The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ego as the opinion that you have about yourself. In psychology, the ego is considered to be part of the mind that senses and adapts to the real world. In the context of this course, we view ego as a mental structure comprised of a set of belief systems that start with the pronoun “I” – I am a student, I am a father, I am a teacher, I am a husband, etc. As such, it gives you an identity, but you must understand that the sense of self derived from the ego is illusory – meaning it doesn’t really exist. You are not your stories or attributes, but someone who is conscious of them. This is a hard truth for most people to swallow, but it is absolutely necessary to accept if you are to achieve long-lasting joy and success in your life. For now, just accept that you are not your ego.
Imagine yourself standing in front of a mirror. Suddenly, your body disappears and all you see is a reflection of the room behind you, but you still have self-awareness and are able to think. Since you don’t have a body, you can’t talk and no one can hear you move or even breathe. Imagine yourself in this state. What would happen to all the ideas you have about yourself, your beliefs, your sense of self-worth, your life story, your mortality, etc.?
Unfortunately, the ego is not just a set of programmed beliefs derived from childhood conditioning, but an entity in its own right with the capacity to act automatically and instinctively according to these belief systems. In our default unaware state, the ego intercepts every signal we receive from the outside world, evaluates it through the prism of its belief systems as threatening or nonthreatening and reacts accordingly without any conscious input from us. If you don’t believe this, try to observe yourself for a day as much as you can, especially during the times when you get angry or stressed out. Since no person in their right mind would consciously choose stress and anger, there must be some internal mechanism responsible for triggering these emotions. The act of observation brings awareness to the ego and takes the energy away from its internal unconscious processes.
Please stop and think about it. This is one of the most important lessons in this course! By bringing your awareness to the ego, you immediately gain more power than ninety-nine percent of the people in this world! You can think of the ego as a computer program that runs in your mind. By bringing your awareness to it, you take back control of computer resources so you can decide when and how you want the program to run.
– Paragraph out of a “Understanding The Ego” Discourse 8 of a Lifework Course
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