How and when does our ego feed itself?
Ego means “I”. It is the mental symbol of how we see ourselves physically mentally and emotionally.”
It is our immaterial self-entity and self-image hidden deep in our subconscious and emerging during emotional storms..
Our self-entity is crucial to survive and function at all levels.
It is the root of “I want, I don’t want, I am fighting.”
To control, to enjoy, to hate, to analyze, to judge, etc…are all actions & emotions driven, by definition, from our self-centered ego.
Despite being immaterial our ego, like anything else, needs some sort of energy.
Where is this immaterial energy coming from?
Being essentially self-centered, our emotions and feelings are back-feeding our ego.
He (ego) loves to generate feelings/emotions because, not only they boost and provide food to the ego but also because we believe –subconsciously- that our emotions/feelings define our identity as much as our biological and social identity in our day-to-day routine.
Our ego lives and feeds itself from the permanent emotional roller coaster made of “I want”, “I don’t want”, my anger, my fear, my nostalgia, my guilt, my past, my future, my thoughts, my pleasure, my pain, my judgments, my expectation, me vs. the others and many many more “I, me, myself, mine”.
Here are classical day-to-day examples:
“I am angry at you because you did not tell me….”
This anger is, by definition, self-centered – this you and not some body else- and this anger represents also the energy fuelling the ego. It cannot be otherwise. The more angry we are, the more ego-driven self-centered we are. If we did not have an ego, anger would not exist and we would not react with emotion.
“ I am upset because I did not get what I want”
“I am fearful about the future”
“ I regret the past. It was more fun those days” Etc…..No point to list zillions of examples.
They are all identical: ego triggers + and – emotion, + & – emotion feeds and boosts the ego and self-image.
This is a vicious Catch22. This is why it is so difficult not to fall in this trap. We all do.
In fact, the more angry I am, the better my ego feels. All of this is subconscious.
So, how to get out this vicious circle?
Shunryu Suzuki gave his usual ironic answer to a student asking, “ How much ego do we need? He replied: “Just enough to cross the street without being hit by a bus”. Typical Zen irony
Like for anything else, a proper balance between too much and not enough ego is the solution.
It has been showed over and over that huge ego and not enough of it do not bring happiness but rather suffering.
When you are reacting emotionally or when negative feelings are popping out of your mind, try to pause and become the observer rather than being a victim trying to fight back. It means do not react.
It means saying to yourself: “OK, I am accepting”. Accepting does not mean to be weak or coward but to control the emotional hurricane, which will blow you away.
Easy to say but very hard to master because our emotional brain centers react 20 to 30 times faster than our rational one localized in our prefrontal cortex. Mindfulness is the tool to use. Watch w/o judgment,
w/o decision. Learn to mind the mind. If you can do it for 1 or 2 min. you will notice that the sudden emotional flame is down.
If we react and fight about something, we are adding fuel to your ego. This is, again, the vicious circle.
Our Western culture is brainwashing us about having a strong personality, to fight, to resist and to win all the time. Eastern culture is far less dogmatic, more philosophical, and, probably somewhat wiser.
Like for anything else in Zen philosophy, the ego is like a coin. It has 2 sides and w/o 2 sides the coin or the ego cannot exist. A proper balance between the good ego and the bad must be achieved.
The good one is giving us joy, the bad one …pain. As long as we accept this balance, we are dong OK.
THANK YOU Oakville Zen Team