The truth is so simple, yet we find so many issues with it. Why? Because our ego-self knows its days are limited, and the spiritual path is going to take us into a whole new world of the unknown. Of course, the world has always been unknown. It is constantly unfolding before us in surprising ways, but for the most part, we try to avoid this truth. We try to find safety through routine and making things as regular to us as possible. That familiarity is known, and what is familiar is often considered to be safe–even if it actually isn’t (such as the woman staying with an abusive husband or vice versus).
Along the way, we have a whole host of ideas and reasons to stay in bad situations, to avoid seeing the truth, and to attempt to believe that we actually know what is going on. We don’t.
In no other moment of life is this more apparent than during a major spiritual shift such as a spiritual awakening. The fact that we don’t know what’s going on with us, with life, or with how things will unfold is thrown right into our faces. Certainly, as we turn our attentions inward, we can find some level of “knowing” from the only place where it can be found–in our souls.
But along the way, we are running up against fears and beliefs and a whole slew of ego defenses and traps that are trying to keep us away from these deeper simpler truth of life. These defenses were put there by you, and most of us believe they will keep us safe. But they do not, and they can seem like common sense until we shed some serious light on them. So here are 6 ego defenses and logical traps to know about and some ideas about how to face them.
The ego likes to take truths and exaggerate them to ridiculous levels. The ego likes to do this as a way to invalidate the truth. Let’s take the common religious statement, “Do no harm.” Sometimes when people are thrown up against this truth and have to face all the ways they’ve harmed others, they begin to exaggerate this to absurd levels. They may say, “Well, we’re always doing harm. We walk on grass. Our bodies kill bacteria. What difference does it make if I’ve done harm?” But clearly, the spiritual guidance of doing no harm isn’t focusing on natural biology. Whenever the ego goes into this kind of hyperbole or exaggeration, you know you’re coming up against an uncomfortable truth. The mindful thing to do here is to ask, “What is that truth?”
Additionally, begin to notice how you exaggerate situations in life. Over-dramatization is another way people emotionally exaggerate things, but life is very simple. If we take away our antics and hysterics, we start to see what is really going on in life and what is really going on with ourselves.
Ego Trap 2: Fortune-telling and Future Predictions
A lot of people who have an awakening want to know that “everything will turn out all right.” In general, most people–regardless of if they’re on the spiritual path or not–want to know that the future will turn out all right. You hear a variety of quotes essentially to try and soothe this issue in people. Quotes such as:
“Everything turns out all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it’s not the end.” — Author Unknown (If you know the author, let me know.)
But what does that even mean? It’s nonsense. The only end we all come to is death, and it is very doubtful that the above statement is referring to that. Actually, what people tend to mean is quite the reverse in that we don’t want to come to an end. Our ego-selves want to know that we won’t be in pain, and many people have a kind of immortality complex as well as a huge denial of death. But we’re all going to take that door one day.
Yet, this thinking is often a hidden part of the fortune-telling side of the ego. And if the ego doesn’t think that you’ll get a safe and comfortable solution for all this spiritual stuff, then it often chooses to opt out instead.
There are even more ways the ego tries to predict the future. Whenever you think you can’t do something because then [insert the bad thing that you think will happen], you are stuck in this trap. Sure, some things are more certain than others. If you don’t pay your taxes, your government is probably going to come looking for you. But this isn’t the real issue, and don’t let your ego use the ego trap number 1 with what I’m saying. You know when you’re trying to predict the future. Just pay attention. Any time you assume something will happen (good or bad), you are caught in this trap.
The way out of this ego trap is to understand this: “You cannot predict the future.” Yes, there are currents that you can notice in life, and the better you see these currents, the better of a sense you’ll have where things in your life are going. This is more or less what fortune-telling psychics aim to do with greater or lesser success depending on the clarity of the individual. But truthfully, the entirety of the future is always hidden from us, and determining how you proceed on your spiritual path by whether you think the future will turn out comfortably or not for you is the kind of decision-making that will leave you trapped your whole life.
Ego Trap 3: Huge Leaps in Logic and Impossibilities
The leaps in logic are many, and they often hide a multitude of assumptions. One of the most common that I hear is this, “If I follow the spiritual path, I won’t be able to make money. I won’t survive.”
Wow. How did we get there? That’s like taking a big step in Kentucky and ending up in Tiananmen Square in China. Seriously. That is poor logic at its poorest.
To find your way out of ego traps like this, you have to get better at unearthing your assumptions and decoding your thinking process. In general, this is a really helpful thing to do to tame the mind and get the horse back in front of the cart. Until you do that, the ego will keep coming up with ridiculous conclusions via these huge leaps in logic, and you will keep yourself quite immobilized by fear.
To help you take apart the above statement, you have to ask yourself what the spiritual path is. Most people have no idea, and some people think they have an idea that is rock solid. I’ll talk about the many misunderstandings of the spiritual path in a following bullet, but for now, let me just emphasize that the spiritual path is not prohibitive of earning money and supporting you. It simply asks you to be mindful and engaged with the present moment. If you are truly doing something you don’t love or isn’t in integrity, there will likely be a transitional time period. But just because the flight is momentarily turbulent doesn’t mean the plane is going down. So, be mindful whenever you believe life has become impossible. These impossibilities are billboard signs that you’ve made a huge leap in logic into an ego trap.
Ego Trap 4: Believing That You Know What You Want
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dearie me. So many people think they know what they want, but they truly have no clue. Let’s change this to people know what society and their family told them that they should want. You know the list. Money, cars, spouses, children, houses, jobs, great vacations, great clothes, lots of friends, and so on. You don’t really know why you want these things, and the more unconscious a person is, the less they even know that there’s anything to question here. In too much ignorance, my words can have very little effect. It really becomes divine grace that rouses people from so deep a slumber.
But hopefully, you are humble enough to engage with the question of “What do I want?” It’s a really powerful question, and you can’t be satisfied with your initial answers. You have to question your answers usually several times over to get to the truth.
Because if you don’t, you won’t understand where the spiritual path is taking you. My general experience and intuitive understanding of spiritual awakening is that it takes you where you really want to go. It brings to you what you really want. Some of you may already have experience with getting what you thought you want and feeling perhaps only momentarily satisfaction before the hollowness comes up. What we have been taught to want is very rarely what we really want, and if we are really out of alignment with our truth, where the spiritual path takes us can be more than a little surprising. But when we embrace it, we start to see the joy and love that we truly want arising in ways we probably never could have expected before. That’s why letting go of what you think you want can be so important. It makes space for the divine to show you what really matters to you until you are truly clear on this and can join more fully with the divine plan.
Ego Trap 5: Unconscious or Willful Misunderstanding of the Spiritual Path
From my earliest spiritual awakening blog posts, I’ve encouraged you to examine your definitions. Your definitions of different words and ideas can help you to illuminate your life or trap you within your own beliefs. If your belief is that the spiritual path will make you free of all human pain and drama, you are going to be sorely disappointed. If you think the only way you can be a spiritual person is by going to live in ashram by yourself or with a highly-selected spiritual community, then you are greatly deluded. If you think only a few special people can be truly spiritual, then you are lost and have probably been lied to.
Whatever your original beliefs about the spiritual path, the further you go, the simpler it becomes. The spiritual path is simply what is. Whatever is here and now is your path. You can engage it mindfully or from ignorance, scrambling to get things you think you want when you don’t know what it is your are really seeking. When the spiritual path becomes every moment and every breath, you realize that you cannot be divorced from it, and you realize that you are responsible to yourself and everyone around you for doing your part to walk it. When you really understand this, the ego can no longer trick you into thinking that you don’t have the time, money, or something else to be a spiritual person. The spiritual path is already here; it has always been here. Only the idea, the illusion that it’s not can keep you separate from it.
Working Your Way Out of Your Traps
In so many ways, we learn to see ourselves as our greatest jailer. It is not the government, our abusers, our parents, our society, or anyone else; it is us. Sure there are great and terrible things that people can do to us, but as we mature, we learn that we can choose our reactions and how to perceive life. But we can’t make those choices until we understand the lens through which we’re seeing life. To do that usually means that we’ll face a whole lot of our own ego defenses and traps that serve little other purpose than to blind us from the truth. It is a strange thing that our creation should keep us so carefully tied up when it is supposed to be serving us instead.
None of this is impossible. But it does take dedication and usually some amount of time. Keep im ind that you’ve probably spent decades of time creating this thing–this ego, so what are a few years to unmake this monster? Because in umaking the unconscious ego, your eyes open to a whole new level of reality, and from that clarity, you can now make conscious choices, know what truly matters to you, and live the life you truly want to live.