Many Eastern religions and philosophies believe that ego is the source of all suffering. If you are working on dissolving your ego so you can live a life of more freedom and less suffering, you know it’s not an easy road. Here are the three major phases of ego death and what they feel like.
The ego melts away slowly. It starts with some big, but less significant things melting away. For example, you might say about yourself, “I am a computer programmer.” You begin to recognize that as an ego identification. Then as you work to dissolve your ego, you become OK with not being a computer programmer and you begin to think of it differently, “computer programming is a thing I do, but it’s not who I am.” Nothing really changes in your life, you just get a little bit more aware of how you define different tings about yourself. It’s really just linguistic reframing and increased awareness of the thoughts you have that are ego-driven.
2. Real Change
Then you get a little deeper. You get into things about yourself that are a bit more personal than perhaps redefining how you label your occupation. For example, you may have an idea about yourself that is, “I’m a good friend.” But you understand that is an identification with ego.
At this point, you do see the value in redefining it. So, you say, OK, let me really examine that.
You ask yourself, “Am I really a good friend?”
You answer yourself, “Sure I am! The other day, I loaned my friend 500 bucks to get his power back on. I’m a great friend, I always listen to my friends when they tell me about what’s going on in their lives. I never judge them. I’m very compassionate and nonjudgmental. I never tell people how to live their lives or judge them like my friend Patrick does. He’s always got opinions about everyone and is constantly criticizing them… ”
Just like I’m criticizing him right now.
Bam. It hits you. You’re not who you think you are. You thought you were something till you realized you’re not. Damn, that light got shined right on your flaw. You’re a hypocrite. You’re not who you thought you were. Crap.
Your ego is beginning to break down. You’re beginning to humble — to soften up. Next time you’ve got an opinion about someone or something, you remember this stinging reality. It helps you remember that you’re not the image you had of yourself.
It gets worse.
3. Complete Ego Breakdown
You do this for a while. You question everything. You develop new perspectives on what you thought were your most sacred values that made you who you are. Nothing makes any sense anymore. You don’t ‘know what’s good, what’s bad, what’s right, or what’s wrong. You don’t know who you are. You think there’s nothing left.
I feel embarrassed, foolish and silly. I feel silly for ever even thinking I have anything worth saying, or doing or taking up space in the world. Like everyone is just looking at me and everything I do and saying, so what? Like there’s nothing special, unique or valuable about me. I’m just one person, who’s basically just like everyone else. I’m just one of 7 billion human beings on this planet. We’re all just basically the same. Nobody is any different. I don’t matter. Nobody matters.
Then you realize there is only one thing left: Love