So how do Ego and Self actually fit together? For years I tried to ‘overcome’ my lower, Ego-based nature. It was Ego versus Self for me. Through study and practice of spiritual disciplines I hoped to climb the spiritual ladder. My goal was to ultimately reach and live from my ‘Higher Self’, a part of me as yet unchartered. It struck me as odd, though, that I felt more and more ‘myself’ as I progressed. It was not a ‘getting to know a new part of me’, it was more like a remembering who I was and always had been. It felt like a coming home to myself. From then on, my journey became easier. It was simply a case of identifying and letting go of all that was not me, to get back to my ‘Higher Self’ state again.
Based on this, I believe that our ‘Higher Self’ is actually our natural state. I call it Self. Seen from the perspective of brain states, our natural mind-state is the expanded awareness we experience when we operate from the Neocortex. Ego-mind, on the other hand, is the constricted fight-or-flight state we’re in, when the limbic/emotional and reptilian parts of our brain take charge. It is a situation-specific mind-state, super-imposed on the Self-state.
Ego and Self handle life in opposite ways
Let’s take a look at what this means in practice:
– While Ego resists looking at everything as it is now, Self is fully present to the here now. It says ‘yes’ to all of life. It gently tunes in to and dances with it. It feels at one with everything unconditionally.
– Ego seeks external validation, security and fulfilment. ‘Once everything falls into place, I’ll find my peace’ is its mantra. Self is anchored in inner serenity. It’s sense of worth and fulfilment comes from within. It knows that ‘find your peace and then everything will fall into place’ holds true.
– Ego is driven because it runs on adrenalin. Everything is always urgent and so it continually pushes. Self feels called and calmly responds to the flow, acting on inspiration with peace of mind. It lets come with a light touch.
– Ego wants stability and its comfort zone. It sees itself as victim and wishes the ‘problem situation’ away. It has a ‘fix it’ mentality: ‘Sort it out now!’, it demands. It wins the battle. Self knows that it alone is the creator and allows imperfection and change, so it can experience and grow. It comments – ‘Now that’s interesting’. It stays calm and looks deeper at what is actually going on underneath. It sees the value of brokenness. It understands that the journey is the destination. It knows that matters resolve themselves once we have learnt from them and honours this process. It spontaneously co-operates with it and following its intuition. It wins the war.
– Ego-mind speaks in chances and percentages. In Ego, there is a back and forth in mind. We ‘stew in it’ and procrastinate. In Self, there is spontaneous, effortless, clear resolution. We let go and respond to intuitive prompts instead. Self gets exactly what it needs against all odds
– Ego seeks self-preservation. It is self-righteous and proud. ‘I have a right!’ it thunders, ‘You’re unfair, you’ve done me wrong!’. In relationships, it avoids having its heart broken. Self stands in its power and welcomes the growth relationships bring. It lets the heart break wide open so it can love more deeply.
It is right and necessary to enlist the strength and determination of the Ego under circumstances that call for it, but it does not serve us if it becomes our default modus operandi. The secret is getting the balance right, choosing the best approach in each situation. Once we are aware that we actually have this choice, we are no longer at the mercy of Ego. The master has become the servant once more.