Contrary to popular belief, the most difficult relationship isn’t with our boss, mother-in-law, disgruntled neighbor, friend or spouse. However, if that were the case all of our relationship troubles could be solved by simply walking away. The truth is the most difficult relationship we all have is with our own ego. It is the nemesis of every serious spiritual student who desires to grow and become more conscious of their Divine nature; to live a greater empowered life.

From the time we open and focus our eyes as an infant in this physical world, our ego is present. The ego guides and protects and is meant to help us relate to the physical world.

The ego is neither ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ It is a part of our consciousness that we relate to effectively or ineffectively. Our ego can become a source of powerlessness and pain or it can evolve into a great ally co-creating with our Soul and Spirit to produce empowerment and fulfillment.

The ego, like fear can either become your greatest enemy or an incredible ally on your journey Home. It all hinges upon whether you seek to understand and heal it or ignore it. An ignored ego will remain immature and can grow wild, leading you toward a future of frustration. You don’t have to let it run your life when you can understand its nature and with compassion heal and mature it into an ally.

Inner Battle for Freedom
By the time I was a teenager, my ignored ego was huge, like a hot air balloon tied to my back. Whenever I felt uncomfortable, my immature ego lifted me above my frustrations. My ego maintained the illusion that I was somehow “better-than” everyone else. Thankfully, I have come to recognize how much time I wasted playing these games. My behavior was nothing more than a never-ending attempt to get a cheap hit of power, that buried my real feelings of fear and inadequacy as I desperately tried to fit in.

Throughout my spiritual journey, I’ve heard of the so-called ‘nastiness’ of the ego. It was often referred to as my ‘inner demon’ and I was suppose to figure out how to kill (or at least critically maim) this part of my mind. But since, I’ve never been keen on violence, I knew my murderous attempts would fail. I decided that instead of trying to “kill” it, I would listen to and understand this part of my mind. I guess I wanted to know why the ego got such a bad rap from some gurus and metaphysical teachers.

When I asked some of these ‘gurus’ and ‘teachers’, “What is our ego about?” Some went so far as to refer to it as ‘the devil’. Another called it our ‘personal adversary’ or more benignly the ego was described as our ‘inner resistance to love.’ The only thing clear about all these descriptions was that the ego was definitely “the unspiritual part of me” and destined to cause me pain. Our ego has generally been considered ‘the troublemaker’ of the mind, it always leads us astray and makes life miserable, far more difficult than it needs to be.

But I kept asking ‘why,?’ What’s the point?

Few teachers offered me anything useful or practical to tame my ego. Many “eastern philosophies” teach that the purpose is to kill the ego to ‘prove’ your devotion to God and your spiritual path. To relate to your ego this way seems immature. Think about it, if you had a twin joined at the hip and you were inseparable and needed each other to survive, how would you function if you knew that your twin was out to kill you? How would you feel? It wouldn’t trust you very much and would try to get you before you got it. War never work in your pursuit of personal peace. Especially when you are dealing with your own consciousness.

It would be like saying, “I should kill the part of me that is addicted to cigarettes.”

These out-dated teachings to ‘control it’ or ‘kill it’ seemed so extreme and didn’t fit into my principles ‘to never consciously hurt anyone’, even my ego. Instead, I choose to understand it. I related to it differently, coming from a place of love and respect. To my surprise, my ego felt my sincerity and came out from hiding and stopped interfering with the communication from my Soul. Listening to my Soul more clearly, I began to learn of the egos purpose. I learned of the games it played and why I need an ego to complete my spiritual journey toward wholeness.

The Purpose and Origin of the Ego
Many who learn about the ego are misinformed. They want the relationship with their ego to be simple and judge it as “bad” or try to deny its existence. This never works and relating to our ego this way is not effective. I haven’t met anyone who has truly succeeded with this approach.

Our ego is an engrained part of our personality. It is necessary and won’t leave us alone until we decide to make peace with it. Making peace means to understand the nature of the ego including how it’s designed to serve us. When you understand your ego’s nature, you can discover how it operates inside your mind and retrieve your power.

The ego may have its own “quirky” personality, but the function and purpose of the ego is universal. The ego is the part of our awareness (consciousness) that gathers information from the outside world via the five senses. It only knows how to relate to the material world until you mature it. Choosing to love and respect the ego, is the Soul-ution that can heal and mature it to become your ally.

To understand the nature of your ego, you must look through the eyes of your Soul. Your truer self is your Soul and Spirit, your Divine Consciousness. This is the part that has the power and ability to heal and mature your ego into an ally. The ego is only one aspect of our personality and its purpose is to be a liaison between the physical world and you (Your Soul and Spirit).

We come into this physical world and are very unprepared as a human being. We have evolved and can no longer rely on just our instincts for protection like the rest of the animal kingdom. We are fragile. Unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, our sense of sight is not as well developed, our hearing is distorted and our sense of smell is pathetic. We are very inept and are totally dependent on our parents. This is also true of baby animals, but as they grow they develop a keen instinctive nature to protect themselves. Because we are at such a disadvantage, we divide (or assign) a part of our awareness (consciousness) to govern and watch over our physical well-being.

Another purpose of the ego is to create the ability to separate from our Soul and Spirit in order to understand and know it. The ability to “know thyself” and self-reflect, requires that we divide our consciousness into two parts. We developed a dual nature. The oneness of who we are divides into two minds, the ‘Divine mind’ (Soul and Spirit) and the ‘ego mind’ (Ego and Personality) These two “minds” allow us to relate to both our physical and spiritual realities.

The Austrian psychologist, Sigmund Freud, named the immature or unhealed ego the “id” which describes our instinctive ‘animal’ nature. The spiritual part of us we call the ‘entity‘ of our being. When ‘id’ and ‘entity’ come together we experience ‘Identity.’ We identify as both our spiritual self (entity) and physical self (ego), this makes up the dual parts of our consciousness. The Divine (Soul and Spirit) and the ego personality expresses who we are as both physical and spiritual by nature.

Five Stages of Ego Development

Infant Ego. The infant ego personality is born and uses the five senses to gather information and deliver it to us (our true self). Your infant ego reviews your choices, makes a decision, then carries out that decision. Your infant ego is constantly scanning the horizon of your life with the intent be sure you are getting your share, of making sure you are getting enough. The infant ego is totally self-centered.

While connecting and grounding to the physical world, we become a bit preoccupied with it. During the first half of our life, we tend to forget and deny our true self and focus on our physical existence. After all this physical existence,it is the easiest to measure.

The characteristic of the infant ego is a feeling of complete powerlessness and defenselessness. It must do everything it can to be safe. The primary focus and concern of the infant ego is, “Am I getting enough?”

Am I getting enough food, water, shelter, warmth, comfort, attention and love? The infant ego’s purpose is to protect you and it does so by constantly monitoring your needs to ensure you are “getting enough.” As an infant, you alone are not enough, you must rely upon others for safety and survival, thus justifying the infant ego’s fear of not getting enough. You aren’t enough. You feel it physically, emotionally and mentally. At this stage the ego is unaware of the spiritual part of you, your true self.

Child Ego. In time, you mature and grow into a child. The cute expressions from others begin to change. They stop oohing and aahing over you. The sweet talk becomes bitter. You no longer hear, “Isn’t he the cutest baby you’ve ever seen?” or “Look at her blue eyes, she will be Miss America one day for sure.” These lovely statements change quickly when you grow into what is affectionately known as the terrible twos.

Suddenly your mother’s tone of voice deepens with disapproval. You begin to hear—Behave!” “Stop that!” “Get your hand out of there!” “Will you sit still!” “What’s wrong with you!” In short, you discover that you are separate from your mother and you begin to explore the fascinating world around you, much to the dismay and frustration of others. I’m convinced there is no greater force of destruction than a 2-year-old with a Sharpie pen.

Shame descends upon the emotional, mental state of a child like a cold unwelcoming fog. It reinforces the belief that there is something wrong with them, that they are not good enough.

The child ego soon realizes that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It begins to shift from being totally “self-centered” to becoming more “self-conscious.” It discovers that it isn’t the only person in the world and begins to try and relate to siblings, neighbors, and school kids. The shift of security goes from “getting enough” into competition and comparison, “Am I good enough?” The ego is constantly comparing itself to others and trying to belong, it focuses its attention on acceptance by others, it desperately tries to conform to fit just to be safe and secure. No longer fixated on “getting enough” it matures and tries desperately to be “good enough.”

“Am I good enough?” cries the child ego. From this the seeds of competitive mind are planted and the weeds sprout overnight, like a field of dandelions. Competitive mind corrupts the mind with an obsessive fear of not being good enough. This becomes the ego-centric focus roughly from the age of two into the adolescent years.

Adolescent Ego. Living life, being rejected, realizing that other kids can hit back opens the eyes of the child ego as it grows into adolescence. As early as eight and usually by twelve the shift moves from the child’s concerns of, “Am I good enough” to the adolescent obsession with, “Am I doing enough, learning enough and achieving enough?”

The adolescent begins to worry about the responsibilities of growing up. Fear sets in, hormones begin to rage, confusion and chaos are the norm of the day. Biology and hormones force the body to grow and change; however, the consciousness tries to keep up with the demands of the body. “Am I doing enough, learning enough and achieving enough?” becomes the driving force of the adolescent ego.

The ego feels overwhelmed. All it ever wants to do is to feel safe. It convinces itself, “I will be safe once I get a better education, make more money, buy a bigger house, have children, when I get married, when I finally get the divorce,” etc. It is always motivated by some future goal, “As soon as ‘x’ happens, I will be free.” None of these work, the feeling of security can only come from within, from our metaphysical nature, not the outside world.

Grown-Up Ego. A grown-up leaves home between the ages of 18-25 and you are suppose to support yourself. You are either forced or move willingly to function in the world, no longer ‘needing’ parents to survive. Moving away from home doesn’t mature the ego. You can still possess an immature unhealed ego at any age. Your physical body become a ‘grown-up’ with all kinds of body hair to prove it, but you are still far from being an adult.

After years of living in the domain of a grown-up ego, you become emotionally repressed, mentally exhausted, and often want to give up. The grown-up ego stops trying to succeed and focuses on “just getting through today.” It often hides within the numbness of apathy that leads to addiction, eventually ending up in depression, despair, hopelessness, loneliness, and feeling defeated by life. This usually occurs throughout the twenties, thirties and even into the forties. Then a midlife crisis occurs presenting you with an opportunity to break free of this “rut,” to turn inward and discover your spiritual nature. If you have fallen into a deep sleep or are blinded and deafened by addiction this opportunity may pass you by.

A grown-up is someone who is asleep to the truth of who they are and has only identified with their ego. They haven’t discover their metaphysical or spiritual nature and feel powerless. They become mired in addiction to numb their pain and try to ‘get through life.’ Eventually judging themselves as ‘unworthy’ and ‘not good enough’ they decide ‘life’s a bitch’ and wait to die. Grown-ups refuse to look beneath the surface and can never become spiritually empowered adults. An immature ego produces a grown-up, a mature ego evolves into an adult.

Ten Characteristics of an Immature Ego

The ego loves simple answers. It doesn’t want to think and feel for itself. The ego will agree or disagree with others. It wants the simple answer, “Just tell me in 25 words or less the nature of the God.” The ego is stuck in repetitive, out-dated thoughts, and will do everything to avoid feeling emotion. To the ego emotions are too confusing. The ego has decided to just label emotions ‘bad’ and repress them so we don’t have to deal with them. Only seeking the simple answer always leads to a difficult life.

The ego loves to judge and views life as either black or white. You’re either my friend or my enemy. You’re either good or bad, right or wrong. There’s no room for gray or an in-between in the world of an unhealed ego.

The ego resists receiving help, love and support from others. It wants all the credit and doesn’t want to “owe” others. I want to be king of the mountain. Gratitude is a Soul quality and the ego often feels indebted to others instead of grateful.

The ego thinks it knows it all. The know-it-all people. You can’t tell them anything because they have decided to shut down their ability to think and feel and pretend that they already know everything. “Oh, I know that,” I refuse to learn anything new. It is the voice of a lazy ego that refuses to learn and grow and has deluded itself into being a “know-it-all”.

The ego strives for perfection and doesn’t know how to trust itself or others. I’ve got to be perfect, at least in the eyes of others. I can’t make mistakes or be wrong. I’ve got to be perfect. Perfection isn’t possible, but the ego drives us to try and convince everyone of the individual’s perfection. Perfectionism is the ego’s replacement for self-trust.

The ego loves to blame and take from others and life. It feels entitled to take from others because of all the suffering it has endured. It often cloaks its struggle in the grandiose idea of martyrhood or a childish blanket of self-pity. It loves to blame others so it can justify its desire for greed, and feels a cheap hit of power.

The ego’s arrogance judges and separates itself from others. It doesn’t feel it belongs. Always an outsider looking in and uses a feeling of “better than” to fill the void of loneliness.

The ego avoids being in the present moment. It is stuck in the past or fantasizing about the future but always avoiding the responsibility of the present moment. “One day, I’ll (future aspiration)” or “If only this didn’t happen to me (past).” The ego never lets us become free to live the life we desire. The immature ego feeds off the repressed emotions of anger, fear, rage, jealousy, envy, greed, guilt, and shame.

The immature ego feels misunderstood and unappreciated. If others would just “get” how important I am. I am here to save the planet, why doesn’t anyone see that? Poor me, nobody “gets” me, I am unappreciated and misunderstood by everyone. I deserve to overindulge (addiction) to experience some pleasure in my miserable life, sayeth the ego.

The immature ego avoids the metaphysical truth of self. It doesn’t see the value of the mind and has difficulty measuring our inner (non-physical) realities. It devalues the imagination. “Oh, big deal, its just your imagination,” which is another way to say it is just nonsense, just “make-believe” and has no power or value. Love, emotions, creativity, intuition and spirituality are complex qualities and are too difficult for the ego to measure with its five senses. It’s uncomfortable with original thinking, experiencing the depth of feeling, understanding its beliefs and attitudes which are at the core of being metaphysical. It only tries to fix and cure rather than change and heal.

By now you understand how important understanding the ego is on our spiritual journey coming Home. When I stopped arm-wrestling with my ego and started to respect and understand its purpose, my ego began to change. Approaching my ego from the compassion of my Soul, it started to heal and mature. Many spiritual teachings don’t support the maturing and evolution of the ego. Instead they try to fix, control, or get rid of it. These “simple” answers lead to a difficult experience.

With fear, it’s pointless to ‘pretend’ you’re not afraid when you really are. Managing the ego is the same. It’s better to be honest with yourself about whether the ego is immature than it is to deny the truth. What we don’t understand about our ego can potentially turn into the “enemy” as so many eastern philosophies have defined it.

It is the love and compassion of our true self (Soul and Spirit) that can transform this enemy into an ally. Once you understand the purpose of your ego, the various stages of immaturity and it’s ten characteristics, you’ll know when your ego is interfering with your life or holding you back. You’ll have taken an important step to heal, mature and evolve the grown-up ego into an adult.

Soul-utions Challenge:

When Jesus went into the desert for forty days and nights, he was confronted by ‘the devil’ (his ego) and the temptations of worldly power. Jesus had to say ‘No’ to his ego and yes to his (Soul and Spirit) to fulfill his destiny. Take some time to think about how Jesus handled his ego. Do you think he tried to ‘kill’ his ego or did he seek to understand and ‘forgive’ his ego? Are you willing to take a new approach? Write down in your journal what made sense to you in this chapter and talk to a friend about the nature of the ego to help reinforce the Soul-utions approach.

Author's Bio: 

Michaiel Patrick Bovenes helps struggling people quickly transform their stress into strength and their struggle into greater freedom, confidence and positive change. Michaiel is the inspirational leader at Soul-utions and the author of a popular series of guided meditations. Soul-utions can activate your inner-power to create the changes you desire by aligning with your purpose, power, inner-wisdom, and destiny. Follow him @ soul.utions on Instagram.

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