3 ways to use your ego for spiritual growth
No one has learned the meaning of life until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow men.
- Beran Wolfe
Raise your hand if you consider that one of the most important spiritual achievements is to drop your ego! I have been believing it for a long time and it's only recently that I started shifting that perspective. Before we go forward with this subject, let's clarify our understanding of the ego.
Psychoanalysis defines the ego as: "the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity". From this extensive definition, I believe the most important part is that the ego is responsible for your sense of personal identity, meaning: your personal preferences, your personal image, your beliefs, your dynamics with others and most importantly how you perceive your place in the universe. With this definition as a baseline, let's move forward with this discussion.
Just like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, one of the main focuses of most spiritual practices is to get rid of the ego. However it is my firm belief that the ego has a higher purpose that has been misidentified. Let's explore 3 ways how the ego can be an ally for your spiritual growth.
1. Reframe the way you think about the ego
Most people probably identify the ego as the most unpopular or the most despicable part of ourselves. We see it as the collection of our negative/limiting beliefs and I don't necessarily disagree.
However what if the ego was just playing the role of pain in an injury? Let me explain. Without pain, we would never be aware of the injury, especially if the wound is internal. The pain allows you to know that something needs fixing and then you can take action on that.
I believe the ego plays the same role for our beliefs that pain plays for injuries. It highlights the parts of our thinking that need to be upgraded and then we can intentionally shift. Everytime we think competitive, self deprecating, angry and selfish thoughts, the negative feeling that they trigger is an invitation to upgrade.
2. Use every negative expression of your ego as an invitation for growth
The ego has a tendency to look at everything that is meant to expand you as a threat to your being. Therefore most times it will release a push back energy with the purpose of self preservation that will manifest through negative behaviour.
This is the case when somebody does something to you that is perceived as hurtful. Instead of choosing the invitation of compassion, many will choose the path of anger, sadness or revenge.
It happens again when you are in business with excellent competition, instead of seeing the greatness of the competition as an invitation to grow even more yourself, it's still in the mindset of many businesses owners to fight.
The whole point is to immediately change your perspective when you recognize that your ego has been triggered. Ask yourself what is the invitation for greatness that is lying underneath the trigger and follow that path. Just like the philosopher Rumi said:
The wound is where the light enters you.
3. Don't suppress it, expand it's frontiers
This will probably be one of my most controversial statements but I don't believe that it is ever possible to suppress the ego as long as you are living as a human. The ego entails everything about your persona. Even your very name is an expression of it. Being human has an implied sense of separation with the rest of the world, at least on a physical plan. From that human perspective that we all share, the ego will always exist.
The only way to get rid of the ego is to achieve a total state of oneness with all that is, which cannot be achieved inside a human body. The only way in my understanding to get rid of the ego is when your body dies and you return to the wholeness of your soul.
With that in mind, as long as we live on this physical plane, I believe it is a waste of time to try to suppress the ego. Instead work on expanding its barriers. I identify the ego as the holder of our limiting beliefs. Everytime it is triggered, it means that it's time to expand. Here is how you can apply it.
The first step to start practicing this, is awareness. You need to be able to identify the expressions of your ego. Most of them might still go totally unnoticed because of your conditioning.
Once you recognize your ego patterns, ask yourself what is the highest invitation of that pattern. It might be to be more compassionate, to practice forgiveness with self or others or just to let go.
Once the patterns has been identified and the highest invitation recognized, the last thing you need to do is to take action upon it over and over until it becomes unconscious to behave that way. Switch your habitual course of action to what your highest calling suggest.
You have to remember that this is a practice. It will require from you to fine tune your awareness of your emotional reactions. You might fall often back to your previous habits, but here is something that I've learned: you can't un-know what you know. As soon as you become aware of your limiting beliefs and ego reactions, it will become ten times more painful to hold them rather than to release them. So do the work and let go.
I hope this article helps you stop the battle between you and your ego and that it opens you to the possibility that maybe the ego is just a forerunner for positive change. Share if it resonates with you and let’s continue the conversation in the comments section..