It is amazing how much of daily conversation is taken over by ego. Ego is the background noise from the brain that tries to interpret the world to us, with the goal of protecting us from ourselves and the world: “Be careful, it might rain today, take the umbrella,” is an innocent example of what the ego is telling you. In the very old days, the ego had a bigger role to play by warning us of lurking dangers, like beasts, bandits, floods, etc. However, today it has to deal mostly with less mundane tasks like reminding you of the umbrella. So far so good and things look fine on the surface. However, that which is supposed to help us dodge danger is becoming the danger itself.
[Side note: The last line sounds like one from the script of a horror movie, and it is meant to be, as my ego wants to draw your attention. Ego loves attention. It makes it feel alive. It assumes that attention is needed to be alive. Deep inside, each of us knows that to be untrue. Back to the dangers of the ego.]
Let us look at things from another perspective: Stress. Most of us if not all suffer from it to one degree or another, but few pay attention to what it really is and where it comes from. Many just dismiss it as just “feeling tired,” or “having a headache,” or even feeling sad, angry, or afraid. In reality that is most probably caused by stress. Stress always comes from the ego, not from any outside effects. Here is the proof: Take a toddler who is sitting close to a very venomous snake. He has no worry in the world. Probably you the reader imagining the situation have more stress about it than the child does. Why? He has no ego interpreting the observation into a stressful thought. In other words he does not “think” he is in danger. Put an adult in the situation, and he or she might have trauma from it for the rest of their lives. What is the difference? The THOUGHT of being in danger.
Before this turns philosophical, the point here is that the THOUGHT is what causes the stress, not the outside effects. We think of outside effects and interpret them as dangerous, scary, threatening, uncomfortable, etc. It is a judgment. Here is the trick: Sometimes the ego, in its zealous attempt to keep us safe, takes its job too seriously and starts interfering with every observation in our lives and finds the danger in it, no matter how silly it is. Thus comes most of the stress in people’s lives. The ego trying to show you the pain in any situation: “He is trying to put you down,” “she is very annoying.” “I do not like this person,” “What if this bad thing happens?” etc. Your ego is trying to be smart to protect you, while in reality it is “spooking” you out of your wits and causing you stress. It is like an overly protective mother who drives her daughter or son to stay confined at home in fear of what playing with the neighbors’ kids could cause; a fall, a fight, etc. So instead of helping the child, the child is fearful and traumatized and not willing to go out there and just live.
Sometimes we get so used to our ego telling us what to do that we start losing touch of who we are and associate ourselves with our ego. We think we are the protective voice in our brains. So, we succumb to it, listen to it, and obey. The ego becomes more confident, if you will, and builds mastery in how to manipulate you and your feelings to do what it dictates.
To test this, listen carefully to your thoughts throughout a given day. When you get an uncomfortable emotion, ask yourself what caused it. You will find it is caused by a though that interpreted a situation. Not the situation, no matter how tough it is. This point of realization can mark the beginning one’s journey of dissociating from the ego. The journey of awareness, acceptance, and surrender.