Our ego has a lot of needs. It wants to be safe, it wants to be comfortable, it wants to be stimulated. But most of all it just wants to be appreciated. Appreciation is the deepest need of our ego- deeper even than love (at least what the ego thinks of as love). The ego craves appreciation and it will go to great lengths to find it from outside itself. If it isn't feeling appreciated in a job or in a relationship, it will soon start seeking a new job or a new relationship where it thinks it can find more appreciation. We have the power to give our ego the appreciation it craves, but all too often we think that appreciation is something that comes from outside us- from others. We neglect to appreciate our own egos- often because we've been taught and believed that our egos are part of our lower nature and need to be overcome and subdued. On the other end of the spectrum, we may indulge in false flattery of the ego, trying to make ourselves feel important and better than others or desperately seeking the approval and appreciation of others and willing to overlook our own standards in order to get it. I believe that a lack of appreciation for the ego combined with a lack of leadership of the ego by the Spirit is the root of most of our suffering and unhappiness.

First- let's just get clear on some definitions:

The Ego:

The built in intelligence of the physical body- that auto-pilot/subconscious part of us whose programming is to create, maintain and extend physical life. When you read about our "subconscious mind" you can substitute ego for subconscious mind- they are one and the same. Ego just has taken on a somewhat negative connotation. It is the part of us that operates autonomously- without the need for our conscious control. It divides our cells, oxygenates and filters our blood, digests our food, heals our wounds, and much much more. In essence it creates, grows, maintains and preserves the physical body and the separate self (small "s"). In addition it is the realm of the automatic- the habitual. Your internal autopilot is a great analogy for the Ego.

The Spirit:

Who you were before you came into the body, who you are now in your body and who you will be when your current physical body returns to the earth from whence it came. Eternal and immortal. Never born, therefore can never die, or cease to exist or be. Connected to God and All Creation and to all other Spirit. Both separate and unified with your body, both separate and unified with all others and all creation. Already contains great wisdom and knowledge. Motivated only by pure loving kindness and joyful creation. A deliberate creator in partnership with God. Your internal guidance system that can lead and guide you in this earth life.

The Ego has many needs- after the physical safety and security of the body are met, the needs extend to feeling part of a group or community, and then growing the self's power and influence over others and over the physical environment.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is probably the best summary of how the Ego works. However, it's deepest and often most unfulfilled need is the need to be appreciated. This need is deeper even than the need to be loved.

For example- if you ask divorced women if their ex-husbands loved them- most will tell you "Yes, I knew he loved me, I just never felt he appreciated me." I have a good friend whose wife left him and when I told him about this concept of appreciation, he told me "That's exactly what she said in our counseling sessions before the divorce! That she knew I loved her, but didn't feel I appreciated her!"

The Spirit doesn't need appreciation, love, acceptance or validation. It doesn't need anything. It already is all those things and more. The Ego, however, does crave, need and desire all those things. It ultimately can only really receive the love and appreciation it desires from the Spirit who has it to give in abundance. But the Ego looks for love in all the wrong places. Any place besides the Spirit is the wrong place. It looks for it in others- first parents, then friends, then spouses, then children, then the world at large. Always seeking outside what can only truly be found inside. "Ever seeking and never coming to a knowledge of the truth."

This external seeking nature of the Ego is where we tend to get into trouble. Because the need is insatiable when received from the outside. It is only satiable when received from the inside- from the Spirit. Even when the Ego does feel like it gets some love and appreciation from the outside- whether from parents, friends, spouse, children, work, money or the world at large, it is only temporarily satisfying, and it is easily lost. Like the man who thirsts and sleeping, he dreams that he drinks, but awaking finds himself thirsty still. So ever seeking and never coming to a knowledge of the truth, the Ego- if left un-managed, or poorly led, will continually seek love and appreciation and approval outside itself. If it doesn't feel like it's getting it in its current relationship, it will go seeking for it elsewhere.

Here is the basic thought that the Ego loves to attach to- see if it sounds familiar:

- "My__________ (parents, husband, wife, boss, friend, partner) doesn't really appreciate me or understand me." So the search continues.

Here's the truth- No one else outside of your Spirit and God can ever really appreciate and understand you, which is precisely why you feel like they never do!

Now there are many happy marriages where the spouses do love and appreciate each other- and I highly recommend doing so because it makes for a great marriage. But the problem that many don't see is that because they are currently receiving love and appreciation from someone outside themselves, they still don't bother to get it from inside themselves- from the only insatiable and permanent source- their own Spirits and by literal extension, God. So when the stresses of life come as they do (because we believe and don't investigate stressful thoughts- but that is another topic), the love and appreciation received from the other person may fade or disappear temporarily and there we go again- the searching outside continues.

So, how do we stop the endless seeking and never coming to a knowledge of the truth? We simply awake to the reality of life that hopefully this post has helped accomplish. Once we understand what's really going on here, we can start to give our Ego the love and appreciation it so craves, while at the same time giving it loving guidance and leadership it also craves.

I like to think of the Ego as a child- a VERY INTELLIGENT CHILD, but a child nonetheless. What do children need? 1)Safety/Security, 2)Love and Appreciation and 3) Coaching/Leadership/Boundaries. The Ego is no different. In fact it is the reason that children need those things- because it is really the Ego needing those things- and it doesn't stop needing those things just because the body has matured from the childhood stage.

So here is what I find works. Throughout the day, notice a little more all the amazing things your Ego does for you. For starters, it completely runs the inconceivably complex processes of maintaining your body in good health and healing it when not in good health. So when I wake up in the morning, I (my Spirit) say to myself (my Ego) something like this:

"Thank you for a good night's sleep- I get to just sleep and you've been busy all night digesting food, dividing cells, filtering blood, cleansing the body of contaminates, circulating air, blood, and energy, restoring and healing damaged parts and reinvigorating my energy. What would I ever do without you? I would be dead that's what! So thanks again, I really appreciate everything you do for me!"

As you go through the day, just have a sense of gratitude and appreciation for everything your Ego does for you. When you go to the bathroom, "Thank you for knowing exactly what to keep and what to get rid of to keep this body healthy." When you eat a meal "Thank you for knowing exactly how to turn this meal into what the body needs."

When you notice the ego seeking love and appreciation outside of yourself (remember the ego is the domain of the automatic and habitual), gently remind it that it's seeking where it cannot find. For example, when a spouse says something cranky, rude or selfish, instead of reacting on autopilot ("no love and appreciation there- keep searching elsewhere") just say something like:

"Ooops, searching again where you can't find. That's just their Ego going on autopilot and reacting to their perceived stress. You know what that's like don't you. Besides, you've already got the REAL DEAL from me- your Spirit. Just let that comment go- it has no life of its own unless you give it life by believing it. Let me (your Spirit) share with them (their Ego) the love and appreciation it craves until they can find their own inexhaustible source inside themselves just like you have."

I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me. This is a lifelong process of improvement, I don't claim to be a master and to never let my Ego go searching outside. But at least I am more awake to what's going on and can notice it happening which is a big change from not being aware, not noticing, and being on full reactionary auto-pilot.

Author's Bio: 

John Groberg writes on a wide variety of topics related to personal and spiritual growth. His slogan is Grow. By Choice™. His articles draw out principles of personal and spiritual growth common to the world’s ancient wisdom and spiritual texts as well as many of the great philosophers, poets, and writers of ancient and modern times. These principles are then put to the test in his own life with an emphasis on simple, sustainable practices we can apply in our daily lives to more effectively deal with the stresses and struggles of modern life and to more fully realize the benefits of deliberate growth. John developed a model called the Divine-Align-Shine model as a way of visually organizing the principles, practices and the overall process of personal and spiritual growth. His writings are cataloged and organized on his website, johngroberg.com where contact information is available.