Excerpt from the international bestseller, You Were Not Born To Suffer
by: Blake D. Bauer
Contrary to what most of us believe, our ego is not our enemy. In fact, if we make this part of our psyche wrong, we will stay trapped in suffering. I’ve found that we all create the cocoon of our ego as an act of unconditional self-love to protect us until we’re ready to fully embody our true nature. The primary function of our ego is to protect our heart and soul in the same way that the cocoon protects the caterpillar throughout its metamorphosis into a butterfly. Our ego acts as our guardian until we’re ready to break through our fears and live as a free and full expression of who we truly are each day.
The development of our ego is a natural part of our growth and evolution. In the same way that the caterpillar must create a cocoon to protect itself throughout its transformation into a butterfly, we too must develop our ego to protect us throughout our own transformation and awakening. Although the caterpillar is the creator of its cocoon, it is not the cocoon itself. Similarly, we are the creator of our ego, but we are not the ego itself. It is a nonphysical form of armor we construct mentally that we can outgrow if we’re willing to take responsibility for doing so. Through loving ourselves unconditionally we can finally heal the mental, emotional and physical pain that our ego exists to protect us from. When we’re sick or unhappy, our body and mind are actually asking us to let down the walls we created to survive before we knew how to value and be true to ourselves. If we want to find inner freedom and peace, each of us is called to open our mind to the larger reality beyond our defense mechanisms and our need to be right, better than or accepted by others.
To break free from the limitations of our ego as soon as possible, it’s important to remember how and why we created this defensive aspect of our personality in the first place. Because the world didn’t always feel very safe when we were growing up, we intuitively created a protective shell through which we could relate to both ourselves and to life. The overwhelming emotional and psychic energies that bombarded us as children were often too much for us to feel, process, and understand on our own, and this drove all of us to create our ego to protect us from the painful and confusing energies that we encountered on a daily basis. In our desire to individuate from the world around us, each of us organically closed ourselves off and tried to separate ourselves from the outside world mentally, because instinctually we felt that doing so would give us some control over what was occurring. Out of what is an inherent love for ourselves, each of us built an all-encompassing psycho-energetic cocoon of perceived safety and security to protect our heart, knowing that one day we would finally cultivate the necessary awareness and skills to value our sensitivity and thus liberate ourselves. Since a very large number of us did not have people in our lives who had cultivated the awareness to lovingly mirror back to us what we were feeling as children, we never learned how to consciously express the thoughts and emotions that we were experiencing. Instead, many of us learned to reject, repress, deny, avoid and hide what we felt and thought in order to survive, which then gave birth to hurt, anger, shame, and the defensive aspects of our personality.
The degree to which our ego initially developed depended upon the amount of protection we intuitively felt we needed as children. Thus the strength and thickness of this protective layer of our personality varies for each of us depending on how painful and confusing our lives have been. If the family and larger environments that we grew up in did not support us to honour, process, and be present to what we felt on a daily basis (and most did not), we will have built up a much stronger ego and disconnected from our emotions to a larger degree. This is a natural response to not knowing how to attend to our feelings for ourselves. If, on the other hand, we grew up with emotionally aware and present parents, then we would have been supported in understanding and expressing our emotions and would not have needed to build up such strong walls.
As we age, most of us just remain trapped in our protective cocoon – especially those of us with big egos – because we never learn how to heal our unresolved emotional pain. The safe and familiar confines often become comfortable, simply because we fear facing the emotions that are stored in our body and subconscious mind. If we don’t wake up and reconnect with our true feelings, needs and dreams by the time we reach all the responsibilities of ‘adulthood’, often we continue living our lives disconnected from our soul and completely identify with a small illusion about who we are. An alarmingly large number of us end up settling for a limited existence because liberating ourselves would entail feeling all of the love as well as all of the fear we’ve denied for so long. To the majority of us, it simply appears easier to continue living in cold comfort, hiding out in the familiarity of our protected world. Having lived with our hearts closed to our true self for so long, we’ve mistakenly come to identify with the limiting voice of our ego rather than the expansive soul that’s been waiting to break free. Slowing down, becoming vulnerable, and breaking the habits that keep us safe can be hard to do after so many years of being disconnected and cold.
Our ego-based thinking keeps us reacting to life, constantly running from our heart in the present moment to protect us from being vulnerable. The thoughts that just don’t stop coming are merely symptoms of undigested emotions and experiences that our ego is currently guarding. We’ve also developed such a strong momentum of habitual thinking to run away from any truth or pain that we fear. This protective aspect of our personality very skilfully avoids whatever is uncomfortable internally and externally by constantly manufacturing thoughts about the past and the future to prevent us from feeling overwhelmed, insecure or out of control in the present. As a result of this dynamic, many of us remain trapped in our head, stuck reacting to life in ways that stop us from finding the inner peace, health, and happiness we desire. We’re not aware of it, but in constantly denying any truth related to our psychological, emotional, and physical pain, we not only create more sickness and misery, but we also cover up the abundant source of love within us that is intended to heal, fulfill and sustain each of us.
In avoiding the mental and emotional discomfort that we’ve internalized and disconnected from over the years, we start compounding the suffering that we were initially trying to avoid. In this way, our ego’s purposeful protection, which is necessary to a point, eventually begins to create additional pain on top of the suffering it was originally created to shelter us from. When we constantly numb ourselves to our inner struggles, we not only avoid healing them, but we also avoid understanding their root cause. Another analogy that demonstrates the purpose and function of our ego quite well is that of using painkillers to relieve physical pain. In the same way that we might take a painkiller to relieve ourselves from feeling the pain of a backache, our ego relieves us from feeling pain that is hard for us to handle at particular points in time. In taking a painkiller to remedy back pain, the underlying conditions that caused the back pain are still present; we’ve just numbed ourselves to them. We experience temporary relief and believe that our pain has gone away, but in reality, the pain and its source remain unhealed.
Our ego’s protective function is very similar. Our ego temporarily covers our pain so that we can function and carry on in our lives. However, just like a painkiller, the relief our ego brings is only short-term, because the pain and its source still remain unhealed. The same pain that was briefly masked will surface again and again until we understand its underlying cause, heal it, and therefore liberate ourselves from it for good. From this perspective, if we have chronic back pain and we continue taking painkillers on a regular basis without looking deeper into the source of the pain, besides developing an immunity to the painkilling function and thus needing higher doses, we’ll also begin building up toxicity in our body from all the chemicals in the painkillers. In situations like this, we live unaware of our affliction’s root cause and the affliction itself remains unhealed. Our approach to managing our pain, which initially seemed supportive and loving, eventually just becomes a further source of suffering.
Seen in this light, the same can be said for our ego. We all unconsciously create our ego in order to protect us. But eventually, we create additional suffering for ourselves because in continuously disconnecting from our pain, we not only avoid healing it; we also avoid addressing its source. Our initial way of managing our psychological and emotional struggles, which once provided temporary effective relief, just creates more misery and sickness in our lives when we do not transform the underlying issues. This dynamic pushes away people we love, positive opportunities, and renders our heart closed to receiving the very things we’re asking for.
For most of us it’s not until our suffering becomes so intense and compounded that our protective shell cracks and we open to approaching life from new perspectives. We tend to be so stubborn and closed-minded because in the past we’ve felt the need to fight just to survive. But now, to bring down the walls, life has to get really difficult before we’ll finally surrender and change our thinking, views or lifestyle habits. Quite often it’s not until we’re somehow forced to face our fears through a breakdown or serious wake-up call, that we finally open our heart to feeling our way through life and healing the protective aspects of our personality that we’re destined to outgrow. Whether the catalyst is a physical illness, a new intimate relationship, the breakdown of a longstanding relationship, the death of a loved one, a suicidal depression, a newborn child, financial hardship or an important goal, the point always comes in our growth where our ego becomes limiting and unhealthy. When this time inevitably arrives, we’re all given an opportunity to be vulnerable, address the truth, and release the unconscious need for control and separation that is no longer serving us.
The creation of our ego is indeed a necessary and purposeful part of our soul’s evolutionary unfolding, because we must create what we perceive to be a separate self in order to fulfill our life’s purpose and master loving ourselves unconditionally. All of us must protect ourselves until we’re ready to liberate ourselves from all self-imposed limitations. However, just as the creation of our ego is a necessary step in both remembering who we are and learning to love ourselves, so too is our eventual liberation from it. As we grow in awareness we’re naturally guided from within to break through our fear-based defense mechanisms so that we can heal all the uncomfortable emotions that we’ve repressed throughout our lives. Since we all want to love and be loved, eventually we realize our walls need to come down for us to be happy. We have to overcome our fears of letting others in or of allowing people to see our darkness and our light. If we’re always scared of connecting intimately and deeply, then we just keep hiding behind a mask, pretending to be someone we’re not, feeling alone and misunderstood. Likewise, if we continue to make the aspects of ourselves associated with our ego wrong, this subtle self-judgment, criticism, and rejection will only keep us trapped and stuck. Thankfully, once we’re prepared to accept our ego completely while speaking and acting from our true feelings, it becomes much easier to finally just be ourselves and enjoy our life.
Learn more and go deeper during Blake’s 5-Day Unconditional Self-Love, Qi Gong & Meditation Retreat this Fall at SMC.
About the Author
Blake D. Bauer is the author of the international bestselling book You Were Not Born To Suffer. He has helped thousands of people around the world who could not find lasting solutions from conventional medicine, psychiatry, or religion. Blake has an extensive background in psychology, alternative medicine, nutrition, traditional healing, mindfulness meditation, and qi gong. Based on both his personal experience overcoming deep suffering, addiction, and adversity, as well as his professional work with over 100,000 people worldwide, his teachings integrate what he’s found to be the most effective approaches to optimal mental, emotional and physical health.