I tend to read a lot – typically books on philosophy, psychology, the mind and related spiritual topics. A recurring theme among leaders in these fields is that our ego is akin to the big bad wolf, something that must be destroyed if we are to live “happily ever after.” I used to agree with what these thinkers were saying because then I had something to blame when things went wrong – my ego made me do it….
But now, the idea kind of digs under my skin. Although I recognize that our egos can and do create some pretty scary scenes, I also feel that we are seriously overlooking both the purpose and benefit of the ego in our lives. There have been no mistakes in the human design. Just like everything else in nature, we’ve been made to specifications that work, whether we understand, or not. We can’t get rid of our ego – even if we try – so why not work with, rather than against?
For years, we’ve been hearing about all of the “bad” things the ego is responsible for, so I’m not going to talk about that, at all. In this piece, I want look at how some of the qualities we really value in humans depend on and are made possible because of the ego.
Drive for excellence/persistence/motivation – Talk to anyone who is successful and you will immediately detect the ego at work. Most successful people owe a lot of their drive and motivation to their egos, the voice inside of them that kept pushing them to do things that others would have given up on. If we are passionate about anything, the ego won’t let us give up on it. It pushes us to overcome challenging obstacles out of a sheer sense of stubbornness and pride. The ego keeps us motivated long term – without it, we wouldn’t accomplish nearly as much as we do.
Creative capacity – Deep within us, the soul urges us to create. It provides the blueprint, so to speak, that outlines our creative nature and provides the desire to develop and build the skills to manifest. But it’s the ego that puts the wheels into action. The ego wants our creative capacity to be noticed. Anyone can sit in their bedroom and write a song, but the impetus that takes our creative energy beyond our personal confines and out into the world for others to appreciate is the ego. Call it boastful or selfish, but the ego takes creation to the next level. The ego makes us sing, act, dance, build, discover, play, sculpt, paint, draw, design and write, and then share all of that with others.
Personality/humor/emotions – There’s nothing I love more than someone with a strong personality, someone who can make me laugh as well as cry. Charismatic, confident, expressive and innovative are all attributes of ego. In my experience, people with big personalities aren’t afraid to let their ego do some of the talking – I think that’s why I like them so much. Our personalities are part of our creative nature – they are a big part of how we express who we are. Our emotions, ego driven needs, are what make us human, they connect us through shared experience and feeling – things we relate to. If the ego didn’t come to the surface to let others know when we’re mad, social change would never happen.
Strength/instinct – Survival, something we tend to take for granted in Western society, rests on the shoulders of a system perfectly aligned with the ego. Even today, we sometimes get ourselves in situations where we can’t really explain how we managed in a particular situation, like escaping a near accident or acting correctly in an emergency where we’d had no previous experience. We have a built in protection system that works not only for us, but others we are near – our instincts are driven by the ego and its experience. It literally keeps us alive. It tells us when to run and it is usually right.
The ego, sadly, is one of the most misunderstood aspects of the human being. A lion roars, and we think it’s cool; that’s the way lions are and they speak up for a reason. In the same way, our ego has an important purpose – several in fact as noted above. We need to learn to work with the ego through awareness and compassion rather than trying to stifle it, choke it and keep it in check. It isn’t bad, it’s just a wolf.
Instead of suppressing it, we need to spend more time working to understand our own egos and how they motivate us. The ego must be allowed. Egos that get locked in a corner will find ways to escape and that’s where the trouble comes in. Anything and anyone being controlled will rebel just to have a chance to be, to exist. What if we could create the perfect relationship between the ego and the soul, a marriage of sorts? The soul contains our potential, but we need the ego to strike the match that ignites that fire. Without it, we are only latent potential. Having compassion for and understanding of the ego and its needs helps ensure that it is being harnessed in its greatest and most useful capacities — Our greatest and most useful capacity.