Why Your Ego Is Your Story
By Deepak Chopra, MD
Everyone must have an ego, an individual “I” that gives you a point of view all your own. “I” develops in childhood and gathers around itself all kinds of personal likes and dislikes, good and bad memories, and ever-expanding desires. This collection isn’t just the baggage you carry through life. It turns into a story.
Here a deep spiritual question arises that most people haven’t faced even though it makes all the difference in how your life turns out. The question is this: Do you really need to have a story? Is your story benefiting you or holding you back? Even though “I” feels necessary in order to navigate the events of your day, your story does something truly harmful. It keeps you from thinking for yourself. Instead, your story is the product of an agenda your ego has been carrying out since you were a small child.
The agenda is known as conformity. As long as you keep to this agenda and blend into accepted social norms, your ego feels safe. An isolated “I” cannot help but be insecure. It is all alone facing tremendous forces outside its control, subject to all kinds of stresses, and filled with uncertainty about the future.
How much easier to insulate yourself with a story you can follow automatically, one that will hide the ego’s insecurity. Consider the following statements that are at the core of almost everyone’s story.
Where Do You Fit on the Conformity Index?
I’m not particularly special.
Our family mostly sees things the same way.
Hard mental challenges intimidate me.
I’m no expert.
In general I want to please.
I have voted for the same political party all my life.
I don’t like to be picked out and noticed.
I believe that if you can’t say something good about somebody, say nothing at all.
I am not a leader and don’t want to be.
People don’t think I’m an oddball.
Rather than argue, I will keep my opinions to myself.
Not much about my life inspires me.
It is important to take one for the team.
No one really considers me a role model.
Sensible goals are better than wild dreams that will never come true.
Most people will agree with more than half of these statements. That’s not the same as saying that a conformist life must be an unhappy one, but it will certainly be an extremely limited one. Someone might argue that conformity is actually a sign of being well adjusted. It makes life simpler if you rely on automatic responses. You have readymade answers, opinions, beliefs, and judgments. Moreover, you can dream of being special and achieving important things. No one says your dreams might not come true, since without a doubt there are success stories all around us.
But no matter how good your story is right this moment, or promises to be in the future, your ego has blinded you from the truth. Swaddled inside your story, you don’t see that “I” was an illusion to begin with. All the ego’s demands, desires, fears, hopes, worries, and dreams are wrapped around a hollow center. “I” is a useful concept, but in the end, it is mind-made. The reality of who you are is quite different from the story you are living and the “I” you cling to as your identity.
In reality you are a dynamic consciousness through which life flows. Every person possesses in individual self and a universal self, just as the ocean has waves and the whole ocean that gives rise to waves. No two people experience the same flow of conscious impulses. This makes us unique. But the flow of conscious impulses is universal. It is our common human birthright.
There is no law that forces you to build a story out of the impulses that flow through you (by impulses I mean thoughts, feelings, sensations, insights, desires, images, etc.). Your life can be creative, dynamic, and always new if you stop clinging to some impulses and rejecting others. The rise and fall of consciousness is the only operative law. Everything else is a rickety construction of old memories, social conditioning, second-hand opinions, and the product of the ego’s agenda.
Once you see that every story is based on a hollow core, and that the ego remains insecure no matter how good the story it creates, you have a vision of freedom. The vision is completely practical and livable, not to mention rewarding, because when you accept the flow of conscious impulses as your true identity, there is no longer any fear or insecurity. Instead of fearing the future, it no longer exists, because what you regard as the future is just another mind-made concept. For the same reason, the past you hold on to is another mind-made fiction.
The ramifications of seeing past the ego’s illusions, which are many and everywhere, are radical. Reality has no relationship to fictions. As you dismantle mind-made illusions, your ego will be alarmed and fearful, its insecurity exposed. But you can move at your own pace, inside your own comfort zone. What then? No predictions are valid except one: When you get rid of all illusions, whatever remains must be real. It is in the name of reality that every spiritual tradition views joy, love, creativity, and unlimited possibilities as the truth of human existence. So becoming real is the project you should devote the most time and energy to if you want life to be as fulfilling as it was designed to be.
DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his latest book, Abundance: The Inner Path to Wealth (Harmony Books) offers the keys to a life of success, fulfilment, wholeness and plenty. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” www.deepakchopra.com