So, what is the ego anyway? By the ego I am not referring to a character trait known as egotism nor am I referring to individual unique personality aspects of any kind. I am referring to the systematic self-deception that emphasizes separateness rather than our togetherness. A Course In Miracles says it this way:
“What is the ego? But a dream of what you really are. A thought that you were apart from your Creator and a wish to be what He created not. It is a thing of madness, not reality at all.”
One way I find helpful to understand how the ego shows up in our everyday life and behavior is called the 4 P’s. The ego has four main goals it’s seeking: Profit, Prestige, Power and Protection. In describing these four goals of the ego, I will be stating these definitions in terms of the most rudimentary version of the way this programming talks to us and advises us.
In reality, this is actually a spectrum of experience. As one becomes more aware of the unhelpful ego programming there is a movement towards choices, positions and behaviors that create a lessening of the extremes I detail here. The following are the four main goals of the ego and a description of how the ego talks to us when securely attached to these traits and viewpoints.
Profit: What’s in it for me (not just monetarily)? How can I benefit? If I don’t see a direct way that I benefit I’m not interested in giving my time, money, energy, vote or support.
Prestige: The need to feel admired, superior and special. I need to feel better than you in some way. I am more religious or spiritual than you, more educated, I am from the “right side of town”, I got my education from “that” university, my race, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation or religion is superior.
Power: I call the shots, I need to be right, I control the narrative, whether in my own home, the place I work, friendships, groups or organizations that I am a part of. It’s my way or the highway. I will manipulate people, places and things to get it the way I want it, the way I need it to be.
Protection: In some sense the other three goals of the ego are all about trying to obtain the feeling of protection. Protection from the world, which is fearful, unpredictable, dangerous and essentially every man for himself. My ultimate goal is to make sure that I am taken care of and to feel some safety and security by any means possible.
You can see by these definitions and characteristics it isn’t hard to understand how the world is in such a dire state. This is why the work we each do on ourselves is so important. When Gandhi said to be the change you want to see in the world this is what he meant. Each person that moves away from acting out of the ego automatically impacts the world in countless ways.
It might seem insignificant, but it is actually the way in which we will change the world. One person, one choice, one loving thought and action added together creating ripples that will change the tide and usher in a new way of being with one another and the planet.