The Ego accompanies the Wanderer along the first segment of the Journey. In the following we intend to discuss this, as being familiar with the functions and games of the mind with an Ego is indispensable for identifying whether we are on the right track.
What is an Ego?
That is the first and foremost question. Ego is we ourselves, the person we see, think and feel ourself to be. Ego is the central figure of our personal history, based upon the past and looking into the future. Ego is the deepest dream of the Consciousness. A sign of awakening is when we realize that the state when we identify with our Ego is of very low order, very poor, and there are more significant mysteries behind our existence.
How Did the Ego Emerge?
At birth, we are all innocent; we do not have an Ego. Our Ego emerges as a conditioning from our parents, culture and the society we live in. Ego is the result of a cultural hypnosis, the result of a common entrancement when, as a result of our upbringing, we believe that we are what our parents, teachers, priests said we had to be.
The truth is that we are the embodiment of Life, we are born into this world as a result of a miracle, and later we are lost amidst the multitude of teachings and dogmas. After identifying with our beliefs and convinctions we forget who we really are, who the person born in us into the world in order to experience existence and get acquainted with all the teachings.
It is necessary that an Ego emerges in us, otherwise we would not be able to separate ourselves from our environment, our individuality would not develop, though these are important for the Consciousness in its process to wake up to itself.
Ego is therefore a social product, a cultural hypnosis, programmed into us by those living around us, by telling us in our childhood who we are, what our name is, how to behave well, how to meet the expectations of others. As a result of an unconscious process, we start to identify with this artificially created center, our mind with an Ego, that is, our Ego.
The Ego is a Small Part of the Personality
If we wish to understand how the Ego works, we must not disregard the fact that Ego is only a small part of our personality. Ego is a part of the personality, and its content comes from our sensory perceptions and memories (our life history and knowledge and experience gathered throughout our life). Ego is the thinking, feeling and sensing part. The part of our Ego we show the external world is termed by Carl G. Jung as Persona, the acting personality. That part of the Ego is foregrounded when we are in the company of other people. That is, in fact, the collection of our masks.
A large part of the personality is constituted by the unconscious Ego, termed by Freud as the instinctive Ego. That is where out most basic instincts (eating, sexuality etc.) are found, and also the part of the personality described by Carl Gustav Jung as the Shadow. The ”Shadow” is shaped and developed by society, almost simultaneously with our role playing personality. Children, when they wish to meet their parents’–and through them, society’s–expectations, begin to develop these masks. These masks are like what environment shapes them to be. Rejecting certain stimuli offered by the environment triggers the disapproval of our teachers, so the intention to reject stimuli is suppressed. That is how our ”shadow-personality” develops. It does exists within our personality, but our education relegates it into our subconscious.
Freud believes that the third important component of our personality is the Superego. It comprises the social values that the culture in which we grow up finds important. In the course of a long and complicated process these values are incorporated into our personality and manifests as the ideal self (the person we would like to be). These values become integral, inner parts of the personality, and surface as opinion and convinction.
The findings of psychological research suggest that more than 90% of the functions of the personality are unconscious. Large parts of the Instinct-Ego, the Persona and the Superego are unconscious. The functions of the Ego are also largely unconscious.
The Ego is responsible for the integrity of the personality, for our inner well-being. This is no small task for the Ego, as it is constantly bombarded by unconscious expectations from the Instinct Ego and the Shadow, attempting to influence its behaviour. It generates anguish in the Ego (that is, in ourselves), manifested as discomfort (we do not feel all right). The Ego wishes to escape from the anguish, so it uses also subconscious mechanisms. Such a mechanism is, for instance, projection. The Ego projects the unacceptable desires and features coming from the Shadow and Instinct Ego onto others (e. g. I am not aggressive, you are aggressive). These subconscious, protective and anguish eliminating projections are the foundations of several of the mind games to be discussed later.
The Womb From Which the Ego is Born: Identification
The Ego develops in the course and process of identification, by our identification with our thoughts, emotions, body etc. As a result of the indetification process we believe that here we are this Ego, this mind. In the previous chapters we saw that the mind, the Ego within it, and the things we identify with, are shaped by the society in which we live. Consequently, entirely different types of Ego have developed in various cultures in various parts of the world.
In most people, the term “consciousness” identifies with that socially conditioned Ego. At a number of people this identification is so powerful that they are unaware that their life is governed by a socially conditioned mind.
Those who are able to go beyond that identification with the mind recognize this state of being socially conditioned, and are also able to leave the social conditioning behind. Such a person will not identify with the mind but, increasingly, with the Consciousness (the Witnessing Presence). The Presence shall, therefore, control the mind to an increasing extent and will be manifested through the tranquilized mind.
~Frank M. Wanderer: The Awakening of Consciousness