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Ryu's Blog

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The Ego

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It seems that the ego has become a rather popular topic these days. The ego is often portrayed as this evil thing inside us that just HAS to be utterly destroyed before we can be "happy". Really now?

Does anyone even know what the ego is and its functions? The ego is pretty much a blanket term that covers innumerable aspects of the human psyche from the instinct to avoid pain and conflict to knowing right from wrong as well as encompassing our psychological make-up which includes our emotions, proclivities, preferences, views, our sense of who we are and knowing that others outside ourselves are individuals as we are. In short the ego IS us.

Naturally some people can get carried away with their sense of worth and operate on the foundation that somehow they are more important than anyone else and often show no consideration for the feelings and value of others. Hence they are often referred to as "egotistical" or varying versions thereof.

The ego is not evil, it is not some separate little monster that we are born with. It is a function of what we call 'the mind", since it does not have a location in the brain and cannot be measured as of yet with our current technology we claim that it is not a function of the brain thus we create an intangible aspect of the brain called "the mind" and relegate all equally intangible aspects to that realm.

There are plenty of religions or belief systems that love to spout the idea that the only way to become "normal" or (my favorite mind job) "enlightened" is to kill off the ego. Have no likes, dislikes, preferences, emotions, no sense of ownership of yourself and so on. The problem with that is since the term "ego" refers to the mental and psychological aspects of the brain, eliminating it means to kill of yourself mentally in all aspects. I would even go so far as to say that human consciousness cannot even function properly if we snuff out everything that makes us "human". To kill off the ego is to destroy what we refer to as "humanity". I fail to see how that is healthy.

Naturally we still need to learn how to interact properly and recognize that the emotions and personalities of others is just as real as our own and therefore we need to learn to be responsible for our own conduct and be cognizant and considerate of others; to act like uncouth barbarians whose idea of diplomacy is to belch as loud as they can then swing a club while rampaging in a pottery shop.

In the end it is about co-existence and cooperation to whatever degree we can while recognizing  not just our needs and desires but that of others, it is what makes us human after all.


P.S: Just to add that I am not saying that other relatively higher life forms on this planet do not possess an ego but for most animals, daily survival takes front and center row so their consciousness is geared for that however you will sometimes find examples of compassion and consideration among many animals too.

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I think the ego as you define it is fundamentally benign, but it is malleable in that its expression can be selectively altered to enhance and reduce various aspects of its nature. What's called enlightenment in my view is not to destroy the ego, but a return to the ego's natural state of balance and harmony within itself.

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It isn't about "killing the ego" ... it's about acknowledging its patterns, taming it, and not being unconsciously / reactively dragged around by it. This mastery is accomplished by cultivating an observing self that sees the ego's mechanics clearly, isn't owned by them, and manages the ego in a healthy way.  

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