An excerpt from the book by Ruslan Zhukovets “The Path of Transformation: Mystical Experience”

Everyone is familiar with the term “ego”. In the Western tradition, the concept of ego made its way into the popular vocabulary from psychoanalytical theory whereupon was assimilated into spiritual domain. In spiritual texts, ego is referred to as an artificial construct created by the mind and as a center around which a person’s personality is formed and desires accumulate. The ego is created out of necessity for the communication and interaction purposes; in fact, it is a tool for survival in a society. The first stage of ego development is completed roughly by age three and the pace of further progress is driven largely by how soon the child is exposed to the social circle of his peers. Communication with parents lays the foundation for child ego’s further growth, as it is from the parents that the child learns the first rules of communication and the basics of conditioning that reinforces obedience and correct behavior. At a young age, the child’s ego is barely present in interaction with his parents, opposed to the child’s individuality which, albeit undeveloped, prevails. Parents are seen as equal to the gods, and any special ways of communication with them is deemed superfluous, except for demonstration of obedience and love. Communication with peers on the other hand, requires tools for self-identification, which is displayed as parting oneself from others. Most often, this involves attempts to establish a private space supported by a motto “This is mine!”, and declaration of one’s own willpower pitched in the form of negation: “I won’t do it!”. For a child, this is a means to express self-assertion and claim his independent existence. Similar bolstering of self-esteem is common in adults; take for example, an image of a tough guy as someone with high income and huge property (“this is mine”), or someone powerful and influential whose “I won’t do it” is topped up with "and you will do as I say."

The ego is created for communication with others and it is for them that the ego exists. Communication with self does not require the ego, but identification with the ego makes inner life so much like a theater with non-stop monologues and dialogues and appraising looks from the audience. The ego is sensitive to approval and disapproval, at minimum in regards to those individuals who belong to our inner circle and with whom we socialize, because ego is customized and tailored according to this reference group. And in order to receive an approval, we are bound to follow the agreed-upon communication rules in this social group. In addition, there is a society we live in, with its moral and behavioral rules which, like or not, we should adhere to. Such is the first cause of tension associated with the ego.

Aside from social rules, there are social roles. The number of social roles can vary from three to six-seven, rarely more than that. These roles are also referred to as subpersonalities. For example, a role of son-daughter, father-mother, boss-subordinate, good friend and, finally, oneself. Now, imagine that due to the fact that we become identified with the roles, we think of ourselves as being the same person with different people. That is, we do realize that the way we talk with a friend is not the same way we communicate with a mother, yet we remain fully confident that everything else in us stays unchanged. However, if you track down the process of swapping between subpersonalities, you will soon discover that each subpersonality has a unique set of habitual moods, stereotypes of emotional reactions, and a stack of desires. That is, each role is similar to an acting role in a play, with each role having its own content and character. Staying in the role might seem effortless, but it isn't. Think of how difficult it is to communicate with someone for whom your role should be perfect — for example, your mother. From time to time, everyone gets tired of changing masks and the need to wear them. The same reason we sometimes get tired of our relatives and loved ones: not least because in their presence our role goes on automatically. This is the second source of tension caused by the presence of the ego.

As I have mentioned earlier, the ego is based on self-denial, and I have received questions from thoughtful readers who had trouble understanding what it means. The answer is simple — by accepting the need to play a social role, we deny ourselves, our nature. By accepting the communication rules that impose restrictions and impose regulations on what is allowed and what is not, we suppress our emotions and desires. Education is aimed at adapting a person to the needs of society and promotes development of personality and suppression of individuality. Individualism is favored in many societies, which is centered around nothing else but an exaggerated expression of the principles "This is mine" and "I will not do it"

The ego’s function is to support communication and interaction; therefore, it is always oriented outward; it can communicate even with insects if there is no one else to communicate with, merely to demonstrate its own significance to them. Therefore, the ego presents an obstacle for going inward and discovering our true nature. The ego is always flowing outward, always ready to chit-chat, taxing a huge portion of our energy. It is impossible to advance on the path of self-knowledge and remain identified with the ego. Maybe this is the reason why in many spiritual cultures, the ego is counterposed the soul and spirit, although this is an exaggeration. Rather, we are dealing with one of the auxiliary faculties of the human mind that tends to take a leading position.

There is yet another aspect to the ego. No matter how exciting the play is and no matter how perfect the roles played are, one part of the mind always knows that all this is a lie. And the pressure that comes with keeping up a lie, sooner or later becomes exhausting. Think of older people who turn indifferent to honors and glory — they can no longer keep up with the play, they have no energy left for that. When you reach the bottom of the ego structure in self-awareness practice, you suddenly find yourself coated with disgust. It is not an aversion to something specific; it is not addressed at anything. This is the repressed energy of the feeling which is experienced occasionally if you live a lie. The ego's self-loathing is usually oriented outward as well — by the accusation of people around of hypocrisy. This is compensation at work; and the one who feels aversion to others resorts to it in an attempt to treat his own disgust caused by aroma of his ego.

The strain caused by sticking with self-image and above-mentioned feeling of disgust inhibit happy feelings. To get rid of the feeling of self-rejection, one recourses to all possible ways of compensation, going from excessive drinking and getting rich to falling into mysticism and spiritual search.

Obviously, the very structure of the ego has a flaw that pushes some to committing suicide and others to pursuing the knowledge of truth about themselves. These are extremes though. Most people go no further than living with anxiety and the desire to stay away from others, for example, by retiring to a nice place close to nature or building fences around their house and themselves high enough to let them finally relax for at least a little while.