A lot of people have gotten transfixed with this idea of breaking out of the ego, disrupting it, or even killing it.
Unfortunately, that’s led some people to using intense tools with intense consequences. There are lots of spiritual tools, breath work, substances, and more that allow people to disrupt their egos. But without the right mental understanding and emotional/physiological fortitude, people can end up out of their depth, in an emotional tailspin, or a dark night of the soul!
What are we doing here?
It’s important to distinguish an unconscious ego from a conscious ego.
The unconscious ego doesn’t know it is a construct. Simply put, you think you are who you are. You accept your responses to life as correct. You accept your perceptions of life as correct.
If you feel unworthy of love, you accept this feeling as a correct way of feeling. If you feel wrong all the time, you accept it as correct that you feel wrong.
But we learn that this is all made-up.
Breaking out of this unconscious ego is critical if we want to let go of suffering and learn what it means to truly live.
But how will we now make decisions?
With a conscious ego.
The Conscious Ego: A Made-up Tool
A conscious ego knows it is made-up. It is focused on what is real while the unconscious ego is focused on repeating known patterns.
Every now and then, the unconscious ego gets something right, and boy, does that ego like to hold onto those moments. It holds onto them as signs that it is right about everything else!
A conscious ego knows it is only one perspective and that curiosity is critical to truly engaging with life because the vastness of life is unknown to us. This ego can be de-constructed or re-constructed as needed.
So what we’re really doing when we disrupt our ego story is disrupting the unconscious patterns that endless loop and repeat the same thought-feeling-sensory patterns.
Upending the Ego Illusions
Upending the repeating ego patterns and illusions can throw people into states of confusion, disorientation, doubt, and other things. Sure, sometimes, people feel great for a little while, but then they find themselves at this crossroads of wondering what is real.
What is real?
It’s a powerful question, but it’s not answered in the beginning of the spiritual journey. This is, in part, because the ego rejects so much of reality. Instead, we work on what is not real. We work on seeing our illusions and accepting that they don’t exist outside of our head.
Then we move on to how we have made and re-create different feeling states to enforce a sense of reality.
If you see a dog and are scared, the sense of fear creates a sense of certainty that you are under threat. The ego interpreted the dog as a threat, and it told the body to make an experience of fear. It’s this marriage between thoughts, feelings, and sensations that makes the ego so potent.
When you get a break from the ego in a spiritual experience of some kind, you may temporarily disrupt those loops, but then the patterns resume. You may intellectually now know that the “dog” is not a threat (the dog can be a metaphor for so many things–work, relationships, activities, etc.), but your body makes it feel real.
This unlearning process in the body is powerful, and it takes time to break out of those bio-chemical loops.
In an age of going faster and faster, we need to slow way down. We need to be patient, and we need to be diligent.
Patience without inner work is futile.
Working too fast to get somewhere tends to just reinforce a different aspect of the ego. I’ve seen people use inner work as a form of punishment.
So slow down.
Try not to think about getting somewhere. Rather, surrender to where you are now. The now is where you always are, and you’ll be just as much here now as later on after doing inner work, yet hopefully with fewer attachments.
And the gift of the process of letting go and awakening out of the ego story is understanding what it means to truly live.