There has been a lot of talk about the ego these past two years. The topic became even more popular after Oprah shared Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose, with her viewers in 2007. Since that time, many have come to the conclusion that one’s ego is negative, something to be overcome. Perhaps this is due, in part, to Tolle’s claim that he has no ego.
Let’s talk about ego, it’s forms, and it’s purpose.
First of all, there is what I refer to as the neutral ego. It has to do with one’s own personal preferences. If you prefer to wear a blue shirt instead of one that is lime green, that is a choice made by ego. Your body doesn’t care what color shirt you wear, your ego makes the choice. Furthermore, anything in your life that isn’t required for your survival is there purely because of ego.
Now let’s talk about another kind of ego. It’s the ego that becomes defensive at criticism, feels superior or inferior to others, and causes people react in negative ways towards others or towards situations and events. This type of ego is responsible for prejudice, racism, violence, more than/less than thinking, greed, selfishness, insensitivity, and a host of other feelings acted upon or expressed outwardly towards others. It is also the basis for insecurities, self-mutilation, eating disorders, and all things self-defeating. I would refer to this as “negative ego”.
Lastly, there is positive ego. Positive ego is noticing, but not acting on, negative ego. It is the acknowledgment of negative thoughts and feelings within us. It is a tool which enables us to find the source of that negativity and work through it. It helps us heal the wounded parts of our soul and our psyche.
For instance, if someone points out something about you that causes you to feel anger, excuse yourself and sit with that anger for a while. Allow yourself to feel into it and follow it back to the first time you experienced that same or similar criticism in your past. Look at that criticism and be completely honest with yourself. Is there any truth in it? Sometimes we become angry when someone else points out something about us that we don’t wish to acknowledge. At other times, negative messages we’ve created about ourselves or past memories are triggered.
When we use ego in positive ways, it brings wholeness to our being. It creates positive changes by prompting us to work through negative emotions and outdated beliefs that no longer serve us. Always keep in mind that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and ego is part of this experience. We are not here to conquer our ego, we are here to master it.