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Do We Need The Ego, Or Should We Destroy It?

Nan-In was a 19th-century Zen Master Japanese invited a University professor over for tea one day who was seeking more information on the nature of Zen.
As he was pouring the tea, he kept pouring and pouring until the professor retorted, “It is overfull. No more will go in!” and Nan-In responded to the professor, you are full of your own opinions and speculations. “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup”.
This story is a great example of where we get the commonly used phrase, “you are so full of yourself!” Which I am sure we have either used or has been used to describe us at one time or another.
What this story also signifies is the importance of how we get too attached to our ego. In fact, in Western culture, we are inundated with commercials and philosophies about how if we consume certain products, that product will make us more like ourselves. Years ago, Macy’s had one such a campaign, where the television commercial reinforced that with their products they would make you, ‘MORE YOU’! Consumerism, not only as a habit but as an ideology reinforces the importance of our ego.  But, what is the ego? Do we need it?

 The ego tends to be defined as some sort of singular tool or strategy that we all use to fit into the world. In reality, the ego is a composite of inter-dependent practices and habits that we are taught at a very young age that we need to exist in the world. We are told that we need to be a person who is accepted by others. The ego tends to be defined as some sort of singular tool or strategy that we all use to fit into the world.

In reality, the ego is a composite of inter-dependent practices, beliefs, and habits that we are taught at a very young age that we need to exist in the world. It is the ideal version of ourselves given to us by anything and everything outside of ourselves. The ego ideal.

This is by far one of the most important aspects of the driving force behind having an ego. If we are likable, then we are valued. To be likable, in the sense of the ego, is to be a person who is relatable and vulnerable. We tend to assume, that anyone outside of this particular definition, as someone who is closed off and defensive.

Another example would be, that to be a law-abiding citizen, is the ego guiding the process of what we define it to mean when we say we are human. However, this is simply just another element of agreeing to certain behaviors, that we have corporately agreed upon as law-based ethical propositions.

The ego is and has always been heavily influenced by the conditioning process during our childhood. The ways in which our parents raised us, neglected us and allowed other things.
The ways in which they related to another, the ways in which they related to strangers and family. These all have an effect on developing our ego.

However, all of these elements that comprise the ego, negates one glaringly obvious short-sighted emergence. In that, if we are to talk about what it means to be human (in the sense of philosophical ontology) – then to be a valuable human, is to do all of the above things.

That means we must allow the ego to maintain itself as the filter that we need to define ourselves as valuable. However, to have a series of things that are true about us all the time is to also assume that we need those things to determine how valuable we are or how valuable our contributions are to human progress.

Sabina Spielrein wrote a treatise on how the destruction of the ego ushers in our very becoming. Sabina was first a client of the late Carl Jung, and then an eventual psychoanalyst. Her contributions included this notion that the ego was not a necessary component, but more of a vanishing mediator. A component of our identity that we didn’t require long-term access to sustain a coherent identity.

That the freedom we seek is found in the literal destruction of the ego. This is not a popular idea — especially in Western culture — where we are told we need the ego to feel safe and to protect ourselves from outside negative forces. When in reality, the ego is what is given to us as a source of guided illusionary perfection.
The way toward freedom is to systematically go back to the multi-faceted sources that have defined who we are now and to begin the inner excavation to find the contributing factors to who we think we are and begin chipping away at the layers that we have embraced as integral to who we are. It is not an easy journey. But, it is a freeing one.


Do We Need The Ego, Or Should We Destroy It?


George Elerick has been studying human behavior for over 15 years. His fascination with what makes humans do what they do has driven his sociological curiosity to create social experiments to expose the ideas that drive humans to do what they do. Part behavioral consultant, part social theorist and all investigator, George has worked internationally 🌎 with universities, community groups, governments and more to uncover the human mind. From working with consumer brands as a behavioral marketing consultant to leading groups into the far reaches of Southern India, he has had the opportunity to work closely with communities from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds for human behavioral research. He is constantly searching for the 'Why' that guides us all. When George is not busy speaking, you might find him rock-climbing 🧗🏻‍♂️somewhere or searching out a new hobby to try. He also is a standup comedian, you can find him on the circuit. He lives in Los Angeles with his British wife and two kids.

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APA Reference
Elerick, G. (2020). Do We Need The Ego, Or Should We Destroy It?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 31 Jan 2020
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