Inspired by Eckhart Tolle, and his appeal to each of us to find the ‘watcher’ within, I set out thinking about this and what used to be called ‘the Ego’… The first thing I notice when considering this topic is a strong pull in one direction at the outset, to say that I believe in the need for such a watcher and that a general wariness of the ego is wise counsel. The ego certainly has got lost in translation and requires refreshing and so I begin with a definition taken from the Oxford English dictionary (2012) that hints at the source of the problem because there is not just one but two definitions … here the ego is defined as “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance” (layman definition), and “the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity” (psychoanalytical). Taking the middle ground, my suggestion is that ‘ego’ is strong will, and here we may even use the analogy of the horse whisperer who, rather than ‘breaking’ the will of the horse (the part that hitherto needed controlling), instead he/ she tries to understand it, even befriend it, in order to transform it.
So why, this urge to chastise the ego as is so often done these days? Is this a misunderstanding out there in the general, public domain of what remains, a technical word? Or is this an example of how we take a word and socially create and expand the definition to fit our purposes? And what of the more ‘positive’ aspects of the ego should they exist? After-all is it not the ego that has a certain strength of conviction, to stand apart from the crowd, and speak out on issues it holds dear and to worry not about appearing ‘different’ to others and what they might or might not think? Here I connect to my roots, of being born of dual-heritage, and to sensing my different-ness, on occasions uncomfortably so, then at other times, recognizing it also allows me a degree of freedom to stand apart, not needing to try too hard to ‘fit in’ (over time, a blessing).
So what of the ego we started out trying to understand? The ego may indeed need watching over, but rather than chastising the ego let us instead embrace it! In fact the ego may even be the watcher we seek, able to occupy that middle ground, overseeing, taking executive control – in short, the ego, is not all that bad!