The ego is mysterious. It has an agenda to help the individual survive. The ego is an inherent part of each human being. Then why is egotistical behavior so problematic?
Let’s consider the whole person. Assume the idea that the human being is a soul (permanent) that resides in a flesh body (temporary) and contained in the package, each person is given a mind and a system of feelings and emotions. In addition, other factors are at play including a desire nature (stimulated according to our wants), a will (a force of action based on our decisions) a conscience (an internal gauge of knowing right from wrong) and an ego (?).
I have discovered that egotistical behavior becomes active when we are at risk of being perceived in ways that are incongruent to how we see ourselves. If a person thinks of you for example as being stupid, but you think you are smart, your ego wants to right that wrong.
Or let’s say someone you know is achieving something that you would like to achieve. You have a fear that this person will be perceived as better than you (incongruent with your own view). Your ego tries to fix this by equaling or surpassing that person. Egotistical!
The ego might be a factor in the spouse you choose because you see that person as a reflection of the level of person you think you are. You, or at least the part of you that is driven by ego, wants to make sure the person you marry reflects the level at which you see yourself. This could be regarding looks, income, status, intelligence, education, family pedigree etc…
When the ego is active in influencing your thoughts and actions, you will be taken off your spiritual path for the simple reason that the soul does not have a motivation to be perceived as ‘great’. While the ego is trying to pump you up in the eyes of other people, the soul is waiting patiently to get back to productive work.
The soul in its pure state is just fine as it is. True, we may want to grow, improve our skills, achieve things that benefit humanity, our families and even our own lives. But the soul does not need recognition the way the ego does.
I have had people attend my classes and propose that while driven by egotistical factors is not always ideal, many great things can be achieved because the person was motivated by the ego. To me, this implies that unless the ego was activated and the person was trying to improve how others see them, then no progress would have occurred.
I disagree. The soul is motivated to realize it’s full potential. And yes, ego as a motivator can inspire a person to work real hard and achieve greatness. What I am proposing is that if the end sought is recognition and glory, then there will be pain and disappointment when that adulation wears off.
In contrast, the soul in you is fine as it is. And yet, it seeks to express, grow and give glory to life (or God). The soul does not need the credit for it’s greatness because the soul did not create itself. In fact, when greatness is achieved and the motivation is pure (based in soul) there is the elation of Spirit regardless of who notices.
And ironically, those motivated in this way often do receive a lot of outer adulation because of their modesty and humility.
When the ego is active, fear and self-centeredness are also active and these energies will run in conflict to the Spirit which is love. Some progress may be possible but the motivation would be corrupt.