Advice, Bad Ideas, Buddhahood, Consciousness, Enlightenment, Human Nature, Life, Living, Love, Mysticism, Pride, Quality of Life, Satori, Self, Self-Integration, Spirituality, Wisdom

Is Abolishing the Ego a Bad Idea?

(About a 2 minute read)

Quite often, people tell me they want to attain nirvana, mosksha, kenshō, or enlightenment by abolishing their ego or “lower self”.  But I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.  At least not on the face of it.

I think I can see where they are coming from though.  In popular speech, the “ego” is synonymous with our pride.  Pride is quite often a source of foolishness, and can easily enough be seen as wholly unnecessary.  After all, pride isn’t exactly the same thing as self-esteem.  To many people “pride” is excessive or unjustified self-esteem.

But I see the ego as much bigger than pride — and much more important, too.  To me, the ego is the psychological self.  The self we think of as “me” or “I”.  In other words, I use the word in it’s original Latin sense.  Moreover, I do not believe pride can be abolished without abolishing the ego.

As I understand things, it is impossible to wholly abolish the ego.  I profoundly agree with Joseph Campbell that the powers within us we deny or repress do not wither and die.  Instead, they become our demons.

So, I think efforts to abolish the ego end up creating monsters.

Beyond that, the ego — or psychological self — strikes me as quite useful to us.  In fact, I can’t see anyone surviving for long without it.  Near as I can figure it, the ego is key to at least a dozen functions that are themselves both useful and vitally important to our survival.

I won’t go into them here other than to mention those functions include foresight, planning, self-defense, and many forms of motivation.  In sum, I do not believe it wise or beneficial to abolish the ego.  Or even try.  Instead, one’s objective should be to tame it through wisdom and/or love.

9 thoughts on “Is Abolishing the Ego a Bad Idea?”

  1. Jung believed that it would be fatal to contain the ego, we just need to be more aware of it, and even more so – our shadow which feeds the ego. Jung, and I too, believe that the ego is fundamental to whole health, but needs to be in balance.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love the notion of “balancing” the ego. I’m also quite fond of the metaphor of “domesticating the beast”. Both seem to me to shed light on what should be done. Thanks for that insightful comment, Paul.

      Liked by 1 person

I'd love to hear from you. Comments make my day.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s