Personality, Ego Structures & HolesFrom Awakening to Wholeness
B – The Personality, Ego Structures and Holes
The personality is a blend of authenticity and ego. Our true nature expresses itself through them both, in varying proportions, depending on our current mood and our overall level of development:
- Authentic Personality: is the the true and unbounded aspect of our personality – the aspect that is not bound up in ego structures. It is Self-expressive, radiant, generous, compassionate and loving. It comes to the fore when we are relaxed, present, sincere and speak from our heart.
- Ego Personality: is the deficient, limited, programmed aspect of our personality – the sum-total of all the parts that are bound up in ego structures. It is self-centred, repressed, fearful, critical, grumpy and reactive. It comes to the fore when we are tired, tense, superficial and egotistical.
As stated earlier, different areas of our consciousness have different functions, i.e. the head, heart and belly centres are specialised for thoughts, emotions and instincts respectively. Each of these fields of consciousness has numerous sub-areas, each with its own specific abilities. We utilise the area of consciousness that is most appropriate for our immediate requirements. If the required area contains ego structures we will react with the pre-programmed behaviours and false qualities of the ego-personality, but if the area is free and clear we will respond with authenticity.
The degree of authentic personality that we are able to express is proportional to the number of ego structures we have, and the degree to which we are identified with them. Our true-nature shines out from the core of our being through our personality. If the personality is full of ego structures the light of our true-nature is blocked, so our expression is more likely to be inauthentic. If, however, the personality is relatively clear of ego structures, the light of our true-nature radiates freely and our personality sparkles with authenticity. As our consciousness evolves, the ratio of ego to Self gradually shifts in favour of the Self. But the degree of authentic personality we actually express in any given moment also depends upon our mood, energy level, health and circumstances.
Figure 4: The Continuum of Self
So what exactly is the authentic personality? Our true-Self’s field of consciousness (our soul) is pure awareness imbued with an array of essential qualities (love, joy, strength, will, peace, compassion, curiosity, creativity, etc.). These aspects of consciousness are called essential qualities because they are the essence of who we truly are. During our childhood, our soul’s essential qualities gradually permeate down into our personality where they unfold and develop into a range of usable personal qualities that collectively constitute our authentic personality:
- Mind-based essential qualities such as wisdom, knowing, clarity creativity and curiosity unfold and develop into usable personal qualities in our mental body, primarily in and around the head.
- Heart-based essential qualities such as love, compassion, courage, joy and connectedness unfold and develop into usable personal qualities in our emotional body, primarily in and around the chest.
- Body-based essential qualities such as will, vitality, groundedness, stillness and calmness unfold and develop into usable personal qualities in our energy body, primarily in and around the belly.
Different areas within these three subtle bodies (fields of consciousness) have specialised functions. For example, we utilise a different area of our heart’s consciousness to express compassion than we do to express joy, and a different area still to express courage, and so on. But each area of consciousness, irrespective of its location or function, contains all three types of personal consciousness (mental, emotional and energetic).
Each personal quality unfolds at a different time during childhood. For example, Strength starts to develop at about 9 months and Will at about 2 years. But the conditions must be just right for a personal quality to develop optimally, otherwise its unfoldment will be adversely affected or blocked. So parents should try to provide a safe and loving environment for their children, set healthy boundaries with the right balance of freedom and control, and avoid sending mixed messages that might confuse the child’s world view.
Our young and undeveloped personal consciousness needs confirmation that our understanding of reality is correct, so we seek validation from our parents and/or caregivers. If the feedback we receive contradicts or conflicts with our own innocent perceptions and conceptions, the emergent aspect of personal consciousness may not develop properly or fully. This is because the mental confusion and/or emotional turmoil interfere with the natural unfoldment of the personal qualities.
Here are some examples of common parental responses that contradict and invalidate a child’s perceptions of reality and sense of self:
- Shouting at the child for no apparent reason, because they are annoyed about something else.
- Saying one thing and doing another – it is natural for a child copy their parent’s behaviours.
- Saying “everything is alright” when the child is crying and everything is clearly not alright.
- Ignoring, not listening to, or not giving the child the time and attention they deserve. This makes the child believe “I am not loved”, “I am worthless” or “I don’t exist”.
- Saying “don’t cry” discourages the child from feeling pain and sadness, negating an important aspect of life. It encourages them to repress their emotions and discourages them from releasing them in a healthy way. Example: If parents soothe a child with food or a toy, as adults they may self-soothe by eating or shopping.
If the distress is intense or persistent, that aspect of consciousness may freeze and stop developing altogether. Generally speaking, the more intense or prolonged our fear and confusion, the less our personal qualities will unfold.
Even as adults, fear and confusion can cause us to temporarily freeze – physically or psychologically. When we were young and innocent, the effect was much more intense, so even a relatively minor event such as being shouted at could have had an overwhelming effect. Mental confusion, emotional turmoil and physical distress reinforce and validate each other in a feedback loop (see Figure 5), thus increasing the overall impact of the fear and trauma. All three elements of the developing personality (mind, heart and body) are affected, so the aspect of consciousness is traumatised on every level.
Figure 5: The Vicious Circle of Fear
The traumatised aspect of consciousness is literally frozen with fear. It is frozen in time and space, so it remains at the age it was at the time of the trauma, and it has a definite location within our body. The piece of consciousness is frozen at the peak intensity of the fear, so it “lives” in eternal fear.
The ego-mind (the part of the mind that is controlled by the ego-self) creates a protective ego structure (thought-form) around the frozen piece of consciousness to protect our ego-self and the rest of our ego from becoming overwhelmed by the trauma, fear and confusion, but in doing so we exile that piece of us. The exiled part feels like it has been imprisoned in hell for eternity. It feels like hell because it is always experiencing the peak intensity of fear, and it feels like eternity because it is literally frozen in time. A defensive ego structure may also be created nearby and programmed to act as a guard to prevent our conscious awareness from getting anywhere near the exiled part. The pain, fear and confusion have been repressed – buried deep in our subconscious where they may become completely forgotten.
If the unfolding of our essential strength is blocked by psychological trauma, we will lack authentic personal strength. This makes us feel vulnerable, so we have to develop ego structures to provide us with false strength. If the unfolding of our essential will is blocked, we will feel anxious and have to develop ego structures to provide us with false will. These ego structures are coping mechanisms and survival mechanisms that help us to get through life without authentic personal qualities. So psychological trauma changes our entire approach to life: from authentic experience and expression, to defending, coping and surviving.
The functionality of an ego structure can never match up to the real thing because it is a crudely constructed inferior copy of an exquisite essential quality. This is not surprising because most of our ego structures were initially created when we were 6 months to 6 years of age. They were created by an immature and inexperienced mind. So not only are they poor reproductions, they are often immature, inappropriate or even dysfunctional. As we get older, we may refine and develop our ego structures, in which case they build up in layers like the rings of a tree-trunk. It doesn’t matter how highly-polished the outer layer is, the frightened infantile core remains buried within. Some people put a lot of time and effort into refining and polishing their ego-personality to help them succeed in life, but that is just masking over the symptoms and ignoring the root of the problem.
Ego structures also form in response to not being fully seen or not being accurately seen, e.g. being misunderstood or seen as inadequate. Such perceptions give rise to false beliefs that we are unimportant, inadequate or have to behave in a certain way to fit in. An ego structure is created around the false belief (to repress it) and programmed to compensate the false belief. If, for example, the false belief is “I should be seen and not heard”, we might create an ego structure that restricts our natural expression and makes us introverted. Our false and distorted beliefs are often copied from our parents or older siblings. If, for example our father believed that people must work hard to succeed in life, and he regularly demonstrated that, or just said it a lot, there is a good chance that we would have taken on that belief and become a hard-worker or even a workaholic later in life. We can also rebel against our parents’ beliefs and behaviours, in which case we will adopt the opposite belief or behaviour.
These processes occurred countless times during the development of our personal consciousness, so our ego developed in a modular fashion. As the number of ego structures increased they became interconnected and formed a complex super-structure. As the super-structure grew and became more stable, our false sense of self expanded into it – and our ego was born. Since then, the ego has grown, developed, adapted and evolved to help us cope with life’s events. Individual coping structures are often updated as we grow older and become more capable. The new layers build up like the rings of a tree trunk (refer to Figure 6).
Figure 6: Layers of an Individual Ego Structure Figure 7: Layers of the Entire Ego Super-Structure
The more mature and capable outer layers often assume secondary roles of protecting the younger inner layers. These guarding structures don’t require updating, so they remain at the age at which they were created.
Collectively, the entire ego super-structure builds up in the same manner as each individual ego structure, with the false-self at its core (Figure 7). The false-self is self-centred; it is the centre of our ego and the centre of our inner-world. But its awareness is usually focused at the periphery of the ego, because that is where the most-capable coping structures are located, because it is far away from the deeply repressed exiles’ pain, and because it can get external validation from the outside world.
Every ego is unique and utilises different strategies to help us survive and even thrive in the world we live in. So it is important not to think of the ego as a purely negative construct that must be purged from our psyche. Although, when it no longer serves us it will begin to dissolve naturally. This book is about assisting this natural process, through conscious inner work.
Inner work is not like regular work that requires effort – in fact it is the exact opposite. Inner work requires us to stop efforting, seeking, striving, grasping, clinging, resisting, fearing and over-reacting. All it requires us to “do” is to simply “be” and be with “what is”. It requires us to become a Human Being instead of a Human Doing.
Different Types of Ego Structures
There are two main types of ego structure, each of which requires a different approach to healing and reintegration:
1. Protective Structures: are not created to protect the distressed exiled parts of our being, they are usually created to protect us from the distressed exiled parts of our being. They protect the ego-self from becoming overwhelmed by stopping us from getting too close to distressed exiled parts. The protection comes in two forms:
- Locking it away: Enclosing, suppressing and repressing the exiled part. Note: Repressing structures are also used to repress unwanted personal qualities and primal impulses (both of which are explained in the book).
- Forgetting about it: Guarding parts are programmed to distract or divert our conscious attention, often by triggering a reactive or compulsive behaviour (i.e. an addiction). Sometimes two or more guarding structures are created to protect one exiled part, and they may have very different strategies for keeping us away. If their strategies conflict, they can psychologically pull us in different directions. This forces each “side” to take more extreme measures, which can destabilise our entire psyche and lead to extreme behaviours such as alcoholism, drug addiction, violence and abuse.
Origin: Protective structures are created out of our fear of becoming emotionally overwhelmed.
False Beliefs: Protective structures are built on the false belief that we cannot cope with feeling the distress of the exiled part, so a protective part is programmed to (falsely) believe that the exiled part is a threat. While this may have been true at the time of the original trauma (when we were a young child), it is almost certainly not true now. The protective structure was created and programmed at the time of the original trauma, so it is made from very young consciousness which almost certainly believes that we are still a young child who is unable to cope.
Healing: A protective structure won’t relax or dissolve until the perceived threat is gone, i.e. until the exiled part has been healed and reintegrated. But the protective structure probably won’t let us near the exiled part until we reassure it that we are a loving, caring and capable adult with good intentions.
2. Coping Structures: are programmed to take on the functionality of undeveloped personal qualities that were not transposed from the soul’s essential qualities. They help us to function in the world without our authentic personal qualities.
Origin: Coping structures are created out of a perceived deficiency – to replace a missing or undeveloped quality.
False Belief: Coping structures are built on the false belief that we have lost a part of our soul essence (“soul loss”), but actually we have just lost awareness of it. When we lose awareness of an essential quality, it stops unfolding in our personality, so we create an ego structure around the “hole” in our being and program it to take on the functionality of the “lost” part.
Healing: When we stop defending against feeling a hole, and actually allow ourselves to feel it fully, we discover that it doesn’t feel deficient or empty at all – it feels like spaciousness or pure potential, which is not unpleasant at all. When we allow this spaciousness to be (i.e. accept its existence and feel it without any resistance), we re-discover the “missing” essential quality and realise that it has been there all along. This reactivates the process that transposes the essential quality into a usable personal quality, so the “hole” fills up with the authentic personal quality.
More about Holes
We create all sorts of reasons to explain the inner pain, anxiety, anger, depression and discontent we feel about these “holes” in our being. For example, we may believe that we are anxious about a job interview or depressed about a relationship breakup, but that’s rarely the whole truth. We project the cause of our inherent inner suffering out onto an external event because our ego needs an excuse for its negative feelings.
Blaming our suffering on an external “cause” absolves the ego of any responsibility and diverts our attention away from the real underlying cause. So most of our suffering isn’t actually caused by external events, they just trigger the deeply repressed emotions that we already have about the “lost” parts of our being and our “lost” connection to Self.
We attempt to avoid feeling our pain and discontent by:
- Doing: overeating, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sex, TV, internet, video games, exercise, work, etc.
- Objects: fashion, cosmetics, jewellery, money, gadgets, houses, cars, partners, babies, pets, etc.
We believe we are trying to solve an external problem, so we think these external solutions will work. But the real source of our discontent is internal, so only an internal solution will work. The real source of our dissatisfaction is our lack of wholeness – we are full of “holes”, so we don’t feel whole. The only way we can find lasting fulfilment is to fully feel our holes and allow the “missing” qualities to manifest. This cannot happen while we keep “doing” things to avoid feeling our holes or keep trying to fill them with “objects”.
When we experience the loss or separation of a loved one, not all of our sadness or grief is because we miss them. The relationship helped to fill a “hole” in our soul and masked the pain of our “lost” essence. Now that they are gone, the relationship can no longer fill our hole or mask our pain, so we feel our inherent pain, sadness and grief. The same thing occurs, to a lesser extent, with the loss of objects. As previously mentioned the only way to effectively “fill” a hole is to feel it as fully as we can, without any resistance, i.e. fully surrender to our pain, sadness or grief.
Another Type of Hole
The self can move around our field of consciousness (which extends beyond the physical body) at will. When it moves out of our body we enter into a state of trance. The self is not present, so we feel absent, detached, dissociated, spaced-out, sleepy or dreamy. We can use this as a subconscious defence mechanism to avoid feeling psychological pain or distress.
The same process occurs, but much faster, when we are startled or shocked. Our self “jumps” out of our body (to protect us from the peak intensity of the anticipated trauma) and immediately back in again. When a psychological trauma is accompanied by a sudden shock, the piece of traumatised consciousness is not only frozen, it can also be ejected from the body as the self “jumps” out. The self immediately returns to the body, but the traumatised piece of consciousness can get left behind – floating in our aura, just outside of our body – the ultimate place of exile. The ejected exiled part leaves a noticeable hole in our psyche (mental, emotional and/or energy bodies), so the ego’s standard coping mechanism comes into play. The hole is encased in an ego structure that is programmed to take on the functionality of the lost part.
Ejected exiled parts are responsible for some of the “voices” that some people hear. These free-floating exiles can be healed and reintegrated in one of two ways:
- If we can sense the ejected part in our aura, we can move our awareness to its location and consciously merge with it. The intimate connection that we establish between our soul’s presence and the ejected exiled part heals the wounded relationship and allows the ejected exile part to return and fill the hole in our psyche.
- If we can sense the hole, we can move our awareness to its location and consciously merge with it. The intimate connection between our soul’s awareness and the hole heals the wounded relationship and allows the ejected exiled part to return and fill the hole in our psyche.
Freedom from the Ego
Thought-forms are typically short-lived; without concentrated effort and energy to sustain them they quickly dissolve. The same applies to our ego (which is just a very elaborate thought-form); without energy, effort and constant reinforcement it will gradually dissolve. However, we (falsely) believe that we are our ego, so we will do everything we can to maintain it and prevent it from dissolving.
When external events conflict with or invalidate an aspect of our inner model of reality, our psychological structures weaken because the foundations they are built upon (our false or distorted core beliefs) are thrown into doubt. We fear that our sense of self may collapse, so we have to strengthen our position by defending against the perceived attack. We zealously defend our position as if we were defending our life, because subconsciously we believe that we are. The ego, which started out as a safe place to protect us from the distress, has been defended and reinforced so many times that it has become a fortress. But it is a fortress that we cannot leave, so it is actually more like a prison.
The false/ego-self cannot permanently leave its fortress/prison because it is an inherent part of the ego super-structure. The ego is the prisoner and the prison, and both are made of the same “material”. The ego-self is an ego structure – it can move around our body and even out into our aura, but it can never escape from being an ego structure.
The true-Self is different – it is not a thought-form, so it is not bound by the mind or mental constructs (ego structures). The true-Self can easily pass through the prison walls of the ego (like a ghost), so it is always free – it always has been, and it always will be. The only way can attain psychological freedom is to shift our perspective from the ego-self to the true-Self, which is represented graphically in Figure 8, but that is easier said than done…
Figure 8: Freedom from the Ego
Our journey to freedom is not an outward one, because we cannot escape by pushing outwards against the walls of our prison. The journey to freedom is an inward one, towards the true-Self. It is a journey of Self-discovery because we need to get reacquainted with our true-Self before we can realise it as our true nature. It is like waking up from a dream, or perhaps nightmare is a more appropriate term! It is like stepping out of the darkness into the light, or stepping out of a virtual world into true reality.
Shifting our perspective from the false/ego-self to the true-Self is not easy. The false/ego-self has a powerful hold on us because we have been identified with it for so long – we have invested an entire lifetime in being our ego-self. So even though we want freedom, we are afraid to leave. The ego’s primary objective is to get us through life without feeling the pain of our repressed psychological wounds (exiled parts).
The inner work of awakening goes directly against the ego’s objective because it requires us to feel into our old hurts and inquire into our false and distorted core-beliefs, so we need to proceed gently. Only when our desire for freedom exceeds our fear are we truly ready to enter the path.
The Truth About The False-Self
Up until this point, I have described the false/ego-self as a persistent, complex thought-form, and it is, but that’s not the whole story… A thought-form doesn’t possess enough self-awareness to convince us that this is who we are, and it doesn’t possess enough intelligence or will to competently direct our life. So what else is going on?
The true-Self (monad) and its field of awareness (soul) experience things by merging with them and literally becoming one with them. This natural tendency means it is easy for the true-Self to lose sight of its own ontological existence and become mis-identified with the false/ego-self, and that is exactly what happened in our early childhood…
As our young mind developed, we began to create a mental idea of our self, which was based upon our mental sense of self, our emotional sense of self and our physical sense of self. This thought-form gradually solidified into a reasonably stable concept-of-self that characterised us as a separate physical person. This concept-of-self received more validation from our parents or care-givers than our true-Self did, so our true-Self gradually became identified with our concept-of-self and our false-self was born. So, our true-Self’s mis-identification made our false-self a living “reality”. And since then, our true-Self’s life-force has vivified our false-self, and our true-Self’s will and awareness have operated though that false-self.
Figure 9: The true-Self perceiving the false-self
We lost sight of our true identity when we were about 6–8 months old, and the only way to rediscover it is to awaken from our deep-seated mis-identification and realise that we are, and always have been, our true-Self.