Everything they told you about ego is wrong. Your ego may have trouble accepting that. If it does, I’m right.
Ego is used to describe all sorts of things that have nothing to do with the ego. When someone describes a person as having a big ego or being egotistical, they are saying that the person has an overly inflated sense of self. Anyone who is self absorbed, narcissistic, or conceited gets labeled as egotistic. This definition of ego is false. It’s just lazy linguistics.
For this psycho analysis, it’s better to stick with Freud. From his studies, discovering the ID, Ego, and SuperEgo, it’s safe to say that my presentation of ego has some scientific backing. Though I haven’t rigorously studied it. I just have one special benefit that comes with my understanding of ego. It actually works in real life.
Even if everything I’m about to share is bullshit. It pretty much works. That’s all I need. That’s the only thing I care about when landing on a belief, “does it work? can I play around with it and make things happen?”
Let’s begin by imagining a house.
This house represents your current circumstances, past experiences, known quantities, present reality, and so on. It’s the entirety of your psyche up until this point in time. It’s what you know and what you’re comfortable with. Everything in your life exists inside this house.
Now imagine that on the front porch of this house there is a snarky old man sitting in a wooden rocking chair.
The Snarky Old Man: This is your ego. It’s always, and I mean always, sitting on the front porch of the house. So long as you remain inside the house, he is generally pleased. He wants you to stay within your comfort zone. What’s unknown is dangerous. Change is the mortal enemy of the ego.
So, we’ve got your house, with you inside it. This is your perception of life. Guarding the entrance of the house is your ego. Before anything new comes in, the ego will get a hold of it and screen it, he’s the doorman of your perception. He’s also a hoarder, like the crazy type, and doesn’t want to let anything at all out, no matter how bad things are inside the house.
Trouble first begins when you consider leaving the house. Leaving the house means stepping outside of known quantities and into the unknown, leaving what’s familiar and accepted as safe by your ego. The ego does not like it when you try to leave the house!
If you are just thinking about leaving the house, you won’t get in too much trouble. It will laugh you off, not taking you too seriously. It knows that usually when you talk about leaving the house, you don’t ever end up doing it. So rather than being too confrontational, it’ll just dismiss your idea.
YOU: I’m thinking about going outside.
EGO: Sure buddy. Yeah right. You know we don’t leave the house.
The more serious you become about leaving the house, the more resistance your ego will put up.
If you start making real plans, that you intend to act on, your ego will rip those plans to shreds. It will bring up evidence from the only reservoir it has, things inside the house. Past experiences will be remembered that will declare how you won’t be successful when you leave the house. It will use your beliefs/values against you.
YOU: No seriously, I’m going to do this…
EGO: Leave the house? Do you have any idea how foolish that is? Look man, this is working now. Don’t risk it, you might get eaten by bears! We don’t leave the house!
In most people’s cases, it would be right.
But you’re a hustler.
Understand that the ego is entirely self serving, it doesn’t have your best interests in mind. It only cares about protecting itself. It’s committed to maintaining the status quo, at any costs. Your happiness and success is something it’s perfectly happy to sacrifice to maintain the status quo. It likes things the way they are, even if it hates them. The ego will take misery over uncertainty, every time.
The moment you actually do decide to leave the house, stepping outside of your pre-defined comfort zone, the snarky old man unleashes a vicious attack. The worst case scenario that you could ever possibly imagine will be accepted as the only possible outcome by your ego and it will utterly condemn you for putting both of you in the position where that terrible outcome is, as far as it’s concerned, guaranteed.
When you open the door of this house to walk out, it will try to block you. Pleading with you not to leave. It has no problem getting really really desperate. Protect the status quo, by any means necessary.
YOU: Alright, here I go.
EGO: You can’t possibly be serious! Don’t you understand what’s going to happen! You rat bastard, you’ll ruin us both! We had a good thing going here! Why rock the boat? Please, just stop now! Or else!
As you walk off the porch and into the discomfort of something new it gets worse.
YOU: I’m outside now.
EGO: Ok, listen! Just come back in now, we’ll forget the whole thing happened. No big deal, ok? Just stop this now, PLEASE! This is not safe. ERROR! ERROR! SIRENS!
As you stand, now existing in what was previously unknown, the ego continues it’s onslaught.
EGO: It’s not going to last. You’re just getting lucky you idiot. There could still be bears out there! Get BACK IN HERE!
When you walk back into the house you bring with you this new experience and it becomes part of the house. The ego won’t be super pleased yet. This new thing won’t fit quite right after one time, it won’t have it’s place yet.
Go out and have this same experience again and you’ll go through the same process, only it’ll be even more vicious this time. The first time could be written off as a “one night stand,” so to speak. Once you do it a second time the status quo is at a serious risk of being broken for good (the ego’s ultimate fear).
Succeed in your attempt the second time and the ego starts to question reality. It usually decides that accepting the change is safest and maybe the new thing can be added into the house without breaking anything..
Go get the same experience a third time and it’ll start to dismiss the situation.
EGO: Yeah yeah. I get it. You’re SOOO cool.
By the fifth time, this new experience will be a permanent part of your house. The ego will accept it as if it always knew that was the case. And you’ll probably be able to have it, without resistance from your ego, from now on.
EGO: I always knew things would work out just fine!
Unless of course you stop having that experience entirely and it falls out of your “normal reality.” Going back to a past experience that’s been forgotten is a lot easier than an entirely new experience, but it isn’t as easy as just staying in the house :).
Understand that you’re actually going to feel this happening in real time. It’s not just some psycho-babble. Everyone has had experiences like this. Your heartbeat will speed up, you’ll feel short of breath, your palms will sweat.
What you’ve always considered “nerves” are actually just the ego releasing everything it can to stop you from breaking the status quo. It will seriously poison you and make you sick to stop you. It’s a real dick.
Keys To Ego Mastery.
Remember, the goal is not to destroy the ego. It serves valuable survival purposes. The goal is just to restrain it to the reality that you want to have.
Key #1: Don’t argue with it!
The ego is kind of like the hardcore religious, or worse… vegans. There is no reasoning with it. The more you argue, the more emboldened it becomes.
Instead, smugly accept it’s critique’s and go about doing what you were going to do anyways, understanding that complaints will continue coming from the ego. Awareness is often enough to help overcome the ego battles you face. As long as you know it’s happening, it’s power is lessened. When you know someone is trying to manipulate you, it’s a lot easier to stop them.
Arguing only serves to embolden the ego. Just politely thank it for it’s concern, and get to the doing of the deed. Arguing with the ego is like telling your dad how his politics or scientific worldview are outdated, nothing can be gained.
By simply accepting the ego’s critiques politely and acknowledging them, then doing what you wanted to do you serve a dual purpose. First, by honoring the ego’s objections you will somewhat quiet it’s vitriolic attacks. At least it’s being heard, and it will appreciate that. The other side is that you’ll increase your own awareness of the times when your ego is battling you. Giving you more power in mastering your ego.
Key #2: Use The Ego’s Own Weapons Against It.
This involves a lifestyle of constantly challenging and expanding your ego’s comfort zones. Putting yourself into situations that your ego will fight you on, and then overcoming it.
Through training you can condition your ego to see adventure as a necessity that helps to protect the status quo. Build it before you need it by making this a routine, even if the situations are small and mundane. The training is valuable.
Have you ever known someone that’s deadly serious about going to the gym? This is just like that. People who work out all the time are conditioned to working out. If they stop going to the gym, pretty quickly they start to feel antsy and uncomfortable. They need the gym to maintain their own status quo. It’s like any kind of addiction, although the gym leaves you in good shape rather than dead (usually).
Go skydiving, take your pants off more often, whatever it takes. Put yourself into the extreme unknown on a regular, recurring basis and your “house” will get bigger. Then your ego will enlist itself to help protect this new status quo, once again accepting it as if it was always the case.
Conclusion: Accept the struggle
We all deal with this. Every person, continuously. Don’t see it as something that has an end game where you conquer it for good. There will always be new unknowns, that’s what makes life fun!
Accept it as an ongoing struggle that you are always working on, knowing that perfection will never come. The ego serves a valuable survival purpose, don’t forget. Just don’t let it run the show, personal consciousness is the boss.
Work on it, day after day, and you’ll become a champion in due time.
Thank you for reading.
P.S The House Of Ego?
So the house picture came from this creative commons flickr photo. It seriously gave me chills when I saw it. I have been doing a ton of visualization related to the house/snarky old man on the porch analogy for detailing ego. I’ve done it for over a year, and did a lot of it intensely while reflecting on writing this post. I came across this photo while looking for a good image to use as the featured image of this post.
That house, no shit, looks exactly like what I had been imagining when I am visualizing ego conversations. My mental image is always in black/white with a very dark vibe. It has the rocking chair right where I imagine it and even a person (me?) standing in the doorway, contemplating going out. Spooky and cool :). Hopefully the picture helps any of you who have trouble doing mental visualization.