Our biggest and best creation of all is a true monster. Our most successful masterpiece is a mash-up of characteristics that is at the root of all our problems. We may think it is our friend but our ego is a disaster area and is bad, very bad, for our inner well-being.
The ego is not necessarily, or even usually, a matter of big-headedness but is the result of a strengthened sense of “I” which in turn leads to a strong sense of “me” and “mine”. So “I” have “my” property; “I” have “my” standards and reputation; “I” have “my” wants, feelings and emotions. That means “I” have things that can be lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed.
Because the “I” is based on an incorrect view, it is vulnerable. So “I” create a world around “me”, an imaginary world with imaginary boundaries and, like a child playing games, “I” am convinced it is all real. Until I doubt the reality of this world of mine, I go through life pursuing those things that will maintain and even strengthen my imaginary world. Things that threaten my world cause me fear or even anger; when things are lost, I bear disappointment and pain.
But the ego cannot let up and cannot admit failure. It continually builds up new pictures, new desires that, when fulfilled, seem to make everything all right – for a while. Round and round we all go. And it does go on – on and on – until something within us begins to dawn: Uncle Ego isn’t such a good guy. The games he has us playing aren’t making us happy after all.
If we look at the hardship and suffering in the world, with a little reflection we can see that most of it stems from the actions, words and omissions of egos. With crazed minds, people blow each other up because “my” way of life, or “my” religion is the right way and everyone else is wrong. Crime in society is motivated by what “I” want. Economies are out of balance, often resulting in poverty and subject to the whims of the stock markets. Even tensions in families and workplaces arise because of conflicting wants and expectations of many “I’s”. In short, it is the ego that gives rise to all our negative ways of thinking and negative emotions such as pride, anger, hatred, jealousy and greed. It really does have to go.
Adapted from The Great Little Book of Happiness