We sat down for a chat with Eckhart one afternoon and asked him some questions. In this issue, Eckhart reveals his thoughts on our relationship with between our ego and personality.
Question: What is our relationship with our personality after awakening & does it change?
Eckhart Tolle: Strictly speaking, before awakening, to a large extent, you don’t have a relationship with your personality; you are your personality. If you can have a relationship with your personality – which is the ego, with its way of reacting and thinking, and emotions – who is having a relationship with the personality? What that means is you are witnessing it. There is a witnessing consciousness there, and if there is a witnessing consciousness, then you can have a relationship with your personality. What that really means is, you can be there as a witnessing presence when your ego is doing something silly. And you can laugh at yourself, maybe in the moment, maybe afterwards.
If you are totally in the grip of your personality, or your ego, then of course there is no relationship because you have become it. You’re so one with all your reactive patterns and all your conditioned thinking, that you don’t even know that there’s anything else in you. You are it.
As you awaken spiritually, the awareness that is nothing to do with your personality increases, and the power of the personality, with its conditioned patterns, decreases. Gradually, the personality is no longer opaque; it is transparent to the light of awareness, or consciousness. It loses its solidity. This is why you find that in people who are awake, or people who are awakening, there is more of a lightness to them. If there’s only personality, then there’s heaviness, a psychic heaviness in you. Everything is dreadfully serious, and [you are] defensive, always wanting something, or defending yourself against something.
When you’re relating to somebody in whom there is no awareness, then you always get a slightly uncomfortable feeling, because that person is completely ill-at-ease. Ultimately, all personalities are ill-at-ease. They may pretend that they are very confident, but underneath the role of ‘confidence’, there’s always a person who feels ill-at-ease. They need to prove something, or they want something from you. That’s the personality. As you awaken, that part become a little less opaque and it becomes lighter. There’s more of an awareness that shines through the person.
Ego is complete identification with your thinking and your emotions. When you are unconscious, personality and ego are one thing. As you awaken, you become more aware of your patterns, which may to some extent still operate. I’m choosing to define personality as something that you can be aware of. It was the ego before, but you can be aware of it as patterns that still operate within you. If there is no awareness, and you are it, then it’s totally ego. As you become aware of your ego, the ego becomes the personality, and then you can have a relationship with your personality in the sense that you can be the witness.
If you have a difficult relationship with your personality, that’s a delusion. Then your personality has split itself into two, one part is having a relationship with another, and one part says “You should be better, why can’t you be more conscious?” That means there is no witnessing presence there. One part of the personality is arguing with another. The witnessing consciousness doesn’t judge. You don’t judge yourself in any way, you just see behavior. There’s no good or bad, it just is. The need to be right, for example, is a very common thing with the ego. If it’s a deep-seated need, then you can’t be wrong in an argument. There’s a compulsion to defend yourself. Then suddenly you can see it in yourself. Ultimately, having a relationship with your personality implies that there is a witnessing presence.