*t, take yourself out of the situation.
Well Beloveds, it was my goal to arm you with some mindfulness practices pre- Gratitude Day, when you enter the fray, even though I never actually stated that in the beginning and titled this post with a Scarface quote... but you'll learn to love me! Or maybe you won't! Godspeed.