What is the ego exactly? The ego can be understood as that tiny part within us that sees personal offense everywhere. How do we handle our ego and the stress and anxiety it may cause us?
These are tough times to live on the internet. Most days we only need to publish a statement like “I like vanilla ice cream” to be attacked by a flock of people who see it as a personal attack.
What we do not realize is that we also are part of our own idiotic flocks or echo champers. I am aware of that defect in myself, and I have seen it surface many times.
How could someone mistake a simple statement like that with a direct attack to their lifestyle, their nationality, or their skin color?
Social media has us on a constant exposure to negative feelings that puts us in a state of constant alert by attacking our Ego. A part of us that finds pleasure in being angry and fighting with strangers.
Why the Ego Creates Negative Moods and Emotions
The ego is a tiny part inside us which represents our perception of ourselves, our identity.
In some cases, the ego is a tiny, scared, and ignorant part of us that attacks anything that it sees as a menace, because it involves primal reactions.
Most of the time it is easy to keep it well guarded, but sometimes, it escapes and bites through the electrical wiring of our brain. The ego can be undertstood, in a way, as our animal side and we are responsible for its actions. It is up to us to decide how easily it will escape, and how far it will go.
Sometimes, it is difficult to control the effects of our ego. Events like the pandemic, the lockdown, economic crisis, and our generalized grim mood weaken our self-control, and self-control is our ability to think deliberately and realize that stranger on Facebook was not attacking us, but sharing an opinion that we have misunderstood.
How do we solve the ego dilemma?
When we harness our ego, we reduce our suffering; we teach ourselves that there is no reason to be scared. To help balance ourselves and our egos, we can turn to having more moments of calm that ultimately benefit our mental and physical health.
Ways You Can Develop Self-control
Our self-control is the part of us that keeps us from slapping someone on impulse, from yelling in the middle of the street when we feel our blood boil, and from eating a ton of doughnuts just because they smell so good. Self-control is our emergency brake.
Self-control, which can be thought of conscience, runs in the back of our head without us noticing how difficult is to keep it until it is overloaded and fails. Self-control depends on our mental and physical energy, and when that energy dissipates, our self-control collapses, leaving our aforementioned ego at the helm... ideally without a bottle of bourbon in its hands.
Developing our self-control is key now that we all feel hurt and tired because it is the only way to avoid reacting aggressively. Nobody wants to be surrounded by negative thoughts that contaminate even innocent actions, for example having a chat with a friend about a shared love of blues music.
Managing Our Emotions and Ego
According to this article from the Harvard Business Review, our high intensity feelings often tire us out, and our emotions are the reason our ego escapes. When we are overwhelmed by these feelings and emotions, we spend energy in tensing our muscles, overthinking, or speeding up our heartbeat, and when we use too much of that energy, other tasks such as controlling our impulses become more difficult. So, we need to control our emotions to have better self-control.
There are a variety of tools that will help us handle our emotions, and we can practice anywhere most of them. We have created a quick guide to help you.
The usefulness of each technique varies and depends on your occasion and environment, because as you know, we are not always experiencing the same issues. So, while meditation is the most powerful of the techniques, it can become useless if our feelings overwhelm us. That is why we can use various techniques in tandem.
Practicing Mindfulness and Breathing Techniques
Practicing mindfulness and breathing techniques is the first tool. We can practice our breathing anywhere. It does not matter how much noise surrounds us or what is happening, and mindful breathing it is a proven way to lower our stress levels.
Breathing is something we always do, and most of the time we do not bother on doing it properly. The key is focusing our attention on our breath and learn how it is at the present time. When you begin, spend a few minutes observing how your practice unfolds, doing nothing but focusing on how the air simply enters and exits our lungs.
As you progress, you can focus on expanding your breaths, inhaling deeply, holding the air, and then exhaling slowly. Focusing on what we feel: how the fresh air enters our lungs and presses into our rib cage, and how the warm exhalation exits our body. We only have to focus on this for some minutes to realize its benefits.
Our pulse will slow down, and our ideas will also slow down. And that way we will have more clear thoughts. You can use this technique alone or continue to additional techniques.
Integrating Daily Meditation into Your Lifestyle
Meditation is the second technique inside this guide. It also is the second, selectively, because our breathing practice is the base to build upon using meditation.
You will ideally need a quieter place for this technique if you have not practiced it before, because the first times any distractions will render it useless. However, meditation can be practiced in any location, with eyes closed or even with eyes open.
Forget about that fancy lotus pose - all you need is either sitting upright but comfortably, or laying down (but do not fall asleep). From that balanced position, we begin meditation, first closing our eyes and repeating the steps from the previous technique, breathing in and out for some minutes until it feels right. Then, we will to draw our consciousness to our muscles, noticing how they feel.
We will start at the legs, and we are going to release all the tension in them, then we will go up to our abdomen and torso and are going to release our tension there as well, if we are laying, we will notice how more of our back becomes more in touch with the surface under it. This release of tension is why our breath is so important, because it helps to relax our body. When we have finished with our torso, we will continue to our arms and we will repeat the procedure.
At the end, we will focus on the most difficult area: our neck and face. These are the parts of our body that we tense most times without us realizing it, so we will keep breathing and relaxing our neck, watching as our respiration becomes freer thanks to the release of tension in our neck.
When we have finished relaxing our neck, we will follow with our face, releasing every muscle, letting our jaw open a bit and releasing our tongue. At the end, our body should be limp - completely relaxed.
After some time, we will start seeing our thoughts on the imaginary screen inside our mind. Those thoughts can be happy, sad, comfortable, or embarrassing, but it does not matter. We are going to acknowledge them and then let them go, because meditation is not about not thinking; it is about realizing that our daily thoughts do not define us. And so, meditation allows us to go deeper and identify what we have buried under our everyday cacophony.
Practicing meditation, even for a few minutes every day, will help us control and manage our emotions and so, will prevent our ego from showing up at the worst time.
If you are curious about learning more, I urge you to explore a more detailed piece by Berkeley University, that includes another guided meditation.
The ego is a part of us that represents an identity we have created for ourselves, and it is involved in our primary responses to certain events and stimuli. While reacting quickly based on the ego can be advantageous in some situations, we must learn to control the ego and apply sound reasoning no matter how stressful the situation may feel.
We can manage our ego and keep it under control through various practices intended to promote mental wellbeing, wellness, and minfulness, such as conscious breathing exercises and daily meditative techniques. Amidst the noise of daily life and the static within our thoughts, we will need to deepen our inner selves and gain self-discipline to be successful in the long run.
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About the Author
I am a Spaniard interested in the working of the human mind, philosophy, business, and fitness who often knows how to crack a joke. Among my other interests are music, yoga, and cars. In my free time, I write on Medium while listening to Iron Maiden.