The ego is the illusion of separation in which we believe. It is part of our minds. It’s the part of us that believes in fear, guilt, victimhood, blame, anger, rejection, violence, struggle, strife, doubt, jealousy, control, dominance, specialness, attack, the whole tune. You must be crazy to believe this. Correct.
And therein lies your redemption at the same time: For it is your mind that gives credence to it and ascribes
existence to it. But it is also your mind that has the power to deny the existence of the ego, and
you will no doubt do so when you realize exactly what the journey
the ego is leading you on is all about. (A Course in Miracles T12.IV.2:5-6)
Recognizing our ego
We can best read that ‘denying’ as saying no to it. This is not about suppressing or pushing into the unconscious. Denying here is the reversal of attribution. Because once it is clear what the ego’s offer really means, we give thanks for the honor. So it is very important to go and see what is being sold in the ego’s store.
An enumeration of the ego’s characteristics cannot by definition be exhaustive, because the ego lives by the grace of division, fragmentation, fragmentation, and ever-increasing complexity. The list below is no more than an initial exploration, based on experience. It can cause us to recognize the ego more and more so that we are all the better able to make the fundamental choice.
But this list is in no way intended to be a substitute for what the Course [in Miracles] teaches. Please read the Course. He calls the ego “suspicious at best and evil at worst” (T9.VII.3:7), which is the whole gamut between which it moves. Would you ever trust such a seller and buy something in his shop? And don’t forget to smile at yourself when you read this list. So don’t take the ego seriously, but keep a close eye on it. That’s the best attitude.
Characteristics of the ego
The ego can be seen in different ways. These are listed below.
A divisive mushroom
Perhaps the most important on the list. Born from the thought of separation, the ego can do nothing but spread separation, to maintain its original separation. It makes you see yourself as separate from others. I am here and they are there. It pits people and groups against each other and delights in discord. Or it splits itself into two inner parts that are at war with each other, two voices in your head, each saying something different. And so you come to the ego as an eternal doubter.
It sees only its own small, short-sighted interest, and not the equal interest of everyone else involved in the situation, or in the longer term. And it wants to defend this small interest with all its might against alleged attacks.
A big forget
Perhaps you know the experience when you received an important insight that you forgot immediately afterward. After which you only remember in frustration that there was something important. That frustration is also an ego joke. Specifically, the ego steals from our minds thoughts that we can put to good use to awaken from the ego’s dream. †
An eager stacker
This is without a doubt one of the most effective ego traps: it lays layer upon layer upon layer. The ego tempts you to lash out at someone else, which makes you feel guilty, and then you get angry again at the fact that you feel guilty because you’ve been on the Course for some time anyway, so you heard know better, and therefore you feel not only angry and guilty, but also frustrated, and so on.
A paradox in pure form
The Course states that “defenses do exactly what they are supposed to defend against.” Fear of failure, which should protect you against failure, triggers failure precisely because you are anxious. It is as if Adam is now ashamed of his fig leaf that was supposed to cover his shame. And so you can keep going round in vicious circles, the ego as a merry-go-round.
A great distraction
The ego keeps your attention drawn to all kinds of shapes, colors, things, people, events, movies, computer games, whatever, that doesn’t really matter, but you put a lot of time into it. Which can then make you feel bad again. Who doesn’t watch TV when they have something much better to do? What the ego really wants to distract us from is our spiritual path that leads to salvation.
A deceiver and disguise
The ego is always able to make something terrible look beautiful, and present a miserable painting in a beautiful frame. Then you pay attention to the packaging and not to the content, which is always the same with the ego: worthless.
A paw chopper
The ego is never afraid to fill and contaminate something you started with pure motives with ego motives. You spontaneously helped someone and then your ego shouts how badly you did this and what you should have done better. Or it shouts that you are after your own enrichment under the guise of helping others.
Even though the belly is already completely full, the caterpillar eats further and further, is insatiable. The ego always wants more, more money, more fame, more of what does not matter, as long as it is more, even more pain or misery, that makes it special again.
It always wants to be the biggest, the best, and the first and the fastest, at least better than everyone else. The ego is the inventor of contests, competitions, popularity gauges, polls and polls, ratings and competition, and the Guinness Book of Records.
There is potential murder in every conviction of another. When the ego feels threatened, it is capable of murder. If it wants something from another who does not give it voluntarily, it is capable of murder. If the ego finds itself thwarted in its goals, it is capable of murder. This isn’t to say it turns to physical murder, but the thought of wanting the other person dead is essentially enough.
A Gordian knot
The ego adores complexity and is always eager to complicate things, fragmenting them further, and dismembering them so that the simple truth is hidden from view. What is plain and simple cannot be good in the eyes of the ego, because that is boring.
A very special ego
You have probably recognized something, but you can of course also say that your specific ego characteristic is not included. Then you do have a very special ego. We mentioned that a list like this can never be exhaustive. But we keep smiling about it.