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Ego Pt. 3: The Four Aspects Of Your Mind

We have been talking about the Ego, but did you know that there are other aspects of the human mind? Maintaining a balanced working relationship between all four major aspects is important to our happiness and success in life.

The first aspect of mind is the clerk.  The clerk handles all of the secretarial work.  It has no major opinions or agenda and acts a bit robotically to file, sort, and recall information.  When our clerk begins to fail us we can’t remember details, we lose words or forget to keep appointments.  A healthy clerk keeps us sharp and effecient.

The second aspect of mind is the unconscious mind.   It is referred to as the repository and the metaphor of a vast ocean is commonly used to describe it.  This storehouse of sensory data can be accessed by the clerk.  It also sends impulses and impressions out on its own that can influence our dreams and our thoughts.  The unconscious is powerful, immense, and misunderstood.  Both repeitition and strong emotion increase the power of unconscious impulses.  Working with our addictions, habits, and desires helps to slow down the power of these impressions so that they don’t overwhelm us and carry us away into unhelpful directions.

The third aspect of mind is our ego, the self-appointed boss. We have already covered how our loud, bold, and myopic ego can get itself into trouble.  At its core, ego’s perspective is what creates all of those problems.  Ego sits facing the physical world.  Its self identifications are all based on sensory data alone, and not on our deeper self.

The fourth aspect of our mind is the mystic, or the enlightened mind.  This is the part of our mind that is thought of as being able to listen to our deeper intuitive impulses.  Where ego faces solely forward, listening to the physical world, the mystic listens to both our senses and our more subtle, more connected, self.  The personality of the mystic is one of queit as opposed to the ego’s bluster.  Thus it is said that the soft voice of wisdom coming from our mystic is often overshadowed and overridden by the rowdy voice of ego.

What does it mean?  Happiness and wellness are better achieved via a healthy relationship between all four aspects of our mind.  With all four players working effeciently and as a team, we can accomplish our life’s purpose with grace.  Looking for details on how to nourish and strengthen each aspect of mind?  There are more details than we can get into today.  However, the best practice for nourishing all four aspects of mind together is meditation.  If you would like to learn more about meditation, ask someone who practices regularly or join one of our yoga classes or meditation groups.

Ego Pt. 1: The I Maker

Ego can be described as self identity.  It is the “I maker.”  Its job is to deferentiate between you and the not you.  For many people the ego is taken in negative light.  However, the ego plays very necessary roles in our psyche.  Like all things, when it is misunderstood and allowed to fall into negative patterns, it can be a cause of significant  misery and illness for us.

Here are two negative patterns that an unchecked ego can fall into.  First is a broad one, called false identification.  Here ego identifys itself with a label or an event.  I am an accountant, I am a badger fan, etc….  While many of these identifications can be helpful to us as we move through life, there are many ways that this identification can create serious problems for us.

A second tendency of ego is that it doesn’t care about positive or negative self image, all it cares about is strengthening its own self identifications.  What this means is that as long as ego sees itself as more unique, then ego doesn’t care if you are a good or bad person.  Its job is to be the “I Maker” and that is ALL that it cares about.  Thus many people say they are the “worst person in the world” at something.

If we allow ego to dominate our mind unchecked, then our self identity can begin to become negative.  This can happen easily if we allow ourselves to falsely identify with a negative incidence.  One example could be when you lied to a friend.  Then ego continues to identify with that event and bolster its unique strong image of itself by labeling itself as the most horrible lying friend in the world.

Many people come to me saying, I want to be well.  They are told to do a stretch or change something in their lifestyle.  They say, “Ugg, I can’t!  It’s just something I’m not willing to do.”  That resistence is coming from their ego.  We can all limit the carbs in our diet if that is truly what we need to do.  Our ego fights it and fights it, not because its best for our health, but because it is best for our ego.  The resistence to doing the right stretches is simply ego clinging to its self identifications.

If we think about this a little bit, I am sure you will come to realize that there are hundreds of times in your recent past where internal resistence has held you back or self identity has determined your course of action.  This is especially true when we need to do something for our health that we don’t like or don’t identify with.  “You want me to eat vegetables?”

Next week we will talk about practices that help soften ego’s dominance over our habits.

Ego Pt. 2: Identifying Ego’s Influence

The first practice in preventing ego from dominating our thoughts is to identify when our thoughts are stemming from our ego.  The good news is that there are several cues that can bring awareness to when this is happening.

Ego speaks in two primary terms:  I like/dislike and I am /am not.   It uses these terms to bolster its self identity. For our purposes, we want to use these two sets of terms as red flags.  “I like spaghetti,” is an ego driven thought.  RED FLAG.  “I am a better person than that,” is an ego driven thought.  RED FLAG.  Any time that a thought includes either of these two primary “I making” terms you know that it is clouded by our ego.  By first developing a habit of witnessing these red flag thoughts we can come to realize how often our ego is directing our thoughts.

Gaining awareness of how we reaction to ego driven thoughts is our next level of practice.  It is startling to realize how strongly they affect our behavior.  To begin, it is easiest to focus on how you react when your ego’s desire is thwarted. When you dislike something, but have to do it anyway, there is very often some sort of little tantrum our ego creates to avoid its ‘I dislikes.’ We all know what a child’s tantrum looks like; floor pounding, pouting, and yelling.  What does your “tantrum” look like? Do you run from any situation that you dislike? Do you throw up walls of attitude like disdain, fear, or arrogance?  Often we project anger outwards onto external people or things to avoid doing what we dislike.

When you get real with yourself, you can find that we all have behaviors that stem from our ‘I dislike” and “I am not” driven thoughts.  I am not saying that all of these thoughts or habit patterns are negative, but by having an honest conversation with yourself, you can access some negative habit patterns that may be keeping you from getting healthier.

If you get good at following the thread of thoughts and behaviors you can move onwards to the likes and positive ego boosting thoughts.  Do this after you have spent some time with the negatives because they are a little harder to catch.  There is a little less intensity and drama because ego is getting what it wants.

The main point of these two contemplation practices revolve around the idea that ego isn’t the only part of our mind, nor is ego’s opinion as important as it insists.  Once we can identify something as stemming from ego, then we can begin to place checks and balances on our ego’s dominance over our thoughts and habits.  What other parts of our mind are there?  We will dig into that next.