Ego is a canvas that is laid onto our essence, our natural being that is unique as it is universal. The rest of our time on earth, we are in an going struggle to see ourselves through the often thick walls of our Ego.
My friend and author Tom Voccola, calls it a journey from ego to purpose in his amazingly inspiring business novel The Accidental CEO. And a journey it is indeed. However, this journey is reserved for those courageous enough to embark on this often challenging path of self discovery.
Some like me were lucky enough to have that choice taken away from them due to unexpected intersections in life, as why would one choose a treacherous untrodden path over a “normal” and usually path, the train track of modern life that seems to be well accepted and “successful”.
But this challenging journey, may I call it a spiritual journey, is truly a very gratifying path. One can explain this as the difference between self expression and the alternative as an employee to enable the expression of others. There is nothing wrong with whichever path one chooses as long as they are happy with it. However, it is my experience from talking to colleagues and friends, that most really begrudge the latter feeling a sense of maybe modern slavery.
Back to the canvas. Yes, ego is a canvas a painting that is constructed one brush stroke at a time as we paint over the trauma of childhood. The problem is that, as an adult, we have difficulty understanding this childhood trauma. We think of trauma in terms of sexual abuse or beating or being exposed to events that are unsafe for children; and indeed these are examples of extreme abuse. However, when one studies childhood trauma in the way people like Pia Melody and perhaps Shirley Smith have done, as have their forefathers, a new picture of trauma starts unfolding. One that surprisingly exposes accepted adult behaviors as problematic. A picture that puts the magnifying glass of trauma resulting from patents’ and caretakers’ fears being projected onto their offsprings as extreme caring, but still fear it is. Like fear of not having enough money, of not being better than the Jones’s or fear experienced by kids at the hands if addicts like alcoholics and gamblers.
It gets a lot more subtle than this when one starts exploring the various addictions in our modern societies. Yes, addictions like drugs, alcohol and perhaps smoking are sensationalized by the media. But what lurks in the cracks of our society at large, like love addiction, sex addiction, money addiction, codependency addiction and workaholism are often perceived as secrets to be hidden or even flaunted like “the way to be” like in the case of care taking and/or workaholism, especially since the start of the industrial revolution.
So when the vulnerable child is exposed to these adult behaviors, often before the tender age 4, they assume that this is the way to behave as an “adult”. However often, even at that young and venerable age (and beyond, but this is the critical period), they feel in conflict with what is inside them, the innate and natural love and creativity. This natural force of energy starts being dented by the construction of this canvas of ego, that creates an avatar of ourselves that we initially innocently start exposing to the world in order to be accepted and survive.
And indeed, survival is what the Ego is all about. But we were born to do more than just survive. I strongly believe that we were born unique with a strong ability to contribute positively to our society. To draw great satisfaction in leaving a significant contribution to the people and world around us and to ourselves, rather than struggle to survive. Unfortunately, this is often lost to the wise or not so wise behaviors of adults around us in those early years and instead we learn survival.
However, this is not all bad. As through that struggle we honed in our innate and natural personal survival skills and now, if only we let go of that ego that keeps us prisoners, we are able to return to that natural energy, our essence. In order to do so, we need to let go of that canvas of ego and once again expose ourselves, just as a child, with that natural inquisitiveness and uniqueness.
And this is the challenge that most of us choose not to take and stay in the known, even if limiting, survival path. The known is more comfortable than the unknown, but not necessarily as rewarding. Choose to take the journey from ego to essence; not because it is easy, but because it is far more rewarding and because you choose to do more than survive.
This is leadership in its true form, as our choice of essence over ego encourages others to also embark onto their own journey is self expression. And as a parent or Organisational leader, this is the most rewarding legacy you can leave behind.
Last modified: June 11, 2018