In light of the recent redefining of the ego, let us discuss the ego’s proclivities and methods of attachment that are the root of all human suffering. As a reminder, the use of the term ego is referring to our sense of identity that was formed through our identification with beliefs, opinions, thought patterns, context for who and what we think we are, and our overall attachments to ‘me’.
All Truth is Relative
For starters we must clarify that all truth is relative to the the level of understanding from which it is arising and therefore applicable to. For example, to an ego that believes itself to be a body, revenge and contending with others for survival is absolutely true and a guiding principle for that level of awareness. However, to a more evolved being that perceives itself as say, a soul, such behavior is no longer seen as necessary or relevant and thus forgiveness, acceptance, and peace become guiding truths. So we must always remember that while there is such a thing as Absolute Truth it is most likely not comprehensible to the majority since we are all operating from various perspectives. It is important to always remember the humility of accepting that all truth is relative because it allows for an open-mindedness and acceptance of others’ viewpoints. With that said, allow yourself to surrender resistance and be open-minded to the discussion that follows.
The Ego’s Tactics of Being a Victim
The ego is essentially composed of belief systems and attachments to certain positions it has taken regarding particular topics, self-identities, values, interests, or circumstances, this we refer to as positionalities. These belief systems and positionalities are learned through parents, friends, and society and once accepted, are then reinforced constantly through repeated expectation and confirmation of belief in them. For example, once the ego accepts that life is full of fear and hardship it will then go about perceiving scenarios that reinforce this belief in order to maintain its control and sense of truth. So in the course of a day, events unfold that allow the ego to perceive its beliefs as self-evident in order to continue to reconfirm its victimization and reinforcement that life is hard and full of reasons to fear. However this is purely based on subjective awareness and is purely a choice stemming from within whether one wants to admit it or not. The ego in the most defensive and deeply entrenched states will completely deny that it has any responsibility for its experience. The primitive ego loves feeding energy into being a victim because it is completely self-fulfilling through its self-loathingness. I’m sure all of us have come across these kinds of people who love feeding their victimization rather than taking responsibility. It is the notion of preferring to wallow in one’s misery rather than do anything about it. It ultimately is immature, infantile, and the primitive ego essentially needs to ‘grow up’. This however, requires assistance from loving and supportive others or an extreme ‘hitting bottom’ event in order to either provide support or a drastic wake up call for the individual.
The primitive ego believes itself to be completely separate from the love and goodness of life and believes itself to be full of lack and struggle. The ego has learned from infancy or from an extreme set-back in life that love and happiness are fleeting, purely external, and one is lucky if one ever gets to experience them. Therefore if the chance ever does arise the ego has to hold on to whatever it is that is providing the source of temporary happiness and thus becomes attached to the particular external stimuli. This takes the form of people, places, things, and desired circumstances. All of which are external and out of one’s control and therefore one is either a victim of suffering or lucky receipt of happiness. The naive ego perceives the world full of victims and perpetrators and is constantly on guard. Peace of mind is perpetually elusive and all we can do is have compassion for such beings trapped believing in sorrow. Yet the good news is, it can all change in an instant and every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around.
All Responses to Life are a Choice
It is significant to realize that nothing in life actually has any meaning in and of itself; everything only has the meaning that we give to it based on our perception of it. What this is implying is that in Reality there is no such thing as tragedy or suffering, only the imposed belief as such, it is purely an inner choice to see it that way. One can either see pain and suffering or one can choose to see only progress and love. This reclaiming of power is reflective of a more evolved being that has accepted its inner power and ability to create its own happiness or misery in life. All happiness is an inner decision and thus the world actually has no power over us other than what we give to it. The whole world could be coming to an ‘end’ and one could either laugh or cry about it, it’s still purely based on our choice of perception. To not get ahead of ourselves let us take a look at how the evolution of the ego’s attachments proceeds.
The Primitive Ego and its External Attachments
In the beginning, as mentioned in the redefining, the ego’s attachments stem based on the world of form. In terms of human psychological development this is first learned from the relationship with the mother figure. This dependency on the external then expands into anything that the ego deems as its ‘love object’. Thus the body, possessions, status, age, wealth, relationships, and all other things pertaining to one’s physical reality are completely significant and are seen to define oneself as the sense of ‘who I am’. This is reflective of the most ‘young’/immature egos. It is guided purely by the inconsequential, superficial, external, and worldly. Due to their inherent nature these attachments are completely vulnerable since they are based entirely on the fleeting external world. All form shall pass, therefore to be attached to any of it is eventually realized to be a misuse of energy. This, most often, can take our entire lives to learn in which we chase external happiness through relationships, possessions, or our career. This chase will never end, for the ego’s need for external satisfaction can never truly be satisfied. The ego in this level thrives on novelty, therefore as soon as it reaches its goal it immediately is unsatisfied and says… “now what?” This then leads to the setting of yet another external goal/attachment and the cycle repeats.
When the ego’s sense of self is invested in the physical body and external world its desires are endless and the search for happiness is eternally elusive. The ego in this level will always be searching until, if it’s lucky, deliverance is provided through the realization that perhaps happiness is within rather than without.
The Ego and the Mind
This then leads the ego to investigating its inner world which either leads straight to spirituality through devotion/compassion (pathway of the heart) or to the development of the intellect as a source of salvation (pathway of the mind). In my experience the intellect became the next source of fulfillment and therefore everything that could be done to satisfy my intellectual attachments became of interest. This came in the form of college, medical school, a masters program, and interest into quantum and theoretical physics, all of which were inevitably still limited in their lasting fulfillment. When the ego begins to shift attachment to intellectual pursuits everything is about knowledge, information, and increasing the power of the mind. The ego then becomes attached to its sense of ‘I know‘ and therefore bases its judgments off of intellectual superiority of one’s education, prestige, intellectual prowess, and essentially the vanity of ‘knowledge’. Opinions and pontification run high as the ego’s vanity now escalates to a whole new caliber.
Nevertheless, in the realms of ego attachment as the mind, one’s sense of self is much more satisfying because one has realized that all happiness in life is dictated by one’s inner perceptions. The ego in the realms of identification with the intellect, eventually learns that it is only one’s mind that is controlling the response to and enjoyment of life. This is the epitome of the self-empowered and can eventually evolve up to the point of scientific genius. The ego’s attachments in this realm regard everything to do with the intellect and one’s ability to ‘think’ and ‘know about’ things. This too is eventually realized to be exhausting and still ultimately unfulfilling and bottomless. The ego as the mind is inevitably limited in lasting satisfaction, for even scientific genius has to eventually succumb to the radical humility of realizing the mind is actually not responsible for its own thoughts. All thoughts are impersonal and arising from something beyond the mind (energy patterns within consciousness). Furthermore, the mind has to accept that it ultimately is not capable of sustaining its own existence, rather its existence is realized to be given and provided from something beyond itself that is observing it and providing its fundamental awareness. To identify this quality of consciousness all we must do is observe the radical fact that thoughts do not ‘think’ themselves, something is beyond them ‘listening’, so to speak. It is only because of the background of silence that all thoughts are recognized and there is a higher level of awareness permeating our every experience. Thus, the pursuit of knowledge is still based on fleeting form and therefore will pass in due time. This leads to the eventual conclusion that some sort of metaphysical/spiritual reality is quietly behind all life’s experience must ultimately be one’s true sense of self. And even more curious is that it seems to be eternal in promise of satisfaction because it is not dependent on that which is temporal, (ie. the world).
Humility Inevitably Leads to Spirituality
Investing in spirituality now becomes truly relevant whereas in the realms of the ego as the mind, the spiritual was seen as mystical, unmeasurable, and therefore uninteresting. The ego as the mind cannot trust or even be truly interested in the realms of spirituality or true love since they deal with the nonlinear subjective realms of existence that are incapable of being scientifically measured or proven. The true genius however sees the arrogance and limitation of this and surrenders out of humility. As mentioned, it is helpful to realize that the mind will ultimately pass and one can instead investigate how is it that one exists to begin with. Although the mind may be capable of scientific genius it ultimately has to accept the fact that it is only being allowed existence by something beyond itself.
Thus leads to the study of consciousness…
Attachment is the Root of All Human Suffering
For now let us reflect on the proclivities of the ego and its constant formation of attachments. The last thing the ego wants to do is surrender/let go of its attachments of attractions and aversions, opinions, control, judgments, and vanity of positionalities. Therefore so long as there are clinging attachments, suffering is inevitable. This is exactly what the Buddha taught in terms of reaching spiritual enlightenment, which is the relinquishment of attachment to the ego and thus all of its specific attachments to attractions or aversions in life. The ego is wily and incredibly clever and as it evolves it becomes increasingly sophisticated and intricate. However, as ego attachments are surrendered and let go of, happiness, inner fulfillment, and joy are able to arise as that which was always present, the ego was simply blocking us from experiencing it. By analogy, it is like clouds blocking the sun that was shining the entire time one just couldn’t see it before. The irony is that happiness and peace of mind are the natural states of being, it is actually the ego’s illusory belief that happiness is elsewhere, separate or external, that causes all suffering. As mentioned, this is usually learned in infancy through being denied true unconditional love from the parent figures that is then reinforced by society. Thus the ego can be thought of as the essence of projection of happiness and love outside of ourselves and is therefore never present or truly content. It is the very core and root of all attempts to control life and therefore the source of all attachments and suffering.
There is nothing more important or significant when it comes to finding lasting satisfaction in life. Transcend attachments, transcend all suffering.
Know that there is infinite love waiting within us that need only simply be realized as that which was present the entire time one just couldn’t see it before. With humility and gratitude as one’s source of empowerment all obstacles can be transcended and surrendered in order to realize the eternal, immutable happiness that is our natural enlightened state of being. We are pure love, and as such I extend infinite love to you and wish only that you may walk on a blissful path. Seek the peace within, and we will never go without. Namaste’
Peace and Love always-