The ego gets in the way for many of us from being happy and especially for growth. A lot of us don't even understand what the ego is, as it is a very deep topic, so I'm going to give it my best shot in trying to explain it.
The ego is basically that part of your personality that identifies with self. It is that part of your brain that says “I am this and I am that. I am catholic. I am Australian. I am a liberal.” It is that strict belief system that ultimately makes you have very little room for growth. It’s the insecure part of you that convinces you that you’re awesome. It is that part of you that justifies everything you do, no matter how horrible. It is that part of you that convinces you that you're special and separate from everyone else. That part of you that love conflict and misery, and prevents you from truly being happy. And the worst part of all is that the ego is so defensive that it will try very hard to prevent you from listening to reason. It HATES being wrong so it will argue with the other person endlessly trying to prove them wrong. So when someone comes along and tells you some new information that conflicts with your current belief system, the ego will create a resistance that rejects such information. It will react very negatively to any new tips, advice, ideas or point of views, and immediately say things like “NO YOUR’E WRONG! THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT. THAT’S STUPID, FUCK YOU, etc.”
It is very important for the ego to do all these things. Its survival depends on it. So we go through our lives defending this thing and by doing so we create a lot of destruction in our lives that hinders our growth.
According to Taoism these are the 6 main teachings from the ego (AKA the False Self):
1. You are what you have
2. Who I am is what I do
3. I am what others think of me
4. Who I am is separate of everyone else
5. I am separate from what is missing from my life
6. Who I am is separate from God
I’m not saying that the ego is purely a bad thing; I mean without it, we as a human species couldn’t have survived this long. What I’m trying to say is that we must recognize it and not let it get out of control. When the ego gets out of control it creates war. It creates enemies. It destroys relationships with our partners and families. The ego is closely tied in to fear, so when you accept new information and point of views, it means that your world will change, and the ego is scared of change. It HATES change because it is identified with your current reality, the here and now.
So the next time we have an egoic reaction to someone or something, just be conscious of it. The ego is like a little kid that just wants attention, so don’t resist it, just be aware of it with an objective level of consciousness and awareness, without any form of judgement. Don’t get frustrated with your ego just take a minute to think and be like “Ah ok I see that was my ego reaction, so how do I really feel?” This means take a step back and observe and be aware of what you’re reacting negatively against before you lose your shit. So just by being conscious of the ego, it will help dissolve it.
I remember when I was younger I used to really get fired up about arguments all the time. I always loved arguing about Xbox Vs PlayStation, South Park Vs Family Guy, Soccer Vs AFL, Liberals Vs Labor, and other stupid pointless arguments I used to partake in. I remember getting extremely mad and thinking that PlayStation owners were stupid because they didn’t agree with me. I didn’t even own a PlayStation so how the fuck would I even know? This was because I let the egoic reaction take over me without even realizing it. I didn’t take the time and even consider the other person’s side because I was so invested in my own egoic reality. We talked about this earlier, how the ego is so scared of change that it will not even consider the other person being right. And yes I realise how stupid it is arguing over what video game console is better, I was a kid okay leave me alone.
So be conscious, stop complaining and be grateful. The ego loves to complain; even about things we can’t change. I used to complain about the weather all the time, even though I don’t have the power to change it, so why complain right? Complaining just keeps us locked in this negative hell hole. This is when things like self-disgust and self-hatred manifests – and the ego absolutely loves it, this self-imposed separation. I used to separate myself from everyone all the time while self-sabotaging my happiness. Why would I do this other than the reason of wanting to be miserable? – Even if it was unconsciously.
Gratitude is a big ego killer. What I’m putting into practice is writing down 3 things I’m grateful for each day. What this does over time is literally rewire your brain, so that you eventually start to look at the positive side of things, thus reducing complaining. This has worked wonders for me, and even though at times I start to complain, I am at least conscious enough to catch these thought patterns and be like “Ahhh I know what you’re doing you sneaky thing.”
There are many techniques relating to dissolving the ego. This is no easy task, but you be consistent and keep going at it son. Even if it is by practicing meditation, yoga, gratitude, or just being conscious of your thinking, you will step by step come closer to dissolving the ego. Do whatever works for you but just beware, when you start to do these activities the ego will react very negative by telling you things like “Nah this is gay, fuck this shit, what’s the point, I am happy with where I am, etc.”
But just realize that when you do end up dissolving the ego which what many call enlightenment, you will live a much richer life. Many Buddhist get to the stage of completely dissolving the ego by many years of meditation. It may take a long time for you to get to this stage but when you do get to this stage you will be so connected with the oneness of the universe that you will no longer distinguish your self from everything else. You will feel connected to everyone and everything around you and no longer judge anything as good and bad. You will no longer cling to your belief systems so much, and resist suffering and pain. And you will notice that you will start to go with the flow, which provides you with feelings of great power and stability over you life.
This all may sound a bit crazy and metaphysical, but the fact remains. It's just that most people never reach that stage of enlightenment, so it is really difficult for them to even comprehend what this is really about. So just have an open mind about it.
Dissolving the ego can be a life long mission, so just keep trying and try not to be discouraged.
“More the knowledge lesser the ego, more the ego lesser the knowledge” - Albert Einstein