Ego Brain


This has been a week of self discovery for me.

For me, the act of self reflection seems to come and go in phases: for weeks I will carry on with my daily routine without any disruption to my identity until I am suddenly doused with a realization that melts my identity into a howling puddle (Oh what a world! What a world!) as I question all my assumptions about life, the universe, and everything.

There’s been a lot of dousing lately.

For the past week or so I’ve been more social than usual. I’ve had the opportunity to make some new friends, which is exhilarating and rare, and to reconnect with some old ones, which is always pleasant. Unlike socializing with strangers, which tends to stay in the well lit domain of Small Talk, visiting with friends often meanders into darker corners and more obscure twists of philosophy.

In small talk, everything is about what Is: you tell people who you are, what you do, how the weather has been lately… Maybe if you’re feeling bold you might venture into sharing your opinion on politics or sports or music, but the name of the game is to identify yourself as clearly and concretely as you can.

Friends already know all this, of course. Small talk among friends runs more along the lines of an update- you don’t need to tell them you’re a writer, you just tell them how the writing is coming along. And then from there it turns speculative: suddenly you find yourself talking about worries and doubts or hopes and dreams or part-formed inspirations and half-revised opinions, and then suddenly you’re having an epiphany about the nature of your own existence.

Ego has been on my mind lately.

Everywhere I turn, I seem to be confronted by this topic of ego. The ego is bad! Seems to be the consensus. The ego holds you back from enlightenment! From religious ecstasy! From self knowledge! The ego is the root of anger! Hate the ego! Destroy the ego! Get rid of it! It is the source of all evil!

I exaggerate, but not by much: the poor ego seems to be getting painted with a broad brush considering that developing a sense of self is one of our most primary impulses. I can’t help but think that even the most enlightened of spiritual leaders would be forced to agree that here on the earthly plane there is a necessary dividing line between Me and Not Me that is kinda fundamental to the human experience. And sure, too much ego isn’t constructive: anyone who believes in Me-To-The-Exclusion-Of-All-Else is pretty hard to live with, but it’s also hard to live with no sense of self at all.

To me the ego is Small Talk. It’s not deep, but it exists so that you can define yourself easily and find others that are compatible to you. The trick is to recognize that it’s not the whole story.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this except to say that several times this week I’ve been describing myself in slightly-deeper-than-small-talk terms and discovered whole new angles on myself that I’m not sure I like very much. Do I really value independence and self-reliance or am I using that as an excuse to avoid building relationships with people? Do I think deeply about things and people because I’m inspired by them or because I’m obsessed with them? Am I so afraid of rejection that I’d rather reprogram my entire brain to “not want” something than to ask for it and not get it? Would I rather work at something that terrifies me for a greater reward or would I rather stick with work that is familiar and undercompensated?

I have no answers. These are some of the sticky questions that bubbled to the surface this week that I’m still sorting through. But now that I’ve recognized them, I’m going to have to address them, and sooner rather than later.

Here goes nothing…

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on August 17, 2018.

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