“The ego seeks to divide and separate. Spirit seeks to unify and heal.”Pema Chodron
Self-awareness is very important for self-realisation and is the key to spiritual growth and enlightenment. Knowingness of self can be our greatest resource in the path to enlightenment, but most of the times, ego becomes a major obstacle to self-realisation. In the process of being self-aware, we get so completely identified with the voice in our head or the thoughts and emotions that accompany with it and consider them as part our true self. As a result, we tend to get identified with a created self that identifies with the concepts that strengthen our own importance such as ‘I’ or ‘me’ or ‘mine.’
This created self thus identified defines itself as self and seeks your attention through compulsive thought patterns and an incessant inner voice. When unaware, you tend to identify with yourself to every thought and emotion that arises. Thus the ego comes in the way of your true self asserting its importance by saying, ‘I am important, I am special ‘ giving rise to further thought forms like, ‘I want, I must or I should’ creating the need for the other or some forms like things, material objects, appearances, opinions.
Ego leads to forgetfulness of being
Associating to your ego part of self always leads to the concept of ‘other’ that results in constant comparison or resentments like concepts of ‘I am not good enough’ or ‘I am better than others’ and so on so forth. When sense of ‘I’ thus gets mixed up with things, you tend to equate ‘having’ with being. “I have therefore I am” or “I don’t have, so I am not good enough.” or “he more I have , the more I am.” So, you bound to measure your worth with the worth you have in the eyes of other. This identification with made up self further creates resistance to self-realisation.
The ego’s content – ‘I’ ‘me’ and ‘myself’
According to Sigmund Freud’s theory, ego splits our psyche into three distinct levels of consciousness, the id, ego and super ego. The subconscious id according to him is the most deep rooted aspect of our mind and often seeks pleasure and pain principle. And ego is an unconscious aspect of mind that acts to defend the subconscious id’s quest for pleasure. The super ego is driven by social conditioning and often strives for perfection. Even though ego plays an important role in how we function, it is limited as it is a perceived self and is not real.
When you identify with your ego part of your mind that is saying,“all these are mine“, or “I am so and so” or “my knowledge” or “I know it all”, you become ignorant of your true self and believe your egoistic self that is limited in its nature. This is because ego translates directly to ‘I’ and consists of repetitive and persistent thought patterns you identify with as “me” or “my story” that is conditioned by the past memories, upbringing, culture, family or background, you identify with most strongly. Your ego also is collective identification such as religion, nationality and also personal identification such as opinions, appearances, and possessions.
Ego is the real obstruction to self-realisation
Whatever your egoistic self manifests into, the hidden motivating force is always the same. The need to standout, be special or the need for attention, and thus is dependent on a sense of insufficiency and lack that needs to be fulfilled. Even when it succeeds in getting what it wants, it is short-lived and the gap between ‘I want’ and ‘what is’ becomes a constant struggle.
You can only become aware of what you truly are by separating all things that fall under ‘my’ from ‘I’ which is the real you. Separating ‘I’ from ‘my’ is what leads to realising your true self and not to identify with your egoistic self and all its limitations. If you are not aware of what comes under’I’ and what comes under ‘my’, then you can go onto the point of exhaustion and not realise your true self.
- Give up defining yourself to self and others. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves and not you. Remind yourself in functioning of your day-to-day life that you are not your thoughts and beliefs, but instead part of a greater whole. Being aware that you are much more than the perception of others makes you relate to who you truly are.
- Negativity is the source of limited self-perception of ego and is the reason for self-sabotage. Resentment is the emotion that goes with complaining and adds even more energy to the ego. Challenge yourself to stop complaining whenever you catch yourself getting negative. Not complaining doesn’t mean not to inform someone of a mistake or putting up with bad behaviour. Stop assigning mental labels to people or name-calling.
- Be aware of your negative self-talk or emotions and even though certain conditioned thought patterns reoccur, every time you become aware, they are weakened. Self-awareness reduces your reactivity to external factors that strengthen egoistic state of mind.
- Avoid letting your opinions, view points, judgments become infused with a sense of ‘I’. Let go of your “I know it all “ attitude that strengthens the egoistic interpretation of others. Separate facts from opinions and see the totality of the situation or person instead of adopting to limited view points.
- Don’t let others’ perception of you start guiding you. There is a great difference between what others think of you and what you think others think of you. Let go of the opinions of others and become self-aware to connect to your purpose.
Ego part of your self always has the incessant need to see itself in a positive light because of which it always defends itself to appear real. Only by being truly aware of the separation between ‘I’ and ‘my’ that you can transcend it and come to realise your perfect true self which wants or needs nothing.