The Modern Ego and How It Affects Human Behavior

In order to take care of ourselves and others, we must acknowledge the wisdom of our ego.


| November 2015



Ego Self-Esteem

“I believe it’s high time we developed a new sense of respect and compassion for our ego. It is not our enemy. It’s our friend."

Photo by Fotolia/cartoonresource

Have you ever listened to the news and wondered why we can't all live in peace? In The Sacred Ego (North Atlantic Books, 2015), author Jalaja Bonheim says the ego is a sacred function that deserves our gratitude and reverence. However, two separate layers of unconscious conditioning have kept humanity trapped in violence and warfare for millenia. This excerpt, from Chapter 2, "Birthing the Planetary Ego," discusses how humans disempower themselves by rejecting the ego.

To find more books that pique our interest,
visit the
Utne Reader Bookshelf.

The very word ego has become a catchall for whatever aspects of human behavior we disapprove of. “He’s got a big ego” we say of someone whom we consider self-centered or pompous. But who gets to decide what’s de­sirable and what isn’t?

Supposedly, the ego is a spiritual obstacle because it gives rise to nega­tive emotions. Yet negativity merely indicates that some part of us is try­ing to say no, which is often a perfectly appropriate and healthy response. Unfortunately, we often we feel we don’t have the right to say no. For women, especially, this is a problem. Many women were taught to believe that to say no isn’t nice and is selfish.

One chilly winter day a woman called Sasha came to see me. Though only in her late thirties, she had a weary, wilted look. From her clothing to her hair, everything about her looked limp and tired.

The issue she wanted to discuss was her marriage. Ever since she’d married Jonathan, he’d been having affairs with women. The pain of it was killing her, and yet for almost a decade she’d been putting up with it.