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- Henry David Thoreau
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"The fact is that there is a point, one single point in the immeasurable world of mind and matter, where science and therefore every causal method of research is inapplicable, not only on practical grounds but also on logical grounds, and will always remain inapplicable. This point is the individual ego. It is a small point in the universal realm of being, but, in itself, it is a whole world, embracing our emotional life, our will, and our thought." - Max Planck

Thoughts on the Ego Problem
Updated: 01/09/2021

Here is what Bryan Appleyard has to say on what I think is the root of the problem:

Freud's vision was the climax of a project that had conclusively humbled our religious arrogance and scorned our humanistic hubris. Understanding the present means, to a great extent, grasping something of his conclusive tragic vision of man. His work may not be science, but there can be no doubt that his tragic, literary grandeur and imaginative power finally deliver the one clear message that science has wished to pass on to us ever since Galileo applied his eye to the telescope: that we are nothing but trivial accidents and that each man must hope and believe what he can in the grim certainty that nobody and nothing will ever be able to tell him whether he is right or wrong. - Appleyard, Bryan, Understanding the Present, (Anchor Books, 1994) page 74

Do I have an ego problem? Oh, yes! But the premise here is that having an ego problem is NOT my fault. I didn't ask for or sign up to have an ego problem. So, why do I have it?

Many books have been written on this subject, but instead of seeing that our egos are naturally and ineluctably shaped and wounded by the "environment" that we develop in, many guru authors define the ego as something that needs to be killed or done away with instead of being  healed, fed wholesome spiritual food, and made healthy.

Nothing is real except the present, and already,
I feel the weight of centuries smothering me.
Some girl a hundred years ago once lived as I do.
And she is dead. I am the present, but I know I,
too, will pass. The high moment, the burning flash,
come and are gone, continuous quicksand. And
I don’t want to die.
- Sylvia Plathe

There are two major aspects to the "human condition" that we find ourselves in that contribute to the illness of our egos, and the vitiation of our ego health:

  • Disempowerment, and this has been dealt with on the page Empowerment.
  • Devaluation

Also on this same site it has been written,

"Ideally, we spend our lives growing, learning, becoming wiser and more loving, becoming richer, deeper, more wonderful human beings. But the material universe doesn't notice, doesn't care. The message from the physical universe that is constantly in the background is one of relentless indifference. No matter how famous, beloved, celebrated, or virtuous, gravity never lets you skate by one time when you fall over a cliff. Electricity never lowers the voltage to a safe level because you are loving, wonderful or wise."

This introduces the second major contributor to a wounded ego, devaluation. This last part has evidently largely been missed by the “great” philosophers and psychoanalytical philosophers. They have seen the more obvious evil or traumatic aspects that the developing child inevitably encounters, such as the trauma of birth, toilet training, weaning, sexual development and rejection trauma, some unavoidable level of a mixture of childhood physical and emotional abuse, and destiny of death. But what should be obvious is that bad experiences in a loving environment are not as destructive to the ego as a much more moderate level of negative experience in an environment of indifference. It has been noted and said many times that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to
be indifferent to them; that's the essence of inhumanity. - G.B. Shaw

We are born into this tumultuous, noisy, dirty, messy, troubled, dangerous, insane world and from moment one onwards we NEVER have everything–represented by IF-I-SEEK-US–that we want and need. Reality seems to be indifferent to desires and needs being the essence of our souls. There are two and ONLY two fundamental implications:

1) The universe and/or God CANNOT deliver what we naturally want and need.
     This would seem to be a dead end with the only way forward being that we must fend for ourselves to get what we can in terms of sustenance and fulfillment.


2) It/He DOESN'T WANT to deliver the fullness of what we want and need..
     ONLY in this option two is there any wiggle room for a pathway to total, unimpaired success being delivered by the universe/and or God; There may be a way to understand why this is not being delivered, and to do something about it.

Thus the continuous, incessant implication or message that comes to our unconsciousness from this indifference is that we don't matter, we don't have any real, eternal value. We are alone and on our own in our quest to be satisfied This is the background within which our egos develop, malnourished and malformed. And so we lurch along with our unhealthy egos coping with the wide variety of troubling attitudes within, and troublesome behaviors by ourselves that we don't like to see in other people.

These coping mechanisms are legion, and run the gamut from cowering fear and timidity to delusions of invulnerability and immortality, from inferiority complexes to superiority complexes. The effort to convince ourselves and others that we do matter, do have value, runs from self-deprecation to self-aggrandizement, from being cowardly to heroic, from abject sacrifice and servitude to greed and selfishness, from false humility to arrogance, etc. Our unhealthy egos are vulnerable to the unwarranted or irrational guilt and shame often fostered by institutional religion, and vulnerable to many levels of denial as to the true state of our personalities and character.

One of the worst aspects of our ego problem is the denial that we have been careless, delinquent, not even close to being intellectually responsible, in building or accepting our belief systems. Our ego usually is immediately alarmed and armed if our belief system is threatened and attacked. We almost always react defensively and/or aggressively even though the belief system has been developed without intellectual responsibility, and isn't consonant with reality. This is a HUGE impediment to any progress toward sanity and unity, is it not? And this defensive reaction is a sure sign of insecurity in our beliefs.

We also usually react defensively and/or aggressively when someone takes a superior or patronizing attitude towards us, or tries to fix us. I TRY to be aware enough so that when this happens I can say jovially, “You’re not trying to fix me, are you? I don’t remember crawling up on the operating table and handing the scalpel to you.“ But so many times the procedure is subtle and done through innuendo, and we are “het up” before we realize what is going on. And it IS galling when this is done in a clumsy way or when someone of lesser understanding tries this.

We also get internally uptight when someone mirrors our own smallness and/or ego problems. Again, I am not saying that having an ego problem is our fault, but we are derelict only if we fail to become honest with ourselves and have the courage to look at and admit external and internal reality for what it is.

And there is also the resistance to admit it when we are wrong or make a mistake. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, why do we feel we need to feign infallibility? No need to elaborate here.

Could the healing of our egos come through a convincing demonstration, and an understanding of such, that we truly do have enormous and eternal value? Is there any way to really believe that?

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