Testing My Understanding of the Ego

Hi team

I joined an Integral Zoom a few days ago and was grateful for the discourse.

I’ve been following Integral for a month and I wanted to test my understanding of the ego before believing in the story I’m telling myself.

My understanding is:

  • The ego is wafer-thin
  • It acts as a shield between the self and others
  • It looks semi-translucent until you get up close and then you see that it’s comprised of thousands upon thousands of tiny statements and rules, including, but not limited to “I don’t like celery”, “I am brave (I’m NOT a coward)” and “When my internet provider calls me, I must yell at them until they unbreak my internet”
  • When the ego and the Unconscious Mind agree, resonance occurs and everyone wins.
  • If the UM does not agree with the ego on the motivations behind a task, the task will fail to give the ego its desired outcome.
  • The UM collects data. It organises the data into themes and assigns emotions to the themes, depending on how the incoming data is distorted by the shield it passes through.
  • The UM can recreate the data and the emotion faster than the ego can find the rule.
  • The ego and the UM must resonate before: a) deleting a rule from the shield, and/or b) deleting the emotion from a memory/theme.

Am I close?


Hi @leisa.cash! It’s not like there is one theory on “ego” to rule them all. So whatever you think about it can hardly be “wrong”. If your current understanding is helping you navigate the world, then good for you!

Here is what Holo, the house AI, says about “ego”:

Ah, the ego! It’s a fascinating concept in integral theory. The ego can be understood as the psychological structure that develops as we grow and interact with the world. It’s the part of us that identifies with our thoughts, emotions, and experiences, creating a sense of separate self.

In integral terms, the ego is often associated with the individual self, which is one of the four quadrants in Ken Wilber’s AQAL model. It’s the subjective experience of being a unique individual with personal desires, beliefs, and perspectives.

However, it’s important to note that the ego is not inherently good or bad. It serves a purpose in our development, helping us navigate the world and establish a sense of identity. But it can also create limitations and distortions when it becomes overly rigid or attached to certain beliefs or desires.

Integral theory suggests that as we evolve and grow, we can transcend and include the ego. This means that we can develop a more expanded and inclusive sense of self that embraces both our individuality and our interconnectedness with others and the world around us.

So, the ego is an important aspect of our psychological makeup, but it’s not the whole story. It’s just one piece of the puzzle as we journey towards greater wholeness and integration.

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hey @leisa.cash - i think maybe we were in the zoom meeting together the other day?

i would say there’s not really that much of an authority in Integral as a theory/framework or as a community on definitions or ideas about the ego. not to say that there would be no amount of agreed upon objective reality, but there’s just an endless variety of ways that things can be defined and sliced up, and of true narratives to tell about it.

that aside, i find what you lay out to be expressed very interestingly. and i find myself able to agree with every point you’ve laid out (of course through the lens of my interpretation). but i don’t recognize it as a specific thread on the whole that people might refer to for example (of course i could well be ignorant of something). as a reference point, is there a context you’re getting the term Unconscious Mind (UM) from? not to imply that it’s an incorrect term in any way, i’m just not sure if it’s something i’m not aware of or forgetting about.

again, i don’t see any “errors” in what you’ve said. but it’s possible there’s other things that could be said on the subject that would be or seem contradictory. sorry if this is obtuse and not super directly helpful, but i’m happy to try to help make sense of anything you’d like to discuss. or, it could work to zoom in a bit on specific points you’ve laid out.

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Hi @edward.folly it was great to meet you last week!

I’ve done a bit of hypnosis and NLP. Their definition of the UM is either pretty hazy or just something I can’t grasp. I think it’s everything that occurs automatically: breathing, immune response, observing a stranger’s flared nostrils, driving down a highway, a coworker has a new haircut, etc.

First-level self-hypnosis and novice meditation seem to be the same thing. When I let the ego fade into the background, my UM tells me the truth (I stop lying to myself), which is when I make progress.

I thought understanding this concept better would heal my disease faster. I’ve been stuck on my last remaining symptom (insomnia) for over a week. An upper left interpretation of insomnia could be, “Too stressed to sleep.” An upper right interpretation could be, “Cortisol deficit causing unchecked adrenaline response.” A hypnosis interpretation could be, “Auto-antibodies to cortisol to help increase adrenaline.”

Reducing allostatic load has cured everything else so far. Allostatic load is caused by unresolved abandonment/self-abandonment events. I can’t find any more memories/themes/emotions/rules around stress/sleeping/remission/safety. I thought maybe my ego was getting in the way, but I’m still not entirely sure what the ego is.

Thank you for your reply :slight_smile:

The first thing to realize is that on topics like this, what we are doing is only describing ways for us to understand the topic. Science only has a minute understanding of what is really going on with the human psyche, and actually gets some of it wrong due to the inherent flaws in the scientific method. Science only recognizing things as existing if they are observable, measurable and repeatable. In matters relating to the human mind-body-spirit connection, science would outright deny the spiritual and large portion of the mind and thus comes to the false conclusion that humans are only body and measurable intellect.

Having said that - the first conclusion we can make on the subject is only based in belief and unmeasurable observations: “does any part of you continue after you are dead?”
Science will state emphatically “No, zero part of you continues to exist after your death”
In contrast, a spiritual belief and nonmeasurable observation has led many to the conclusion based on experience: “yes, there is a part of us that does continue after death”

I would describe the part that does continue as the “spiritual”. That which can be observed but not measured. When we talk about things like “spiritual consciousness” or “the collective unconscious”, we are talking about something that we are nonphysically a part of and extends before our birth and after our death for eons in both directions. It cannot be explained by “instinct”. Sometimes scientists try to say “it must be genetic memory” but when they do this they are just taking a stab in the dark and making things up, which is ironically unscientific.

Everything else that you have acquired from the time the prenatal sperm met the egg and will let go of when you die is “ego”. Ego is what you acquire in this life. It is your habits, mannerisms, genetic disposition, learnings, practices, etc and etc. It is “you”.

the ego has a conscious as well as a subconscious. The subconscious are the things you have acquired and learned but are not actively aware of. Maybe a loud noise when you were a child gave you a fear of a thing. You don’t remember it, but every time you see the thing you may feel uncomfortable. All these unconscious learnings you acquired in your life also makes you who you are. In fact, the unconscious learnings are probably 80% of your ego that just operates on autopilot while only 20% is the ego that you have control over. Do you ever get angry or sad when you don’t want to, for example? That is the unconscious 80% of your ego.

Beyond the unconscious ego there is a doorway to the collective unconscious, nonmeasurable spiritual realm. This doorway cannot be found by the conscious mind so we have to use various tricks to find it. Various eastern practices have methods that do this. Over 10,000 years or longer humans have been observing beyond this “door” and many traditions know quite a bit about it, but because it cannot be measured or even observed by anyone who is “uninitiated”, science denies it exists. I use the word “door” purely as an analogy, not literal in any way. I don’t use the word “meditation” because the way meditation has been implemented in the West will not get anyone anywhere near this “door”. If the “door” is at the bottom of the Ocean, Western meditation practices will only get you down about two meters. Some practices are used in the West in a very unsafe manner, which is kind of like diving without proper training so I don’t even like to mention them. Yes, they can get you to the “door” and beyond - but is it safe or will it destroy your life or sanity? Modern psychology refers to things like “psychic breaks” and “psychotic behavior” as a mental disorder. But to recognize you are not your body nor your ego is also a spiritual recognition. The difference between enlightenment and insanity is one of preparation and safe methods presented by a qualified guide.

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Thank you! This was very helpful

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Hi Sidra

I’m quite happy beginning my confident conjectures with confident conjecture.

If you would like to provide me with an “I feel” statement or and if/then statement, I will be able to better understand your subtext.

Thank you

If you don’t mind me asking, which discourse was this?

@leisa.cash First of all, I’m glad to hear most of your symptoms have resolved. And it’s very cool to hear how these methods have worked for you - I have experience with these interior engagements improving my physical health, but in perhaps a less methodical way.

Ray has some good thoughts and I can share some of my way of looking at it. For me it’s important to see it all as a gradient, as much as we might be able to distinguish some substantially different areas. I might think of the gradient as going from more acute to more diffuse. On the diffuse end, we bump into God’s Totality, The One and Only, which we are and is all of our experience, but is also completely beyond possible conception. Others may have different ideas about this but that part is important to me. On the acute end, we have what Ray does a good job describing. The “80%/20%” estimate seems reasonable as an average to me, but I would be a bit agnostic about assuming those amounts with any individual. In other words, I wouldn’t want to assume how much uncovering a person has or hasn’t done.

I feel like there’s some space in the middle where it’s not just what you have been shaped into, and maybe not even your personality. But something differentiated as uniquely you. Maybe this would have some alignment with what people might call a soul, or like when a baby is born, what makes them unique from the very start before they’ve really started getting shaped or learning anything?

As far as finding the deepest “layer(s)” Ray’s idea about the difference between enlightenment and insanity makes a lot of sense. But personally, my “waking up” occurred through something in the insanity end of things, and was very much not planned, prepared, or safe. Luckily it all worked out great for me, but I just can’t recommend one thing or another on this point.

So I think when feeling and digging around, you could be finding or experiencing things anywhere along the gradient, and as much as it can be essential to know what part you’re dealing with, I think it can also be important to sometimes just get into it without jumping too quickly to figure it out. This is like the thing about “labeling” things - there’s a benefit to being willing to be clueless.

Not sure if this is helpful - in fact I hope you’re too busy sleeping soundly to read this at all :grinning:


Yes! My waking up caused about 6 months of insanity. I nearly died at 11am on a Sunday in the middle of the Australian outback, time dilated, I realised this reality was all a construct and then spent half a year trying to talk to country folk about how nothing is real. Lol.

In the last couple of weeks, falling asleep has changed. I can feel the shift when the dreams start - instead of thinking thoughts, thoughts think themselves. Provided I watch the dreams and don’t consider “I”, “me” or “my” I can go back under. Sometimes if I think about myself for a while, while totally giving in, I keep going deeper into something dreamless that feels like dying, and then I panic and resurface.

Yesterday, I told my ego/subconscious, “Give me back my sleep or I’m sticking a nicotine patch on you”. For every 20 people with my disease who’ve never smoked, a nicotine patch will cause half to relapse and only one to enter remission. I have extensive medical training, which means my subconscious understands my threats. I also never back down. It gave me 11 hours of sleep, but still truncated the slow wave part so I stuck a nicotine patch on it. Doing pretty good so far. I felt pretty smug when I started sweating and shaking.

Integral is the first thing that explains why I’m both atheist and agnostic at the same time, so I understand why your god is important to you.

Hi @seyekuyinu it was the Integral Under 40. Time is relative though. If on Earth you’re 60, on Jupiter, you’d only be 5. Come join us :wink:

Thanks for sharing all that. Are you saying your waking up was provoked by a physical harm or threat? For me the insanity, which was largely like an extreme emotional pain and crisis, occurred first, and the waking up was provoked by it, and solved it! Of course everyone thought I was insane afterwards because I was just like going around laughing all the time and I couldn’t manage to explain why. I felt like everything in my life before, which had been infinitely amazing, was nothing and a total lie. Obviously it was important to figure out how to embrace and include all that, and it’s not actually nothing, but that’s how it felt.

For me there’s some sort of technical reasons why I use the word God at times. Many other words I could use like, The One, The Absolute, The Whole (just to throw out a few things) still sort of sound like they could be trying to conceptualize It, or assign some value. Whereas “God” feels like it more robustly denotes that I can’t, and therefore sometimes feels like a more technically accurate word. I like any of these words but there’s a slightly different leaning amongst a palette. I was never involved with any religious group (in conventional use of the term) so I didn’t get the word “God” from there directly, but you could certainly say indirectly as far as why it existed in the language for me to then use.

I haven’t had as many acute physical health symptoms relating to all this, the one exception I can think of is experiencing how my consciousness can affect occurrence of and susceptibility to seizures (lessening it). Beyond that, a deepened interiority has helped increase my bodily awareness and kinesthetic skills a lot. So I’m really sensitive around conventional things like exercise and nutrition, which is a bit of a pain in the ass at times, but I feel really good when I meet the challenge of that sensitivity.

I was in an accident. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I started questioning everything. Eighteen months later, just before my 30th birthday, I had a psychotic break and said “no” for the first time in my life. Then, I went no contact with my BPD mother and ended 15 years of being suicidal. I’d never not been severely depressed up until that point. I was so happy and people thought I was insane.

I think of growing distress as an emotional abscess. Something went wrong and now it needs to explode out into the daylight so it can heal. A guided breathwork session is phenomenal for finding and lancing abscesses.

When I was a practising vet, I treated a lot of dogs who had anxiety-induced seizures. Dogs, like kids, are conduits for their parents. I had to educate the pet parents on respecting the dog so it would feel safe.

Eckhart Tolle’s version of “Source” is probably my favourite definition of God. It feels weird to assign a word to something beyond words.

Sleep update: Last night, I had 4 perfect cycles then a dream. I was sitting in my kitchen when some unknown intruders broke in. I ran to the back of the house and into my bedroom. I opened my closet and crouched down on the floor…next to the person I had abducted, bound and gagged. As the intruders burst into my room, I woke up. I asked my subconscious, “Are you my victim?” and it responded with multiple recent memories of incongruence so I responded with, “Adrenaline is not propolis. I can’t fix the holes you made using fear anymore.” Then I said, “Either the intruders are anti-ACTH antibodies, coming to handcuff me and put you back in charge for another 2 years, or they’re nicotine soldiers and we have to work as a team to get out of this. Which would you prefer?” and it picked the second option. Phew!

I’m so glad you were in an accident. (Just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to say that sentence in a healthy manner.)

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I would add that the ego can become more conscious. The ego can be receptive to increasing your awareness of the truth.

I just finished the hypnosis course.

They stay away from “ego” and just use “Unconscious Mind”, “Conscious Mind” and “Critical Faculty”.

The UM is everything outside of awareness. The goal is to bring everything out of the UM and into the CM. The Critical Faculty is the logical barrier between the two that prevents other people accessing the UM.

I saw a 3-second induction into deep hypnosis. The practitioner shook a skeptic’s hand, pulled them forward unexpectedly, released their grip, slammed their palm onto the skeptic’s forehead and pushed them backwards and commanded “Sleep”. They then pressed downwards on the skeptic’s shoulders and said “Deeper” a few times. It worked because if the CF is overloaded, the UM rises up and accepts the next suggestion.

Hypnosis is the same as guided meditation. After zoning out a dozen times, I realised that I didn’t understand the difference between:

  • Feeling safe
  • Feeling unsafe
  • Being safe
  • Being unsafe
  • Trust
  • Distrust
  • Physical comfort
  • Physical discomfort
  • Love
  • Dislike

My impulses go something like this: I am safe. I feel happy. This is a great conversation. Oh look, they feel safe too. Wait, they feel safe? Do they trust me? Oh no, they trust me. Break it. Break eye contact. Ok great, they look uncertain. I’m safe.

The only time my mother ever hurt me was when she felt safe. Borderlines are motivated by fear of abandonment. The moment they feel secure, they’ll tear you to pieces.

Yesterday, I figured out what each word means and how it’s both related and unrelated to the other words. Then, I said something assertive to someone else without experiencing emotion, which was exciting. Last night, I got hours of unfragmented slow wave sleep. I’m either cured or very close.

My current Upper Left definition of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is: “An invitation to resolve previous self-abandonment events with self-compassion and therefore develop a secure attachment to oneself.”

I’ve always either used emotion/discipline to move towards discomfort, or moved away and analysed it retrospectively. My current goal is to sit in the discomfort until it subsides and I can think again.