Is the end of EGO the start of PEACE?
Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín,
Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain
We very often use the word ego. Generally we do it to say that someone has exaggerated self-esteem: he has a big ego. It may wish to indicate that the person seems very self-confident, they do not pay attention to others, always believe they are right, explain everything to you, feel above others, etc. And what is more it suggests that ego is something bad. However, we all have an ego. We all feel different from others and we notice it in simple things we do like criticising others or being surprised by things that others do or say and that seem incorrect or absurd to us. So, firstly we have a physical sensation that comes from our bodies, via our senses which, in themselves, we see as a structure that makes us different from others. Later, on passing through our family, school, society, relationships, etc. we accumulate ideas about ourselves. Based on all this, mainly very basic fears, memories and assumed thoughts, we start to form an image of how we are and end up assuming that we are all these things. We are like this, act like this, think this or that, feel a particular way, etc. In the end I identify, unconsciously, with all that I have learned or inherited from society. Ego is not a bad thing, but it is a mistake for us to confuse ourselves with it. Imagine that I am a person who drives a vehicle and I do everything without getting out of it. I end up confusing the vehicle with myself. An ego helps us to live in human society, but I am not just a vehicle, am I? If society makes me think that the vehicles to be admired are those that are new, gleaming and fast and I believe that I am not, I will try to look like that, I will constantly be improving my vehicle so that it looks new; I will accelerate hard to leave others behind and so that I feel strong; if someone insults my vehicle I will be offended and saddened or I will want to take revenge, I will suffer if it gets a scratch. So, I become obsessed with the vehicle to the extent that I forget that I am more than just the vehicle. As a result of that confusion our ego-vehicle is transformed into something that takes over the reins of the life we lead. Our ego-vehicle is full of ideas that we have learned and rules that we adopt, ideals that we accept and the many fears we harbour. To the extent that we confuse ourselves with the vehicle, we live driven by fears and the expectation of defending our ego from any scratch. If I did not fear being harmed, would I be offended, would I feel humiliated? Ego is very cowardly. It does not stop complaining and protesting. It always does the impossible to emerge unscathed from any scrape. By always putting a dressing on before a wound takes place, it foresees calamities that may happen, it warns us of dangers, if we have a plan that strays from the norm by telling us things like “this will not turn out well” , “don’t get involved, it’s not your problem and you are going to get your fingers burned,” “don’t go there, that country has strange customs,” “the men/women are going to hurt you, ”what they want is to take your money from you,” “ you do not know how to deal with problems”… in short it is as if you were a strict, scared grandmother who does not let us live in peace between her scolding and apparent signs of affection. We already said that the ego, I, is not something bad, but because it is full of fears it holds us prisoners of our prejudices, beliefs and other stories it has learned. The only way of regaining our freedom is to put the ego in its place. Observing how it behaves, observing what it whispers in our ear, observing how it worries us because of what it imagines or remembers. Observing the ego in action we can free ourselves from its restrictions and this gives us space to breathe. This may seem quite strange to you and I do not insist that you believe it. I suggest that you try it yourself and observe that when you pay attention to what happens inside you a measure of peace fills you. If you take over the reins of your ego with kindness, the struggle will cease that it constantly keeps alive in order to protect you from any conceivable issue. It is not about eliminating your ego, but it is necessary to put it in its place and not to pay it too much attention, since that is where peace begins. I just need to be aware of my mistake in confusing the vehicle with the person who should drive the vehicle.