Psychology

Egoic Illusions vs. True Self: A Journey of Self-Discovery

Every one of us has a quiet essence often overshadowed by the noisy demands of our ego. Like an actor, the ego plays the roles demanded by society, craving applause and fearing criticism.

It thrives on comparisons, judgments, and validations, often leading to dissatisfaction and endless wanting.

On the other hand, our true self, often silenced, is the core of our being, unswayed by external validations or material acquisitions. It is the silent observer, the eternal essence, that emanates peace and contentment.

Read on to learn how to navigate the maze of inner complexities that lead to finding your true inner self.

Egoic Illusions vs. True Self: A Journey of Self-Discovery

A man is depicted with a sketch overlay on half of his face as he draws on it with a pencil, set against a textured green background.

Break the illusions of the ego and find your true self.

What does it mean to be egoic?

Being egoic refers to an individual's alignment with a constructed sense of identity, primarily anchored in the mind's continuous stream of thoughts, beliefs, and narratives. This egoic self is a mental construct, a byproduct of our life experiences, societal conditioning, and personal interpretations of the world around us.

A significant characteristic of the egoic mind is its attachment to the physical form and the validation it seeks through external circumstances. This attachment is not just about physical appearances but extends to possessions, achievements, and even intangible assets like knowledge, relationships, and social status.

Such attachments create long-standing resentments, as the egoic self often finds itself in a relentless pursuit to protect and enhance its image, fearing anything that might challenge or diminish its perceived worth.

Another manifestation of the egoic state is the constant identification with one’s own thoughts and emotions. Instead of seeing thoughts and feelings as transient states or responses to specific situations, the egoic self views them as concrete aspects of its identity. For instance, if someone feels anger, sadness, or pride, the egoic mind claims these emotions as "I am angry" or "I am proud," solidifying the association between the emotion and the self.

Eckhart Tolle, a renowned spiritual teacher, offers profound insights into the workings of the egoic mind. In his teachings, Tolle describes the egoic mind as a noisy chamber filled with incessant chatter, judgments, and interpretations. This chatter, often grounded in the past or projecting into the future, overshadows the true self, which exists in the present moment. The true self, often referred to as consciousness or awareness, is a state of pure being, untouched by the whims of the mind.

Ironically, while the egoic self's search query is often for genuine connection, contentment, and peace, its nature leads it astray. By mistaking the false self (egoic self) for the true essence of our being, individuals find themselves trapped in cycles of negative emotions, reactive patterns, and dissatisfaction. The egoic self thrives on division, comparison, and conflict, constantly reinforcing patterns that pull individuals away from the tranquility and clarity of the present moment.

The journey from egoic to non-egoic is a transformative path from illusion to truth, from temporary constructs to eternal presence. It is about recognizing the transient nature of thoughts and emotions and rediscovering the boundless essence that lies beneath the mental noise.

How to be less egoic?

Venturing away from the clutches of egoic patterns requires both awareness and conscious effort. Recognizing the manifestation of egoic behavior is the first step. When our sense of self-worth becomes overly reliant on external validations, we are entrenched in egoic thinking.

For example, if someone consistently highlights their academic achievements in casual conversations or showcases their luxury possessions to gain admiration, it is often an egoic reaction driven by the desire for external validation.

Setting SMART goals provides a structured approach to personal growth. By crafting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, individuals can redirect their motivation. Instead of seeking external validation, the emphasis shifts to intrinsic satisfaction and genuine self-improvement. This framework fosters a growth mindset, where progress and learning are celebrated over mere achievements.

Mindfulness meditation offers another potent tool against egoic tendencies. It emphasizes staying anchored in the present moment. By cultivating this practice, individuals learn to observe their thoughts and reactions without judgment. Over time, this observational stance allows for the identification of egoic reactions as they arise. Instead of getting entangled in these reactions, one learns to acknowledge and let them pass, thereby reducing their grip on one's actions and emotions.

Engaging in reflective practices can also prove beneficial. Journaling, for instance, allows individuals to articulate their feelings, aspirations, and challenges. By putting pen to paper, one can discern patterns of egoic behavior, making them easier to address.

Lastly, seeking feedback can be instrumental. Engaging in open conversations with trusted friends, family, or mentors can provide valuable insights into one's behavior. These external perspectives can highlight areas where egoic patterns dominate, offering a fresh viewpoint on situations and interactions.

What is egoic love?

The concept of egoic love is complex and multifaceted. At its essence, egoic love is conditional, operating under a transactional framework. This type of love often comes with strings attached, implicitly or explicitly stating, "I will love you if..." Such conditions might be based on appearances, achievements, or specific behaviors that align with the ego's desires.

Egoic love is deeply intertwined with the egoic mind's incessant need for validation and control. This drive stems from the false self's insecurities, seeking to derive worth and identity from external sources. For instance, in relationships, egoic love might manifest as a partner feeling valued only when they meet certain criteria set by the other—whether it is looking a certain way, earning a specific income, or behaving in a particular manner. When these conditions aren't met, the love feels threatened or withdrawn, leading to feelings of inadequacy and rejection.

The volatile nature of egoic love often results in conflicts and misunderstandings. Since it is based on the shifting sands of the false self's desires and fears, it lacks the stability and depth found in more genuine forms of love. The ego's fears, be it fear of abandonment, inadequacy, or vulnerability, can cast long shadows on relationships, leading to possessiveness, jealousy, and a constant need for reassurance.

Contrasting this is true love, which operates from a space of authenticity and unconditionality. True love recognizes the inherent worth of oneself and the other, devoid of any conditions or expectations. It sees beyond the superficial layers of identity, acknowledging the true self that lies beneath it. This form of love is nurturing, patient, and understanding, allowing both parties to grow and flourish.

Understanding the distinction between egoic and true love is crucial. While egoic love is mired in conditions and expectations, true love offers a sanctuary of acceptance and mutual respect. Recognizing the patterns of egoic love in our relationships is the first step towards cultivating deeper, more meaningful connections.

Can you silence the ego?

While completely silencing the ego may seem like an unattainable ideal, there are several avenues through which one can mitigate its influence, fostering a more balanced and authentic sense of self. The ego, after all, is deeply entrenched in our psyche, influencing our perceptions, reactions, and interactions with the world.

Hypo-egoic states represent moments or periods where the influence of the egoic mind is diminished. These states can be likened to moments of clarity, where personal biases, judgments, or narratives uncloud one's perception. Achieving such states requires consistent and dedicated practice, with meditation and mindfulness being two of the most effective tools in this quest. Regular meditation helps individuals cultivate an observational stance towards their thoughts and emotions, allowing them to identify and detach from egoic reactions.

The concept of the default mode network (DMN) in neuroscience provides further insights into the workings of the egoic mind. The DMN, a network of interacting brain regions, is most active when our minds are at rest and not focused on the outside world. It is associated with self-referential thoughts, daydreaming, and ruminations—all hallmarks of the egoic mind. Research has shown that meditation can reduce the activity of the DMN, suggesting a decrease in ego-centric thoughts and an increase in present-moment awareness.

Interestingly, the realm of psychedelics offers another perspective on ego dissolution. Compounds like psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) have been shown to reduce the activity of the DMN, leading to experiences where the boundaries between the self and the external world blur. This dissolution of the ego, often termed "ego death," can result in profound feelings of interconnectedness and oneness. Such experiences, while transient, can offer insights into the illusory nature of the ego and its constructs.

Engaging in selfless activities further aids in distancing oneself from egoic tendencies. Acts of kindness, altruism, and volunteering not only benefit the recipients but also the givers. By shifting the focus away from the self and towards the well-being of others, one transcends egoic desires and attachments, fostering a sense of unity and connectedness.

Is ego good or bad?

A silhouette of a person standing alone in the dark, illuminated by a beam of light from above, with a starry night sky backdrop.

Once you tame the ego, it can be a great ally.

The ego, in itself, is neither good nor bad. It is a tool that has evolved to help humans navigate the world. However, problems arise when egoic illusions overshadow the true self. While the ego can provide a sense of identity, it is essential to recognize when it is driving negative emotions or behaviors. Understanding and addressing our egoic reactions can pave the way for a more authentic and fulfilling existence.

Eckhart Tolle once said, “You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you and allowing that goodness to emerge.” This journey from the egoic self to the true self is one of discovery, patience, and transformation.

Here at Meridian University, we designed our Psychology Program to give our students the tools and knowledge to break through the illusions of ego and carve a path toward their true selves.

To delve into the intricacies of the mind and discover your inner self, begin your journey by reaching out to an Admission Advisor and learn more about our programs.

References:

  1. Tolle, E. (2004). The power of now: A guide to spiritual enlightenment. New World Library.
  2. Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation. American Psychologist, 57(9), 705-717.
  3. Davis, D. M., & Hayes, J. A. (2011). What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy-related research. Psychotherapy, 48(2), 198.
  4. Leary, M. R., & Diebels, K. J. (2017). The hypo-egoic impact of mindfulness on self, identity, and the processing of self-relevant information. In Mindfulness in social psychology (pp. 50-64). Routledge.
  5. Carhart-Harris, R. L., Erritzoe, D., Williams, T., Stone, J. M., Reed, L. J., Colasanti, A., ... & Nutt, D. J. (2012). Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(6), 2138-2143.
  6. Bailey, R. R. (2019). Goal setting and action planning for health behavior change. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 13(6), 615-618.
  7. Garrison, K. A., Zeffiro, T. A., Scheinost, D., Constable, R. T., & Brewer, J. A. (2015). Meditation leads to reduced default mode network activity beyond an active task. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 15, 712-720.
  8. Carhart-Harris, R. L., Muthukumaraswamy, S., Roseman, L., Kaelen, M., Droog, W., Murphy, K., ... & Nutt, D. J. (2016). Neural correlates of the LSD experience revealed by multimodal neuroimaging. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(17), 4853-4858.

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