The Art of Being

Ego

BY DEBORAH CHANDLER, Ph.D.
Posted 9/30/21

Ego refers to our identity.  We carve out a slice of our personality and call it “my ego.” 

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
The Art of Being

Ego

Posted

Ego refers to our identity.  We carve out a slice of our personality and call it “our ego.”  We blame bad behavior on the ego, “My ego dominated the discussion.”  “My weak ego” makes me dislike myself.  “My fragile ego” is easily swayed by others. 

We let our ego define our motives, whether it's an altruistic ego or a base, selfish ego. 

But where is this “ego?”  What is it made of? 

It actually has no existence.  We’ve created this thing and have given it the power to control us.  Why?  Why do we empower a non-existent entity to control ourselves?  Why do we separate ourselves from our own actions?

Ego in psychology defines the subjective sense of self or identity. But it is the actions we perform that define who we are:  actions include thoughts, emotions, and physical activity.  In living through our ego, we create an entity to be the actor for us.  This distancing from our direct behavior leaves us believing that we are not in control of our own being.  

The ego is our escape from responsibility.  After all, if I’m hobbled by a weak ego, what else could be expected of me?  Often we can think that we are provoked into actions that we would not choose.  

I think we feel cautious about ourselves.  We want to separate our actions from our being.  "It wasn’t me, it was my ego," we will tell ourselves.  Yet we are so much more empowered when we own our actions.  We are so much stronger when we can say: "I did the angry outburst.  I saw myself do it.  I shut down other options and went for the anger. "

Oftentimes, we can feel dismay and shame for having chosen those actions.  However, we can reflect upon our choices and commit ourselves to act with greater kindness.

When we look within we offer an affirming view of ourselves.  This inward gaze is the key to learning.  The capacity for self-reflection is our best teacher.  When we question—was my tennis swing too tense; was my cooking too salty; was my offer of help too disapproving-—we give ourselves the opportunity of growth and change.

There is action and self-reflection in this remarkable capacity to practice introspection.  We can observe our actions and thought processes.  We can expand our capacity for loving actions and reduce our fearful actions.

Living through our ego, we become invested in versions of ourselves that block our learning.  We have a definition of who we are that bumps against change.  Instead of following the flow of our actions, we track our ego and how it is being treated.  This criticism is too hurtful so we hold onto what we have. We forgo the transformation into a better tennis player, cook and friend.

When we give up the defense of our ego, we open to a richer capacity for reflection and action.  We clear away the narrowing confines of ego.  We expand our capacity to grow and to love.

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here