Healing the Unhealthy Ego

by Reiki Master Diana Henderson
copyright 2005

Does it sometimes feel like the ego is akin to the plant in Little Shop of Horrors, crying out, “Feed me; feed me”?  What does this bloodthirsty creature really want? Rebukes and self-criticism make for a poor diet indeed and only leave the ego hungering for something sweeter.

Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors wanted only blood, the elixir of life that comes from the heart. Let’s consider, then, that the deeper essence being craved by those pesky, alternately swollen or withering egos might just be love.

Definitions of ego include “the conscious mind,” “your consciousness of your own identity” and “an inflated feeling of pride in your superiority to others.” The first two of these sound like powerful tools for maneuvering through the treacherous landscape of life. Yet, it’s the third that we normally think of as ego, which is actually its shadow manifestation. It’s easy to focus on the unfortunate aspects of ego. Instead, let’s explore the ego as a vital element of the human experience and consider that creating a healthy ego can assist us in this journey as spiritual beings in human form.

When unhealthy and feeling threatened, our egos most assuredly have the capacity to make the worst of any situation by being reactive and using defense mechanisms such as sublimation, denial, projection and a whole slew of other tricks we learn along the way while facing life’s challenges and disappointments. How often do we and others exhibit these traits? It’s no wonder that ego has an entirely bad reputation, that the only definition that comes to mind is the one in which its purpose is out of balance and behaves in rather bad form.

While the Audrey II comparison may seem appropriate at times, the ego could as easily be likened to an unruly child, acting out because its parents aren’t paying attention. It belches criticism at the dinner table, runs amok at the office when things get stressful, lashes out in anger when threatened, refuses to share on the playground of life. What would the Supernanny do? It’s time to call Nanny 911, because the ego is out of control and driving us crazy!

So how do we deal with this child gone wild? One way to improve ego health is to pay attention to it, communicate expectations and needs directly with the conscious self, and acknowledge the ego whenever its behavior merits praise.  Because our life experiences, many of them painful, have determined the ego’s way of dealing with the world, it needs to be trained to behave in alignment with a higher intention.

In energetic healing, for example, the ego needs to step aside so that the facilitator can allow the Light to flow unhampered to the person being treated. A loving conversation with the ego before the session helps to ensure this takes place. The emotional/
mental symbol in Reiki comes in handy for connecting with the ego, but anyone can do the same by going within, calling upon the Higher Self to align the conscious self, and setting this intention with the ego. When coupled with grateful recognition afterward, the ego soon gets the idea of what is expected.

In addition to acknowledging helpful and healthy ego, it’s important to recognize the shadow when it makes an appearance. But with a child acting out, acknowledgment in the form of yelling or harshness seldom works for long. Calm clarity is the preferred method of the Supernanny. This means stepping back to take a moment, then saying, “I see you, shadow.” Only this kind of unruffled and intentional attention can sap the shadow ego of its strength.

When detrimental states circumvent the truer nature and purpose of the ego, the pretender to the throne (false ego) takes control. Often we tend to view the shadow side of ego as a monster capable of taking over our lives—much as Audrey II does to poor overwhelmed Seymour. In so doing, we offer the power that its corrupted state seeks and indeed enable it to do just what we believe it can. To take away the power of the shadow side of the mind, we need to see it for what it is and at the same time work to make the beneficial ego as healthy as possible.

When we begin to apply the ego to a higher purpose, to bring its use into alignment with our greater goals and to engage our spiritual energy to bring the shadow into the light, we discover some of life’s greatest lessons. The ego in its truer form seeks positive experiences; it enjoys the state of happiness; it balances us between the id’s hedonistic nature and the overly controlling or rigid aspect of the superego. It can keep us from straying too far in either direction, from becoming a pleasure junky on the one hand or an uptight Pilgrim on the other. The ego’s true function is to help us live a healthy, happy and successful life.

One way to bring ego into alignment with its true purpose is to temper it with ultimate compassion and love. The Higher Self, or the spiritual aspect of our beings, has no hatred for ego nor for any aspect of the self. Like any part of us, Love can heal what’s out of balance.

Much like that small child who seems to extend the “terrible twos” into the threes and fours and forevers, the ego needs simple coaching, explicit instructions, an understanding of its place and purpose and lots of unconditional love. Over time, in our conversations with the ego, it can be trained to understand its function in the scheme of things. In loving communion, we can teach the conscious mind to be governed by the Higher Self. This takes time and a great deal of love and acceptance of where we are now.

Loving the baser aspects of self is not the same as endorsing them. When we are overly critical of self or others, when we lack confidence or seek to make ourselves seem superior, the ego is not serving its purpose and needs to hear from the Spiritual Self, the Higher Mind, in order to get back on track.

Loving the shadow means transforming it so that it too may experience truth and light. The mind may have accumulated a large number of misguided notions or harmful habits through life experience, and the ego has built corresponding defense mechanisms that come into play as we carry out these patterns. Because of this the conscious self may well need a good energy flush. By calling upon the Divine or the Higher Self, we can shine a light upon the ego, dissolve the detritus and wash away the mechanisms and unhealthy ego manifestations that no longer serve us.

We need to prepare the ego in advance to let it know that we have no intention of flushing it down the toilet along with the dross. If the ego has been informed of what will take place, it can release fear and actually welcome the energetic cleansing. Everyone likes a good bath now and then, even our minds.

It’s helpful to get into the habit of regular cleansing of mental debris. Take a mind shower daily. The mental and emotional levels of the energy field can also contain a lot of waste from those unhealthy thought patterns and the emotional responses they evoke; so routine clearing of the energy bodies will help us function in a more balanced way.

Cleansing itself, however, is not enough. The small self came to exhibit certain behaviors and employ those ego defense mechanisms because of the wounds we experienced along the way. Healing, therefore, needs to go hand in hand with clearing work. Employing techniques learned in Reiki or other energetic modalities, breathwork, self-work, along with various methods of counseling when appropriate, can lead to a strengthening and healing that assists the ego, indeed all aspects of self, in embracing the highest good for our lives.

Doing this work is as important as giving the physical being regular exercise to restore or enhance health. When we exercise our bodies, we often target those body parts that have gotten flabby. These areas of weakness in our conscious makeup also require consistent healing work, sometimes lots of it, in order to bring these aspects of self into a state of health and wholeness.

If we consider that the ego in its truest purpose may indeed be here to help us balance between the survival/pleasure instinct and the requirements of conscience, to face reality and make decisions that satisfy both our baser and our higher natures, aligning it with the spiritual essence will bring us into greater harmony. This is a matter of connecting with the Divine, with the Spiritual Self, and bringing the conscious mind in tune with the soul level.

Creative activities that balance right and left brain, like drawing, painting or sculpting, naturally seem to build a bridge between the spirit and the mind (and indeed the body as well). Meditations to enhance the connection between the conscious mind and the Higher Self are also very helpful. Any meditation or practice that places the mind in alignment with the spirit will prove beneficial.

Daily affirmations that state this directive—to align the conscious mind with the Higher Self—also train the ego. By empowering those declarations with energy work or by embodying compassion in the moment of affirming, we can magnify the input considerably so that this communication with the ego is more readily accepted. The Reiki emotional/mental technique is excellent for this. Opening to Divine energy or working with any type of energy healing for this same purpose also works.

The ego, a component of the personality (according to Freud among others), manifests in our lives from an early age. While we all have experienced the shadow ego, a healthy ego can help us make informed choices based on the information at hand. An ego functioning optimally is characterized by self-esteem and confidence (rather than egotism, or its flip side, lack of confidence), decisiveness and success seeking.

So what does the ego need in order to be healthy? The answer is not so different from what our bodies require: Food in the form of communication and acknowledgment of its benefits, a nice shower each day to cleanse away what no longer serves us, training in its helpful uses, and regular exercise by means of healing to keep it in a balanced state.

Finally, we need to add rest to the mix. No, that doesn’t mean telling our egos to “Give it a rest.” It means helping the ego relax into its role as a human function that has an appropriate use and a proper place within the greater being of the Spirit.

The ego often comes to think it has to control every situation and make every decision alone. How exhausting! The higher truth is that if the ego allows Spirit to steer and direct our lives, its job gets a whole lot easier. It can maintain the daily, mundane aspects of existence, with the input of the Higher Self through our intuition. The ego and the conscious mind can assist in filling in the brush strokes while Spirit draws the big picture. When the ego is lovingly trained and guided to this understanding and its benefits, it can take a real load off our minds so to speak.

In the physical realm, the traits of a healthy ego can be used in order to live successfully as human beings. If we wished to remain in spirit form, we could have chosen to do so. But we elected to come to the Earth and use the tools of the human mind in conjunction with the wisdom of Spirit to learn and to grow. Ego in its healthiest state, aligned with Spirit and trained in its role, loved and acknowledged, can assist us in this human experience.

Reiki Master Teacher and Intuitive Diana Henderson offers classes that empower you to heal and energize your destiny and healing modalities to help you embrace wholeness.

Reference: The definitions for ego above come from the online dictionary at www.rhymezone.com.

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