In Defence of the Ego
By Dawn Mellowship
The ego is frequently given a battering by self-help experts and spiritual thinkers, but does it serve a purpose. Author and spiritual teacher, Dawn Mellowship, speaks in defence of the ego.
We are frequently told to dispense with our ego – branded a troublemaker that demands attention and draws us away from genuine peace and happiness. Some individuals consider the ego to be our sense of self, based on our thinking mind. The word ‘ego’ itself is drawn from the Latin and translates into “I myself.” Many of us are familiar with the Freudian concept of the Ego, Id and Super-Ego, with Id representing our primitive physical desires (specifically sexual instincts), the Ego - navigating our external realities and the Super-Ego – our sense of conscience created by an association with the father figure.
The ego has also been tackled in more spiritual terms, considered as our artificial sense of self based on our conditioning and environment, which persistently thinks to ensure its survival and prevents us from living in the present. It is often perceived as an obstacle to enlightenment (a state which permanently vanquishes the ego).
Whilst I acknowledge that being governed by pure ego (as our sense of self) is a recipe for disaster because it leads us to base our entire experiences on our environment and conditioning, tearing us apart from our spiritual nature, I have to stand up in defence of the ego. It serves a very important purpose. We are forced to live in a physical world and must function in physical bodies. I believe the key to attaining balance and spiritual growth, is not in destroying the ego, but allowing the ego to be guided and controlled by our intuition.
It is my perception that we each have a physical, emotional and spiritual body. We can be dominated by either of these bodies and sometimes by our physical and emotional body. Using the definition of ego as our sense of self, the sense of who you are, as an individual, is derived from your physical existence, your emotions and your connection with your soul. If your sense of self is completely based on your physical existence, your ego will be entirely dependent on your physical achievements and the fulfilment of your physical desires. You will categorise yourself as a human being, based on what you have, what you don’t have and what other people have, whether it’s in terms of money, power, sexual prowess, status, or similar. You will likely objectify yourself and others.
If your sense of self is garnered purely from your emotional body, you will define yourself as an individual by your emotional conditioning, environment and emotional traumas, which will mar your perception of who you really are. Your sense of self will depend on how you feel you are being perceived by others and you will probably spend a great deal of time seeking recognition and approval from those around you. If you fail to receive this, you will consider yourself a failure and often internalise the blame. When we are controlled by our emotional bodies we obsess over conditional love, wondering why we cannot find the unconditional love we so desperately crave.
Sometimes your sense of self may arise from your physical and emotional bodies, leading you to define yourself by a combination of your physical achievements and emotional conditioning. You will long for the right status, products and seek the approval of others.
Finally, if your sense of self emanates from your spiritual body alone, without any physical or emotional input, without any ego, you may ignore the reality of the material world in which we live and shy away from fulfilling your responsibilities on this earth. It can seem easier - because the world is such a harsh place - to ignore the real world and extricate ourselves from it. However, I believe it is essential that we are able to function effectively on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. We should endeavour not to ignore the endemic pain and suffering, because each one of us is here for a reason and we can a make a difference to the lives of those around us by taking a balanced approach. By convincing ourselves that we have banished our ego, we are instead suppressing it and creating an internal conflict. It is better to tame your ego, rather than obliterating it. Many things are good for us in small doses but poisonous in excess and the ego is no exception.
The ideal situation is to be guided by our spiritual body, with our physical and emotional bodies acting in accordance with our intuition. In this state our sense of self is predominantly formed by intuition and to a considerably lesser degree, by our physical and emotional bodies. To me, thought is not the bane of our lives, which should be extinguished, but a medium by which our spiritual bodies (or souls) communicate with us. We become enlightened when our thoughts follow our intuition. This does not make us devoid of ego. The earth we inhabit and our environment still form our sense of self to a degree, but in a much healthier way. We follow our spiritual paths, but all the while recognising that our soul resides within a physical body that needs thought and that needs emotion.
As you grow on your spiritual path, you don’t completely lose your ego – or who you are in a physical or emotional sense. You may still be the individual that can’t help having a giggle at the misfortunes of others, or who enjoys wearing nice clothes, playing sports, working out at the gym and buying gadgets. You will still purchase some products, to live comfortably, but you will not feel as though these things define who you are. Instead of measuring your success by what possessions you have and how popular you are, you will glean your personal identity from your connection with your soul. In all likelihood you will also leave behind self-destructive elements of your past. For instance, I completely changed by diet to an organic one and gave up smoking and drinking alcohol, but I have retained aspects of my character. I am not characterless, but my physical and emotional bodies are steered in the right direction by my intuition.
So, to sum up, I say breath a sigh of relief, stop beating yourself up and give your ego a break. It is not inherently a bad thing if we are guided by our intuition and do not gather our sense of self purely from our environment, upbringing and social interactions. You can pursue spiritual and personal growth without abolishing your ego, just allow your intuition to show it who’s boss! The following exercise is a start in helping you do just that.
Sit down comfortably, either on a chair, or on the floor; make sure your back is straight. Place your palms in your lap, facing upwards.
Breathe in and out slowly through your nose, counting to five on each in breath and on each out breath. Continue this process for three minutes.
Join your hands in front of your chest (in prayer position).
Breathe in very slowly through your nose and on your next out breath make a “haa” sound with your mouth, pushing the sound out from the bottom of your stomach. Continue this process for between three and five minutes.
Silently say to yourself, with meaning and purpose, seven times, “May my intuition guide my ego, so where my intuition goes, my ego follows.”
Repeat the above two steps, three times.
Bow to the universe to finish.
Dawn Mellowship is an author, journalist, spiritual teacher and a Reiki practitioner and teacher. Her main website can be found at www.dawnmellowship.com
This article was posted by Dawn Mellowship