The Ego Problem
This post touches two concepts. The first concept is the ego. The second concept is comparison. I think these two are correlated.
First of all the ego. Does it really exist? If you read a few of my posts, you know that I think it doesn’t. I believe the ego is a construct in our minds, built from memories, impressions, experiences and ideas that one has about oneself.
And now, consider the previous sentence to be completely wrong.
Let’s look at the sentence more closely. I wrote that an ego is an image one has about oneself. If there is something that has an image of itself, what would that something be? In other words, how can you have an image of yourself, when you are yourself and yourself is you? There is no observer, and there is no observed.
Let’s look at this a bit closer. When you analyse your thinking (which is a paradox) you see that the thinking is sequential to the other things that you do. You cannot think about your thinking at the same time you are thinking. Impossible. Nor can thinking happen when the brain is busy with something else, like dealing with pain or acute fear. Everything is happening at the same level, sequentially.
So, why bother? The problem with the ego is that we cherish it. We cherish something that is not real. We cherish an abstraction. The more it’s emphasized, the more we feel isolated and afraid. The more we feel isolated and afraid, the more we cherish the ego. I’m sure you see the predicament we are in. Hate, guilt, remorse, fear, are all products of the ego.
So what do we do now?
So how do we let go of the ego? Well, fair warning… it’s not going to be easy. But, given the problems it causes, we should probably at least give it a try. Let’s start at the start. Where does ego come from? What is the essential concept that creates a chasm in you, resulting in “I”, “myself” and “my body”, when all three are one.
I believe, in essence, the culprit is comparison.
Comparison creates isolation. Whenever you compare yourself to someone, the imaginary ego is further articulated. When you compare yourself to a “successful” person, you will feel unsuccessful. When you compare yourself to an unsuccessful person you will feel successful. In both cases, there is a clear separation between you and the other person, which creates isolation. Not only is this anecdotal and useless thinking, it’s also a great way to divorce yourself from reality. Separate the ‘I’ from everything else.
I believe that isolation, or loneliness, is our biggest fear.
Unfortunately, the practice of ego-definition gives us easy pleasure. But in the wrong way, and on the short term.
Watch any singing contest, beauty pageant, sports match, or any other ‘competitive’ dynamic and it’s easy to identify with the winner. It is our mirror neurons that do this. We feel what they feel, as empathetic beings. It’s like a little shot of nicotine to a smoker, but in this case it’s a little shot of ego to the mind.
It’s a dangerous game, because ultimately the game of comparison is not a game we’ll win in the long run. We get older, we get less attractive, as we grow more successful we are confronted with yet more successful people (the ladder climbs ever higher). If you get better at playing guitar, you know what you realize? Just how much more you have to learn, just how much better the masters really are.
To let go of our egos, we need to let go of the comparative dynamic which enables them to exist. Don’t strive for success, because it’s relative. Careful of striving for beauty, because it’s transient. Instead, strive for contentment. Maybe the only way to get rid of the ego is to starve it out.