Traditional Japanese Theater and Festival Masks on a wall, Edo Wonderland, Nikkō-shi, Japan. The Death of the Ego

The Death of the Ego

Is it possible?

You get up in the morning, you have your shower and you look in the mirror. Who’s standing there? You know your name, your family status, you know what you do for a living and so on. But who are you? What are your beliefs and your fears? Is your ego looking back at you? And can this ego have a death, so as not to affect our life?

Chances are your reply will be a string of words put together that identifies your position in society. A dad, a mum, a single man or woman, a student, a driver, a CEO – all these are identifiers that give us an insight into your public persona, the you that everyone sees. And maybe, possibly, what you want us to see.

You could argue that you are that person. What if all of that changed? Who are you then?

Let’s take it a step further. What if you suddenly got amnesia? The only traits you have left are that you speak the language you have always spoken, because it’s an embedded factor – you have been learning the language you speak from the day you were born, starting with its phonetics, the way it sounds.

But, you have no idea who you are. Nothing at all. Does that mean the death of the ego for that person with amnesia?

Do you still have an Ego?

Imagine the following conversation between the person with amnesia and someone trying to find out what they remember:

What’s your name?
– I don’t know.
How old are you?
– No idea. Does it matter? I feel young.
Do you know what you do for a living?
– As in work? Not a clue.
What fears have you got?
– Fears? Not sure I have any.
Are you afraid of flying?
– No. Why would I be? Should I be?
Have you got any phobias at all?
– Can’t think of any. I mean, running different things through my mind nothing seems to pop up.
Are you worried about anything?
– Nope! Nothing comes to mind. Doesn’t feel like I have any worries or anything to worry about.
What about politics?
– What about politics? Has nothing to do with me, unless I was a politician. But even then, it doesn’t matter. It is what it is.
Am I religious? Don’t know. Do I have to be? Can I choose what I want to be? Do I have to be?
What do you believe in?
– I don’t believe in anything. At least I don’t think I do. But isn’t that the same as religion?
No, I meant what beliefs do you have? About life, work, education, spirituality maybe?
– Like, do I believe in God? Haven’t thought about it. As for the rest, no I don’t. Does it matter? I mean, what does what I think got to do with everyone else. I am who I am and that’s that. What you see is what you get.
Do you have any limitations? Do you feel there’s anything you can’t do?
– No and no. I feel that there isn’t anything I can’t achieve. I just need to work at it.

You get the idea. Every question has a zero answer. A mind that has not been indoctrinated, no ideas or beliefs placed into it, a complete blank canvas.

Inside, Outside

This person, the limitless persona, has no ideals or beliefs that tell him or her that there are things they have to do or can’t do. They have no self image, except that they are who they are, but eventually they will have a self image as a result of deciding what they will do for the rest of their life. Consequently, that is the person that will appear in front of everybody else. Or maybe, the limitless persona is their self image.

Does this person have an ego at this moment in time, at point zero?

If we define the ego as the image we think others have of us, the answer will have to be no. This person has no view on this. So who he or she is internally, who they see themselves as, is the same as their ego. It’s the same thing (think of a baby or an infant).

For example, they will not pretend to be confident on the outside but lack true confidence on the inside. The confidence they show is the confidence they truly have.

They do not put on a different persona for the benefit of others or for their own benefit. An orange is an orange as an apple is an apple. It is what it is.

At the same time, the question remains – is the ego dead?

The Conundrum

I’ve a split reasoning on this, whether the ego is dead when the mental canvas is blank.

On one side you can argue that because there is no hidden image, because the canvas is blank with no perceptions, beliefs, biases or fears, that “what you see is what you get”, then the person will have no ego. There is no “This is who I want you to think that I am” or “Here you go, I am presenting to you the person who you think I am” or “This is who I want you to think I am”. Just like a baby or an infant.

Yet again, the blank canvas is the image he or she portrays, so that could be their ego as well. Undefined but nevertheless there’s a persona. They may not have an ego (“this is who I am that you want me to be” or “Who I think you want me to be” or “Who I want you to think I am”) but whatever they do… that is how they will be defined.

Then as this person begins to learn again, he or she will take on beliefs and ideals from experiences and opinions, which will change their self image. And as that comes to the outside, the external shell of the ego is continually being replaced by the old self image.

It’s like a balloon inside a balloon – the inner one swells up until it touches the outer one, replacing the outer balloon which has burst and a new balloon begins to swell up on the inside. A continuous circle.

So there’s always an ego – a representation of who we are, according to society.

It’s a conundrum because the question of whether the ego can truly die is a question that will always have at least two sides to it.

Then what?

What we have to consider is whether we are being true and honest to ourselves and those around us. Is the image you portray on the outside truly who you are or is it just a face, like that of an actor or actress, that you put on outside of closed doors?

Is the person the same behind closed doors or someone different, even ever so slightly?

Can you re-write your ego? It’s not really a question of whether you can but if you want.

It’s like the old series in the UK called “Keeping Up Appearances” where the main protagonist, a female, puts on an image of a high middle class housewife, going to the extend of pronouncing her surname in such a way as to make it sound posher than it actually is (I’ll let you look that one up). She would never give up that image (why?).

How you define yourself, your own self image, is up to you. How others define you is up to them and something you can never control. Maybe that is the ego as well – all external. Or is it?!

Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called “Ego”.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Ego is hilarious – especially the vanity of a comedian. As soon as you see one start worrying about how cool he is or about how many stadiums he can fill, he stops being funny.
Ricky Gervais

Check your ego at the door. The ego can be the great success inhibitor. It can kill opportunities, and it can kill success.
Dwayne Johnson

Photograph by: Finan Akbar on Unsplash

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