the Unhealthy Ego
by Reiki Master Diana Henderson
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Reference: The definitions for ego above come from the online dictionary at www.rhymezone.com.
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