The False Self (who I am not)
Creation of the false self (ego-self)
The previous post described who and what we truly are, but the ‘who we think we are’ is not ‘who we truly are’. Unless we are enlightened or self-realised, we we have lost touch with ‘who we truly are’, and we live from a mentally-created, false self that is known as the ego-self.
While we were in the womb and for the first few months after birth, our consciousness was merged with our mother’s, and we experienced our true essence and a feeling of unity with everything (the oneness). Our undeveloped mind didn’t yet have the capacity to conceptualise things (including our self), so we didn’t even know that we were an individual.
When we were about 9-12 months old, our mind had developed sufficiently for us to conceptualise ‘self’ and ‘other’. But we couldn’t reconcile this new ‘thought of being an individual’ with our pre-existing ‘felt sense of true essence and unity’. These two experiences of self – the mental and the experiential conflicted with each other, so we had to go with one and forget about the other.
Because our parents and everyone else related to us as if we were a separate individual, that is the one we bought into, and our false self (ego-self) was born. No one ever validated our essence or unity, only our physicality and separateness. They interacted with our false-self and pretty much ignored our true-Self, so we learned to do the same. Essentially, our false-self came into being because we were not seen for who we truly are. Only our false-self was validated, so our false self became our central identity.
Development of the Ego Personality
Realising that we were an individual, and more importantly an apparently separate individual, was a shock to our system, which meant our newly-created ego-self was deeply imprinted with insecurity. So as our personality developed, with the ego-self at its centre, our entire ego personality was imbued with insecurity. The insecure identity of our ego-self is woven throughout our entire ego personality, so our entire sense of self is insecure, even if we are not consciously aware of this fact. For example, the inherent insecurity of our ego personality becomes very apparent when someone challenges our beliefs, values or opinion, and we become reactive, defensive, aggressive, depressive or withdrawn.
Different personality types develop different emotional coping strategies which enable us to function in life in spite our inherent insecurities. For example, some personality types (enneagram types) try to hide their insecurities behind false strength (8s), false positivity (7s) or achieving success (3s). Some repress their insecure feelings by seeking mental security (1s), emotional security (2s) or physical security (6s). Others withdraw into the safe and familiar space of their thoughts (5s), emotions (4s) or physical comfort zone (9s).
The enneagram describes the characteristics of the 9 personality types, but these characteristics are not ‘who we are’. The enneagram describes the coping strategies of our false ego personality, so the enneagram actually describes ‘who we are not’ – our false nature, rather than our true nature. And let’s not forget that as our personality developed, it developed around our false self (ego-self). Our ego-identity and our entire ego-personality developed around this false central core, so everything we think we are is based upon a lie, an illusion, a misconception.
Rediscovering our True-Self (or essential identity)
The good news is that our true-Self was never lost – it simply forgot who it really was when it became (mis-)identified with the ego-self. Our true-Self continues to live inside our ego-self. In fact our true-Self is what animates our ego-self, because the ego-self (on its own) is just a hollow thought-form, with no consciousness, intelligence, power, life or existence of its own. But, subconsciously, we work very hard at maintaining this I-thought because we believe it is us and that our life depends upon its continued existence. This existential fear and insecurity underlies many of our thoughts, emotions and behaviours.
As previously stated, our true-Self lives inside our ego at the very centre of our being, so we know exactly where to find it. This is why when doing any kind of inner work (e.g. focusing or self-inquiry) we begin by turning our awareness inwards. But just because we know where our true-Self is, doesn’t mean we can simply go straight there and become Self-realised. No, there countless layers of tangled ego structures between our normal consciousness (at the surface of our being) and our true-Self (at the very centre of our being). Progressively working our way through these layers and metabolising the ego structures can take years of inner work. And even when we get there, we still have two more hurdles to overcome – our identification with the ego-self and our identification with our body. So in total, three factors prevent us from realising our true nature:
- Our conceptual idea of ‘who we think we are’ is wrong: Our true-Self believes it is our ego-self. This is the result of a mental mis-identification at the very core of our being.
- Our felt sense of ‘who we feel we are’ is wrong: Our soul’s presence (felt sense of being) has become confused with our felt sense of our physical body. This is due to an experiential mis-identification throughout our body, but primarily at our skin boundary where ‘I’ ends and the rest of the world begins.
- The mass of entangled ego structures (or ‘parts’) that confuse matters even more with limiting beliefs, reactive emotions and programmed behaviours. Ego structures or ‘parts’ exist throughout our body and sometimes beyond, but most of them are associated with of seven main chakras (centres of energy and consciousness).
Processing our ego structures is usually the first (and longest) aspect of ‘inner work’, because the space and clarity it creates are very helpful in overcoming the deeper mis-identifications of our Self and Soul. Realising our true-Self is often referred to as “enlightenment”, but enlightenment isn’t just a one-off event; it is an ongoing process which usually takes a few years. During this enlightened stage, even more ego structures are processed and our soul is refined, which eventually allows our soul to dis-identify from our physical body. At this point, the need for physical reincarnation ceases.
In a future article I will introduce the concept of ‘Levels of Consciousness’ or ‘LOCs’, but in case you have already read my book here are some LOCs to put the above into context:
- LOC 400-499: The Developed Stage is when people begin to awaken spiritually, perhaps developing an interest in yoga, reiki or clairvoyants.
- LOC 500-599: The Humanistic Stage is when the (serious) ‘inner work’ occurs and most of our ego structures are processed.
- LOC 600: Self-realisation or enlightenment occurs as mental identification is transcended.
- LOC 600-699: The Enlightened Stage, where the remainder of our ego structures are processed and our soul (causal body) is refined.
- LOC 700: Soul/body identification is transcended and the need for reincarnation ceases.