Understanding the Ego – making light of our shadow self

The same fire that cooks food and comforts with warmth can torch the hand that holds it.

Awareness is a gift that human consciousness has blessed us with. This gift has the capacity to bring fulfilment and ecstasy, but it equally has the same ability to bring pain and suffering.

The Ego, for the most part, has a bad reputation. It is usually thought of as negative and associated with narcissism and poor behaviour. While these may be side effects of the ego, its purpose is more profound.

It is the vehicle to awareness and understanding. It is the lens through which we explore this reality, our self and the world around us. The ego serves a valuable purpose and plays a vital role in personal development and spiritual wellbeing.

Consciousness remains one of the greatest unexplained mysteries. The functions of the mind, pleasant and not, have been explored through science for hundreds of years; and through spirituality for thousands. Ancient texts speak of the wild mind and its capacity for both enlightenment and suffering.

Uncovering and dissecting the ego is a process, and not always a graceful one. Exploring the “negative” facets of the ego (sometimes known as our shadow self) will help us understand our true identity. This introspection can help us overcome the boundaries that bind us to suffering.

It is through awareness that we know despair – and it is through awareness that we shed light on the dark spaces that exist within.

“Dark” Aspects Of The Ego Brought To Light

Default Mode

The emotional state a person naturally strays toward during challenging moments.

This can be considered a person’s “emotional home” because it is the space that one spends the most time in.

In emotionally challenging moments do you become stoic? Anxious? Angry?

Noticing what emotions naturally arise when faced with difficulty brings forth insight, making us aware of the patterns that our mind has subconsciously created. Realising these patterns helps us recognise that we are the observer of our thoughts and emotions, not the thoughts and emotions themselves.

Self Sabotage

An action a person takes that could potentially harm something meaningful in their personal life.

Self sabotage is caused by subconscious limiting beliefs about our self. These are often feelings of being inadequate or unworthy, which propel us to take actions that confirm these beliefs as true. The ultimate truth is that these beliefs are stories that we have told ourself, about our self.

Do you find yourself searching for a ‘negative truth’ when things seem “too good to be true”?

We dont know what limiting beliefs we have about ourself until we become aware of them surfacing in real time. This awareness sheds light on the stories we have created about our self, and how these stories came to be formed. This understanding helps us to redefine our beliefs and instil uplifting affirmations.

Escapism

To remove ourselves mentally from our present reality and retreat to a place that distracts and brings comfort.

Escapism is often used as a means to avoid fear, trauma, pain, discomfort or responsibility. It shows up in subtle and harmless forms like daydreaming, video games or sci-fi books. It can even disguise itself in sneaky “productive” behaviours like fixations on work or fitness. (Workaholics and gym-rats beware!) More obvious examples are substance abuse and addiction.

Do you have an unexplainable feeling of guilt lurking in the air during your leisure time?

Healthier expressions of escapism encourage creative thinking. More difficult manifestations can help us work through the traumas we may hold, giving our ‘self’ a safe space to explore and heal.

Honesty, kindness and patience towards the self lets light into the closed off spaces within that seek recognition and healing.

Deflection

When one consciously redirects thought or conversation to avoid a topic that brings up personal discomfort.

Have you ever found yourself trying to dodge conversation when somebody genuinely asks “how are you”?

Deflection is a mechanism that we use as a means of avoidance. Sometimes we are aware of when we use deflective tendencies, other times we do it unknowingly.

Taking note of moments where we find ourselves deflecting gives us insight into the truth of how we are feeling. Becoming aware of these tender areas helps us to provide them with the attention, patience and love that they require.

Intrusive Thoughts

A bizarre thought or impulse that appears “out of the blue” and seems out of character.

Intrusive thoughts can be unpleasant or frightening, but they are a completely natural occurrence in most people. This phenomenon can be experienced constantly throughout the day, but often goes completely unnoticed unless the thoughts become particularly disturbing and distressing.

Do your thoughts ever frighten you?

The wild spontaneity of intrusive thoughts are the result of our imagination. Recognising an intrusive thought is an opportunity for playfulness. The same spontaneity that brings about intrusive thoughts also gives birth to learning, imagination and creativity. These wild thoughts can help remind us that we are the witness of the thoughts, not the thoughts themselves.

Projection

When the judgements and opinions we form about others reflect our ideas about our self or our past.

Projection is a challenging behaviour to recognise. Our judgements are based on biases that have been created on a subconscious level. Our opinions are coloured by our beliefs and personal life experience. Therefore, anything we observe is viewed through the lens of ‘self’. This viewpoint is innocent and natural, as it is through personal perspective that we grow and experience the world around us. However, it can be disruptive when we outwardly project our pains and fears onto others.

Do you ever find yourself making judgements based from personal insecurities?

Projection is what happens when we become aware of our personal insecurities through observing our interactions with others. This expands our capacity for compassion, helping us to create authentic relationships with others. Taking notice of projection in the present moment is an opportunity to bring forth honesty and sincerity.

Rumination

To become fixated and “stew” in negative or worrying thoughts.

Rumination is when we get stuck in thoughts and feelings of anxiousness or melancholy. Negative thoughts accumulate like the water in a stream. The build up of worries will transform a stream into a river, etching its path deeper into the landscape of our minds and making it ever more challenging to escape from.

Do you ever stumble into a negative thought, then find yourself falling down a seemingly endless rabbit hole?

Rumination can be an opportunity for observation, introspection and compassion. Mindful contemplation can help us heal buried wounds and transcend negative patterns of thought. Reaching an observational state of mind can give us the space to explore new avenues and discover unseen paths.


You are enough.


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