What is Ego?
The human psyche encompasses all it means to be human, making it one of life’s greatest mysteries. Originating from the 17th-century Greek word, psukhē, and translating to “breath, life, soul”. However, such a broad subject requires a need to be approached in more ways than one. From the West, psychological theories emphasise that the ego plays a crucial role in the human psyche as it forms our self-concept and is an integral part of human cognitive function. From the East, the ego is something that is to be transcended because on the spiritual path, the ego can be an obstruction to enlightenment.
Mostly from the work of Sigmund Freud the concept of “ego” crept into the psychological world. In his tripartite model of the mind (id, ego, superego), the ego served as a psychological apparatus that regulated the animalistic desires or impulses of the “id” and the moral and social standards of the “superego”. In other words, the ego serves to ease the tension between the two for one to be a socially accepted functional person in society.
However, Carl Jung, Freud’s protégé, bridges the gap between Freud’s model of the psyche and a more Eastern approach. Jung believed that while the ego was the centre of both the psyche and human consciousness, he highlighted the limits of the ego and placed importance on the subconscious instead.
In short, while Freud and Jung pinpoint elements of our psyche that are out of our control, such as driving forces that influence our decisions, Jung entered more spiritual territory by acknowledging an esoteric element of the psyche that wasn’t necessarily governed by biological drives.
Moreover, western theories of the ego are limited to the material world with a central argument (materialism) that only the physical realm exists. Applying materialism to the concept of what-makes-us-us means that we are exclusively physical beings.
So, spirituality’s importance comes from its focus beyond the material dimension. In doing so, we allow the concept of who we are to dramatically expand. Looking at the psyche from this perspective, we realise what-makes-us-us isn’t the thoughts we have about ourselves, but an expansive awareness behind those thoughts, the witness of our inner world.
In Eastern philosophy, this would be our true identity. We are connected to a spiritual, divine dimension of pure awareness or pure being. Our psyche isn’t part of a greater whole, it is the greater whole, having no separation in between.
How Do I Mind My Ego?
Two important elements to consider. The first is that you are not your ego and your potential is unlimited. You are not thoughts or beliefs, but instead, part of a greater whole that contains peace, tranquility, love, and everything in between. Understanding that you are part of the greater whole, and not separate, may liberate you.
The second element is the importance of the ego in the functioning of daily life. Understand that you may be in a unique position where you can become aware of your own divine nature (as we all can be with spiritual practice), and can balance your material duties (personal growth, achieving goals, etc) with the knowledge that who you are will remain the same.
Through channeling divine traits (such as compassion and love) your ego may grow. Spiritually, the ultimate aim (which may be different from person to person) is a healthy, mature ego combined with the understanding of our ever-present, divine, spiritual nature. Again, the ego isn’t the monster. It is vital. However, understanding you are much more than the ego will liberate you. Seeing and acknowledging the ego allows you to ignore the traits that won’t benefit you, and enhance the ones that will.
To become aware of the ego, meditation is vital. Witnessing the part of the psyche that contains the ego is highly valuable. And always remember: you are not your ego. You are part of the greater whole that is vast and is always here.
Another method to be considered would be breathwork, more specifically integration of your breathwork experience to your overall being. To put it differently, incorporating the things you learned about yourself in your breathwork session to your overall being allows them to become an accessible part of you. Rather than for them to become something to be forgotten later, they instead become something that continues to move you toward your life’s goals.
So, your breathwork session can become the catalyst towards real change in your life as long as you put in extra effort to interpret that experience back to your daily consciousness, awareness and self.
How Much Time to Devote for Breathwork Integration?
To maximise “growth” from your breathwork experience, ask yourself the following questions:
- How deep and/or powerful was my session?
- How much did I release emotionally and/or physically?
- How much was I surprised by its content?
- How “blown away” was I by it?
Generally, as your answers get closer to the higher end of the spectrum for these questions, plan to give yourself more integration time, but always trust your intuition.
Getting the Most Out Of Integration of Your Breathwork Session
Two different ways to integrate your experiences in breathwork include active integration and passive integration. Active integration involves making a conscious effort to work with your experience through diverse methods, such as focused therapy, journaling, artwork, collage work, stream-of-consciousness, and much more. Passive integration, in general, involves creating as much embodied presence and self-awareness in your life as possible after a breathwork session. The deeper your self-presence, the more you’ll be realigning with the state-dependent memory (the phenomenon where memory retrieval is most efficient when an individual is in the same state of consciousness, emotional and physical, as they were when the memory was formed) which you accessed during your breathwork session, leading to further insights and understandings about the experience, and the emergence of new pieces of yourself that you may not have known. Passive integration includes activities such as meditation and yoga, walks in nature, massage and energy work and hot baths with candles.
Breathwork is a multi-faceted tool. You will be amazed how many health conditions and general well-being issues it can tackle when you utilize a correct technique. Dive deeper into this knowledge with our Breathwork Method training.
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