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HOMESpiritual Psychology

What Does it Mean to Really Work on the Ego?

Published on May 17, 2013

Creative Conflict Front

Not too many people know the answer to this vital question and few people even have an idea what their ego is. Whatever it is “no one likes to have their ego revealed to them. The more insecure or blocked up you are, the more it feels like criticism or rejection when someone tries to point out your ego to you. This is as true for young children as it is for older people. This is because the ego’s function is to always try to get approval, recognition and support for itself. You can watch children who are being told that they hurt someone, and their egos will just wriggle in the corner, caught. They may try to change the subject, anything to avoid facing themselves. Even if the confronting is being done in a loving, non-accusing way, the sensitive ego feels it is no good and it is being rejected.

So the first thing you need to do in Creative Conflict is to help the child or adult realize that the ego is not his real being. Children and most adults are busy building their ego and they do not want to look at it or tear down what they are building. You might say to a child, “I don’t like you leaving your dirty lunch box lying around the living room.” And the child might respond by ignoring you and saying “Hey what’s on TV tonight?” hoping you will drop the subject and leave him alone, let his ego stay just as it is,” wrote Christopher Hills over thirty years ago in his revolutionary book Creative Conflict.

Hills said to his students that it was essential for the survival of the human race to learn about love and if we didn’t we were in danger of destroying ourselves and WWIII is threatening in several areas of the world today.  In the end this is actually what most egos eventually do, destroy lives and even destruction of the self.

What is ego or what is the best definition? It’s simple—our ego is our sense of self or self-sense. It is our idea of ourselves that creates a bubble around us separating us from others. When we say that person is egotistical we are meaning they are full of themselves.

Hills says, “The ego-building process is one of the most misunderstood and biggest causes of conflict between parents and children, especially in the teen years. It is important to remember that there is nothing wrong with a strong ego, as long as you are willing to look at it and include others in it at the same time. And you can only look at it if you are identified with your real being, with the whole, and not thinking that your separate ego is your real self. If you can help children build a happy, positive self-image that includes others and help them to look truthfully at themselves at the same time, they learn to work with life and stay in tune. If they do not look, they are already building patterns that will come crushing in on them later through painful situations that will leave deep emotional and psychological scars.”

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“Even though it is not easy working on your ego, because you are so identified with it, it is mandatory for real happiness. The ego is like feeling the splinter is part of your finger and not wanting to cut the sliver out. But working on the ego brings you tremendous feelings of relief as you realize you are not the sliver, and you are loved for your deeper self. Working on the ego is to change identifications, which is what evolving from matter to spirit, to pure consciousness, is all about. So we have to acknowledge that the ego is tricky and that it is going to be tricky in ourselves, and then we can come prepared to deal with it, and not let it set us back or defeat us. When we can learn to make working on ourself a lighter process. We can laugh at ourselves and love ourselves,” said Hills.

In Creative Conflict, which is a process whose main principle and practice is deep listening, we are forced by the process, if we are committed enough, to penetrating our egos and get to the truth of our hearts. The path is quite direct because when we listen to others on a deep enough level the other person or person’s communications dissolve our sense of self.

“A very common pattern in the practice of Creative Conflict is when someone is trying to show you a deep ego pattern in yourself, which you are not in touch with and you fog out. You enter into a mental fog and can’t quite register what they are saying, even though they are being perfectly clear. Everyone else can see what they are pointing out in you, but your blind spot is before you. To you it not clear at all because your ego patterns are blocking your perception. The “fog” is an unconscious mechanism of the ego to defend itself, not to have to work on or change that part of itself. Why is the ego so desperate to maintain itself? Because you have given so much energy to building up the ego as your sense of identity, you have given so much energy to your negativity that it is like a habit that seems to have energy of its own and keeps you enslaved in spite of your desire to give up the habit. It takes on a life of its own and to change to something else is, from ego’s point of view, to die. So it usually defends itself fiercely as if caught in a life-or-death struggle for existence until the heart can be touched,” says Hills.

Being open and vulnerable is not something people do

But no one wants to do Creative Conflict and no one does! No one I know or have ever heard of at least. It’s the only thing you really cannot find anything in Google about because no one is doing this process of deep listening and learning how to love others from the deep space of the heart, not in group settings at least.

There are other communication disciplines like NVC (Non-Violent Communications) and NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming). The former is not designed to penetrate the ego and the latter is manipulative and manipulation can never be used as a tool to penetrate through the ego to get to the heart.

Being Nice is Usually Not Being Real

I have never walked the halls of the Internet trying to win friends by being nice. Now, after many years, I will try group process again but not in this group obviously. This week I published about my magnesium bicarbonate research group and this essay gives an idea of the kind of dynamic we will see if, as all groups do, we run into some problems between personalities. What we will do is communicate not slam the door and say goodbye and hit the road Jack and don’t you come back no more.

There is no forum in the world that has as its main purpose the confrontation of human beings with their egos. It just does not exist nor do we want one. Nothing stands as rejected, as far as I can see, as Creative Conflict. I do not know of one group that exists. You cannot find anything about it on Google and everything is on Google.

In my unpublished book, The Marriage of Souls, I adapt this process into what I call group consciousness in family life even if that family is of an extended nature. I even bring this philosophy/practice into my professional life because it’s impossible for me to get away from what is imprinted on my soul. I have through the years created a different form of individual therapy using the process.

I am assembling my first intentional group in decades, and though that is to study magnesium bicarbonate and Natural Allopathic Medicine the group will have a quality that transcends the physical process of taking care of our bodies. Many groups come together with wonderful ideals, but fall apart because the binding force is not as strong as the ego differences between them. I will work hard to make sure that is not the case with my group.

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Dr. Mark Sircus AC., OMD, DM (P)

Director International Medical Veritas Association
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine

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comments

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  • Jason

    The Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step program that is mimicked in many other addiction programs is geared at revealing the ego to ones self. Have you ever gone to one?

  • Heidi

    My only point with my last remark is that you are not alone and there is a whole body of literature and practice in the Buddhist traditions that speaks to the idea that the personal ego is an illusion constructed to protect us from the world, but ends up preventing us from having an authentic understanding of reality as it is, without the distorting filter of our self-constructed prejudices.

  • Heidi

    Hi Mark,
    I think that if you explore the teachings of the Buddha you will discover that Buddhism is all about the dis-integration of the personal ego in order to see the truth of the interconnectedness of everything. The story of Milarepa, a great Buddhist sage, is a great example of this fundamental teaching. You are right that it is a radical worldview and few have achieved it, but I would venture that many monks in Tibetan monasteries, and particularly His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, among other realised beings in the Tibetan tradition, have achieved just that.