The Ego and Resistances to Spirituality: Part One
I see the human ego as much like a data input terminal. If you want to perceive and experience the physical world the ego is a handy device. You have five senses: you see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world. This experience is a lot of the reason we are “here”. And yet, who doesn’t realize that life presents us with challenges? Repeatedly. While the ego is about survival in this reality, its main purpose it seems, but all too often the ego functions to insure pain and destruction.
How is someone on a spiritual path supposed to deal with the ego?
It is the ego that is the primary resistance to spirituality. After all the ego doesn’t like anything it can’t see, hear, taste, touch or smell and none of those senses can capture spirit. The ego is focused only on physical reality and survival within it. I look at the ego through the lens of developmental psychology to some extent. Under normal circumstance the human infant begins soon to learn to focus its senses to properly perceive physical reality. By age two, typically, things have clearly changed. The ego is developing, and the child can become quite unruly and demanding. Language development takes off and that is really important since speech is the primary method of expression, interaction, experience and getting your needs and wants satisfied. By age 4-5 every parent knows they have a tiger by the tail. It can be scary to be a parent, but few of us realize how scary it can be to be a child. What if you lived in a world where everyone was 2 or 3 times your size and they seemed to control everything. The child hears ‘no’ a lot. No, you can’t have that shiny thing, no you can’t have the chocolate bar, no you can’t eat that sand etc. Of course, you must teach children and you have to set boundaries for their well-being and safety. They have no idea what a diet of chocolate will do to them over time. But those ‘normal’ developmental challenges and issues are not the problem with the human ego. For the sake of brevity, since this is a blog and not a book on developmental psychology, I can only speak in general terms. But what happens to that energetic, optimistic, usually innocent child over time? There was a time in childhood when we were so spontaneous and free. We could play with a pile of sand and a spoon and be perfectly content, maybe even in touch with All-that-is-God.
Therein lies the rub. Some things happen that twist and distort that developing ego. And there is so much that can happen. Painful stuff. Discouraging stuff. Hurtful stuff. Even in the best of what most would see as healthy home environments things occur that twist the ego, that turn the ego negative. By the time we are adults, maybe well before we are adults, the ego has become a genuine challenge and we are often not even conscious of what’s going on. We all know children are like sponges, accepting beliefs and attitudes, even feelings, from parents and authority figures and even other children. What happens to the developing ego, and personality, that twists it to the point it impairs our spiritual awareness, impairs our desire to pursue our spirituality? Parents and all sorts of authority figures taught us all sorts of healthy things, but did any of us ever get lessons on undoing negative ego patterns and developing healthy ego functioning? Did any of us ever get instructions about undoing the ego to develop our spirituality?
Many of us were exposed to all sorts of morality plays, but those usually involved feeling guilty, which the ego loves.
In my counseling practice many clients did not like it when I began to explain the functioning of the ego and how they needed to move beyond it for ‘problem solving’. The ‘problems’ were often the result of the ego turned negative. They just did not want to go there. It was too raw. It was scary. They did not like what they saw and thought it was them. You are not your ego, I would explain. As Edgar Cayce said, “you are a spiritual being having a physical experience”. So, what happens that, by the time we are adults, the ego has become so ‘yakety yak’? It seems to ‘yak’ incessantly. Why?
What is that all about? Actually, the answer is ‘it’s about nothing’.
The ‘yakety yak’ of the ego is about nothing. It’s important not to get caught up in the negativity of the ego because it can get pretty dark. You do have to become aware of how your ego functions. The ego can be a tricky thing, tripping you up at every turn and it can take some time to become familiar with the games of your ego in order to deal with it. If your intention is to kill the ego, to get rid of it somehow, that intention is probably not a good idea. Rather, it must be about transcending the ego, and in transcending the ego you are evolving beyond it and becoming aware of who you really are. The ego, and the personality are not the same thing, and the ego is certainly not about spirituality for it is just an input terminal. Who you really are, spirit, intersects with the body and with physical reality. It is what animates and expresses All-That-Is God. So, at least in general terms, what is this ‘yakety yak’ thing about? It’s about a child, and you can deal with a child. I think first and foremost that ‘ego-child’ is all about fear and fear can be very debilitating. A 5-year old may be afraid of crossing a busy street, but by adulthood we usually have that handled and while we may be, wisely, concerned about crossing that street, we are not frozen in some sort of inability to cross that street. We grew up and our beliefs about our abilities changed. When we grow up, we can change ‘ego-child’ fears into adult concerns and we can handle our concerns by being aware of our strengths and abilities. Rather than being frozen by fear we can ask ourselves what concerns us. What can I do about it? That approach can make us aware of strengths and help to get us out of an ‘ego-child’ loop. If you were reassuring a child about their unfounded fears, about the ‘boogey-man’ under the bed, what would you say to them? Maybe you would reassure them that everything is all right, that you have it handled for them, that you love them, and they don’t have to take responsibility because you have it covered. You also have to do this to deal with your ‘ego-child’. Talk to them, a lot. Be the loving parent to them. Take responsibility for things they surely cannot handle. Tune into the spirit you are. That spirit is loving, and that spirit cannot be threatened. That spirit is home to your real personality, the part of you that decides, makes decisions and exercises true power. Not domination, but dominion in your life. That spirit is SELF.
The ego is fearful, and often easily angered, blaming and self-pitying. After all, it’s only 5-years old. That ‘ego-child’ is full of self and is afraid of SELF. It is arrogant at times, and arrogance is low self-esteem hiding as confidence. Actually, arrogance hides quite often in the blaming, anger and self-pity. Learn to parent that ‘ego-child’. Take back the responsibility they think they have to handle something they cannot handle. Talk to them, love them, and lean on the Spirit you are. Turn to the Love and Truth you are and ask for guidance. It’s in the heart, not the head. Become aware of your fears or whatever negative emotion you are experiencing, pause and take a breath, focus on the heart for the next 10-15 seconds, and ask what the heart would like you to do. In learning to identify your ‘ego-child’ you will automatically begin reducing resistances to your spiritual awakening. Your wholeness and power will become increasingly apparent as you realize you are Spirit having a physical experience.
In part two of this post there will be more to say about evolving beyond ego, getting it to grow up and becoming more of the spiritual being you really are. The sounds of the Acoustical Pyramid can help, in a big way, with expanding consciousness beyond ego.