Mapping Out Ego Structure

In this blog post, I wanted to offer some thoughts on investigating issues though mapping out your ego structure.

It's become increasingly clear that a lot of people I talk to don't understand how their ego structure is created and reinforced by different issues. Most people only focus on the most surface-level issues and have not idea what deeper issues created them.

Primarily, I discuss issues that are obviously causing someone pain, but the further we go on the spiritual path, the more we learn to let go of things that may bring pleasure simply because they inhibit true spiritual freedom. However, this is a topic for another time, and since most people are not done with many of their painful core issues, this is the primary focus on this ego mapping exercise.

Interrelation Between Ego Issues

A lot of times people talk about their ego issues as if they are on an island with no connection to anything else. This is not true. They interconnect and reinforce one another in countless ways. It's kind of like a web of tangled, thorny vines, and cutting through that mess is largely an uncomfortable, painstaking process. Clearing that mess means you now have tons of room to plant an amazing garden. That garden includes relationships, work, adventures, ideas, and so much more. There are amazing benefits of doing this inner work.

Generally, I prefer to use the image of a tree for the ego. The roots are our most foundational issues (fear of dying and so forth), and the base of the trunk are core issues. Mid-level issues grow out of that into the central branches, and then numerous smaller branches sprout out, aka the top-level issues. Those issues grow tons and tons of leaves--surface level issues--and it's those surface-level issues to which most people pay attention without acknowledging the whole tree underneath them.

A Flowchart of Ego Issues

Here's how I think about these ego issues and the way they build upon one another.

Core issues > Mid-level issues > Top-level issues > Surface-level issues

Here's a common example of a flow chart that exemplifies many people.

Feeling alone/disconnected > Feeling self-hatred arise from feeling disconnected > Masking self-hatred with positivity > Seeking relationships to support the choice to be positive and to generally feel good to help mask the other issues

There are a lot of branches and leaves that result from just the core issue of feeling alone. You'll probably end up with multiple arrows going out in different directions from the mid-level, top-level, and surface-level issues. Also, feeling worthless, scarcity fears, feeling unwanted, and other core issues intertwine with one another, and powerful branches grow out of them.

You can apply your artistic talents to drawing an ego tree if you like. If you prefer a more linear form of illustration, you can try the flowchart. The central point is that giving yourself a visual aid can be really useful in understanding yourself and why you act the way you act, think the way you think, and feel the way you feel.

Stuck Dealing With the Same Issues

The opportunity with this particular spiritual tool is to avoid getting stuck dealing with the same issues endlessly. For example, surface-level issues like overeating, never liking the people you date, feeling like you have to do too much for other people, and others may keep coming back and re-growing themselves just like leaves on the tree. You keep doing them over and over again no matter how much you try to change that specific behavior (pull out those leaves from the branch). But you aren't working with the core issues that created them. That's why we want to work our way down to the trunk of the tree.

To be sure, you also work on core issues repeatedly, but that's in a different way if you are doing your inner work correctly. You will find more space and ease as you break those down. However, core issues define someone's entire ego, and most people are still very deeply attached to those issues and many aspects of their ego self. Few people are truly ready to surrender everything about themselves. Most people hold back, and that leads to taking a few swings at the ego tree trunk and then stopping. Then a few more swings and then stopping again. Things often gradually grind to a halt, and the person gets no where.

How to Break out of Repeating Issues

The Roots and Foundation of the Ego

Ultimately, we have to confront instinctual drives because that's what the ego is built on. We are biologically built to not like pain, and so we have a fear of pain. That links in closely with a fear of death. Additionally, we're driven to procreate and then to protect the children we have. These are the central drives for humanity, and while everyone has different levels of attachment to them, they are there. And they do not disappear with just a thought nor even a profound spiritual awakening.

The 2 Pillars of the Ego and the Human Animal Body

For now, I'll end this short blog post with the encouragement to try out the mapping tool. See how it works. You may find yourself very familiar with the top-level and surface-level issues and not as much with core issues. Take your time. Ask yourself, "What function does an issue serve?" "Why is it there?" These beliefs and issues have been put there by you for a reason, and so a little bit of intellectual logical can be very helpful in revealing your deeper core issues. In so doing, it can become easier to face them and dissolve them for good.