What is Ego?
There are number of interpretations regarding what ego is, so I am going to tell you my own interpretation, which I find easy to understand and useful.
“Ego is an intelligent part of our conscious and unconscious mind that connects us to all self-learning functions, be they physical or mental, both simple and complex.”
There are many interpretations of ego that are too simplistic (just the “bad” bits) or too complex – breaking ego down into sub parts and going into endless detail as to what those bits do, but as far as I am concerned this simple one line description should allow you to understand how important and integral to self ego is.
Ego is both a tool of self and it is also a friend in that it can actually perform many tasks much quicker than we can by thinking about each individual step of the task that needs to be accomplished.
For example, when we learn to ride a bicycle we are actually teaching ego to take over the majority of the cycling functions. At first we have to think about each individual task but in pretty quick time we no longer need to think about a lot of the basics or riding. We are able to just without thinking where to shift our weight when turning corners for example. This is because ego takes over many of those basic tasks for us and we no longer need to consciously guide our body in order to co-ordinate a manoeuvre.
Ego also automates many complex thought functions, for example, when we are placed in a one to one situation with another person that demands quick responses, often it is ego that takes over our responses to that conversation using its knowledge of similar responses that we have used in the past. If we had to think for ourselves during most conversations then our interaction would be slow.
It is worth noting that ego also connects our intelligence to physical functions and it is through management of the ego that people are able to perform such feats as slowing down heart rate etc. So it can be seen that working with ego can be highly beneficial to both the body and the mind.
In emergency situations ego can actually take over control of both body and mind to deal the situation. This is why we train ourselves and why for example prior to an important conversation we rehearse what might be said, it is a way of programming or teaching our ego how we would like that conversation to flow. This leaves us freer to think about what is actually being said by the other people.
So you can see from this just how important ego is.
Let’s understand how ego picks up these bad habits. How does ego learn and how do we
interact with it?
Ego is a self-learning system, it observes the world around us, including inputs such as TV, parents, friends, teachers etc. It also learns from books and other media, for all of our waking hours it is constantly observing, cataloguing, analysing and storing the behaviour of others for future reference.
Whenever we come across a situation that we have not dealt with before, ego will predict it and will find information within our memory relating to possible ways of responding, and it will suggest what it considers to be the best possibility through internal thoughts. Ego will choose this “best” option based on it’s knowledge of “self” – behaviour patterns that we have found acceptable in the past.
Thus it can be seen that our thoughts are not always ours and that the pattern of behaviour that we establish for ourselves determines future thought flow. This is why it is important to surround yourself with positive role models and sources of information. It is also why we need to understand that the thought flows that we have need to be monitored and modified, even rejected; they are only suggestions and it is up to us to observe and to teach ego the sort of person we wish to be.
For most people that do not understand this, who have negative role models around them it means they themselves will also become negative by unwittingly copying the behaviour of others.
This is the basis as to why we need to be mindful – we need to hold in our mind a strong concept of who we are and want to be and we need to make sure that all thoughts reflect that understanding of self.