The ego is a structure of the self. It is a significant aspect of what gives we humans the “human experience.” In understanding the aspect of self that we call ego it is necessary to at least try to differentiate it from the self, the persona or even the personality. Growing an understanding of our selves and our unique ego is a process through which our narcissistic and neurotic disturbances no longer exert the primary control on internal, subjective perception. When narcissism no longer controls neither what is looking or what is being looked for we stand a chance of understanding a deeper or a more encompassing view of our personhood.
The authentic, spontaneous self–the self that is free from internal criticism and the self which no longer needs its defenses to operate in the world is a more free self that the encumbered self that is perceived by the ego. Words like fulfillment, gratitude, and love and kindness have a better chance of being a part and parcel of our experience if we are free from the neurotic and narcissistic habits that grew with us in our more formative years. At a point in time when we know that we value our selves and we understand the manners in which we can enjoy our creativity and we are free to be ourselves in social and in familiar settings we have passed a gap in the human experience that allows us to be a more comfortable version of ourselves. The knowledge of myself as a loving person, as a person who is defined by my own version of my self concept is a person that enjoys the enjoyment of life. I can be full, rich, happy, content and I can be myself even if other people around me are not in that state. In other words, my self appraisal is based on a solid view of myself having seen my egoic self and having decided that who that egoic self is needs to take its proper place not as the central C.E.O. of my personhood, but simply as a set of educations and habits that grew along with me from infant to adulthood.
This self that can become free of the original egoic concept of me is a wider self into which my ego was born. It is the vast stillness of life that my ego is born into. The ego on the other hand is the psychic structure that is born into the organism as a potential sense of self. The ego is an aspect of me in much the same way that my hand or my foot is a part of me and grows as I grow. Eckhart Tolle gives us a short cut to this understanding. He tells us that the ego is essentially that aspect of us that we recognize as or first name. My ego is name, “Al.”
I am spending time on reviewing this concept of the ego as self in order for us to have a context in which to further our knowledge of who we are by being able to stand back and to witness our ego as it manipulates and negotiates its way through life. Our egos are naturally born into the organism in much the same way that flight is born into a bird. It grows and develops with our bodies and becomes more and more useful as a tool of the human being. It develops in capacity and strength much like the rest of our body grows. It is probably a good idea to refer to it as the “body-ego.’
Both the body and the body ego go through predictable growth spurts. The four month old infant and the four month old ego are in a parallel process of growth, just as the six year old body and the six year old ego are in growth spurts and have different capabilities. Further the twelve and the twenty-one year old body and the twelve and the twenty year old ego are still in the same parallel process. My arms and my legs and my dexterity have different chronological strengths as does my ego as it develops. We measure a boy or a girls growth and watch them grow into different capabilities. These objective statistics are easy to measure even with a simply yard stick and placing a notch on the door way to watch the growth over time. The ego grows–unwatched and un measured except for in its academic achievements.
Essentially, I am saying that both the body and the ego grow gradually and individually over time.
This is not the case with the wider consciousness that both the body and the ego are born into. The vast stillness of consciousness that we are born into does not have any characteristics that change. The stillness that we are born into is virtually static and unchanging. What we are born into is a vast consciousness of stillness that is only energy and as only energy it has no changing characteristics. When I stand back to look at my ego, I stand back always into the same still ness. I may see a different ego or a different spin on my ego, but the place from which I view myself never changes. It has remained the same for my entire life. i can remember looking at my teen-age self and I can remember looking at my mid-life self and I can stand back and look at my older self and in each case I see a different set of characteristics, but I am viewing those characteristics from the exact same dimension each time I look.
Being born is a biological and chemical process that takes place in the wider ethos of energy that is the wider consciousness from which we can access our egos. Consciousness is the location of space in which my body and ego were born. The body through cell division takes on the shape of my unique physical attributes. The subjective psyche shapes and develops as well and it it become the something that we call ourselves. I can recognize me as a different form from my neighbors, my friends, my lovers and even my children. I can see the egoic differences that make up who I call myself to be. I can in short, recognize, “AL.”
We may be asking what is the benefit of this knowing? How can this differentiation be of any help to me in my daily life? I would like to submit that it is entirely this knowing of the difference between the ego and the self that is the key factor to our being able to exit from narcissism and the disturbances of early developmental errors.