True happiness is unraveling the self
Articles By Mick Quinn
Are you driven to greatness, but seem to stall just as you begin to make progress? Why does it seem impossible to maintain consistency? One reason is that you may be unknowingly trapped in the best part of yourself. To determine if this might be the case, let’s start by taking the self apart.
EVOLUTIONARY POINTER: The capacity to think clearly is an essential aspect of an awakened life.
Creating the conditions for freedom begins by distinguishing the Freudian Ego (the self-organizing principle of the psyche) from the healthy ego-mind (which gives us the capacity for individuality) from the unhealthy ego-mind (which is motivated by culturally conditioned fears and desires). The unhealthy ego-mind is also the part of us that vehemently protects the cherished beliefs and opinions of the culturally-created-self or personal ‘me’.
The following three distinctions delve deeply into psychological concepts. If this sounds a little ‘unspiritual’, note that cognition (thinking) and co-gnosis (knowledge of spiritual truth) are two sides of the same coin and therefore are inseparable aspects of awakening our deepest potential. It is true that you are not your thoughts, but you can’t fully conceptualize this without clarity of cognition! It is in the conscious harmony of these two sides that you can find accuracy.
The Ego - Capital ‘E’
Freud first described the Ego as a sense-of-self. As his understanding evolved, he later revised this idea and explained the Ego to be a set of psychic functions related to the gathering and processing of information, memory and defense. The Freudian Ego, therefore, is necessary to survive and thrive in this world. The Freudian ‘I’ is often confused with the part of ourselves that gives us the capacity for individuality. It has nothing to do with a personal sense of ‘me’; it is simply a set of functions.
EVOLUTIONARY POINTER: The Freudian Ego is the self-organizing principle of the psyche. This capacity to gather and process information has existed to some degree since human beings first appeared.
As you can imagine, the Freudian Ego or the ‘I’ can be at various levels of development in different people; however, the maturity of this mechanism does not imply its uniqueness in you. This does not mean that your memories and experiences are not distinct and exceptional, but individual responses do not personalize the Freudian ‘I’.
EVOLUTIONARY POINTER: There is only one Ego. It is not my Ego, his Ego, or her Ego; it is the Ego.
A fully awakened person has a Freudian Ego just like everyone else. This capacity should be direct, yet discreet, certain, yet open, powerful, yet humble, and most of all, fully developed.
The ego - Small ‘e’
Spiritual discovery is often described as the process of identifying and letting go of the attachment to the ego. This ego is not the same as the self-organizing principle of the psyche - the Freudian Ego. This is because we cannot be attached to a function that existed prior to the ‘self’ that is getting attached. The ego (small ‘e’) which we aim to transcend and then include in our spiritual work is, therefore, different from the Freudian Ego (capital ‘E’). The ego’s significant function is not the processing or gathering of information, that’s the role of the Freudian Ego.
EVOLUTIONARY POINTER: The ego’s primary role is to define and protect the separate sense-of-self.
This ego (small ‘e’) has two sides: the healthy and unhealthy aspects. Clearly distinguishing the Freudian Ego from both the healthy-ego and the unhealthy-ego is essential as we progress toward awakening and sustaining our full potential.
The healthy-ego: The healthy-ego enables our individuality and the phenomenal facility of choice. It gives us the ability to appreciate the beauty of diversity in people and culture. It is the capacity for independent thinking and can discriminate one person’s life-skills and experiences from another. The ego also allows us to feel passion and pride for events that could be considered entirely ‘personal’. For instance, tears of joy still stream from the eyes of the awakened one upon the birth of his first daughter. So, despite the bad name it’s gotten, the ego is not all ‘bad’.
The unhealthy-ego: The unhealthy-ego is the root of pathological narcissism and much unnecessary suffering. It is solely comprised within its own thought processes. The role of the unhealthy-ego is to keep all your thoughts focused on or about your particular subjective experience as being significant, exclusive and personal. The unhealthy-ego wants you to think about yourself, first and foremost, and all the time.
When we acknowledge both aspects of the ego and take full responsibility for such important parts of ourselves, we prevent ourselves, and those around us, from being subjected to painful consequences of our unconscious attachment to this concept. Listen to what spiritual teacher, author and Editor-in-Chief of EnlightenNext Magazine, Andrew Cohen, had to say about the ego:
“The development of ego, the capacity for individuation, is a miraculous, extraordinary, wonder of evolution itself. It’s a very sophisticated and highly evolved state that most of us are in. The problem is that we have become infatuated with ourselves to a degree that is extreme. So the ego is good and bad. It’s the best thing that ever happened to us in terms of the capacity it gives us for self-liberation and it’s the biggest problem we have that we need to get over. We’ve gotten trapped in the wrong way on the best thing we have.”
EVOLUTIONARY POINTER: If you are exclusively identified or obsessed with the ‘me’ sense, its healthy aspects quickly become tainted and you become trapped within the limitations of self-absorption.
To develop our awareness is to make the distinction between the Freudian Ego, and both the unhealthy and healthy aspects of ego. Only then can we fully identify our attachment to the ego-mind and that which it is charged to defend; the separate sense-of-self. We do not want to kill, do away with, or separate from the ego but transcend and include this wonderful part of ourselves into our new perspective.
This evolution of our consciousness allows us to more consistently access our full potential.
1. When you hear, “He has a big ego,” be sure to qualify which ‘ego’ the person means. Is he or she talking about the Freudian Ego, the healthy ego or the unhealthy-ego?
2. If you can’t tell the difference, then it is very likely that the ego (small ‘e’) is talking about itself, which of course, is a pointless charade when awakening is one of your goals in life.
3. Since the capacity to think clearly is an essential aspect of an awakened life, train your mind to focus. Try counting from 1 – 10 for an extended period of time. If you lose count go back and start at ‘1’. When you can do this for an hour, without losing count, you will also notice that your ability to focus will also have greatly increased.
© 2008 Mick Quinn, All Rights Reserved
Mick Quinn is the author of The Uncommon Path and Poder Y Gracia and the founder of Choice for Enlightened Living Foundation. Mick's work is quoted in The LA Times, Yahoo!, CNN Living, and Woman's World. Gary Renard, the best-selling (Hay House) author said this book is "informative and gripping". Raquel Torrent – Psychologist and founder of the Spanish Integral Association said, “Mick Quinn’s style is clear and direct - like silence making music”. Mick lives in Utah with wife Debora. For upcoming events visit: www.mickquinn.com