Dealing with Ego

Imagine someone egotistical… how are they like? I predict you have the image of a flaming jerk in your mind. What does it mean to be egotistical? How is it that some people have more ego than others? Following is how I will break it down.

Ego is a product of thoughts. It is a composite of all of our thoughts that project into a self-image of what we think we ought to be. One may think he or she needs to be confident, pretty, macho, skinny, full-bosom’ed, wealthy, know-it-all, normal, non-conforming, etc… Take a moment to look inside yourself to see the qualities and attributes you think you should have. All together, that creates an image of what you think you should be like. That is your ego.

Ego exists in all of us, and it is not necessarily negative. It is okay to have ego. Saying ego is a bad thing is like saying the fact that we have emotions and thoughts is a bad thing.

Most non-physical pain and suffering spring from the fact that the ego becomes threatened. The ego can be threatened by external attacks or through your internal dialogues, where you struggle because you feel you must be exactly like your ego but you are not. Negative emotions are produced in the process, such as anger, resentment, fear, envy, and jealousy. However, it does not have to be like that, with the pain and suffering.

Imagine someone said something to insult you, or perhaps a rumor going around about you. Something to the effect of “You are worthless,” or “You are an ass.”

Do you feel hurt?
How would you feel about it?
In reality, do you become worthless?

You will probably feel hurt and angry, even though it did not make you worthless all of a sudden or take a physical chunk of you away. If anything, it is part of the ego that is lost. Your ego says that you are worth a lot of value, and as this person challenges that, you become angry.

In such a scenario, there are 2 outcomes(choices). You can choose to react purely base on your ego and the resulting emotions. Or, you can choose to react objectively and optimally with the knowledge of your emotions and thoughts. It is obvious which choice can provide a better ending. Hence, ego produces pain and suffering for you when you react to situation base entirely on your ego and your emotions. And you do so because you may yet observe your own ego, and it becomes out of control when you act like you are it.

Now that we are clear about ego being a matter of thoughts and emotions, dealing with ego is the same as dealing with emotions and thoughts. Sorry for being repetitive, but we learn through repetition :)

Once again, the key lies in awareness. As stated, ego is not a bad thing per se. The goal is not to get rid of ego, just like we should never aim to remove or suppress our emotions and thoughts. You must embrace your ego as your emotions and thoughts. At the same time, you are aware of their existence. Once you start becoming more and more aware, you learn that you ego is not you.

In the above scenario, once you notice what you are thinking, the anger can go away because you know the other person did nothing to you, although he did something to your ego. And because your ego is just what you feel and you think, there is no reason to be so dramatic. Unless you feel you are very very important and are at the center of the universe… which is another form of ego.

For more details, please read Dealing with Emotions.

As a personal observation, a lot of thing is out of whack today is due to out-of-control ego. More and more so, the society puts a huge emphasis on monetary and materialistic wealth. THE RULE is that only with abundant or excessive wealth should you be considered successful, and ONLY THEN you can be happy. What craziness.

But as a result, people think they need to be rich. They HAVE TO be rich. Their ego is a rich and “successful” person, and without being aware, people act base solely on such ego. As a result, people do whatever it takes to make money and often do terrible things to the environment and other people. It is truly a sad state of affair, and I studder watching people continue to act upon such runaway-train-like ego. If they keep doing it, a train wreck is simple inevitability.

2 Responses to “Dealing with Ego

  • 1
    April 28th, 2008 21:55

    Great post. The ego enables us to do a lot of things, but it also causes a lot of pain. I’ve read some Buddhist texts about abolishing the ego to remove pain, which made sense from logical perspective, but didn’t seem quite exactly right.

    I haven’t formed a good conclusion yet about this ‘ego’ thing, but I’m continuing to think about it. I just realize that it is good to be aware of it, and be in control of it, rather than the other way around.

Leave a Response