Updated: Feb 9, 2022
Who are you when all the things that feed your ego fall away?
So, as a result of observing a number of recent "coincidences" in my practice and personal life, I was hurled face-first into the process of building a workshop on conscious uncoupling with a week-long break-up healing intensive immersion. The research for these has me up to my eyeballs in the deepest, darkest shadows of breakups: EGO.
Not coincidentally, I'm sure - I wrote the other week about ego death and the idea of losing my long + lovingly curated social media presence as a rude awakening and slap in the face to consider who I am when who I was is no longer staring me back in the face.
To understand how/why partnerships crumble, I've fallen down the rabbit hole of detangling ID, EGO, and SUPEREGO.... and EGO especially. This tiny little 3-letter bastard of a word entirely responsible for shattering one of the most powerful 12-letter words in our life: RELATIONSHIP.
EVERY relationship that has ever ended outside of physical death ends with one cause of death: ego. Prove me wrong.
I remember, over a decade ago, when one of my wisest and most-admired teachers handed me Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth and told me that until I read this book she no longer wishes to hold space for my grievances and complaints about life. It was a harsh lesson, and I wouldn't get through that book for another few years after that - but when I did get through it it changed my life 180°. Actually, I don't think anything has ever changed my life more than those pages. That book set the stage for all the subsequent growing I did: India, Nepal, Cambodia and beyond... none of the lessons I learned - from the feet of Buddhist monks to the lessons of Andean Priestesses - nothing would have sunk in quite the same way had I not read that book first.
Tolle taught me that I am not the voice in my head - and that was the cornerstone of every subsequent lesson I learned. It was so pivotal, in fact, that I turned that book into mandatory reading for every future romantic relationship (and even some friendships). It was such a powerful set of lessons, more powerful than his "Power Of Now" or some other cornerstone reads for me like War Of Art and Zen And The Art Of Happiness - all were transformative but nothing like this.
As he so eloquently put it, "The moment you become aware of the ego in you it strictly speaking is no longer the ego but just an old, conditioned mind pattern. Ego implies unawareness. Awareness and ego cannot coexist." And, I mean, this is a big fuxking lesson - that the voice inside your head isn't you, and the idea that you are in fact the observer / listener of the voice. The voice is your Ego working tirelessly to satisfy your ID (if we're getting Freudian about it) - according to his psychoanalytic theory of personality:
The id is the personality component made up of unconscious psychic energy that works to satisfy basic urges, needs, and desires. Id is driven strictly by the pleasure principle - our desire for immediate gratification (rooted in the fact that we live to seek pleasure and avoid pain).
Balance happens when we evolve and mature to a point of recognizing that sometimes reality and outside variables require us to endure pain and defer gratification. EGO understands that we can't live in the ID and identifies with the reality principle (also driven by pleasure but filtered through reality: deferral of gratification and, at times, open acceptance of diminished pleasure). Ego is built upon reason and sanity, able to look at and analyze the real world - while the id is driven solely by internal instinct - our inner screaming toddler that wants food and sex and to be loved and stroked and cuddled - and IT WANTS IT NOW!
Weirdly, the ego can't be fully detangled from the id... the ego is the hand that extends into the world to satisfy the ids needs.
As if ID and EGO aren't muddled enough, there's also the Super-Ego - crippling guilt and shame as a result of impossible-to-satisfy ethics and moral virtue... but that goes beyond the scope of my distillation here.
"Relationships never die a gentle, natural death. They are violently murdered by attitude behaviour, ego, or ignorance."
Every single damn unhappiness we face in this life is related to our ego, its expectations, its aggression, and its dominance in our thoughts.
So, why do we have an ego? It isn't just a pain in our ass put here to make us miserable... it actually serves some pretty important roles in our life:
... but can you see, from the list above, where it becomes problematic? BIG YES. So... ego protects us from pain of the past... BUT.... doesn't growth / learning / evolution do that as well? trust in new circumstances and our conscious ability to reframe or reexperience? - thus putting power back in our own hands rather than defaulting to Ego's primitive message? Same goes for familiar patterns. Predictability and safety are not synonymous - just read a tiny bit into the Mother Wound or Trauma Bonds and you'll understand - ESPECIALLY how this feeds into the addiction of thoughts/feelings/emotions from childhood.
That's basically what I'm figuring out these days.... once upon a time I thought the whole concept of "inner child" was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard... yet I'm consciously and intelligently recognizing these days that EVERYTHING that keeps us suffering in our adult life stems from unconscious / unprocessed patterns from our earliest years.
If there is ANYTHING we're struggling with today in our adult life: physical disease, mental illness, relationship dissatisfaction, anger / sadness / depression, chronic stress - there is not a single one of these that isn't linked to unresolved childhood and/or ancestral grief. So if EGO is inextricably linked to ID, and ID is our innermost childlike state - entirely unfulfilled and impossible to satisfy - it's pretty clear to see how it ends up being the culprit of every damn unfulfilled need, every unsatisfied desire, every gaping whole of sadness and adult grief. We THINK the problem rests in the partner who isn't giving us what we NEED, what we "DESERVE" - when everything actually distills back down to that MF self-driven responsibility to "re-parent our inner child". There it is. The bombshell that WE ourselves are solely responsible for establishing our needs, identifying our expectations (and dealbreakers) AND THEN (as if that wasn't enough work already) - communicating those to our partners in life in such a way that they have the conscious opportunity to play along or step out of the ring.
Man... I get it.. that quote I once heard at so many of the weddings I planned: "Love is both an art and a fortunate accident". And truly, first and foremost, it begins inside of us. I have been on my path of the pursuit of enlightenment for a long time now... a decade at least... and I've died a LOT of ego deaths ...over and over (spoiler alert: they do NOT get easier the more of them you go through) - but if there's nothing else I can say, it's that disidentification with ego is a PRACTICE. Meaning... you will do it, and try, and sometimes succeed (YAY) and sometimes fail (FUXK) and it's a cyclical (albeit upward) spiral of learning, unlearning, holding on, letting go, wash/rinse/repeat.
Here Are 5 Ways You Can Consciously Counteract EGO:
Disidentify yourself from the voice in your head. The voice is your ego, you are the observer. You can ultimately (with practice) control what the voice says.
2. Slowly begin taking full, conscious responsibility for your emotional wellbeing (or not). You cannot control someone's actions, but you can entirely control your response.
3. Repeat regularly: "Peoples' behaviours are about them, not about me." Begin to detach from your own expectations of someone else's behaviour and allow yourself to identify where the need is rooted.
4. Recognize that the Ego isn't your ally - rather it's a childlike, impulsive, manipulative, pain-driven mindset that wants to be special. It accomplishes its goal for being special by other'ing others and making itself superior, or by simply being especially unhappy.
5. Everything you think you NEED - that's ego. It tricks us into thinking we're empty and need to be filled with love, strength, success, happiness. The fact is that our whole, raw, authentic self is already entirely complete and requires nothing more.
BONUS: 6. Read Tolle's A New Earth
A few additional notes for those extra-keen to overcome:
Some powerful parting thoughts?
And if you'd like to join a virtual workshop on overcoming ego in relationships, just shoot me a note and I'll send you an invite link.
~ with big love to you all,