(Originally published at thetaylormadefit)
I’m the best there ever was.
There’s no one as beautiful as me.
No one can beat me.
These are examples of some of the things “a big ego” might say and you could probably come up with 100’s more.
You all know the type. They’re the best and they play the game of “one-upsmanship” like Will Ferrel plays the cow bell.
They make more money than you (and let you know it.)
They lift heavier than you (and let you know it.)
They’ve been there, done that (and let you know it.)
They’re hotter than you (and make damn sure you know it.)
Sound familiar? LoL yeah, we’ve all booked a ride on the ego trip at some point.
But a big ego isn’t the end all be all of an ego trip.
I’m the worst.
Everyone hates me.
I’m no good – terrible.
Yup, though it might be hard to believe, both “the best,” and “the worst” are on a huge ego trip.
How could that be though? … … …
One would be inclined to think that the person who boasted that they were the best would have a big ego and the person who thought the least of themselves would have a small ego.
Nope. Not so…
Egos are a normal and essential part of the human psyche. Over the course of our lives we build our egos to help us navigate the world. They are the ships we build to sail the sea of life – tug boats, sail boats, pontoons, bass boats, galleons, and tankers – all ships. But just because something is “normal” doesn’t make it a good or a bad thing – it’s just a normal thing. And like our ships, egos “big” and “small” are still only egos.
Let’s go back for a moment:
Our ancient ancestors organized themselves into tribes – alliances of local family groups – when they recognized that their chances of survival were greatly enhanced when they worked together, rather than in competition, for resources. Together, their collective intelligence, strength, and skill sets were greatly enhanced. I imagine that it was during this period of time, when we were first plumbing the depths of what it could mean to be human, that the first ego trips were taken.
Imagine Zorg, elder and chieftain of his clan, being out hunted by Tok, the dashing young upstart of a sister clan in this new tribe of humans. Can you imagine his fury, his bewilderment, his resignation? Zorg: no longer the chief hunter of his tribe, no longer the one the other men wanted to be like, no longer the one the women wanted to be with…
No longer Zorg.
Zorg’s on an ego trip. So what does he do? I imagine he does whatever he can to cement his place back into the hierarchy of the tribe. … … …Too bad for Tok.
Strangely, after several thousands of years, have we really changed? No, we’re really no different today. We still organize in tribes. We vie for esteem, political capital, admiration, and adoration. We compete for promotions at work, for Becky’s hand in marriage, and for principal investors in our business. We yearn for acceptance, affirmation and security. Just like Zorg.
So, it would seem then that Ego Trips are a natural reaction to competition but… that isn’t necessarily so either.
So, let’s examine the braggadocio boaster and the whiner again.
When they say things like, “I’m the best there ever was” or, “I’m a no good looser,” those aren’t really declarations of fact but rather, questions of belief.
Sure, it sounds like they’re making statements but what’s actually happening is that they’re screaming a question into the void:
Am I the best that ever was? Please prove me right.
Am I a looser? Please prove me wrong.
And anytime we make such statements – feel “too proud” of ourselves or “sorry” for ourselves we’ve embarked on the ego trip.
When taken down to its root this question screamed into the void takes on a existential tone because it really doesn’t have anything to do with one’s abilities or looks or smarts. No, the root of the question is simply, powerfully, & profoundly, “Am I? Please prove me.”
It’s the question of all questions:
And because the ego, through its bragging or self pity, verbalizes this question outwardly it’s seeking external validation and external validation is temporary, often vain, and sometimes unreliable.
I’m the strongest one in the competition and everyone knows it.
– Oh yeah, you are. *rolls eyes*
I’m terrible, no one loves me.
– No, No! You’re loved by so many!
It requires other egos for validation and it often forgets that they too have their own validations to compete for and insecurities to hide.
“Am I,” is the one question the ego simply cannot answer on its own because all it has is its own experience of the world, which ironically, does not confirm its existence.
But what the ego doesn’t know is that just behind it, out of view, watching it patiently, is the “Observer.”
The “Observer” is the silent witness to the ego. If the ego is all impulse, action, defense, attachment, and emotion, then the observer can be said to be calm, objective, compassionate, allowing, and collected.
It just watches.
In your mind, not aloud, I want you to scream your name as loudly as you imagine.
Now whisper it as quietly as you can.
Who is it that heard your name?
Sure, you may have been thinking, “this is nuts” while you shouted your name but I know you “heard” it still. However, the ego has no ears with which to hear so who in your head did the hearing?
It was the Observer who “heard” you shout and whisper your name.
The Observer doesn’t judge, make comparisons, or rationalizations. It doesn’t say, “this is good and that is bad,” – it just observes.
Our identification with the ego – the part of us that judges and compares and asserts itself as the dominant perspective is what causes us to go on our little ego trips. Matter of fact, every time we judge or compare or assert anything we’re going on an ego trip. Some trips are just longer and bigger than others.
And just as sure as the ego loves attention it will rise up in defiance when we begin to identify with the Observer rather than with it.
The Ego screams, “What about me and my needs!?!”
The ego is worried about one and only one thing: it’s own survival because wrapped up in it is everything we believe to be true about the world – all our fears and worries, loves and passions.
Which, all told, isn’t a bad thing. The Ego is useful; however, it isn’t necessary that we should give it the microphone all the damn time because the Ego isn’t “us.” No. It’s simply the lense with which we’re accustomed to viewing the world.
The ego says, “this is good,” and so we believe that it is good. Or it says, “this is bad,” and so we believe that is bad.
The observer simply says, “this is.”
When the ego asks, “Am I?”
The observer is the one that replies, “I am.”
That’s the declaration of all declarations and it’s perhaps no coincidence that when, in the book of Exodus, Moses asks God whom he should say has sent him, God replies, “I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”
Biblically, there is some question as to what exactly “ehyeh ’ăšer ’ehyeh,” means. Ancient hebrew and modern english don’t translate very well but we do know that “ehyeh ’ăšer ’ehyeh” refers to the being-ness of being.
Regardless of translation or your personal religious beliefs, if God can be said to be anything it’s that God is pure consciousness. Simultaneously, the Observer can also be said to be “pure consciousness.”
Philosophically, this raises a multitude of other questions:
- Is the Observer that part of us in which God resides? Maybe.
- Is the Observer our “true self?” Perhaps.
- Is the Observer another aspect of the ego? We’ll see.
- Does the observer have an observer? Most likely.
And like peeling an onion, when we begin peeling away the layers that compose our “egoic identity” what we’re left, at it’s core, is pure conscious awareness.
This is what mediation practitioners strive to achieve through their meditations and what Buddhists call, “Buddha Mind.”
This is the state that some gonzo journalists describe when they say that they have experienced “egoic death.”
Identifying with the Observer:
As we discussed, our ego is responsible for our judgements, impulses, attachments, and emotional reactions. Knowing this, it’s possible to distance ourselves from it by pausing before we engage in any of our typical reactions.
There is a tiny, precious moment just before our ego leaps into reaction where the Observer has already observed and noted that X (any stimulus, thought, action or word) has happened. As we practice identifying with the Observer rather than with the ego we can short cut our impulse reactions and simply allow X to be.
This practice can be difficult because it requires of us a patience with and an allowance of things that we’re very used to reacting to: a criticism, insult, a word of praise…
Don’t confuse this with the cold logic of Star Trek’s Vulcans. The Observer feels; however, it simply does not attach to the feeling. It feels and, having felt, it let’s go. It feels and let’s go.
For example: imagine you’re in the woods in a deer stand and you see a family of deer come into view. The Ego (a hunter in this case) would begin making judgements and decisions about which one to target. It prepares the body to take action – a rush of hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. It steadies, aims, and fires. It reacts.
The Observer simply watches the the deer do as they please. It notices their behavior – how the females lead and the male follows. It observes the switch of their tails, how they graze, and it allows all of this to be, perfectly as it is, in a moment of deep appreciation.
The deer, in this analogy, are synonymous with our own thoughts and the actions/words of others that enter our “field.” As the Observer, we can allow them to simply be without attaching to them thus avoiding an emotional outburst, a feeling of superiority, or inferiority, a judgement … … … – an ego trip.
Jane said you’re ugly?
– Ok. Thank You
Jim said you were weak?
– Ok. Thank You
Bob said you were beautiful?
– Ok, Thank You
Beth said you’re awesome?
– Ok, Thank You
In the Observer space, everything is ok just as it is. It allows things, ideas, thoughts, and the actions and words of others to flow through it like air through fine silk. It does not identify with them so it has no need chase after them. It is rooted firmly in the being-ness of its own being and is independent of the need for affirmation of the ego and the egos of others.
Only in the Observer space is there true peace of mind. It is pure presence and pure awareness and it is always there, waiting for you just behind the ego.
Om, Baby! Om.