The Formation of Ego
The word I (along with its close relatives, me, my, and mine) is not only a simple pronoun that we learn as children, but it is also central to what keeps us trapped in our heads. Learning and mastering I begins early in life. Born with an innate sense of union with our mother, and maybe even an awareness of the divine within us, it doesn’t take long before we forget the oneness that we share.
Shifting from a deep spiritual awareness of love to a consciousness based primarily on what we perceive with our five senses, we suffer a form of amnesia. The innocence with which we ran around naked while our mom or dad chased after us is replaced with a demand for our own privacy. Why? Because of the fear that we have learned. We gain self-awareness and perceive ourselves as separate and different from our parents, siblings, and friends.
Our conception of I is so intrusive to our consciousness that when our brother reaches out for the toy we received for Christmas, we quickly fight back and lay claim to it with a distinct admonishment: “(That’s) mine.” In fact, the first time we master a complete sentence it’s likely to begin with I or contain the words me or my.
The word I comes from the Latin word ego, and it was also used in ancient Greek texts. For example, the Greek New Testament uses I (the ego) as the antitype of Christ. When we think of the word ego, we often associate it with someone who is full of himself, but the true definition is broader. The word can best be interpreted as self-identity, sense of self, and the conceptualized self.
Implied in our understanding of the word ego is that I is separated from others, which in turn results in identification with your thoughts and body. Another interesting definition is that the ego is a consciousness that has “Edged God Out,” suggesting that identification with our thoughts has made us unaware of our spirit, which is one with the infinite.
So the concept of I, or the ego, is essentially the mind’s characterization of what distinguishes me from what is perceived as “out there.” It’s the mind’s answer to the “Who am I?” question based on labels, masks, and judgments. It’s how we experience reality when we are unaware of our union with God.
Adapted from Section 2 of Awakening To I Am Love by David Youngren
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