I understand that with the advent of civilization, our forefathers might have designed the festivals to bring together all the inhabitants to introduce pleasures in all’s lives forgetting their grievances for the time being and share them in the community. As the time passed, some of us made groups based on caste, creed and colour to satisfy their personal NEGATIVE EGO. And today, we are divided in such groups world over. Some misguided groups adopt terror to dictate their terms. I wish that they must understand the reality at the earliest, at least before they harm the humanity a lot.
Many times, we forget that God does not create such groups – He gifts lives to all of us at par. Whatever deformity we see in our individual life, we can find it as the one created by ourselves on account of our own interests which can be in terms of environmental hazards, economic disparities and/or social imbalances attached with our personal negative ego. If we wish to celebrate our festivals in the true spirits, we must give up one of our demerits on this occasion. We can give up our negative ego, our anger, our hate, our addictions, our self-interests etc.
Negative ego is one of the important demerits of human life. It has many meanings. It could mean one’s self-esteem, an inflated sense of self-worth, or in philosophical terms, one’s self. However, according to Freud, the negative ego is the part of the mind that contains the consciousness. The word ego is taken directly from Latin, where it is the nominative of the first person singular personal pronoun and is translated as “I myself” to express emphasis. The Latin term ego is used in English to translate Freud’s German term Das Ich, which literally means “the I”. Negative ego development is known as the development of multiple processes, cognitive function, defenses, and interpersonal skills when negative ego processes are emerged.
Originally, Freud used the word ego to mean a sense of self, but later revised it to mean a set of psychic functions such as judgment, tolerance, reality-testing, control, planning, defense, synthesis of information, intellectual functioning, and memory. The Ego acts to seek the pleasure of the id’s drive that may benefit rather than bringing grief.
In other words, the Ego comprises that organized part of the personality structure that includes defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive, and executive functions. Conscious awareness resides in the ego, although not all of the operations of the ego are conscious. Sometime, reserves like old episodes in our subconscious mind support our ego to form.
Freud defines, “The ego is that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world … The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions … in its relation to the id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength, while the ego uses borrowed forces.”
The ego mediates among the id and the external world. Its task is to find a balance between primitive drives and reality, beyond the morality factor, to satisfy the id. Its main concern is with the individual’s safety and allows some of the id’s desires to be expressed. If we design the images of ego in one’s mind, we may find that ego may cover half in the consciousness, while a quarter would be in the preconscious and the other quarter in the unconscious part.
What Is Negative Ego?
A child is born. A child is born without any knowledge, any consciousness of his own self. And when a child is born the first thing he becomes aware of is not himself; the first thing he becomes aware of is the other. It is natural, because the eyes open outwards, the hands touch others, the ears listen to others, the tongue tastes food and the nose smells the outside. All these senses open outwards. The child tries to understand the environment into which he entered.
That is what birth means. Birth means coming into this world, the world of the outside of the womb. So when a child is born, he is born into this world. He opens his eyes, sees others. ‘Other’ means than himself. He becomes aware of the mother first. Then, by and by, he becomes aware of his own body. That too is the other that too belongs to the world. He is hungry and he feels the body; his need is satisfied, he forgets the body and starts to play.
This is how a child grows. First he becomes aware of you, others, and then as the time passes, he becomes aware of himself. This awareness is a reflected awareness. He is not aware of who he is. He is simply aware of the mother and what she thinks about him. If she smiles, if she appreciates the child, if she says, “You are beautiful,” if she hugs and kisses him, the child feels good about himself. Now an ego is born. Through appreciation, love, care, he feels he is good, he feels he is valuable, he feels he has some significance.
Slowly, a center point tries to take birth in his mind. But this center is a reflected center. It is not his real being. He does not know who he is; he simply knows what others think about him. And this is the ego: the reflection, what others think. If nobody thinks that he is of any use, nobody appreciates him, nobody smiles, then too an ego is born: an ill and negative ego; sad, rejected, like a wound; feeling inferior, worthless. This too is the negative ego – self centric. He starts to cry to indicate his ego that he must be attended to. As much he is child, we do not care for the quality of his ego – whether that is a negative one or natural one.
First the mother – and mother means to the child as the world in the beginning. Then others will join the mother, and the world goes on growing. And the more the world grows, the more complex the negative ego becomes, because many others’ opinions are reflected. You can say that the negative ego is an accumulated phenomenon, a by-product of living with others. If a child lives totally alone, he will never come to grow an ego. But that is not going to help. He will remain like an animal. Since man is a social animal, he will come into contact of other humans, other species and know the self in due course of time. How he will safeguard himself will create the negative ego factor in his character.
Negative ego is a need; it is a social need, it is a social by-product. The society means all that is around you – not you, but all that is around you. You will go to school and the teacher will reflect who you are. You will be in friendship with other children and they will reflect who you are. As the time passes, everybody is adding to your negative ego, and everybody is trying to modify it in such a way that you don’t become a problem to the society. They are not concerned with you. They are concerned with their interests. Society is concerned with itself, and that’s how it should be.
They may try that you should not become a self-knower. They are concerned that you should become an efficient part in the mechanism of the society. You should fit into the pattern. So they are trying to give you an impression, an understanding that fits with the society. They teach you morality. Morality means giving you those understandings which will fit with the society. If you are immoral, you will always be a misfit and made aware of the fact that you can be punished for the wrongs you may do. That’s why we put criminals in the prisons – not that they have done something wrong, not that by putting them in the prisons we are going to improve them, no. They simply don’t fit. They are troublemakers. They have certain types of negative egos of which the society doesn’t approve. If the society approves, everything is good.
The society changes its definitions. Corruption appears to be rampant everywhere. The society is helpless and witnessing it growing up. Sometime, corruption makes the problems and after a little trouble, provides solution. For some people, it becomes a source of their income. Since we do not wish to come out of our comfort zone, we accept it and get easy by paying out some bucks though we know it is not moral and do not think about those who are not able to afford. Since our personal ego does not get hurt due to the inconveniences of others, we do not care. The majority in the Society is becoming selfish.
On other point, the society changes its definition. For example, one man kills somebody – he is a murderer. And the same man in wartime kills thousands – he becomes a great hero. The society is not bothered by a murder, but if the murder should be committed for the society, it is okay. The society doesn’t bother about morality. Morality means only that you should fit with the society. If the society is at war, morality changes. If the society is at peace, then there is a different morality. Morality is a social politics. It is diplomacy.
Our society needs that each child has to be brought up in such a way that he fits into the society’s culture because it is interested in efficient members. The Society is not interested that you should attain to self-knowledge. The society tries to create an understanding in you because it can be controlled and manipulated. If you self-ego, you may never be controlled or manipulated. At that time, you will give priority to your ego only beyond your social obligations.
And the child needs a center; the child is completely unaware of his own center. The society gives him a center and as the child gets convinced that this is his center, the understanding that society gives. When he comes back to his home – if he has come first in his class, the whole family is happy. You hug and kiss him, and you take the child on your shoulders and dance and you say, “What a beautiful child! You are a pride to us.” Now, you are asking him to develop an ego, you are virtually giving him an ego, a subtle ego. And if the child comes home dejected, unsuccessful, a failure – he couldn’t pass, or he has just been on the back bench – then nobody appreciates him and the child feels rejected. He will try harder next time, because the center feels shaken.
Negative ego is always shaken, always in search of food, that somebody should appreciate it. That’s why you continuously ask for attention. You get the idea of who you are from others. It is not a direct experience. It is from others that you get the idea of who you are. They shape your center. Through the ego the society is controlling you. You have to behave in a certain way, because only then does the society appreciate you. You have to walk in a certain way; you have to laugh in a certain way; you have to follow certain manners, a morality, a code. Only then will the society appreciate you, and if it doesn’t, you ego will be shaken. And when the ego is shaken, you don’t know where you are, who you are. The others have given you the idea. That idea is the ego.
One small child was visiting his grandparents. He was just four years old. In the night when the grandmother was putting him to sleep, he suddenly started crying and weeping and said, “I want to go home. I am afraid of darkness.” But the grandmother said, “I know well that at home also you sleep in the dark; I have never seen a light on. So why are you afraid here?” The boy said, “Yes, that’s right – but that is my darkness.” This darkness is completely unknown.
Even with darkness you feel, “This is mine.” Outside – an unknown darkness. With the ego you feel, “This is my darkness.” It may be troublesome, maybe it creates many miseries, but still mine. Something to hold to, something to cling to, something underneath the feet; you are not in a vacuum, not in an emptiness. You may be miserable, but at least you are. Even being miserable gives you a feeling of ‘I am’. Moving from it, fear takes over; you start feeling afraid of the unknown darkness and chaos – because society has managed to clear a small part of your being.
It is just like going to a forest. You make a little clearing, you clear a little ground; you make fencing, you make a small hut; you make a small garden, a lawn, and you are okay. Beyond your fence – there is a forest, the wild. Here everything is okay; you have planned everything. This is how it has happened.
Similarly, the society has made a little clearing in your consciousness. It has cleaned just a little part completely, fenced it. Everything is okay there. The whole culture and conditioning including your education system is just to clear a part so that you can feel at home there. And then you become afraid to feel that beyond the fence there is danger.
There will be no danger if we all forget about our own individual negative egos and work for welfare of the humanity. Here lies the difference. Some people may think that others are not good, whereas the others have the same opinion about you. The difference is just like the difference between a real flower and a plastic or paper flower.
The negative ego is a plastic flower – dead. It just looks like a flower, it is not a flower. You cannot really call it a flower. Even linguistically to call it a flower is wrong, because a flower is something which flowers. And this plastic thing is just a thing, not a flowering. It is dead. There is no life in it. You have a flowering center within. It can be a lotus, one-thousand-petaled-lotus – it is a flowering. One thousand means infinite petals. And it goes on flowering, it never stops, it never dies if you do not have negative ego. But you are satisfied with a plastic negative ego.
There are some reasons why you are satisfied. With a dead thing, there are many conveniences. One is that a dead thing never dies. It cannot – it was never alive. So you can have plastic flowers, they are good in a way. They are permanent; they are not eternal, but they are permanent. The real flower outside in the garden is eternal, but not permanent. And the eternal has its own way of being eternal. The way of the eternal is to be born again and again and to die. Through death it refreshes itself, rejuvenates itself.
To us it appears that the flower has died – it never dies. It simply changes bodies through flourishing of the seeds, so it is ever fresh. The seed leaves the old body to enter a new body where it gives birth to another seed. The chain goes on and it flowers somewhere else; it goes on flowering.
But we cannot see the continuity because the continuity is invisible. We see only one flower, another flower; we never see the continuity. It is the same flower which flowered yesterday. It is the same sun, but in a different garb.
The negative ego has a certain quality – it is dead. It is a plastic thing. It is not individual. It is a social phenomenon – it is society, its not you. But it gives you a function in the society, a hierarchy in the society. And that’s why you are so miserable. With a plastic life, how can you be happy? With a false life, how can you be ecstatic and blissful? And then this negative ego creates many miseries, millions of them.You cannot see, because it is your own darkness. You are attuned to it. Have you ever noticed that all types of miseries enter through the negative ego? It cannot make you blissful; it can only make you miserable.
Negative ego is hell. Whenever you suffer, just try to watch and analyze, and you will find, somewhere the negative ego is the cause of it. And the negative ego goes on finding causes to suffer. You are an egoist, as everyone is. Some are very gross, just on the surface, and they are not so difficult. Some are very subtle, deep down, and they are the real problems. This negative ego comes continuously in conflict with others because every negative ego is so unconfident about itself. Is has to be – it is a false thing. When you don’t have anything in your hand and you just think that something is there, then there will be a problem.
One Zen master was passing through a street. A man came running and hit him hard. The master fell down. Then he got up and started to walk in the same direction in which he was going before, not even looking back.
A disciple was with the master. He was simply shocked. He said, “Who is this man? What is this? If one lives in such a way, then anybody can come and kill you. And you have not even looked at that person, who he is, and why he did it.”
The master said, “That is his problem, not mine.”
You can clash with an enlightened man, but that is your problem, not his. And if you are hurt in that clash, that too is your own problem. He cannot hurt you. And it is like knocking against a wall – you will be hurt, but the wall has not hurt you.
The negative ego is always looking for some trouble. Why? Because if nobody pays attention to you, the negative ego feels hungry. It lives on attention. So even if somebody is fighting and angry with you, that too is good because at least the attention is paid. If somebody loves, it is okay. If somebody does not love you, then even anger will be good. At least the attention will come to you. But if nobody is paying any attention to you, nobody thinks that you are somebody important, significant, then how will you feed your negative ego?
Other’s attention is needed. In millions of ways you attract the attention of others; you dress in a certain way, you try to look beautiful, you behave, you become very polite, you change. When you feel what type of situation is there, you immediately change so that people pay attention to you. This is a deep begging. A real beggar is one who asks for and demands attention. And a real emperor is one who lives in himself; he has a center of his own, he doesn’t depend on anybody else.
Become your own centre and be happy.
Be Happy – Give Up Your Negative Ego.