Leave your ego at the door by John Milton Fogg

John Milton FoggFrom Alice to Osho… and more. Leave your ego at the door was the sign I posted above the entrance to my gym in the basement of the house at Parson’ Green. Its message was as much sound advice as it was a requirement. A workout with the weights was always an invitation to meet both “triumph and disaster” and as Kipling admonished “…treat those two imposters just the same.” Everyday I am visited by many opportunities to leave my ego at the door. I don’t always take advantage of them of course, yet as I get older, it becomes easier to do. Not simply because I am tired— I am that— but more because of a growing intolerance of any and all things (including people) that drain my life energy.  NULL

And the care and feeding of my own and other’s ego is energy draining indeed.

The world isn’t clear (to me) on the word. Dicting around get’s me this:

ego: 1. The self, especially as distinct from the world and other selves. 2. In psychoanalysis, the division of the psyche that is conscious, most immediately controls thought and behavior, and is most in touch with external reality. 3. a. An exaggerated sense of self-importance; conceit. b. Appropriate pride in oneself; self-esteem.

The ego is the self…my ego is my self. Nah, that’s not right. Least not the ego I’m talking about. I am my ego… no, I’m not. But then…

The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice. ‘Who are you?’ said the caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation: Alice replied rather shyly, ‘I – I hardly know sir, just at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since that.’ ‘What do you mean by that?’ said the caterpillar, ‘explain yourself!’ ‘I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir,’ said Alice, ‘because I’m not myself, you see.’ ‘I don’t see,’ said the caterpillar. ‘I’m afraid I can’t put it more clearly,’ Alice replied very politely, ‘for I can’t understand it myself, and really to be so many different sizes in one day is very confusing.’ ‘It isn’t,’ said the caterpillar. ‘Well perhaps you haven’t found it so yet,’ said Alice; ‘but when you have to turn into a chrysalis, you know – and then after that into a butterfly, I should think it’ll feel a little queer, don’t you think so?’ ‘Not a bit,’ said the caterpillar. ‘All I know is,’ said Alice, ‘it would feel queer to me.’ ‘You!’ said the caterpillar contemptuously. ‘Who are you?’

Fine then, Freud started it — didn’t he…? At least lets have him clear it up.

For Freud, the ego is “the representative of the outer world to the id” (Ego and the Id 708). In other words, the ego represents and enforces the reality-principle whereas the id is concerned only with the pleasure-principle. Whereas the ego is oriented towards perceptions in the real world, the id is oriented towards internal instincts; whereas the ego is associated with reason and sanity, the id belongs to the passions. The ego, however, is never able fully to distinguish itself from the id, of which the ego is, in fact, a part, which is why in his pictorial representation of the mind Freud does not provide a hard separation between the ego and the id. The ego could also be said to be a defense against the superego and its ability to drive the individual subject towards inaction or suicide as a result of crippling guilt. Freud sometimes represents the ego as continually struggling to defend itself from three dangers or masters: “from the external world, from the libido of the id, and from the severity of the super-ego” (Ego and the Id 716).

I still don’t get it — or id, for that matter. Osho, who was once upon an earlier time Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, wrote the following in Beyond the Frontiers of the Mind. (The entire article is included as an ATTACHMENT below.):

The first thing to be understood is what ego is. A child is born. A child is born without any knowledge, any consciousness of his own self. And when a child is born the first thing he becomes aware of is not himself; the first thing he becomes aware of is the other. It is natural, because the eyes open outwards, the hands touch others, the ears listen to others, the tongue tastes food and the nose smells the outside. All these senses open outwards. That is what birth means. Birth means coming into this world, the world of the outside. So when a child is born, he is born into this world. He opens his eyes, sees others. ‘Other’ means the thou. He becomes aware of the mother first. Then, by and by, he becomes aware of his own body. That too is the other, that too belongs to the world. He is hungry and he feels the body; his need is satisfied, he forgets the body. This is how a child grows. First he becomes aware of you, thou, other, and then by and by, in contrast to you, thou, he becomes aware of himself. This awareness is a reflected awareness. He is not aware of who he is. He is simply aware of the mother and what she thinks about him. If she smiles, if she appreciates the child, if she says, “You are beautiful,” if she hugs and kisses him, the child feels good about himself. Now an ego is born. Through appreciation, love, care, he feels he is good, he feels he is valuable, he feels he has some significance. A center is born. But this center is a reflected center. It is not his real being. He does not know who he is; he simply knows what others think about him. And this is the ego: the reflection, what others think. If nobody thinks that he is of any use, nobody appreciates him, nobody smiles, then too an ego is born: an ill ego; sad, rejected, like a wound; feeling inferior, worthless. This too is the ego. This too is a reflection. First the mother – and mother means the world in the beginning. Then others will join the mother, and the world goes on growing. And the more the world grows, the more complex the ego becomes, because many others’ opinions are reflected. The ego is an accumulated phenomenon, a by-product of living with others…. Ego is a need; it is a social need, it is a social by-product. The society means all that is around you — not you, but all that is around you. All, minus you, is the society. And everybody reflects. You will go to school and the teacher will reflect who you are. You will be in friendship with other children and they will reflect who you are. By and by, everybody is adding to your ego…. The society creates an ego because the ego can be controlled and manipulated. The self can never be controlled or manipulated. Nobody has ever heard of the society controlling a self — not possible. And the child needs a center; the child is completely unaware of his own center. The society gives him a center and the child is by and by convinced that this is his center, the ego that society gives. A child comes back to his home — if he has come first in his class, the whole family is happy. You hug and kiss him, and you take the child on your shoulders and dance and you say, “What a beautiful child! You are a pride to us.” You are giving him an ego, a subtle ego. And if the child comes home dejected, unsuccessful, a failure — he couldn’t pass, or he has just been on the back bench — then nobody appreciates him and the child feels rejected. He will try harder next time, because the center feels shaken. Ego is always shaken, always in search of food, that somebody should appreciate it. That’s why you continuously ask for attention. You get the idea of who you are from others. It is not a direct experience. It is from others that you get the idea of who you are. They shape your center. This center is false,
because you carry your real center. That is nobody’s business. Nobody shapes it. You come with it. You are born with it. So you have two centers. One center you come with, which is given by existence itself. That is the self. And the other center, which is created by the society, is the ego. It is a false thing — and it is a very great trick. Through the ego the society is controlling you. You have to behave in a certain way, because only then does the society appreciate you.


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John Milton Fogg
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