The Complexity of Ego: Cultivating a healthy relationship with ourselves

By Ciel Patenaude –

Egos have a pretty bad image. Thanks to Freud and his buddies in the therapy realm combined with some intense uber-oneness-focused spirituality amplified in the 1960s (and today), most of us are perplexed by the existence, importance, and meaning of our egos, and are quick to judge them as creations of a less spiritually-aware soul. Even the mention of them in casual conversation is usually done deridingly, as though involvement of the ego in anything we do is implicitly bad.

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Canada goose reflection in the water at Scout Island, Williams Lake. Photo: Lisa Bland

But this is not true in the least.

The ego is an essential part of being human, and is absolutely necessary if we are to fully understand and live from our individual state and collective oneness-ness, allowing us to reach an enlightened state of awareness. It is through the ego that we express and understand our individual humanity, articulating the particular quirks or inclinations we were each born into this life with, and knowing ourselves to be important, perfect, and unique expressions of life.

Beyond the limited perspectives of a single consciousness, it is the larger awareness of spirit and connection that allows us to find joy in the fact that we’re part of something far larger than ourselves. We are both singular and unified, and this is the wonderful paradox our souls and minds seek to resolve: of thinking yourself incredibly important and marvelous, but then… just some relatively insignificant part of the magnificent, massive whole. A human being is both individual and collective, and we need appreciation of both expressions to feel grounded, confident, and aligned.

It is whether we develop our ego out of fear and resistance or out of love and personal preference that is the question. An ego built from resistance (called the ‘neurotic ego’, and focused on avoiding what we don’t like or don’t want) acts as a barrier between us and the world, preventing the light and wisdom surrounding us from getting in while simultaneously preventing us from accessing and articulating our own inner power.

An ego that is built of love and personal awareness (the ‘healthy ego’), on the other hand, acts as a selectively permeable membrane that allows us to feel important as an individual while still staying open to the perspectives and larger truths of the universe that surrounds us.

Both these perspectives must be developed and appreciated if we are to understand our existence; we must come to love and understand our individual ego state just as much as we have to seek to understand the connections we share with everything. Too often in spiritual searching we lean towards releasing our individual, ‘egoic’ selves in favour of the big spiritual ideals, a choice that seems logical yet is extremely damaging in the short and long term.

So how do we create a healthy ego? It is perhaps because this process is so complicated that so many choose to bypass it, I suppose. Extracting ourselves from our ‘neurotic ego’ (which is created through wounding in early childhood, primarily) and intentionally creating our ‘healthy ego’ is a job often best done with a spiritual counselor—someone who has travelled this road already and can assist our journey.

But we can all start by asking a very simple yet complex-to-answer question right here: “What do I need?”

In merely the asking of this question we will – subconsciously at first – crack open our egoic selves and bring conscious attention to what it is that our unique souls are asking for in this lifetime. We will begin to really listen to our inner selves in a way that we have not, perhaps, done so far, and start the process of honoring our individual expression of spirit.

It does not seem logical that we would be born as human beings with different brains and sensations and insights so that we could obliterate our individual part to play and dissolve into the universal spiritual puddle. Each of us – and the gifts and insights we carry – are necessary to the whole, and our work here is learning to articulate and live out those truths.

Ciel Patenaude is an integrative health & shamanic practitioner based in Williams Lake, BC. A highly trained and naturally gifted intuitive healer, Ciel holds a BSc in Biology, an MA in Integrative Healing, and is a certified yoga teacher & wellness coach.

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