I’m struggling with my ego. We all are, really. Our students probably think,” of course you’re struggling with your ego – you’re a professor” with the surprise being that we’re struggling, with, not mindlessly feeding, the ego.
I’ve never really understood the difference between the how-important-do-I-feel-ego and the Ego referred to in psychological parlance. It’s somewhat confusing as we can have subjectively a small ego while still being very attached to our Ego. I still don’t understand it fully, but it seems that they’re roughly the same. However, I think the common usage is somewhat more restricted in meaning and scope than the psychological term. Our Ego refers to how the mind perceives itself, regardless of whether it views itself as important and grand or insignificant and small.
Here’s what I mean:
I am a mother, daughter, friend, professor/teacher and a student of life.
I live in a house, with a hybrid car, and I have two dogs.
I am a Democrat, liberal/progressive, humanist.
I am middle-class, Asian female with a doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences.
I have been a scientist, am now more of a educator/administrator.
I live in the suburbs in Virginia, in the USA.
My most valued possession is my family photos.
I prefer to view myself as a kind, smart, capable person who is somewhat unconventional.
This is my Ego. My mistake is sometimes believing that this is Who I Am. It is not. Take away any and all of the above and I am still me. The trouble with mistakenly believing these identities as who I am is that I might work hard or even fight, emotionally, physically, and psychologically to maintain those identities. I might spend all my money, spend all my time, have endless and vociferous arguments regarding, might vilify or fight with others, in order to maintain those identities. When I confuse my identity with what I own, who I am, or my roles, then my Ego is attached to something “as a substitute for the Being that it cannot feel.” – Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth.
When we cling to these false identities, we are separating ourselves from who we really are and feeling our essential Being. We give away our power by clinging to a false identity. Letting go of our Ego attachments can give us our power back and keep us in touch with our true selves and our human essence.
This does not mean that I’m no longer going to try to do/be all of the above. No. This is what I do and what I care about. But if for some reason, one or more of these identities go away, I will grieve, but let go of them. Nothing can take away the essence of the spirit that I am. And that’s power.