No matter who you are or what you do, you’ve likely heard the expression, ‘keep your Ego in check’ — maybe it was even directed at you. The truth is our Ego can be our protector and greatest hindrance, and we don’t even address the elephant in our brains for most of our lives. Still, no matter who you are or your circumstances, the key to self-mastery is to work towards removing that which does not expansively serve us. Or, an ‘Ego audit’, as I call it.
WHAT IS EGO?
The Ego is the construction of ourselves that we believe to be our “created identity.” Things we label ourselves, like “I’m a great communicator” or “I’m selfish”, are considered ego statements.
The Ego is neither negative nor positive in itself – the thoughts that develop the Ego take a ‘side’. Humans become lost behind what the “I” and “me” tell them about themselves.
The Ego develops throughout our lives, helping us determine an idea of our “Self.” For example, we may create beliefs about who we are because when we were nine years old, someone told us that we were “too short to be a ballerina” or “not good with numbers”; we measure what we hear against what we believe to be true about who we are, not how capable we truly may be.
Perhaps it’s the reverse, that somebody told us when we were younger that we were the best at math and science only to find out that when put to the test, we cannot perform up to the praise of our mind’s reinforced truth. The things we experience and believe to be truths help us support and ripen our identity and thus our Ego.
Like with so many parts of life, now and then, it might help us separate fact from fiction. The Ego is complicated as it isn’t just one solid concept or thought; it is the culmination of many thoughts and beliefs we formulate over a lifetime that may or may not hold any validity.
HOW TO IDENTIFY THE EGO
The Ego identification process is challenging simply because there is no ‘fact checking’ absolute that can scream to us, ‘this is your EGO talking!’ — instead, we are left wading through a sea of emotional reactions and dramas that can provide us with insights but no substantial proof.
Identifying what our Ego is is trickier than finding out something concrete like our astrological sign or family history. Our Ego can help us express our convictions in an argument. And our Ego can also lead us to believe our convictions are correct and then, hours later, leave us questioning if our reaction was entirely overboard and if we aren’t a bit ‘stupid’ for sharing our beliefs. After all, our beliefs are ideas we’ve adopted as reinforcement from lifelong behavioral feedback – criticism or praise.
Having an awareness of our Ego can be challenging. When we step back and take in outside feedback, it can be difficult to ever honestly know if we approach situations with genuine self-awareness or if it is our Ego’s insidious way of taking our emotional responses hostage.
Our Ego can do this in an attempt to escape from everyday life’s battles. Two separate individuals who have poor self-esteem and lack confidence could use their Egos in opposite ways. Person A, with a poor self-image, may withdraw from people and situations to protect their insecurities. In contrast, Person B, with the same poor self-worth, may project an heir, arrogance, or braggadocio to mask how bad they feel inside. It’s becoming aware of when the Ego jumps in as a protection or a projection that helps us become more self-aware.
WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EGO AND FEAR?
Have you ever heard the expression, “Fear is a great motivator?” Fear can be useful and useless; either way, it’s a response from our sympathetic nervous system. The Ego primarily gains its fuel through fear-based energy. If you’ve ever done anything out of a reaction to fear, you’ve experienced familiar fear syndrome.
You’ve probably heard the expression before, but our base, primal instinct is to experience “fight-or-flight” responses when faced with uncertainty. The Ego hates uncertainty and yet thrives on it (ever heard of the boy who cried wolf?).WHAT IS AN EGO AUDIT? Click To Tweet
Understanding the Ego helps us identify how we work our way through fear-based energy.
When we live in constant fear, our mind and body are equipped to signal a response that will end up in projection mode (flight) or protection mode (fight).
Our fear response impacts our Ego as it is low vibrational energy and does not work at the higher dimension of the Soul. When we react from fear, we can a) defend ourselves from someone or something, b) shut down entirely and run, or c) see things from a higher, spiritual-based perspective that will facilitate seeing things through the eyes of compassion and love.
What happened to the Boy Who Cried Wolf in Aesop’s famous fable? He played a silly joke on the people in the village – multiple times – claiming that a wolf was attacking the flock of sheep when there was no threat or real danger, so when the wolf did show up, the villagers paid no attention to his cries, and the result was catastrophic. Is our Ego’s use of fear similar? Do we continuously create dramas in our heads that don’t exist? Do we find ourselves ultimately responding to uncertain situations in automatic, predictable ways, or do we try to think outside the box?
Option C is where an Ego audit comes in handy (more on that below!).
FAMILIAR FEAR TYPES
Familiar fear syndrome (as I define it) is an established, experienced, conditioned response based on anticipation of a familiar threat or perceived dangerous situation.
We experience familiar fears all the time, analogous to a child touching the hot stovetop and burning their hand – once you “get burned”, you won’t make that choice again. That’s why once we’ve been burned, we develop mechanisms to protect and project ourselves away from ever happening again. In this way, the familiar fear is referred to as useful familiar fear, a fight response or protection. “X happened before, but now I won’t be as vulnerable because I have Y experience to be prepared and protect myself.”
As in the Universal Law of Cause and Effect, every action has a reaction. It’s fine and well to have a fear that keeps us on the defence against people, places, and things that pose a threat, but what happens when we let a familiar fear block us from evolving or moving past these things? If the very stuff we impose to help us from making a mistake ultimately causes inaction and avoidance, it is a useless familiar fear, a flight response or projection. “X happened before, so now I won’t be doing Y again, or Z for that matter, and if you ask me, anybody else who does, X is crazy and in for a horrible experience.”
An Ego audit asks questions based on the familiar and its relationship to fear and projection.
THE EGO AUDIT
The Ego audit is a series of questions designed to break down feelings associated with fear-based Ego responses. The Ego audit consists of eighteen questions asking the individual what their feelings are, what these feelings are trying to communicate, and whether or not they can identify if a type of familiar fear is leading their Ego to come to unsupported conclusions.
More importantly, how individuals may be able to categorize their feelings as an opportunity for personal growth and development rather than reinforcement of deeply-held (albeit incorrect) beliefs.
We are not always who we think we are, but if we don’t take the time to confront our fears, take inventory of personal truths, and create an identity that will keep us separate from our Soul’s purpose, we will remain victim to our Ego’s judgment.