Updated: Mar 24
What is the False Ego? Where does it come from? What is its purpose? Who would you be without it?
Try this experiment: Choose your top three distractions, the things you turn to for comfort and entertainment but don't feed your soul - social media, TV/movies, comfort food, alcohol, extra hours at work, shopping, etc. - give them up for a month, and replace them with activities that truly feed your soul and let you live vitally and meaningfully (no filling in the gaps with other distractions). Few people would try such an experiment. Even fewer would succeed. Why? In order to succeed in such an experiment you need to shed the skin and bones of your false ego. Your false ego helped you survive difficult parts of your childhood and find acceptance and belonging, but it can't give you a life of deep meaning and true vitality. A deeply meaningful and vital life requires the re-birthing of your true self. The development of the false ego begins early in life through the subconscious processing of our painful experiences. Children think everything that happens to them is about them and thus they take responsibility for their parents' harmful actions or neglect (the behaviours parents enact due to their own unresolved wounds or trauma and lack of support).
Furthermore, it's too frightening for children, up to a certain age, to believe that something could be wrong with their parents, mainly because their parents are their source of security and stability. So children will unconsciously create core beliefs, such as I'm broken or I'm not enough or I'm too much in order to make sense of harmful parenting. These beliefs are the secret cellar of the false ego, so hidden away that most people don't even know they have them and might need to look hard to find them once they learn of their existence. To keep these beliefs hidden away, we present compensatory behaviours or identities to the world. One of the core beliefs in my secret cellar is "I'm not enough." I've attempted to keep this belief hidden away from the world by doing my utmost to excel at things, at times pushing myself to or beyond my limits. Compensatory behaviours can be difficult to recognize as compensatory, especially if they are lauded by others. Feedback such as, "What a hard worker you are! You give so much! You are so talented!" can make it hard to recognize and acknowledge that the behaviours are compensating for underlying core beliefs. Another of my core beliefs is that I'm too sensitive and emotional (this is how my parents perceived me because they didn't receive the emotional support they needed). What kind of compensatory identity might help me hide that belief away. Hmmmm... I don't know... How about Certified Nonviolent Communication Trainer. Don't get me wrong, I've met many very important needs as an NVC Trainer. However, it has also been an unconsicous strategy to prove that I'm not too emotional or too sensitive - "Look how skilled I am at taking responsibility for my emotions!" Furthermore, my commitment to compassion has been in part a way for me to cover over my anger and rage. Several times over the years I've been appreciated for my gentle, empathetic nature. What people didn't know was that I was exhausting myself by keeping my anger and rage hidden in the cellar of my false ego. It's only quite recently that I've begun to really face my anger and rage in my healing work. That it's taken me this long to build a healthy relationship with my anger and rage is a testament to how hard it is to see and break through the false ego - our own personal matrix. Author and therapist Bruce Sanguin writes about discovering his false ego in his late fifties, thanks to the deep healing work he was undergoing. The grief he felt for the life he had lost in living from that false self was heartbreaking (see more below).
Shedding the skin and bones of the false ego and re-birthing the true self takes immense courage, humility, and support (I think it's safe to say that it takes everything we've got). It requires that we face our core beliefs and compensatory behaviours and work through the difficult sensations and emotions associated with both. How do you know when the false ego is no longer steering the ship? Sadly, there is not a breakthrough moment. Though there can be deep insights and profound transformations when doing the healing work necessary to untangle the false ego, the uncovering of the true self is an ongoing, ever-deepening adventure. I don't know if there is an end. The change that you can trust the most comes through steady consistent steps with occasional leaps.
You'll know you're gaining ground when you feel more vital and on purpose, the old distractions and addictions lose their grip, you welcome all your emotions and ride them into deeper clarity and connection with yourself, more and more of what truly matters in life becomes more and more evident to you, you follow your intuition and instincts with more ease, confidence, and courage, you stop looking for happiness and open to each experience as one that can enrich your life, you have a balanced life that includes self-care, creativity, friendships and community, ongoing inner work and growth, and meaningful contributions to the world, and you come to experience your true self as an expression of all the seen and unseen layers of life to which you are inextricably linked.
Deconstructing your false ego and re-birthing your true self may be the most difficult of quests, but it is certainly the most rewarding.
This article was inspired and informed by Bruce Sanguin's magnificent book Dismantled: How Love and Psychedelics Broke a Clergyman Apart and Put Him Back Together.
Dismantled is full of excellent information very engagingly written about the false ego and healing trauma that is applicable to everyone.
If you'd like one-on-one support for deconstructing your false ego, contact me. If you're passionate about Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and want to work on your core beliefs, search for NVC intensive trainings that include sessions on transforming core beliefs. Many NVC trainers have developed powerful processes for finding and transforming core beliefs.
The following poem (lyrics from one of my songs) about cutting through the false ego to the true self is partly inspired by the fairy tale The Crystal Ball. All Good Things Did you find your voice yet? Was it right where you left it? Unaccepted once, but it’s growing on you now. Did you wake up from the spell? Did you find your way through the forest? Did you wish for what you want, and then slip right past the giants? All good things come to those who cut through the bull and get to the heart. What you see on the surface. It’s not what you find in the mirror. Come spend a night at the palace, and learn what it means to be a lover (of life). There’s a golden egg. There’s a crystal ball. Your brothers and sisters are here to answer to the call. The wounded sorcerer has lost her power now. All good things come to those who cut through the bull and get to the heart. Take back your life now. Your warrior has the courage. Take back your life now. Your lover has the passion. Take back your life now. Your wizard has the magic. Take back your life now. Your king is calling you home. Take back your life now. Your warrior is powerful. Take back your life now. Your lover is on fire. Take back your life now. Your wizard knows the way. Take back your life now. Your king is calling you home.
Take back your life now. Your Queen is calling you home.