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Understanding the ego and its impact on overall well-being
"The only person that holds you back from being truly happy is yourself." How many times have you heard that one? What does it actually mean when someone says something like this? Well, it starts with our thoughts about various situations in everyday life and what is normally called the Ego in Western Society. It is what Buddha referred to as attachment. It is what Jesus meant when he stated "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
The ego, in it's most simplistic form, can be identified as a false sense of self. What does that really mean, though? One could look at the ego as self-image instead of one's true self. It is the conscious mind. The ego does not simply observe situations and allow them to pass but instead tries to rationalize and compare everything to one's personal sense of self. For example, if a woman sees another attractive woman and thinks "Wow, she's pretty!" it is just an observation. When the ego gets involved, however, it can become "Wow, she's pretty! I wish I had that kind of figure!" or "I used to look that good, but look at me now!" This can also work in the opposite sense, such as "I look so much better than her!"
Instead of allowing situations to come and go effortlessly, the ego personalizes everything to one's false sense of self. This leads to us becoming not only individualized, but also to us creating expectations. Expectations are the ego's way of measuring and confirming it's beliefs. If expectations are met, then the ego will be temporarily satisfied until expectations are raised due to one becoming bored. If expectations are not met, then the mind scrambles to rationalize what happened and causes one to become disappointed or surprisingly happy. Then the ego will adjust it's expectations based on the previous result. When one attaches to their thoughts and the ego, one can never be content.
This process of the ego adjusting it's expectations will continue without interruption until one can objectively view a situation without personalizing it (free of ego). When one continually adjusts their expectations, they can never be satisfied or content (at least not for long). This is why, for example, some professional athletes who already makes millions of dollars demand higher salaries and even go as far as sitting out games until a mutual agreement is reached. This is why certain attractive celebrities never look good enough and continue to try and lose weight or get plastic surgery. The ego is never satisfied for long.
The ego is very elusive and difficult to detect when one is attached to their thoughts. It takes observing one's thoughts with no attachment to the thoughts to understand what one's true self consists of: The act of being, "I am." This state is somewhat indescribable, but one will feel lighter, calm, and completely at peace. One will trust intuition instead of thoughts, and one will be completely in the moment without becoming attached to thoughts of the past or the future. One sees no reason to judge and loves all unconditionally. An ego-free mind, body, and spirit loves everyone and everything without judgment. A good way to center one's self and detach from thought is to focus on one's breathing. The inhaling and exhaling of breath is the most natural process human beings do at all times. To concentrate on breathing is to become one with the true self. This is why practices such as meditation focus on breathing.
In the next blog update, I will use specific examples of how the ego manifests in our everyday lives and what we can do to return to our natural state of peace, acceptance, and unconditional love for all people and things.