Do you have a big ego? Small ego? Are you egoless?
Do you need to kill your ego? Is it the enemy? Does it keep you from reaching enlightenment.
To read a lot of spiritual authors these days, you'd think ego was the devil. In fact, I've heard the ego equated to devil by one author.
But what the hell are we talking about anyway?
What is ego?
Ego can be a hard topic to tackle, because there's not much agreement on the word. Let's take a look at a few definitions. Then I'll give you mine.
According to Freudian psychoanalysis, the ego is the part of the mind which mediates between the unconscious and conscious. It seeks pleasure and avoids pain, but tries to do so realistically. It takes the outside world into account.
In spiritual terms, the word "ego" has been used many ways. Generally it's used to denote one's sense of identity as separate from God, or the Universe, or whatever superior force you believe in.
Often, in common usage, ego is used as a synonym for an inflated sense of self-importance. "That guy think so much of himself, when he drives his ego has to ride shotgun."
What's my take?
Let's use a less confusing approach. Ego is your conscious idea of self. It's who you think you are when you think about who you are.
But here's the secret: No matter who or what you think you are - you're not that.
Ego is just a map. It's a collection of ideas, and a mere collection of ideas cannot possibly encompass all that you are.
Bit this doesn't mean it's a useless concept.
When is ego useful?
I don't know about you, but I have to live my life. I have kids to feed, places to go. If I spent my entire life as undifferentiated consciousness - I might miss a few appointments.
Let's look at ego as a part of you. I think that all parts of you have a useful purpose or intention. Yes, even the yucky stuff.
Imagine if I go to pick up my daughter's from school and the receptionist asks me a question:
"Are you John Moore?"
"No, there is no I. There is a field in which the consciousness of this communication arises?"
"Um, hold on, I'm calling the police."
So yeah - sometimes having an individualized sense of self is useful.
The 7th principle of Huna is PONO - Effectiveness is the measure of truth. I love that one.
When is ego not useful?
When self concept becomes a problem is when it becomes warped and inflexible.
Think of the narcissist and the sociopath as extreme examples. In less extreme cases, people become disconnected from others, and from the world around them.
You can see this in the warfare and the environmental destruction around us.
When self-esteem is very low, people tend to replace their individual identities with group identities. This promotes the problems with racism, nationalism, sexism, and all the other isms.
Keep ego flexible?
Wouldn't it be nice if you could change who you were? And wouldn't it be nicer if you knew how to do it the best way for each situation.
Psychologists call it being "role adaptive."
Between telling fart jokes, playing with my kids, and writing software for fun, I may practice a shamanic journey to the afterlife.
None of these things is inconsistent with who I am. None of them is in violation of my core values.
I can really enjoy sex AND really enjoy leading spiritual practices.
The key is allowing yourself the space to be who you are in the moment. Make sure to stay consistent with your core values.
Also, it is important to realize that you are always integrally connected to everything and everyone in the universe.