The ego tends to get a bad rap. Hell, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my ego, and have written many articles bemoaning the fact (I call this one from 2008 The Dragon), all the while being securely wrapped up in it. Culturally, it seems like the more we move away from religious to psychological symbolism, the ego has become something of a scapegoat, like the snake in the garden of Eden. Well, like everything else, my understanding of the ego has evolved, and I now see the ego as a great asset on the road to self-discovery, albeit somewhat maligned and misaligned.
When we’re born, and as our psyche develops, the ego becomes the center of our conscious mind and forms our sense of self, which I wrote about in A Tale of Misplaced Loyalty (which holds up surprisingly well as I look back on it). The orientation of the ego is to always look out into the world and make choices which are usually based upon seeking out what feels good, and seeking to avoid what feels bad. This mechanism is important to the survival of the human organism.
The ego is an amazingly detailed, focused, refined, and specific extension of consciousness, which also makes it quite fragile and sensitive. It’s the most finely-tuned instrument we have, yet we tend to abuse it. Before reaching the ego stage, consciousness is archetypal and non-physical in nature. The ego is consciousness actualizing in the physical world and becoming self-aware. It’s an important part of the Self’s awakening. Without our ego, we wouldn’t be able to figure out what’s right and wrong for us, what we prefer, or what direction we want to go in life.
Remember that in the analogy of navigating emotions, the ego is the navigator of the ship. I don’t know if we can create a fully conscious artificial intelligence without also giving it a self-centered and self-interested ego. Well, maybe we could, but it wouldn’t be human without selfishness, which may or may not be a good thing, but I digress.
The ego is like the skin of our soul, and the personality is like the skin of our ego. We say someone is shallow if they only look at the surface of people, and not at their underlying personality. In a similar vein, if we only look at someone’s personality (including our own), we’re not seeing the inner spirit of the person. It’s easy to argue with people and judge them based on their personalities, but it’s limiting and ultimately a waste of time.
This article is mostly in the “Thoughts” Life Area, which may be a foreshadowing of next week’s theme. I have lots more to say about this topic (how egotistical of me).