Think of your Ego as a parent trying to keep you safe. It sees you out there in the world, taking risks, trying new things, and occasionally falling on your face. As any parent would, the Ego wants to pick you up, say something to help you feel better, and make decisions on your behalf so that you don’t suffer the same mistake twice. The intentions are good, but the decisions are like limits on your freedom.
As you mature, you start to feel like you can protect yourself. You are ready to take some new risks, and you’re ready to deal with any failures or consequences. However, your parent still vividly remembers the time you fell out of the tree and broke your leg, so it cannot stand to imagine your heart breaking the same way, or watching your business fail like your lemonade stand did so long ago.
An overprotective parent doesn’t adjust to the passage of time and the capacity for you to learn and develop strength. Its fear is outdated, based on the abilities of your childhood self and not that of your adult self. We may consider this kind of parent dysfunctional, but it is still hard to shake their overbearing efforts to protect you from the world.
The Ego is much the same. It is a protective mechanism, designed to keep you safe, but it forms most of its beliefs in your early years of life. It takes its job very seriously and clings strongly to the original evidence that leads to each protective decision. Further, the Ego has a strong need to be right, so once it finds enough evidence to make a decision, it will use any new experience to support the decision rather than to update its ability to assess danger.
For example, once charismatic men have shown themselves to be scary, you will never again be allowed to date one. Once certain kinds of comfort food have been proven to reduce emotional stress, you will always be sent towards them when you feel uncomfortable. Once you have been hurt by rejection, you will never again take the risk that people won’t like you.
As an adult, with the conscious understanding that changing your habits might be uncomfortable but will not actually threaten your life, it seems unreasonable that an Ego could have such a strong influence on your ability to move forward. It’s so much easier to believe that you can use will power or positive thought to overcome something so completely outdated. But when the weight keeps coming back, the relationship patterns don’t change, or your career is stuck in second gear, your Ego is showing its power.
As long as you have a human body you will still have an Ego to protect you. But when it is behaving like an overprotective parent, full of outdated stories about how you hurt yourself as a kid, it will need some help before you can move forward.
As our personal development ambitions get bigger and bigger, the more important it is to consider what the Ego has been through, and heal the past it clings to. It is only then that its references for danger can be updated, new information can be used to accurately assess risk, your Ego can lose its dysfunctional behavior, and you can have the freedom to create a new reality.
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