Man is an evolved animal, and though we struggle for existence like other animals, we have a highly evolved thinking process and reasoning ability. But, our selfish tendencies stem from our struggle for existence, and are a part of our animal behavior. With the process of evolution from animal to man, these tendencies have also evolved, but there is a distinct difference between the predisposition of animals and man. While animals are selfish to the needs and necessities of life, like food, shelter and security; man is self-centered and is greedy for power, control and position in life. Selfishness has become a prominent feature of human beings in the process of evolution, and this unconsciously directs our actions towards goals which are primarily for our own benefit. The ego is a human tendency to look for: ‘what’s in it for me’, while all the time it directs our energy and actions to meet the - ‘I’, ‘my’, and ‘me’ agenda. This creates a major conflict between the individuals, and we disregard our relationship with other living beings, and with the universe.
As a student of medicine, I learnt a lot about the conscious and subconscious mind, the emotional mind as well as the thinking mind, but there was never a clear-cut description of what is the ego mind. There was always an ambiguity surrounding the understanding of ego and what role does it play in our lives.
I experienced the development of the ego mind right through my childhood to adulthood even without being aware of it. But, what I realized was that, in order have a sense of self-worth and to live a stress free life, the first thing to be understood is what ego is as the cause of much stress comes from diverse ego states.
Ego is a state of mind or a false center which constantly tries to uphold your own point of view and almost completely disregards that of others. That whole focus of ego is–what is in it for me? It is a kind of a self-centered approach towards life. Even as you pay attention to your ego, it is forever judging who is superior to you or inferior to you. It instigates in you a sense of comparison, which makes you feel good and bad accordingly. It provides a false sense of pride; driven by selfish agenda that makes us head towards greed and self satiating acts, which in turn can leave us unhappy and discontented.
Through developing a deeper understanding of this seen and unseen connection, which is infinite in nature, one can begin to consciously elevate the ego aspect of mind and harmonize one’s thoughts, words, and actions with it and make use of it in a way that creates positive physical life experiences and help one feel fulfilled.
Ego & Stress
The ego comprises attitudes, beliefs and the resultant energies. It believes it is right and everything else is wrong. This disparity from reality produces a tremendous amount of stress and in order to have a meaningful life, it is imperative that we simply let go of the idea that we have the only right opinion. Right or wrong depends on circumstances - what is right for one maybe wrong for the other. Therefore, it is important that we accept the two mutually.
Both ego and stress do not exist in the outside world. But our reaction to what's going on in the outside world depends upon what meaning you are going to give to a given situation by evaluating and judging the events, people and objects in the outer world. Ego creates emotional stress which can be easily handled by understanding how the mind works. It's all about your perception of the outer world, and the biggest instrument to help you understand the meaning of life is your thinking mind or the intellect. The understanding of ego states of mind will definitely help to change the perception and response to stressful situations which are unnecessarily created by our own thinking.
Learning From Life
Looking back at my own life, I had a great childhood when I lived in the village. My mother’s dream was that I should study medicine and become a doctor. From then on, I started experiencing ego states in school when I first started making sense out of this world. I worked hard to stay ahead in competition. Though there were moments of achievements, but most of the time was spent in fear about - what next? In college days, I started experiencing peer pressure like - who is smarter and who’ll get better grades. It was the time I started telling lies about myself and my family and started exaggerating the facts about who I was and what was I doing. My point was to prove myself superior.
Next were the expectations of my family which made me more conscious about finding my place in the world. When I became a doctor and saw other well established and famous doctors, something inside me told me that I must outdo them. My ego made me feel envious about people who were successful and rich. This generated negative feelings within and I began criticizing them. My ego mind pushed me in the right places and egged me on to make more money and become more moneyed and eminent. It gave me the momentum on how to make money in the shortest possible time so that I can prove myself among my friends and relatives. I started working hard and running my life on a ‘fast forward’ mode. Day after day, even as I struggled hard, I felt that time was running out; age was advancing and I had to achieve much more. These feelings of insecurities, fear and stress was not the ‘real’ me - it was my EGO that made me do and think all of this.
Soon, I started losing my hair and was petrified that no girl will ever marry me if I'm bald. It was my ego mind which kept pushing me to get padded fast. In a nutshell, the entire focus of my life was to just prove myself - to my family, friends and relatives. I was always more concerned about the approval of other people, rather than what I felt within myself.
Laughter Set Me Free
Laughter was a great breakthrough in my life which released a lot of stress and tension which I had germinated over the years to pursue my goals and ambitions triggered by my ego mind. By laughing at all of it, the first thing I learnt was that I am not the center of the universe. I realized that even if I had proved myself to the world, they wouldn’t really care because they have their own problems to deal with. They couldn’t be bothered with my feelings or apprehensions.
Feeling a little disillusioned, I then delved into the philosophical side of ego, and my spiritual teacher gave me another definition. He said ego meant edging God out i.e. When you think you are the whole sole doer, and try to take the place of God, you are operating from your ego mind. He explained the gyan mudra or the most commonly used meditative posture in which we join the thumb with the tip of the index finger. He said that the index finger represented arrogance or ego mind, while the thumb symbolized the Universe or God. Thus, by joining the two, we make a complete circle which denotes that we have surrendered everything into the hands of the Universe. It is not about us; it is about a higher energy, a higher force through which the divine manifestation takes place. As the process of reflection and meditation continues, the ego mind soon dissipates. The arrogance of the self fades away; instead one is left with a feeling of humility and selflessness.
Having learnt the spiritual meaning of ego, I underwent a definitive change. My achievements no longer made me arrogant. I did not feel hurt by criticism because I thought it was not about me. I felt like an executive director of a higher power where all things good or bad were his doing – I was just a mere instrument that made them happen. In fact, I give the whole credit of spreading the Laughter movement worldwide in such a short period of time to a divine force, rather than to my own intelligence and smartness.
Ego And Self-Esteem
It is important to understand what self-esteem is and how is it different from ego. Self-esteem combines a healthy regard for the self as well as others, whereas ego, on the other hand, always believes in its own self importance and undermines that of others. Ego always needs outside approval, justification, and constant attention and gratification and believes in its own superiority, but when we express healthy self esteem, we are able to be compassionate without being mutually dependent. We can understand the viewpoints of others and have a real concern in them.
Those with healthy self esteem have healthy boundaries which lead to a stable and content life. There is no danger of an inflated ego that can lead to unpleasant situations. Another virtue of high self-esteem is being patient, as impatience is frequently a sign of egoistical people. Sometimes our impatience is the result of our own failures, but when we have a healthy self esteem, we show great endurance, and live our lives strategically enough to cope with situations that require extreme patience.
But, paradoxically, we need ego to get to self-esteem. It is vital to have a certain amount of ego without which a person will develop a low self- esteem, which in turn weakens the self-worth of the person. Therefore, ego is an essential part of one’s being so long as it does not go to a gargantuan magnitude and ruins a person worthiness, potential and sensitivity. Always remember to chide your ego if it starts running away with your emotions; learn to weed out the unhealthy component from your ego and head towards a more complete life with compassion, humility and generosity – the sole ingredients for a happy life.
How To Dissolve Your Ego
Giving is the opposite of ego. Your ego wants to control and possess and does not ever want to give. It is always is seeking. Therefore, one exercise to dissolve your ego mind is the spiritual virtue of being generous. Earlier, I noticed that the more I strived for, the more dissatisfied I got. But, when laughter came into my life, I experienced that the more I gave, the more I got. For the first time in my life, I learnt from the laughter movement that one can become rich and famous by giving and not by taking.
Ego - Let Go
Another ego busting exercise is to remove ‘E’ from ego and let it go. But how do we let go. If you understand the following metaphor you'll understand the stress.
Stress is like a rope pulled by two people from two ends. Stretching the rope can be easily relieved if one person on any end let goes. Though there is no guarantee that the other person will let go, but you always have a choice. If you let go there will be no stress and the tension will be mitigated. But, what stops people is the ego mind which tells them to hold on and prove their strength. All you need is to understand is the fact that stress can become chronic if one does not let go of it. Therefore, once you rise above your ego and think from a larger perspective, it will not be hard for you to let go.
Letting go is also about giving freedom to others. I learnt from experience that one of the reasons which built stress in my life was my desire to control other people. As long as I was obsessed with control, I found that stress was building up. The moment I decided to let go and set other people free, it was quite a relief.
Ego Is Necessary To Learn About The Real Self
To fully experience a life of harmony and accomplishment, one has to understand at a deeper level, the role that the ego mind plays in creating the events, conditions and circumstances in your life, and how it can restrict and keep you from experiencing a full life.
Though ego is a false center and provides false tutoring, the fact is that in order to know the real, one has to go through the false, so ego is a must. It is only through an illusion can one gets to know the realty. If you know what is false, the truth by design will dawn upon you.
Ego is a social need and everyone around you is involved in developing it. For instance, parents, school authorities, friends and relations etc are all adding to your ego, and everybody tries to modify it in such a way that you don't become a nuisance to the society. While expectations and approval boosts the ego; criticism and disapproval does the exact opposite. It deflates the ego and balances the mind. It stops you from getting a swollen head. Therefore, when you mature through understanding, awareness, and realize that an inflated ego can be a cause of stress and misery, you will learn to strike a good balance between ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ ego.
This article is from Dr Kataria's Book "Inner Spirit of Laughter" . You can download the E Book for just USD 8.95. To Buy Click Here.