Ego & Egocentricity

QA114 QUESTION: I would like to know where does egocentricity come from? How does it originate, and what is the method to get rid of it other than to become involved in the outside world?

ANSWER: Well, number one, egocentricity is an infantile, childish state. The baby who is newly born is utterly egocentric. Children, as they grow older, are still very egocentric, perhaps not to quite the degree of the baby, but still. As the child grows, the more contact it has with others, perhaps first only on a very superficial level. The inner psychological egocentricity is a remnant of the infantile state.

When that is recognized, the next step will be a little easier. The next step is to understand why it is retained. It is because of the defense mechanism of a false belief in safety: “If I cease being egocentric, if I cease making myself the most important person in the world where everything else revolves around me, then I will be hurt. I will be put at a disadvantage. I will be exploited. I will lose myself.” In other words, all these wrong conclusions play a role.

You need to find how you feel that way in each isolated instant. In your daily review, you can find each day certain reactions where you knew, retrospectively, that you were egocentric, and then examine the feeling. You will find this fear of not being egocentric, not being overly self-concerned because you feel you will then have something to lose – you will lose something important or you will be endangered in some way. You will expose yourself to some sort of danger.

The subsequent step, the real step of elimination after this is found – and, of course, this cannot be done alone – is finding the childhood problems that one has not come to terms with. Find the impressions, the hurts, the repressed anger, and insecurity and all these feelings that existed when one was a child and that one does not completely understand. Because one doesn’t understand it, these areas are closed to growing up.

In other words, they are forced to remain in that same childish state. So the natural growth process would be that from that more egocentric entity, one grows into less egocentricity until gradually but surely the growth process brings one out of the shell of egocentricity.

But where this growth is stopped, one has to find the particular areas that cause this stoppage, and then growth will proceed. Then the egocentricity will vanish, not because of an enforced and therefore ungenuine act of will which does not do any good, but by a real, organic process of growth.

QUESTION: I have very often, in order to get away from egocentricity, tried to put myself in the other person’s shoes and see things from their point of view, and I find that I’m very much being taken advantage of by doing what the other person wants me to do. In the end, I wind up being a doormat.

ANSWER: Yes, my dear. You see, here you have a beautiful example, and I’m very glad you brought this up, because it illustrates what I said before: you can now clearly establish that your egocentricity is a defense against your inability to defend yourself, to stand on your feet, to assert yourself, and this in turn is again a symptom of something else, that has to go back into the childhood.

Here you see very clearly, because that which lies underneath all the ramifications and implications of undigested, childhood remnants and impressions, makes you weak. The only way you thought you can defend yourself against the weakness in you was being egocentric.

So you stop forcefully from outside, to stop the egocentricity. Then the other thing comes to the fore. That is the best illustration that outer willful superimposed action – with the best of all intention – does not and cannot ever produce real growth. Because in real growth it is so natural that you do not have to sit guard over yourself. You are relaxed in your own skin, as it were. You do not have to sink and squeeze yourself into a mold.

But when it is not natural, when it is enforced, you constantly have to stand guard over yourself and whip yourself into shape, which exhausts all your best faculties which you could give to the world around you.

When you grow out of the areas where you have remained childish and conflicted, you will naturally be a giving, loving, free person that does not have to be taken advantage of in order to love.

Then you can discriminate between loving and being taken advantage of by the sick instincts of others. And you can do this with ease, freely and naturally, and not with racking your brain about it. But this wonderful prize can only come by looking squarely at yourself. The reward cannot be overestimated.

 

QA121 QUESTION: In the lecture [Lecture # 121 Displacement, Substitution, Superimposition] you stated an infant lacks consciousness of its ego. Isn’t there a difference in the way an infant first responds to what it experiences, such as honesty or love, in an impersonal way. All of a sudden it begins to think in terms of “I saw,” or “I take this,” or “I.” Could you tell us a little about this?

ANSWER: Yes. It is a gradual process. The infant experiences, as I said, on an almost purely emotional level as an experience of sensation, similar to an animal. It feels hurt or pleasure or pain, on a purely sense perception. Gradually, as you say, it begins to perceive.

As it grows, little by little, the sense of “I” as related to the surrounding world unfolds. Of course, this is not a sudden process. It is a very gradual, as all growing processes must be gradual and organic. As the body grows, so grows the mind, so grows the ego.

In some cases, growth is not harmonious. When the physical body becomes fully grown and adult in one instance, the ego may be overgrown. In another instance, the ego may be underdeveloped. Both these exaggerations or extremes are harmful to the full and harmonious functioning of the entire unit of the personality. It is part of this Pathwork to establish a balance.

QUESTION: Are the words “ego” and “self” synonymous?

ANSWER: No, not quite. They may sometimes be interchangeable, but they’re not always synonymous, because the ego is a certain I-consciousness, as you put it, while the self in its various aspects comprises the totality, including the ego but also including what might sometimes be referred to in certain terminology as the id, the instinctual nature.

The self consists of all these aspects, while the ego is only one of the aspects. The ego is not identical with the sense perception. Sense perception is one aspect; the ego is another aspect; the conscience is another aspect. The self comprises all of them.

The self is well-integrated and well-balanced if these various aspects function in harmony with one another. The self is disturbed if these various aspects are at war with one another.

 

132 QUESTION: Regarding the overdeveloped and underdeveloped parts of the ego, would they be connected with over-activity and passivity, respectively?

ANSWER: Yes. The functions of the ego further the state of becoming, while the real self is the state of being. Of course, humans misconstrue the state of being as meaning no activity. But the activity is within the state of being. Activity and passivity blend as one harmonious cosmic movement.

QUESTION: Where I am unable to let go of my self-will and therefore unable to let go and trust in God, is where my ego is overdeveloped. Where I fear self-responsibility, that is where my ego is underdeveloped. Is that correct?

ANSWER: Indeed. Where you do not dare to make your own decisions, where you lean on ready-made rules, there your ego is not sufficiently developed. And here you have a very good illustration of what I spoke of in this lecture: one distortion creates an opposite distortion. [Lecture #132 The Function of the Ego in Relationship to the Real Self]

Because your ego is underdeveloped in the areas you mentioned, something in you tries to attain the selfhood you simultaneously deny when you refuse self-choice and self-responsibility. Only it does so by choosing the wrong way. Since the entire process is blind and lacks awareness, the self-willed, wrong way of attaining selfhood is chosen, instead of true independence.

Concomitantly, your deep psyche feels that there should be a loosening up as the clutching becomes a strain. Your psyche seeks to loosen up again in the wrong way, by not relying on your discriminating ego to make your own decisions. Rather you choose the directives of others in your obedience to rules.

QUESTION: Isn’t the ego connected with self-will?

ANSWER: Indeed. False ideas, as well as self-will, are naturally a result of the ego world, and not of the real self. But it is also within the power of the ego to give up both self-will and false ideas. Only the ego can do so. The ego plays a necessary part in changing its own mind and intent. It plays a necessary part in understanding that it has a false idea; that it does have self-will.

It is up to the ego to maintain or abandon either of these two. The ego alone is capable of exchanging the false idea for a truthful one. This means letting go of tense, anxious self-will and replacing it with a relaxed, free-flowing, flexible will based on discriminating reasoning power, and calling upon the intuitive levels of self for higher inner guidance from the real self.

 

QA180 QUESTION: How can each individual attain a more harmonious and peaceful state of living in accordance with one’s own self?

ANSWER: Only by the Path that my friends here pursue or any such similar path which aims at the total looking of the self. For only when the little self is explored, when the little self is faced and acknowledged, can the larger self reveal itself. Now, this is by far more difficult than the words may sound or imply offhand, for nothing seems as undesirable to all human beings without exception than to do this.

No matter how much willingness may exist, on the one hand, there is a deep fear and distaste of doing it, on the other hand. And there is a constant battle going on within the soul. Some people succeed in overcoming this. Many people do not succeed and falter along the way and use all sorts of subterfuges, excuses and exaggerated obstructions that give them an excuse not to do this.

Or they try to tell themselves that they are doing it, but they are not really doing it. They may do it in a partial way. They may look where the resistance is least strong, and where distaste is greatest they succumb. This is the story of mankind as a whole. It is only the very few exceptions who commit themselves over and over to “What is the truth? What are the illusions I make about myself? I want to penetrate them.”

The stumbling block is always, in the final analysis, the overgrown ego, the exaggerated demands of the ego, the illusions of the ego, and the fear that when these illusions – the infantile demands of the ego – are not being heeded that the personality then is worthless and unhappy.

The commitment to the ego is one of the greatest obstructions. And I have said this many times, but I cannot repeat it often enough. Even though I am saying it, it is forgotten again and again, or overlooked where it applies to the individual.

You know, the surrender of the ego to the greater intelligence, to the greater cosmic spirit within, seems like a tremendously frightening process, because, first of all, the experience of the universal spirit within is lacking. And there is in that moment a vicious circle, because the experience of the greater universal power can only come as the courage exists to be totally truthful with yourself and accept this without shrinking away from any of its implications and without the exaggeration that if an unpleasantness reveals itself, that this means worthlessness, which, of course, is not true.

No matter how many impairments of integrities must be faced along the way, the self is never worthless. It could never be worthless. This truth must be kept in mind, for otherwise the surrender of the ego is impossible. Otherwise the facing of the self that the ego demands is impossible.

Only when this is done – and it is a long-term process – can the peace and the integration with the self occur. Now, I venture to say that anyone who totally commits himself to this self-confrontation, to shirking the illusions about the self, to acceptance of the self as it really is, will require help, and that the commitment will bring then the guidance that will make the help possible.

But this final decision always rests upon each individual to take with a grain of salt the fears, the resistances, and the thoughts of obstruction. This is my answer. Is that clear, or do you wish to ask anything further about this?

QUESTION: How do we realize this truth?

ANSWER: Well, as I just said, first of all by committing yourself to it, by wanting it, and then by seeking guidance and help.

QUESTION: Yes, but shouldn’t we expand the ego?

ANSWER: No. It is not the ego that must be expanded. The ego must be healthy and strong in its position, but it certainly must not be expanded. The total self must be expanded. Maybe here it’s also a question of terminology.

You see, it depends on what you mean by “ego.” When I speak of the ego, I mean the conscious self that is in command of the thinking power and the willing power. But if an individual identifies exclusively with this, he is unable to cope with the real problems nor is he able to cope with his own feelings.

Now, the integration of the conscious thinking/willing self with the feeling self can come about only when another faculty of knowing, thinking and willing is activated. And that is not the little ego. That is not the little conscious self that disposes and decides every day about actions and so on and so forth.

But, first of all, it is this conscious ego that must make the commitment, that must turn the tide, as it were. Instead of being the tool of the unconscious rationalizations why the truth should not be faced, it must be the acting agent to overcome these resistances, and it must be the acting agent in asserting the truth that it is not the sole truth of the personality – that there is a deeper, wider, more reliable aspect of the self that is universal and that is usually inactivated and dormant.

Self-realization and peace means that this dormant, greater power is permeating the total being of a person. Now, in order for this to be an experience and not just a theory, the self must proceed very painstakingly in looking at one’s life, at your problems, at discovering what is behind your problems, behind your apparently outer difficulties.

You must cease to blame others, no matter how justified this may seem for your personal suffering or frustrations. And you must look for the cause within yourself – with help, of course, for nobody is able to do this alone, no one.

 

QA193 GUIDE COMMENT: I would like to say to all of you, my friends, that you are united here in a nucleus of love and truth and the real meaning of what life is all about. For only when you finally experience your inner person will you know that you really are an eternal being. Right in your here and now, mundane, everyday life, your eternal being can manifest. And this is what this Path is all about – to get through the limited consciousness of the little ego that is truly finite, that truly dissolves sooner or later, not necessarily immediately when physical death sets in.

In many, many instances, it takes thousands and thousands of years before the little ego dissolves and unites with the real being that is accessible right now – your inner consciousness, your inner knowing, your feeling of cosmic reality. It is right now accessible, if you choose to no longer nurture the little ego.

 

QA193 QUESTION: I’m finding a lot of negative things in myself that I don’t want to face up to, and I suspect that I am probably completely unaware consciously of many others. I’d like to have brought to my attention the area that is most important for me to be working on right now.

ANSWER: What area in your life do you find yourself most disturbed and you would most want a change to take place?

QUESTION: Well, I would say in almost all areas. Everywhere.

ANSWER: Perhaps then my answer should point in the following direction in your case. This particular approach of work is still very new to you. And, of course, you would need much more intense specific help. First of all, I would look into the following question: Why it is so difficult for you to accept certain negative feelings, and in what way does this image of yourself with certain negativities contradict the way you see yourself or feel you ought to be? Can you put this into words now?

QUESTION: Well, yes, I think I would be happy to have less negativity than I actually have. I wouldn’t want to own up to it in any way.

ANSWER: Well, why not? Why not? Why do you feel you ought to be more perfect than you are?

QUESTION: Well, consciously, I can’t see why, but I do have a feeling that I should be.

ANSWER: This, then, is the area you have to go into, and this answers your question. On your inner path, you would have to explore what are your inner irrational reasons to present a picture to the world and yourself that is not real. What makes you anxious not to be this false picture? What are the specific anxieties and threats? And why do you fear your irrational, destructive feelings, and fear to own up to them? You cannot answer from your head. You can only answer from the irrational area that has to be fully expressed and the shame overcome. You see what I mean? You see how to go about it?

QUESTION: I think so.

ANSWER: Just question yourself in meditation. “What is it? Why? How am I really? What are my imperfections? Where am I destructive? What is unreasonable and childish? I want to commit myself to seeing this truth with every fiber of my being, in order to become real and not only partially real.” This commitment has to be renewed and this is where you have to go now. This would be the first question. Later on, specific other questions will arise. Is that clear?

QUESTION: Well, I’m still afraid of death. {Yes} And in your introduction tonight you spoke of giving up your ego. I’m afraid of doing that too.

ANSWER: When we use the word “giving up the ego,” it may very easily be misunderstood. The ego has, in a healthy way, a very definite function in this life. What I really meant to convey was that the limited consciousness of the ego should not be experienced as the only reality.

For that, we have to become very clear in what way do you unwittingly – and again I do not only mean you, but all human beings – nurture this limited ego consciousness, excluding the unlimited consciousness of the greater self? I would say you should, first of all, be clear what these ways are.

Basically, let us begin with two specific attitudes that are most current and most prevalent that nurture the limited ego consciousness and cut you off from your real infinite being. The one is the concern with appearance. Of course, this is not new; I have often said this in many contexts. But this must be said again here in this particular connection.

You will have to discover in your daily self-observation to what degree you put weight and emphasis more – often much more – on how you appear in the eyes of others rather than on what is, for its own sake – on what just is. For the ego consciousness – the limited self of the little ego – is mainly concerned with that and is strengthened by appearance. It is then more and more an outer projection, and layers of personality are created. I very clearly outlined this in the last lecture about the appearance self, the idealized self, the mask self [Lecture #193 Resume of the Basic Principles of the Pathwork®: Its Aim and Process].

These are actual personality energies and energy systems. Consciousness and resources are put into this false self that nevertheless consists of real cosmic material that is created. If you put it outside yourself, you become disconnected from the real self, and therefore anxiety comes into being – along with uncertainty and not knowing the reality of being. This is the one aspect.

The other is living by the error of a value system and the rules and logic – or the apparent logic – of the limited consciousness. This sets off one against the other, which makes it appear like what is good for you is bad for the other and vice versa. So you are launched into a striving that is totally illusory. It makes you competitive, mean and greedy, setting yourself against the other person, comparing yourself with others.

This is all based on false ideas and illusions, and it creates more separation and it alienates the outer ego more and more from the real inner person. So if you can, observe these two attitudes: “How do I appear? What do others think?” on the one hand, and “me versus the other,” on the other hand. Both can exist in many different forms.

To the degree these attitudes exist, to that degree you will be cut off from the inner reality, from the inner oneness of cosmic life. You will not feel the reality of your inner person and that you are eternal life. You will only be identified with that which is truly doomed to die one day – to dissolve – which in fact should dissolve but which seems so fearful as long as this is supposed to be the only reality.

Now, this is a very important thing for all of you to do – to really look to what extent you do this, and to what extent you want to continue doing this and therefore provoke and nurture anxiety, guilt, separateness and fear of death.

QUESTION: That’s very clearly what I do, even to the extent that when I do get depressed about death, I don’t like myself physically. {Yes} And I’m also aware of this competitiveness.

ANSWER: Yes. Yes. And the appearance – how you appear and what others think of you. Are you aware of that?

QUESTION: I’m aware. It very difficult to understand this business of what reality is. My reality is maybe that I have built up a false self. {Yes} I’m aware of it. And I know I’m holding on to it.

ANSWER: So much of your desire to be successful, to be a man in this world who has found his place, is motivated, one, by letting others know that you are indeed that and that you are not inferior, and two, to express your desire to be better than others. These motivations hamper you and put the brakes on. Try to become aware of this and give up these motives – not for the sake of not being successful and by not expressing yourself – but by shifting the goal and the emphasis.

For example, if you can say and mean and speak into yourself, “I want to make the best of my life because I have a lot to contribute, and I want to contribute this to life because there is a lot in me which I can give to life, with which I can enrich life. And this will also enrich me. I have a right to experience this. I do not want to do it to impress others or to prove anything or to be one-up on anyone, but simply because this is beautiful, this is good, and this is meaningful.

“If I cannot mean this completely yet, because the little ego in its ignorance is still too strong, I request that greater self of me to help the little ego by instructing it, by guiding it, by changing it, little by little. I will not be impatient. I will wait for the process to organically unroll itself and will just observe and accept the truth of where I am now, and look every day where I’m still this little ego that wants to brag, that wants to be loved, that wants to impress, that wants to show off, that wants to push away and say ‘give it to me’, and therefore you must not have it. And I will acknowledge this in honesty and sincerity, with all its childishness and littleness.”

The moment you do this – when you can acknowledge the littleness – you will know your own bigness. That will be the process of eliminating the littleness, by seeing and acknowledging it, by not pretending it not be there. That is how you – absolutely, inevitably – will experience your eternal, immortal self that can never die. And that is not a faraway reality, but it is here right now, only you do not let it with these attitudes I described.

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