I love these pseudo-serendipitous games God loves to play with me. Like when I wrote my last blog post, I didn’t realize that ‘Catalyst’ – a training I was to attend for the next 2 days, following it, would be based almost entirely on a book called Egonomics. This book takes an interestingly different stand on Ego, from what I had arrived at based on my previous readings.
The authors believe and define Ego to be ones notion of oneself. However, as per the authors, our confidence is a direct measure of our Ego. An overconfident person is one who has a Super-Ego. These are people who ‘go off center to the right’ that leads them to become too aggressive, egotistical and comparative. On the other end of the spectrum, are Zero-ego people. Those who become defensive or submissive easily and hold off from speaking the great ideas that might be lurking in their minds. The Ideal-Ego or ‘centered’ ones are those who try to maintain a balance. So the whole course was essentially about how to walk the Ego-Tightrope and stay in Egoliblrium (whoa? right!)
If you go by the theory of the Eastern philosophers, the authors’ idea doesn’t make sense at all. If a person is being defensive or seeking acceptance and holding back ideas, that means it is more likely that s/he is afraid of something – being ridiculed, being perceived as negative, being judged etc. As I understand Ego, all of these signs showcasing a low self-confidence, ironically indicate that the person has an elevated Ego – hence the fear of the ‘Me’ being judged, the ‘Me’ being ridiculed etc. If you have pure intentions and clarity of purpose and thought, what is there to stop you except for your attachment to the material-value of the results of your actions? To me, s/he’s no different from the person who is extremely comparative or extremely egotistical or one who goes off on a rage in a meeting because s/he believes in the ‘Me’ being right and the ‘Me’ being infallible. Both have an elevated sense of ego. The problem isn’t about centering your ego – it is about getting rid of it. Trying to change yourself to have an ego and yet balancing it to keep it centered, is like trying to keep a wild lion on a measured leash. For the right-of-center people, the authors suggest doing that by 3 principles:
1) We then me – Putting the company/cause/purpose before the self
2) I’m brilliant and I’m not – Recognizing that you’re fallible and susceptible to being wrong at times
3) One more thing – There’ll always be something that we’ll not be satisfied by
The end goal of the process of ego-elimination suggested by the Eastern philosophers, and the real-time ego-suppression as suggested by the authors isn’t very different. They are both trying to achieve a more elevated ‘experience’ in every action. However, the subtle difference in the means and intent, was what I found really interesting. The Eastern schools suggest eliminating the ego to ensure that what remains – your Mind (with its distinctive nature) and Intellect (with its knowledge and experience) are freed and cleared up to achieve a pure experience. The Authors’ mechanism to suppress it in real-time (while doing the action), puts more burden on both the Mind (to restrict the negative emotions generated by the Ego) and the Intellect (to remember the principles and the analytic effort to suppress it). Thus, pure confidence to me, is inversely proportional to the weight of your ego and not to its proximity to a balancing point.
By no means can I claim to be an expert in the practical application of either of these mechanisms (heck, not even in the theoretical understanding), but at least based on my limited knowledge and analysis, and at the risk of being termed egotistical ;), I’d still prefer to begin practicing the ego-elimination process as explained in my last post as opposed to an ego-balancing one.