How to Let Go of Your Ego

historic homes, folsom, california, palm treeThe topic of "How to Let Go of Your Ego" really is a topic for a book, maybe several. It's either writing a whole book or the answer to it is one word, "surrender."

But I'm sure just putting surrender in this blog post would get more than a few frustrated sighs and eye-rolls, so I'll try to give you an outline of four key aspects of letting go of the ego in this post. Along the way, I hope to help you understand that the ego is not bad; it's a tool. But if the tool is guiding the hand instead of the hand guiding the tool, we can get in trouble. And a lot of humanity has gotten in serious trouble by letting this tool run the show. This makes it particularly imperative that we take the time to go within and let go of our unconscious ego. Otherwise, it will continue to run you and your life, taking you towards whatever preset inner beliefs tell you that you should go towards.

To help you on your journey of ego dissolution, you may want to check out my ebook if you do not already have it:

Everyday Spirituality: Cultivating an Awakening

What Is the Ego?

There are obviously plenty of definitions out there, but for the sake of this blog post, here's my definition:

The ego is a collection of beliefs and past experiences that defines how a person interacts with life.

See? Very simple. Pretty benign.

Except that the fact that a person believes some things and not others creates shadows. Those shadows are the things that they're not willing to believe. So one person may believe he is smart, but then his shadow may not allow him to not know something because that would appear to be dumb. But we all have things we don't know. It's a BIG universe. So this simple belief about oneself which appears to be healthy actually is not. The situation can be reversed too where the individual thinks he is stupid, but that doesn't allow him to acknowledge his intelligence on some things. He may even stop trying to learn or improve, and this creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The number of traits and beliefs that people have is extensive, but by and large, people don't realize that they have so many nor from where they came. They also don't realize that they have a choice in changing these beliefs. That means they're unconscious about how their ego is running them, and it's the unconscious ego that is the real problem.

What Is the Unconscious Ego?

The unconscious ego is this:

The ego does not know that all its beliefs, self-perception, and traits are created and chosen. It may not even know that this ego/identity even exists nor that it can be changed. It simply believes that the person is the way s/he is, and life is as they perceive it.

This is massively problematic. All over this spiritual awakening blog I discuss the problems of ignorance, and the unconscious ego is almost always ignorant about itself. Few unconscious people have any idea what their core beliefs and core experiences are, nor do they understand how they hold onto them, act them out, and thereby define themselves and what is even possible in their lives. This profound ignorance is why so many people are shocked at how much healing work they have to do on the spiritual path. Their ignorance blinds them to the depth and the power of their unconscious egos.

Unconsciousness is often a catch-22 where the more unconscious someone is, the less likely they will see their point of view as the problem. Only in very rare (and very lucky) instances does someone so deeply unconscious wake up. It's like the weight of the ego collapses, and the truth is revealed. But more regularly the weight of the unconsciousness collapses and just smashes the person further under a pile of self-hatred, despair, and depression.

Spiritual Depression and Unconscious Ego Resistance After Awakening

The Desire to Know Yourself

With all that said, letting go of your unconscious ego requires a desire to know yourself. This is a very important step one, and in an interesting way, this is a kind of conscious choice. It can be ironic that someone lost in unconsciousness can even make a conscious choice. But it can be done. It does happen. Is this Divine grace? Probably.

Along the way, the person starts to make a conscious ego. The conscious ego knows it is made up and can be unmade at any time when it is no longer useful. It's kind of like the scaffolding one builds to reach different parts of a building. The conscious ego is temporary like the scaffolding, and as the building (the unconscious ego) is demolished, certain levels of conscious ego get taken down. An example of this temporary ego is like the self-improvement ego that often gets created to help people in the early stages of spiritual development. It's useful, but it should not become a permanent replacement for the original ego. Otherwise, it is very easy for many people to re-wallpaper the prison cell walls instead of tearing down the prison. This example represents working on a few issues (getting rid of old wallpaper), but then core issues like self-hatred and depression are left standing (the walls). They may get covered up again by all kinds of fun spiritual experiences, but they are not gone, thereby creating a new spiritual ego. So the person is not free, and they don't really, fully know themselves.

Beware the Spiritual Ego

The Desire to Face Your Darkness

Letting go of your ego also means being willing to see the whole of yourself and everything that it is connected to. Many people are happy to embrace their light and their joy, but that is not the whole of us. There is also a lot of old pain and forgotten beliefs, and they tend to be stuffed into the dark corners of our inner space. These forgotten beliefs, experiences, pains, and other things create a lot of the support structure for the unconscious ego. That means that most of who someone thinks they are is built out of this, and their daily way of thinking and living is about to change if they start to mess with this foundation. This is where letting go of the ego is going to get serious. Things are about to get much less fun.

A lot of uncomfortable things come up as someone delves into the darkness, and they will go into a time of not knowing who they are or what they want. It's pretty common for people to quit when this happens. Most people who are trying to let go of their ego are trying to get rid of the painful parts so that they can have only pleasurable experiences. But this is not life nor how human beings work. The human body is built on a pleasure and pain system. That's just what we have to work with. Nonetheless, a lot of people and some spiritual teachers try to claim a life without pain is possible, and lots of people in this pop-a-pill-make-me-feel-better culture dive head first into such claims.

It should be said that this path leads us to freedom from suffering (suffering is the way the ego makes people upset about situations like a stubbed toe). It does not lead us away from pain (e.g. stubbed toes).

How to Face Your Inner Darkness

The Resilience to Keep Going Within

There are a lot of beautiful things inside of people, and many of those are often cut off from people by their egos. Those lost in self-hatred and despair are often overwhelmed by love and joy which their self-hating egos denies them. So we absolutely do find immense beauty squirreled away in the recesses of our souls.

However, the critical part in all of this is how much we can surrender to our discomfort. Being resilient and dedicated is an ongoing step 3 in the process of letting go of the ego. How resilient can we be to discomfort when our old unconscious ego screams to get away from this? How much can we allow upset stomachs that remember our mother kicking us there? How much can we feel the emotional pain in our chests from the girlfriend who broke up suddenly and stopped speaking with us when we were teenagers? How much can we endure the fear of the unknown when we don't know what an issue is? These are the types of questions the Divine places to all of us the further we go on the spiritual path. These are tests. God wants to know how sincere we are. How much are we willing to embrace all of life? Because that is part of what it means to be free of ego.

Getting off the Spiritual Plateau

Embracing All of Life

As I said in the beginning, this topic is a huge one. I could keep writing this post for the next 3 weeks and not really be done. I've also written extensively about it in numerous ways in other blog posts. But I would say that the fourth and greatest step in letting of your ego is a willingness to embrace ALL of life. And who is really, truly willing to do that?

Who is willing to embrace cancer?
Who is willing to embrace the death of a child?
Who is willing to embrace car accidents?
Who is willing to embrace gum loss and tooth decay?
Who is willing to embrace being fired?
Who is willing to embrace bankruptcy?
Who is willing to embrace divorce?

I could write an endless list of things that the ego does not want. Of course, the less ego we have, the less we avoid anything. We let life unfold before us, and we engage with what is and not what we want it to be. That generally also tends to mean that we become more:
  • Humble
  • Compassionate
  • Giving
  • Kind
  • Peaceful
  • Honest
  • Open
  • Loving
This list also goes on for awhile, but they are not the only traits we feel. We still feel other kinds of pain, but without the ego to hold onto anger or fear, they come by as passing winds. Many kinds of anger, fear, sadness, and so forth disappear entirely because the unconscious ego is no longer there to tell us to be upset that our sports team lost or our friends didn't like our outfit. There truly is a whole world of new and deeper experiences beyond the unconscious ego.

But it all comes back to how willing a person is to embrace all of life. The ego tries to select the parts that it thinks will best serve us. The Divine Self embraces it all. So embrace it all, and the ego will have to dissolve and disappear.

Facing Your Ego's Death

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