What Is Ego?
Unquestionably, one of the most over-utilized “new age” expressions being thrown about in today’s Motivational subcultures is the term “Ego”. First coined by renowned psychologist, Dr. Sigmund Freud, in the early 1920s, the term "Ego" has gone through many iterations and convoluted understandings throughout the years.
As outlined by Freud, the human mind is governed by three primary facets, all driven by desire; the Id, the Ego and the Super Ego.
The Id can be likened to impulse. What we secretly want for ourselves, the Id tries to persuade the Ego into following. It is the ruler of our baser, animalistic instincts.
The (all-too-notorious) Ego is our ability to navigate consciously. More precisely, Freud describes it as our consciousness; or, our ability to exercise active-awareness within our given surroundings.
The Super Ego is our learned, Pavlovian* reactions. One could liken the Super Ego to being our habits, or tendencies developed over time. When presented with a given situation, the Super Ego chimes in to influence the Ego in a way that it has become accustomed to according to its past.
Ultimately, both the Id and Super Ego influence the Ego and try to directly affect its future actions.
So, is this truly what the "new age" meant by the term "Ego"? Not even close.
Contemporarily, those who refer to the Ego in the "new age" often use the term in such situations where desire, attachment or identity are more accurate culprits for displeasing behaviour. Ego, for them, is the enemy.
“Your Ego is getting in the way of the situation.”
“You should have no Ego.”
“You’re so Egoic.”
Or, my personal favourite, “Leave your Ego at the door.” That one’s sort of like saying, “Leave your finger tip at the door when you come inside.” How can you leave something that is a part of you? And, the ways in which you could, would be more detrimental than simply understanding its process.
So, what exactly is the Ego? I would like to propose a new theory...
I propose that 'the Ego is nothing more than our innate ability to navigate through both time and space via our imagination.'
“But could the Ego not simply be our sense of identity?” No, because identity is linked to attachment.
“Then, could you not just say that the Ego is merely attachment?” Again, no, because what, then, is the conduit allowing for attachment to occur?
Peering back into history, we are also given a hint from "the one who was made most-famous for obliterating the Ego" in the first place, Buddha. Buddha stated, "attachment is the root of all suffering." So, where in that statement did he mention the Ego? He clearly differentiates between what we have come to believe as the Ego and what is more accurately known as attachment (I guess he wasn't the man the "new age" made him out to be, huh?).
Additionally, I also personally disagree with Freud’s theory of what the Ego actually is (even though he coined it) and am more inclined to side with his protege, Dr. Carl Jung, on the subject of mind. One of Jung's more famous assertions was that we each have two "selves" within us, each effectively governing the mind. The self (a character we play to those around us) and the Self (our higher order reasoning and archetypal, intrinsic nature).
Nomenclature and previous context aside, I maintain that the Ego is best described as being 'our innate ability to navigate through both time and space via our imagination'; thus, allowing for attachment to thrive and our identities to be formed.
You see, it is only by figuring out the intricate processes of an operation that we can more accurately examine where the root of a problem lies. So, is it the Ego; or is it our attachment to a specific outcome, conveyed through the conduit of time, that is the real problem, here?
“Your attachment is getting in the way of the situation.”
—Because you want it to be your way so bad that you are ruining 'what is' by 'what you want'.
“You should have no attachment.”
—When you're devoid of attachment, you are free.
“You’re so attached.”
—And that is why you’re acting out.
“Leave your attachment at the door.”
—So you can be better able to learn.
Though, in the end, attachment (even still) is not the enemy. It is what allows us to come in and out of our own experiences and allows us to enjoy freely the fruits of this world. You see, I don't personally believe we are actually looking for Conventional Enlightenment (the ability to obliterate the Ego, or — more accurately — our attachments); rather, we seek out Neo-Enlightenment* (the ability to navigate freely and allow what comes to come and what goes to go). The ability to see that while 'what is' is 'here', is simply the gift of 'being alive'.
—so, enjoy life.