Friday, November 21, 2014


I've written about the importance of knowing yourself a number of times on this blog. Today I'd like to tell you about the single biggest obstacle to accurate self-knowledge: that sonofabitch, the Ego.

The Ego isn’t you: it’s an amalgamation of all your false-identities. When you identify with stuff that isn't you, you're giving life to the Ego.

Your beliefs, opinions, biases, ideas, judgments, job, possessions, accomplishments, and relationships are not you: they're just the things you do. 

Luckily the Ego doesn't control you: it merely tricks you into acting out. It pulls your strings and you dance like a little puppet.

When someone calls your deeply-held beliefs into question, the Ego says, “Are you gonna let him talk about you like that?”

When someone points out a mistake you've made, the Ego says, “Quick! Blame somebody else!”

When someone criticizes you, the Ego says, “Don’t listen to her: she’s just jealous.”

The Ego pretends that it's looking out for you, that it's defending you from the unjustified attacks of lesser people. In reality, the Ego only looks out for itself.

Eckhart Tolle has a lot to say about the Ego in his book The Power of Now. For instance, 
If you identify with a mental position, then if you are wrong, your mind-based sense of self is seriously threatened with annihilation. So you as the ego cannot afford to be wrong. To be wrong is to die. Wars have been fought over this, and countless relationships have broken down.
The good news is, once you stop identifying with mental positions you lose the desire to defend them.

If you don’t identify with your work, you have no problem admitting your mistakes.

If you don’t identify with (or worse, idealize) your imperfect state, you gladly listen to criticism.

The sting that accompanies your wounded pride is an illusion. The sting is Ego’s finger jabbing, not at your pride, which cannot be wounded, but at your insecurities, doubts, and anxieties. It appeals to emotion, manipulates, and pushes your buttons.   

It deflects, redirects, and projects.

Everything that stems from the Ego is toxic. Even when the Ego tries to make you feel good, it does so in a destructive way.

The Ego uplifts you by bringing others down. It boosts your self-worth by decreasing the self-worth of others.

The Ego loves nothing more than to help you demolish another person's hopes and dreams so that you might climb up the mountain of rubble left behind and feel, for a brief moment, that you're the winner.

Winner of what, exactly? Of being a douche bag. Congratulations!

Want to throw a wrench in the Ego's plans? Be vigilant. Listen for the Ego's sweet whispers. Tolle wisely advises us to "Watch out for any kind of defensiveness within yourself. What are you defending? An illusory identity, an image in your mind, a fictitious entity."

Being offended is a telltale sign of the Ego's handiwork.

Question your basic assumptions and opinions. This will help you detach from them and rob the Ego of its fuel.

It's not that you should abandon your opinions, only that you should recognize them as just that: your opinions. They don't belong to anyone else. In truth, they aren't even yours. You didn't create them, after all. You're just lugging them around in your mind. They're mental baggage.

If someone wants to question your beliefs, let them! What does it matter to you?

If someone points out your mistake, take ownership. The only people who never make mistakes are the people who don't do any work.

And if someone criticizes you, take it with an open mind. Genuinely consider what they've said. Do as Seneca advises and put yourself on trial. If you find no evidence to support your critic's charges, you can disregard them calmly, knowing full well that they are unfounded.

If however you find some truth in the charges brought against you, thank your critic and take heart: you're one step closer to becoming your best self.
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