If there is a scapegoat in the spiritual and psychological communities, it’s the ego.
As a spiritual practitioner, it breaks my heart to see and hear people speak about the ego in ways that are not serving them or their healing.
The relationship between the soul and the ego is the most misunderstood, miswritten, and misspoken concept in modern spirituality.
These misunderstandings are causing us to misinterpret how we connect to our deepest wisdom.
The soul and the ego are not in competition with one another – they were designed to work as a unit.
The more we separate the ego, judge it as this awful part of ourselves (shadow self), and continuously call it out as bad, wrong, or evil, the worse we will feel.
The ego wants one thing: to feel safe, good, and loved.
Why is the ego so misunderstood?
Like many of you, I read a lot of misleading and negative analyses of the ego. The more I read, the more separated from myself I felt. None of it resonated with me until I met a spiritual channeler and psychic medium who explained the ego (and its function) in a way I had never heard before.
What she taught me blew my mind (and my ego!) and gave me better tools to deal with life’s daily influence of information and energy.
First, let’s establish a few things so we are all on the same page:
- The soul created the ego to experience the physical reality – we cannot exist here or experience ourselves as separate beings without it.
- The ego is not a person or your ‘personality’ (this is built through conditioning).
- The ego is not a creative force. The soul is always in charge, no matter how much it may allow the ego to ‘wander.’ The soul is eternal, so it’s got some time for meandering.
The use of ‘ego’ in culture and history.
The word ‘ego’ has been used in many different contexts to describe human consciousness.
Freud saw it as the conscious part of ourselves that is the mediator between the id (our instinctual self) and the superego (moral conscience).
Spiritual leaders in New Age culture have deemed it our ‘shadow self‘ and have warned us to stop listening to it. Yikes!
In science, the ‘seat’ of the ego lives in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (huh?) and the Fronto-insular Cortex (what?) part of the brain. Where is that? It’s in the frontal lobe, which is responsible for cognitive functions such as memory, emotions, impulse control, problem-solving, social interaction, and motor function.
We also use the word to describe someone’s behavior, “They are so egotistical!”
No wonder we are all confused as to the function, role, and usefulness of this part of our brain, psyche, and consciousness.
The ego is not your enemy, nor does it want to do you harm. The ego is self-protecting and self-preserving and the way it learned to protect itself was through childhood conditioning, specifically from ages 0-7 years old.
The ego wants you alive and it will use what it learned to reach that goal.
The Ego’s Two Main Functions
By now, you’re probably wondering what is the role of the ego?
Let’s break it down.
The ego has two main functions: one is to keep you alive (fight/flight/freeze), and the other is to give you the experience of being a separate individual in this reality. It also allows you to experience other people as separate from you.
The ego is ‘expressing’ one of two perspectives at any given moment:
- our soul’s guidance, or what the soul wants to express in this lifetime or any given moment; or
- our conditioning, or what we learned in the reality from childhood
These are the two states we are always choosing between:
- what do we intuitively feel we want versus
- what we’ve been taught we should want, be, do, or have
Not everything we learned through conditioning is harmful, dis-resonant, or unhelpful. Many things we learned keep us safe. The work is to decipher what is useful to you now (and who you are as a person) and what isn’t.
It’s important to understand this: everything (divine guidance and your learned stuff) passes through the ego.
It’s a misnomer that we are either ‘in our soul’ or ‘in our ego.’ You’re always in both.
The difference is where to ego is pointing or what it is looking for. We have to ‘tune’ it, so to speak. This is why affirmations and mantras can be powerful tools – they retrain the ego.
When people say, “They are in their ego,” or “He’s just coming from his big ego,” what they are trying to articulate is, “They are coming from a fear response, a stress cycle, or their survival instinct.”
We are always ‘in our ego’ because that’s how we receive and interpret information.
The way the ego defends itself was learned through conditioning and the environment it mimicked.
If someone is mean, cruel, or nasty when their survival is threatened or they are coming from a conditioned point of view, it’s because that’s how their ego learned to defend itself and keep them alive.
Some people scream and yell, some people stonewall, some people pick a fight, and some people withdraw completely when their fear response is triggered. It’s all based on how their ego learned to get out of danger and back to a safe place – either physically, emotionally, or psychologically.
The ego’s job is to work in contrast. This is so we can distinguish between a car and a knife. It also shows us limits, like how far the coffee shop is from our house or how much time we have before we die.
Contrary to popular belief, the ego is not judging – it’s discerning.
The energy of judgment comes from conditioning; what the ego has been taught is considered good, bad, right, wrong, acceptable, and not acceptable.
“I would like an apple and not an orange,” is different from, “I would like an apple because an orange is bad.”
You cannot experience an ‘ego death’ and remain alive in the reality. This is another spiritual myth that is mired in subtle reinforcement of separation, which will always make us feel unbalanced and disconnected.
The ego is a part of you – you cannot separate from it or wish it away and feel okay.
We cannot survive in or relate to the physical reality without the ego. We experience everything (even ‘divine guidance’) through the ego.
If it helps, think of the ego as the soul’s ‘interface.’ Another way to think of it is as a translator.
What does the ego do, exactly?
We can think of the ego in three ways or having three jobs:
- As a filter
- Like a radio receiver, with two stations
- As a software program on a computer
Let’s talk about each one.
1. The ego is a filter.
It’s been trained (by conditioning) to look out for what is relevant to our experience.
Our reticular activating system (RAS) is formed through bias and what we were taught is good, bad, right, or wrong. Our RAS is a chooser and a filter in and of itself. It is the way we decide what is relevant to us and what we focus on.
As you move through your day, your ego is on the lookout for what is relevant to you, even if it isn’t ‘positive.’
‘Relevant’ can be what you learned, even if it doesn’t make you feel good.
This is how you pick and choose what you focus on — whether it moves you forward or drags you down.
Because the ego is something that is trained, it does what it knows until it learns something else. Conditioning trained your filter, so you have become aware of what your filter is ‘set to.’
Think of it like this: if you were wearing a pair of red-tinted glasses, the whole world would look like some shade of red to you no matter what you were looking at.
It’s our job to recognize what filter we are set to and change it if it doesn’t feel good.
2. The ego is a radio receiver with two stations: inward and outward.
When we tune our ego inward, we connect to infinity, to all the solutions we will ever need, and to all our endless wisdom. We connect to our deepest intuition, which doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. These are those moments in which you just ‘know.’
When we tune our ego outward, we connect with all the other egos in the collective consciousness. Wowza. That’s a lot of noise!
Tuning our ego outward is not bad or wrong, but it probably won’t feel that great because so much of the information you pick up is not relevant to you or your situation. While some of it may feel very familiar, it is mostly unhelpful. This is why our egos feel buzzy when we’ve been coming too much from the head.
Think of being in an extremely loud restaurant and someone is trying to tell you a story. You would be struggling to hear because of all the other feedback. That feedback is why our heads feel ‘noisy.’
3. The ego is like a software program on a computer.
A software program is neutral until someone starts telling it what to do and how to do it.
Conditioning is like writing the software. Conditioning (most prevalent from ages 0–7 years old because of brain waves) tells the ego, “Believe this and disregard that. Love this and hate that. Get angry when this happens, and become lovable when this happens. Choose blue, not red. This is good, and this is bad.”
We need to focus on the conditioning, not on how ‘bad’ the ego is. The ego is merely doing the job it was assigned (by the soul) to do. It’s gathering info and communicating it to us.
Think of your computer.
The hardware itself is your body, the vessel that holds the nuts and bolts and chips. The operating system is your soul. It’s the mothership — it’s steering this whole thing and it always has control. Nothing in the computer can work without the operating system. The software (or the different programs) on the computer is the ego. The software is written by someone outside of you. For this example, the computer programmer and in the big picture, your family and society.
Conditioning writes the ego’s software and tells it what programs to run.
This is why it’s important to know that you can change your programming. You can choose differently if you don’t like something your ego has learned.
Let’s talk about divine guidance and hearing our intuition.
The ego is the way we interpret information — from our soul and the reality.
The reason many folks believe that the soul and ego work separately (or are in competition) is the language we use around hearing or being aware of our intuition.
Your ego is just as involved as your soul when you get a hit of intuition. The ego is the mechanism that is interpreting your soul’s messages.
Remember, the ego is a translator. It’s the big screen that the messages appear on in your mind.
Here’s another example, to help your ego comprehend these concepts.
Let’s say you’re walking your dog. You represent your soul — you’re in charge, always. (And, yes, I know, I know, the dog is actually in charge and we spoil them and would do anything for them, but just stay with me for a minute).
Your dog represents your ego. It gets excited, then starts to sniff, then gets distracted by a bird, then looks at you, then sees another dog and goes berzerk. And that’s pretty much how the walk goes.
But once the dog does something or focuses on something you don’t want to do or don’t want them to go after (or is dangerous to its safety/existence), you pull them back and start again.
That is the power and influence of the soul over the ego. It created the ego, and it calls the shots.
The soul is always in charge, but allows the ego to play, wander, and be curious.
When you tune your ego inward, like we talked about above, we can hear easy, simple guidance to our problem or situation. Divine guidance will always be a doable step like drinking some water, taking some breaths, or calling a friend.
When you tune your ego outward (or get ‘in your head’), you pick up on all the thoughts, energy, and interference from everyone else in ego consciousness. This is not bad or wrong, it’s just not as helpful as tuning inward.
When we tune outward, the guidance is stressful, and too complex, while also creating a sense of rushing towards a train that’s already left the station.
Guidance when tuned inward is simple and feels like deep relief.
Why is it so hard to deal with the ego?
The ego is an amazing storyteller. It has records that go way the hell back, even from previous lifetimes (if you believe in that sort of thing).
The reason energy sticks around, especially energy that doesn’t make us feel good, is that the ego has concocted a story about it and then tells it to us over and over.
The trick is to be conscious of what your ego is focused on and then ask yourself if it feels good to you. If it doesn’t, change the filter! Focus the ego inward so you can hear what your soul wants to tell you.
Another reason it’s difficult to deal with the ego is all the false languaging and messaging we’ve been taught.
Remember this and you’ll feel better than most folks on the planet: you are allowed to feel good and the ego is one gateway to feeling good, depending on where you’re pointing it.
The ego’s main goal is to feel safe, good, and loved. Just like a small child.
Your ego wants your attention and affection. It’s there to help you – to quite literally keep you alive. The better we learn to talk about it and to it, the more in alignment we will feel.
Final Thoughts on the Ego
I hope this article has helped your understanding of how you can have a more healthy, peaceful, and positive relationship with your ego.
The ego isn’t going anywhere, so we may as well become better listeners and observers of where we are placing our attention.
Tune your ego and set its dial. Take note of what doesn’t feel good or what thoughts you were conditioned to think that do not help you. Those are thoughts and patterns you have the power to change.
The next time you hear someone say, “They are in their ego!”, you can correct them and remind them that yes, of course, they are in their ego because we all are. The ego serves as a way to hear all the stimuli that are coming into our experience.
The ego is truly your friend, but society and New Age spirituality have made it our enemy.
Change the conversation and you’ll experience more peace, bliss, and in alignment actions.
Have a question or need some clarification? Drop a comment!
I’m happy to help everyone who wants a better relationship and experience with their ego.