Of soul-growth and ego watching

It is an age-old question with no easy answers: whether the power of our ego is greater than the resolve of our soul?” This eternal aspect represents our perpetual need to place in balance our ego and the soul — the intangible duo that is seldom in equipoise. This is simply because our oft-animated ego is always keyed to regulate, influence, or govern, whatever it can, or cannot. The equation relates to failed relationships as much as fragmented friendships. Or, any field of human endeavour as a whole — be it life, academics, research, career, or leisure. It lends substance to the fact that our ego is endowed with ubiquitous strength, not just within us but also in terms of pulling the alarm bell in times of stress and physical danger, among other stimuli. This is not all. Our ego goes on high alert for non-physical threats just as well — because it is far too firmly “wired” to stress and stressful responses, even when they are benign. Philosophers suggest that this could, perforce, be the result of god’s innate design — to augment our highest ability in doing well in life, or placing things to our advantage.

Sigmund Freud, the plumber of the soul, thought of the ego as a prerequisite to withstand adversities in life. A tool that exudes optimism in the face of peril — even when it operates unremittingly beneath the antenna of our conscious mind, managing and regulating every nuance of our behaviour — by means both fair and biased. To cull a few examples: openness, objectivity, rejection, reasoning, and other manoeuvres, or strategies, among other essentialities. The ego, Freud also hypothesised, holds the prospect to overcome or destabilise any given, or not given, situation.

Freud thought of the ego as the guardian “angel” of the soul too — a spin-off of home-grown local and global cultures, beliefs, and values. He emphasised that it was the indispensable, hallowed facet of every individual, born or unborn. This was primarily the reason why he proposed that it had to be “domesticated” before being permitted to travel, at will, indoors and, thereafter, outdoors. Agreed that the idea is not easy as it sounds — because “house-training” the ego encompasses of a “mindful” effort to serve oneself, not be served, to provide protection, and yet yield to harmonious, controlling factors. The inference: restricting the ego, when it is not required, would be tantamount to conceding one’s self-esteem, or self-belief.

What does this connote? When we tend to our ego in every situation, in harmony or difficulty, we transit through our sphere of consciousness. This is a voyage of (re)discovery, motivation, getting over our fears, and charting our path towards compassion, love and selflessness. This is not a small undertaking, yet it is not a difficult task either. Why? It is a simple proposition. When we balance our ego with our soul we embrace the power of our deep, resident inner thought, self-reliance and, most importantly, divine grace. The whole idea is self-explanatory — our ego performs the role of protector. However, when we don’t appreciate its primary position, we not only allow its compass to compromise its splendorous, ethereal scabbard, but also cause turbulence and imbalance to its ally — the soul. When this happens, the ego may fail to sound the warning bell — the lock and key for our pristine “fight-or-flight” response in the face of any physical, or emotional, hazard. The best thing we’d all do is nurture our innate, worthy practice of conscious contemplation at every step — to get into the soul of our conscience and aim effusively into our soul-growth process and ego watching.

(The writer is a wellness physician, independent researcher and author)