Tuesday, April 29, 2008

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What is Ego?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

If we are only like the ice cubes, and G-d is like the water, then what is ego? Surely, we all have strong ego experiences.

As this term is commonly used, ego either refers to the mental function of self-identification, or of self-evaluation. Self-identification is simply a person accurately identifying himself. I know that I am this particular person. I identify myself as this male who is doing these things. This is normal, healthy, ego awareness. We must have this awareness in order to function in the world. I have to know which physical person I am in order to guide myself through my day. We simply could not function without this self-identification.

Then, there is ego as the term is usually used. This type of ego experience refers to the generally exaggerated opinions that we may have of ourselves. These appraisals are almost always incorrect, being heavily skewed either to the positive or to the negative. These inaccurate appraisals are very detrimental to our spiritual growth. When we think too highly of ourselves, we fail to do the work that we must do. We just do not see the need for it. When we think too lowly of ourselves, we will not have the confidence or drive to do what we were sent here to do. Either way, we will not fulfill our potential. This can lead to depression, which holds the person down even further.

We do not want to eliminate self-evaluation. It is an essential tool in self-improvement. We just want to make sure that it is accurate.

One way to help release the tenacious grip that both types of ego almost always bring is to say a common sentence about yourself, such as, “I am sitting here.” Then take out the word “I” and in its place, put in the word “it.” So, referring to yourself you will say, “It is sitting here.” “It is walking down the street.” Say the sentence a few times until you can “step back” and actually see the “I” (you) as an “it.” This change in personal perspective allows for a somewhat detached, and therefore, more objective opinion of yourself.

If you are overly generous with your self appraisal, think about some of the things that we have discussed. Remember that all existence (including you and I) are merely tiny particulars in the one huge Infinite Being. Think how the entire physical universe, including our bodies, is at this very second being formed out of nothing. Picture yourself as a tiny flake of ice floating in a huge ocean. These tiny ice flakes are simply frozen water that is temporarily being formed and sustained by the temperature. Remember that very soon this temperature is going to rise, and you will melt. What you think you are will disappear as your form ceases, and you revert back to water.

So really, considering all this, there is not too much to be egotistical about; unless, of course, you have fulfilled the mission that you were sent here to accomplish. Have you done that? Did you become the best possible person you could have become? Did you do everything that the One Who sent you here wanted you to do?

If your opinions of yourself are too grandiose, then this type of thinking will help to bring them back in line with reality. If your opinions of yourself are too low, then remember that the soul that He has placed within you is pure.[i] In truth, your soul is an actual portion of the Holy One Himself on High.[ii] When you are down, you can easily pick yourself up by doing a good deed. And this will lead to another good deed, which leads to another, and soon you will be too busy to bother with this kind of excessively negative self-appraisal.

[i] A prayer upon awakening
[ii] Tanya

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