Oakville Zen Meditation

#116: Content & Structure of our ego ( Ego Series #1-0 ).18JUL16

Content and structure of our ego (EGO series 1-0)

    Our self –identification with things

Deep in our subconscious mind, the role of our ego is to protect, to enhance and to please the “self” and its image. Unfortunately, it is also the main culprit of our unhappiness and dissatisfactions through endless desires, negative feelings, expectations and illusions. We talked about these many times.

Our ego identifies itself from three majors sources, which define its structure and content.

Today we will talk only about identification with things.

Identification with things.

Marketing people know very well, that, in order to sell you something that you don’t need, they must convince you that, by having this new stuff, you are adding something important to your life, yourself and your self image. In other words your ego will benefit from it.

What kind of things your ego will identify with and benefit from vary greatly from person to person according to gender, age, education, job, social class and environment.

The unconscious compulsion of the ego is mostly structural and content-based. The measure of our own progress is more and more and more stuff, things, money, pleasure, pride, control, etc. The striving for more and more and more, for endless growth, is a dysfunction and a disease very similar, in its process, to cancer. Paradoxally, what keeps the consumer society going is the fact that trying to identify self by endless accumulation of stuff doesn’t not work since the desire for more new stuff is beyond our control. Ego-identification with things creates attachment to things, obsession to things.

At home, look at yourself and try to answer these 6 questions:

  1. How do I define myself? What are the ingredients? body, intellect, socio-professional, stuff ?
  2. How much my sense of self is related to what I possess like goods and knowledge?
  3. Do certain stuff I have induces a subtle feeling of superiority, importance and meaning of life?
  4. On the contrary, does the lack of them make you feel unhappy and inferior to others who have more than you?
  5. Do I casually mention things I own or show them off to increase my sense of worth to someone?
  6. Do I feel resentful or angry and somewhat diminished in my sense of self when someone else has more than I have or when I am losing or not controlling a prized or sentimental possession?

So, is it wrong to be proud of having more or to feel resentful toward people who have more than you?

Not at all! That sense of pride, of needing to stand out, the apparent enhancement of one’s self through “More than” and reduction through “Having less” is neither right or wrong - it is just our ego at work.

Our individual ego is necessary to survive but it is neither right or wrong, it is just an unconscious remnant of our reptilian brain following 3 billions years of evolution. Learning to be conscious of your ego, that is to be aware of it and observing its positive and negative effects allows you to go beyond it and not to take it too seriously. When you detect egoistic behavior in yourself, try to smile. How long have we been fooled by our single (“I”) and collective (We”) egoistic behaviors without knowing their source?

Final words:

Self-identification through “having” and “not having” is one of the most powerful weapons used by the ego to stay alive and in control of your true genuine self. As we just describe, “having” and “not having” is aiming mostly at material things including our body but includes also non-material objectives such as pride, power, pleasure and control (political, mental, spiritual and religious).

It is important to understand these 2 paradoxes:

1) Trying to define yourself by “having” and “not having” things never works since we keep looking always for more and more, we keep buying, keep consuming, keep leasing, keep renting, keep dreaming. All induce a very short satisfaction span of few hours or days. Once achieved or not, it automatically leaves the way for another endless hunting addiction for having this and that. Regarding this endless hunting addiction, can you find a better source of frustration and unhappiness? Probably not.

2) Related to # 1) the prime objective of our ego is our self- identification, self-enhancement, self-protection and pleasure and yet, too much of it can be very detrimental causing more negative feelings than positive ones.

Beside, this ego is not you but only a subconscious part of you. This little self is not your real self. The real self is above and beyond it.