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Ego Ideal

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Quotes about Ego Ideal

1. Ego Ideal & Essential Qualities

Connection of the Ego Ideal to the Grandiose Self

The ego ideal is connected to the grandiose self, but it is not the same thing. It is a less radical defense than the grandiose self. A person who depends on the grandiose self is someone who hasn’t got much of an ego ideal. Normal people have an ego ideal. More narcissistic people have a grandiose self. The grandiose self believes, “I am such and such a way.” This is less realistic than someone who has an ego ideal and believes, “I’m going to become that way.” According to depth psychology, the person who has developed an ego ideal is considered normal. A narcissist didn’t have a chance to develop an ego ideal, and developed the defense of grandiosity, which is a much flimsier defense than the ego ideal. The ego ideal is more tenacious, deeper, more entrenched; it permeates the fabric of the personality. Although the ego ideal is a good indication of normality, some people have more extreme ego ideals than others, and the more adjusted the person is, the more realistic is the ego ideal. For instance, a person might want to be all-knowing, to know everything there is to know. Another person might want to be a professor of philosophy. Both have to do with knowing, but becoming a professor of philosophy is actually possible. You can go to a university, get a degree, and become a professor who knows a great deal. This is a much more realistic ideal than wanting to be all-knowing.

Ego Ideals Fill Holes

When you see through the ego ideal, you see it was filling a hole. You usually cannot tolerate the hole, and try to fill it with other things. But if you learn to accept the voidness, then there is the possibility of transformation.

Ego Ideals Influence Activity

Your activity depends on your ego ideal. If your idealize strength, for instance, it doesn't mean that you are just trying to be strong; it could mean you're always trying to be perfect in strength. Everything that you do that is important has some concern about strength in it. You don't want to feel weak. You don't want to take weak action. You're always proving to yourself that you're strong.

Everyone is Living His Life as a Compensation

If you try to use your mind instead of your heart, you can only go so far. You can think in your mind about your feelings, but that’s not the same thing as actually feeling your feelings. But your mind is something real. That’s what it means to compensate for something. You use one thing to compensate for the absence of something else. The ego ideal is a compensation for a certain loss. Goals are also a compensation, an attempt to fill a certain hole. Society is primarily structured around these compensations. Everybody has goals and ideals and plans, and they’re all compensations for the absence of the essential self. Everyone is living his life as a compensation. That is why in time, when you become more in tune with yourself and know yourself better, the roles you perform in your life, along with your capacities, become different. Ultimately, your gift to the world is being who you are. It is both your gift and your fulfillment. You can then exercise your capacities and abilities, attaining pleasure, joy, and fulfillment in your life.

Ideals Separate You from Present Reality

People often decide on certain goals very early in childhood. These goals are largely determined by what we call the "ego ideal". For the normal personality, the ultimate goal is the realization of the ego ideal - to become your ideal, whatever it might be. The problem is that when you are trying to reach the goal, you are separating yourself from your present reality. You are not living in the present, and you are rejecting who you are at the moment... A second way is to live in the present, to be who you are at the moment, as a completeness and a fullness. This means actualizing who you are. At any moment you are who you are, and there is no need to be anything or to go anywhere. It is because you are not who you are that you want to be something, and you create all these goals and aims.

Our Deep Desire to Be Seen and Loved for Who We Are

As the ego self, we don't believe that we can be loved just for the mere fact of being who we are, independent of our various qualities. One of our deepest desires is to be seen and loved not because we're helpful or original or wonderful in some way, but simply for who we are. And we feel hopeless that this will happen. We feel that having certain qualities is what’s going to get us the acknowledgment and admiration we want. We idealize one of these qualities in particular, and this is the ego ideal. We believe the ego ideal is the best part of us, and we want others to see this in us.

Recognizing the Ego Ideal is not Simple

It's not a simple thing to recognize one's ego ideal or to recognize the essential aspect that is part of it... You're dealing with something that runs your life, and part of what gives the ego ideal power is that it's not clearly recognized. It manifests in all kinds of goals and preferences, and to see it clearly, exactly, will precipitate a certain kind of experience. To recognize the essential aspect, you must first of all accurately recognize your ego ideal. Second, you have to have some experience of the essential aspect in order to isolate it... As I have said, really recognizing the ego ideal precipitates certain emotional experiences. If the person is unwilling to tolerate those emotional experiences, his process will be unclear and ambiguous. The exercises we do here are more difficult than they seem. They require clarity and precision and a deep knowingness of oneself.

Sources of Ideals

It’s important to realize that just about anything can become an ideal, a standard: our own past experience, another person’s experience, our teacher’s state, a precept taught in a book—whatever we come across on our path. Any of these things can be useful for comparison and to help us understand our situation, but that is not the same thing as always measuring ourselves in comparison to them in a judgmental, negative way, in a manner that is violent toward our experience.

The Ego Ideal is a Self-Image

The ego ideal is a self-image, an ideal image of yourself that contains many qualities. But the central pillar is the essential aspect that you idealize. The ego ideal that is built around the central pillar is a complete image of yourself, which determines what kind of person you will be, what kind of thoughts you will have, what kind of action you will take, what kind of life you will live, what kind of people you will be with.

The Ego-Self Constantly Judges and Rejects Its Arising State

This is the normal state of the ego-self, for the ego is always trying to get some place, to make itself be a certain way. The ego-self is constantly judging and rejecting its arising state and trying to fit itself into a certain ideal. It is not just being where it is and allowing itself to unfold freely. As a result, it does not understand where it is for it is invested in being somewhere in particular, being a certain way, or in satisfying a particular ideal. And even if this ideal is taken from spiritual teachings, the same mechanism of ego activity is in operation. Trapped in the ego-self, you do not trust that Being itself will take you where you need to go.

The Mental Activity of Your Ego is Incessantly Trying to Think, Feel and Behave According to the Ego Ideal

The ego ideal is very tricky. Even when you sincerely feel that you want to be free from it, you have to ask yourself why you want to be free from it. You want to be free so that you can be in a state of harmony. But that’s exactly what the ego ideal is trying to do! If you go about this process from the perspective of wanting to understand these issues in order to have a certain result, then you’re still controlled by the ego ideal. How can you be free from it then? You will see that the mental activity of your ego is incessantly trying to think, feel, and behave according to the ego ideal. For instance, if your ego ideal is to be original or authentic, then you’ll find that you’re incessantly trying to be yourself. You’re incessantly trying to change things in yourself so you can be closer to your ego ideal of who you think you really are. The activity itself is idealized. The person who idealizes love is always trying to be loving. He’s constantly thinking about how to be more loving with this person or with that person in this situation and that situation. His thoughts and feelings and activities are all colored by that aspect. So the person never allows himself to actually be that aspect. This is a distortion of the real quality.

We Cherish Our Ego Ideal

The ego ideal, you must remember, is something you cherish dearly. You feel it is very close to your heart. You are not about to say, "Oh, it's just an ego ideal". You want to believe it completely; in a sense, you want to believe that it will get you to God. It's not easy to isolate it because of all your beliefs and attachments to it. One way to recognize the ego ideal is to fulfill it. This happens once in a while. You actually achieve your ego ideal, and then you find it doesn't do what it’s supposed to do. You finally attain the ideal, and nothing has changed.

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