Dictionary.com defines ego as “the ‘I’ or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.” One of my favorite authors, Eckhart Tolle, in his book “A New Earth,” describes a major aspect of the human dysfunction as “ego” or an “illusory sense of self” based on unconscious identification with one’s memories and thoughts. In short, it’s the voice in the head.
Distinguishing self from others … illusory sense of self …
Ego is not only a barrier in getting things done in working with others. It can cause hurdles or delays in making changes for your own well-being.
This concept comes up frequently in my client work: people postpone getting started because they feel like they should have been able to make whatever change already on their own. Or, they are so overwhelmed by the possibility of their failure, and more crippling, the meaning that they place on that potential outcome, it keeps them stuck in their tracks. Further down the road, when in the midst of making change, what we say about ourselves (and many people have a habit of saying less than flattering things) can also stifle us in moving forward.
Byron Katie, author of “Loving What Is” and creator of a process for questioning thoughts called The Work, offers a powerful perspective on this notion: “A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.”
How do you begin to release the ego?
Let me start by saying this is more like a lifelong practice versus something you can change overnight. It begins with noticing. Catching yourself when the voice in your head is judging you or someone else. Observing, and having a curiosity about it. Maybe even chuckling about your observations from time to time. Use your moments of observing and catching yourself as a trigger to simply be present. As Katie says, ask yourself “Who would you be without that thought?”
Rather than living and working within a story that we have concocted in our minds, releasing the ego allows us to live and work with what IS, in this moment, right in front of us. It’s akin to looking at a situation with fresh eyes – no story, identity or past habitual perspective to hold us back or limit our perceived options.
Consider what your work, home and family relationships would be like, if less of your ego were involved? If you were just absolutely present, without judgment, bringing your best, at this moment, to the current task?
Maybe you’ll get the deep satisfaction of full engagement and achieving something greater.