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The Many Faces of the Ego

An ego that wants something from another – and what ego doesn’t – will usually play some kind of role to get its “needs” met, be they material gain, a sense of power, superiority, or specialness, or some kind of gratification, be it physical or psychological.

Usually people are completely unaware of the roles they play. They are those roles. Some roles are subtle; others are blatantly obvious, except to the person playing it. Some roles are designed simply to get attention from others. The ego thrives on others’ attention, which is after all a form of psychic energy.

The ego doesn’t know that the source of all energy is within you, so it seeks it outside. It is not the formless attention which is Presence that the ego seeks, but attention in some form, such as recognition, praise, admiration, or just to be noticed in some way, to have its existence acknowledged.

A shy person who is afraid of the attention of others is not free of ego, but has an ambivalent ego that both wants and fears attention from others. The fear is that the attention may take the form of disapproval or criticism, that is to say, something that diminishes the sense of self rather than enhances it. So the shy person’s fear of attention is greater than his or her need of attention. Shyness often goes with a self concept that is predominantly negative, the belief of being inadequate.

Any conceptual sense of self – seeing myself as this or that is ego, whether predominantly positive (I am the greatest) or negative (I am no good). Behind every positive self concept is the hidden fear of not being good enough. Behind every negative self concept is the hidden desire of being the greatest or better than others.

Behind the confident ego’s feeling of and continuing need for superiority is the unconscious fear of inferiority. Conversely, the shy, inadequate ego that feels inferior has a strong hidden desire for superiority.

Many people fluctuate between feelings of inferiority and superiority, depending on situations or the people they come into contact with. All you need to know and observe in yourself is this: whenever you feel superior or inferior to anyone, that’s the ego in you.

From ‘A New Earth’ ~ Eckhart Tolle

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