The ego is a devious entity. It can make you act in ways without you realising its cause or intent. It has many heads and it has many voices. Let us examine a few situations where the ego transforms your behaviour without you realising it. Take guilt, which is something everyone experiences when we think we fall short, in our own eyes or the eyes of others.
Then guilt takes over our self and soon we are in a spiral of our own making. Holding on to guilt will eat away your confidence and hold you back from the helpful process of learning from mistakes and experiences. There’s no action attached to guilt, it just makes you feel bad. Parents feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children, but so often they get caught up in the feelings of guilt rather than taking a step to do something about it.
You feel guilty at work because you haven’t made a phone call, but rather than it spurring you on to pick up the telephone, the guilt seems to paralyse you so that you spend all day thinking about it and the consequences. You hide away when you know deep down the best thing would just be to get on with it. As the ego so often looks externally for affirmations of self, it often ends up in a blame game. Blame causes a great deal of pain and little else; it doesn’t do anyone any good if you think about it. Self-blame makes us feel we are bad or useless.
We allow our mistakes to control us rather than learning from them and letting go. It is pointless to blame either yourself or others. Think, what does it ever achieve? It is what you do next to help find a solution that matters. We confuse taking the blame with taking responsibility. Yes, we are all responsible for our actions, but if we try our best then what more can we do?
Blame is crippling, it stops people on their tracks; they become fearful of making the same mistakes again. Or, there is a feeling that we need to apportion blame to others to somehow make ourselves feel better, so that we can say, “It wasn’t my fault”. Does that ever make us feel better? Or, solve a problem? But the ego works in mysterious ways, playing us against ourselves.
If it isn’t blame, it is the feeling of shame. Shame is humiliation we put on ourselves and it is often related to guilt and self-blame. We are ashamed of our actions and so, we spend time wallowing in what we did wrong rather than thinking, “What am I going to do now?”
Like so many of these ego-driven emotions, shame keeps you trapped in the past and inactive rather than taking the next step. Everyone makes mistakes, but you can’t turn back the clock, all you can do is learn and allow those lessons to help you today and tomorrow.
Sometimes, the ego makes us cave in on ourselves, as when we feel shame or embarrassment and we want to disappear, while at other times, it puffs itself up to completely unnatural and unattractive proportions. On the surface, arrogance appears to have a great deal of confidence, but it is a mask beneath which lies much insecurity.
Arrogance is never kind and if a person can’t be kind to others, then how can they be kind to themselves? While anxious people will exaggerate their faults, arrogance often fools its own wearer into believing everything is just great, thank you.
By its own nature, it’s not something that a person can easily admit to being, which is why it is such a favourite of the ego. In fact, it’s the characteristic we most easily associate with the word egotistical; the big ‘I am’. Arrogance is often partnered by defensiveness when feeling under any sort of attack. And often, just about anything feels like an attack to a person when arrogance is in control.
An anxious person may crumble and retreat into their ego, while an arrogant person will fly straight back at you, defending their ego with cruel words to keep anything or anyone from getting to the vulnerability beneath the surface. Ironically, when we go on the defensive, it is usually from an indefensible position. Our perfection has been questioned.
Deep down, we know we’re not perfect but we can’t quite accept that and go with the flow. Instead, we spend time and energy defending a fabrication of ourselves, which is why defensiveness always feels so hollow. All these behavioural patterns can be traced back to the underlying ego, which dictates your actions. The real deal is to beat the ego at its own game.