A Healthy Ego in a Meaningful Life
This weekend we see the formation of a heavenly influence which remains with us until the second week of April: A triangle formed by Jupiter, Chiron and Pluto, through which we encounter the need to nurture a healthy ego whilst recognising the potential to be indulging an unhealthy one without even realising.
There is much talk of ego in many spiritual teachings and it is sometimes demonised as a result. We may believe that we should eradicate it completely, becoming something other than a personalised and subjective entity, in which there is no space for identification or autonomy, preference or dislike. Ego, we learn, lies at the root of all suffering, causing us to identify personally with the impersonal presence of suffering in our lives. ‘This is my pain’, we tell ourselves, ‘and as such it defines me and my experience’.
Alternatively we may identify with pleasure, clinging to it for fear of its departure, grasping for the next pleasurable moment which we can make ‘me’ and ‘mine’. We hear of the need to transcend suffering, to let go of identification, to release desire in order to experience ourselves as the limitless and impersonal vortex of energy and influence which, in essence, we are.
Which is all fine except that there is more to ego than meets the ‘transcendent eye’, not least because it has a vital part to play in our human lives and a failure to nurture a healthy one can severely scupper not only the fulfilment of our potential but also our ultimate relationship with the Divine.
So how can we recognise a healthy ego? I would suggest it exhibits the following qualities, although you may have other pointers you would add or some you would remove (as may I, in due course…!):
1) An ability to maintain a level of self-respect that facilitates honest communication, the setting down of appropriate boundaries in relationships and the pursuit of a lifestyle conducive to well-being, appropriate satisfaction and insight.
2) An ability to recognise the worthiness and right to respect of other people, without the need to feel ‘better than’ or superior to them.
3) An ability to tolerate difference without demonising those we experience as different to ourselves.
4) An ability to empathise with the experience of another person including to the point of willingness to forego personal gratification if such gratification would entail unnecessary harm or suffering to another.
5) An ability to recognise the validity of all life – human and otherwise – and to act to protect and nurture it.
6) A willingness to admit mistakes and to learn from others without feeling that this diminishes one’s own essential worth.
7) An ability to stand one’s ground in the face of opposition on matters of conscience, without doing so in unnecessarily violent or aggressive ways.
Of course, as with so many things, this not an exact science! We have to discern how best to allow ego to guide us or otherwise. On one matter we may know we must stand our ground unreservedly and on another we know we should give ground and allow others to prevail. We may identify powerfully with one aspect of our life and yet know that another is of little, if any, importance when it comes to the crunch.
And our own personal decisions in this regard may seem arbitrary at best and wholly inconsistent at worse, to those who observe our path through life. But ultimately we are answerable only to our own inner compass, magnetised by the Divine which moves through all things, including our ego structures!
Which brings us back to this planetary message, because it will soon be coming through loud and clear: we need our egos healthy and robust to navigate through the coming terrain. And a robust ego is not a bullying one, but one which can withstand the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ (thank you Will Shakespeare) without crumbling into despair, self-hatred and resignation or puffing up into narcissism, arrogance and non-negotiable demands for personal satisfaction. We need the capacity to look the challenges of life in the face and know that whilst we experience them so personally, they are not, ultimately, what and who we are. They are part of the journey but do not reflect the destination, and as such we should not mistake them for it. Nor should we dismiss them as irrelevant, seeking merely to transcend, for to do so misses the refining purpose of their presence in our lives.
There is so much more to be said on the issue of ego and its role in our lives at this crucial time in our development. But for now the heavens point us inwards to consider ‘what constitutes a healthy ego and how far are those qualities reflected in my life at this time?’. To enter the coming phase with this question alive in our minds and hearts can help us shape it with an awareness that recognises where our ego is fit and strong and where it is out of balance and in need of healing.
Come the Full Moon in the middle of next week we shall explore more deeply the nature of ego and spirit, the mundane and the Divine, discovering where we may be deceiving ourselves and how to rectify our course.
In the meantime, have a good weekend everyone!