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Ego: Friend or Foe?

sound life Feb 14, 2021

I bet you have been watching a lot more TV lately than you usually would. With our movements restricted due to lockdown in most countries, there is not much we can do for a change of scenery when staying at home becomes too tedious. Jumping from channel to channel, from documentaries to talk shows, I am struck by the number of people whose job it is to present us with information and entertainment. Even while they are surrounded only by a handful of people in the TV studio, they must be aware of millions of eyes on them. It can't be easy to be so visible and open to judgement, criticism or even outright hostility. Of course, there is admiration and fame as well, but it comes at a price. While many people would shrink from the mere thought of it, some thrive in the spotlight and handle the positive aspects with just as much poise as the negative ones.

When you think about it, it is not just TV personalities who need to be comfortable with being the centre of attention. Many roles and positions require a thick skin and a lot of confidence. Any job that puts a person under the scrutiny of others, or comes with a high risk of public failure, is certainly not for the faint of heart. It takes determination, self-assurance and a lot of willpower to face such odds. Insecurity, no matter how hidden, will sooner or later put a lot of strain on the emotional balance and mental wellbeing of anyone pursuing such a career.

Where does insecurity come from though, and why are some of us more plagued by it than others?

In the school of Naad Yoga, insecurity is linked to the driver Ego. In previous blogs, I have already introduced two drivers and explained the concept of the five drivers. But let me emphasise again, that in contrast to other spiritual or yogic schools, we don't aim to reject or suppress the five drivers (Anger, Lust, Attachment, Greed and Ego). Our drivers support us and work with us, to allow us to live a good life. They are not inherently good or evil, and it is the way they are used that determines if they benefit or harm us.

 

The driver Ego (also called ‘Ahangkaar’ or ‘Hankaar’), is essential for our survival because it allows us to develop a sense of Self, an idea of our own identity. While growing up, it enables us to evolve into distinct personalities and helps us to separate our Self from those around us. It is the scaffolding of the psyche, essential for coherence and growth - we could call it the backbone of our mind.

In many traditions, Ego is seen as the enemy of spiritual growth, something terrible that we have to get rid of to experience Oneness with the Creator. However, when the Ego is in balance, we share in a sense of identity and purpose, and a general feeling of safety and trust. The problems start when this driver is out of balance: when it is it too weak, a person would lack self-esteem and confidence, which results in insecurity and victim mentality. People with low Ego often feel that life is just happening to them. They are being bounced around by circumstances or the people "in power" without controlling their destiny.

When the Ego gets too strong, it can create personality traits that have given this driver a lousy name: self-centeredness, arrogance, an urge to dominate others, indifference to other people's needs, lack of empathy etc.

However, trying to eradicate the Ego because of such signs of imbalance would mean throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Look at the evolution of our civilisation, and consider the men and women who stand out. People who have changed the course of history through their actions, their convictions or their leadership would have had to make full use of their drivers, especially their Ego, or they would have buckled under the strain of their tasks. It takes a healthy Ego to carry a great vision because you need to hold on to your vision in the face of adversity to make it a reality. There will always be opposition to your ideas, wishes and dreams when they differ from the expectations of those around you. You don't even have to look at people who changed the world; it is evident in every moment of your own life. You need the Ego's energy to maintain healthy personal boundaries, to stay the course when things go wrong, to accept constructive criticism as fuel for personal growth, and to let go of judgement when it serves no purpose.

 

As for the spiritual aspect of the Ego: we indeed need to overcome the limitations of our beliefs and go beyond what we experience as our separate, distinct self eventually. But you can only transcend something you know and understand, so you first need to inhabit your individuality before you can deliberately release it. Just like a seed needs to ripen before it can sprout, we need to fully enter into our humanity before embracing the unlimited, eternal aspects of our souls.  

I would like to invite you to contemplate your relationship with the Ego and explore it without judgement. Look for moments where it supported you, and moments where you felt the negative impact of its imbalance. Look for this driver within yourself and others, and observe how it is being used. There is so much you can learn about your nature, about what drives your actions and the beliefs you hold. But make sure to be kind to yourself and those around you during this exploration. Kindness and compassion, to yourself and others, are essential for the process of Sound Alchemy, because they are the key to transforming suffering into bliss.

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