Working with the Ego for Your Highest Good
The ego doesn't have quite the best reputation. When we think of the ego, we relate it to negative traits, like being self-absorbed, pompous, arrogant, and vain. Often, the ego rises out of conflict or in situations that call for us to be vulnerable. If the ego is in control, lessons we could learn by choosing to be soft and open are lost among thorns of defensiveness. When your pride is attacked — even if it's unintentional — your ego attacks back. Feelings are hurt. Friendships are broken. Forgiveness is up in the air as is the future of the relationship.
But, what if it doesn't have to go there? Not because we get rid of the ego, but because we recognize its responsibility. Yes, its responsibility. The ego exists for a reason. It has a role to play that caters to our overall well-being when placed appropriately. Messes are made when we allow it to run amok and color outside the lines, but when we teach the ego to stay within its boundaries, everyone gets to grow.
Defining the Ego and It's Responsibilities
The ego is the personality. It's the part of our inner-self whose purpose is to consistently ask, "Does this serve me? Does this make me feel good?" If the answer is yes, bring it on. If not, swipe left. That's the ego.
As we first begin to develop as human beings, the ego doesn't seem to shape anything significantly deep or meaningful. The extent of its role when we're babies, for example, may be why we liked the puréed carrots over smashed peas or how much we needed to be held. The older we get and the more experiences we have, the more the ego expands. Confidence becomes a thing and by the time puberty hits, the ego seems to completely dictate our lives. As full fledged adults with built-in belief systems, the ego really makes itself known any time we need to go within.
"Don't go there," it warns us.
"Who does she think she is? She don't know who she's talking to," it challenges.
The thing is, the ego doesn't set out to cause any harm. In a very ironic sense, its motive is to protect.
At this point, either one of two things happens. We give in to the ego or we rise above it. The tricky part is figuring out which route to choose, but this place is where the work is done.
How to Work with the Ego
So, the ego has two responsibilities: to please and to protect. With that in mind, we can discover how to work with the ego for our highest good.
I think it goes without saying that what pleases us isn't always what's good for us. That extra piece of cake. Splurging on a new handbag when your rent isn't even paid. Allowing yourself to slip into an extramarital affair. Yeah, all of that can feel good, but it ain't good. The ego doesn't care if it's actually good for you or not. All it cares about is if the indulgence will please you at all. The work that must be done here is to ask yourself, "What is the spiritual value proposition?" In other words, you have to assess if what you're risking is really worth it. If the long-term impact outweighs the short-term pleasure, you'll know. Decide accordingly.
In terms of protection, this is all about the belief system. This is such a crucial part of our being that I'm sure I've talked about it in a previous post. My husband and I even did a video once about what the belief system is and how it works, especially within a marriage. The part that's specific to this topic is from 1:00 - 2:45.
If the ego is the personality, it only makes sense that it sets out to protect who you are (the second box). The issue here is that not every action, interaction, and reaction should be protected. We all have dysfunctions and beliefs that came from jacked up experiences in our past. When the ego sets out to protect our bad behavior, unrealistic standards, or other unfair ideas, what it's actually doing is attempting to protect us from having to revisit what made us think and consequently act that way in the first place.
Sounds nice, but if we don't visit those places then we can never heal. And if we never heal, we won't ever be equipped attract and cultivate the authentic relationships we truly deserve in this life. When you're triggered by certain words or in a certain situation that leaves you on edge, expect the ego to rise.
When it does, don't give in right away; just pay attention. Observe what's causing the angst and anxiety to build up in your chest or in the pit of your stomach. Then, when you get alone, do the work. Pinpoint those areas in your box of BS that got you here. No one gets hurt. Everyone grows.