Helping you ... Helping yourself

FROM EGO TO TRUE SELF: THE JOURNEY HOME

By Lynne Foote

JOURNEY INTO EGO, THE WAY IN

A version of a story that is endearing to me is that one day two parents overhear their young daughter talking to her newborn brother in his crib, saying, "Hurry, tell me about where you've just come from because I am already starting to forget." We come into this embodied world as a whole being but we are functioning without self-awareness or matured consciousness. We cannot remain in this undifferentiated state because it is our human destiny to develop an egoic personality. The fall from Grace, which in Enneagram terms is called the Primal Catastrophe, is the loss of contact with our True Self and the development of our Egoic self. What defines an egoic self is the experience of a separate "I", the duality of a "me" and a "not-me". With this disconnection from the True Self, we experience a loss of Presence.

The problem is not that we have an Ego but that we begin to identify with this Ego. We begin to believe that THIS is who I am and, at best, the Ego can only be an imitation of the True Self. The entrance into our egoic identity, and the formation of our personality, which happens in the first thirty-six months of life, is preverbal and unconscious. Our mind-body absorbs experiences from the sensory world based on needs that are being met, and those that are not. From this, we develop a core belief system, again outside our conscious awareness, deciding who we are and what kind of world we are living in.

It is important to emphasize that the ego is a necessary developmental stage on the way to becoming a Realized Being. Jung spoke about the work of the first half of life as grounding our lives in the experience of the Ego, developing a sense of self and cultivating the ability to love others, developing our home and families, while also finding our place in the world, our work. So we can see our Personality as a kind of arrested development, as a collection of internal defenses and reactions that are managing deeply in-grained beliefs about the self and world that come from our unconscious childhood experience. It's a form of mistaken identity.

Ultimately we live in the Trance of our Personality, under the spell of our Persona, estranged from our True Nature. Our personality becomes the source of our identity rather than direct contact with our Being. The more identified we are, the more our awareness becomes constricted and we lose touch with Reality. Our attention becomes magnetized by the preoccupations and dynamics of the personality. As Russ Hudson, of the Enneagram Institute, says, "When we are not present, we can only do what the personality does." We are on automatic pilot, sleepwalking through life.

The Enneagram model offers us a sacred psychology. It is a living, dynamic symbol that we can use to return to our True Nature. I have found this model, consisting of nine personality types based on temperament, to be an invaluable map of the inner territory. These are nine ways that we forget our connection to the Divine, nine ways we abandon ourselves. This model posits that we come into the world hard-wired in our type and that it doesn't change in our lifetime. The Levels of Development, which were developed by Don Riso and Russ Hudson, are a measure of our capacity to be present and are not related to mood. The deeper we are in the Trance (the further down the Levels of Development we dwell), the more charged the dynamics and defense strategies of the personality become and we are more reactive than responsive. Our center of gravity comes to rest within certain perimeters on the Levels of Development and this feels like home, like "me." When we change our center of gravity, there is a huge shift in our life.

JOURNEY TO SELF, THE WAY OUT

We have to ground our identities in our egos or we literally go crazy. And we need to have an Ego in order to transcend the ego. I like to think of this next stage of development as Soulwork.

The process of returning to Self is one of self-discovery, rather than self-improvement. We are correcting a case of mistaken identity, not trying to fix our false identity. And our Soul has its own wisdom in this process. As in any hero's journey, there is a preparatory phase. We have preliminary work to do that includes developing our muscle of awareness and stabilizing mindfulness by cultivating a witnessing consciousness, an inner observer, through a meditation practice or other mindfulness training. We need to know the nature of the Trance that we are living in for us to wake up from that trance. And we need to strengthen our ability to stay with intense experiences. We have had a lifetime of resisting contact with the early pain of our original self-abandonment and with our imperfect object relations. When we access this pain, which we must on this journey, we find ourselves in the Dark Night of the Soul, without our familiar sense of self to cling to. We need to feel the pain of our Holy Longing, because that which we long for is also longing for us and can guide us home.

Initiation begins the moment we can "catch ourselves in the act" of our egoic strategy and choose to do something different than our automatic, conditioned response. It is revolutionary to see the rising of personality. This is not the same process as thinking but is the gift that we receive as we cultivate Presence and study the organization of experience. By staying with the Now, with what is arising in our present experience without resistance or judgment, we come into a felt sense experience of the core material and our unconscious belief system. In Hakomi terms, we do this by lowering the noise, raising the signal, avoiding problem-solving, and focusing on the organization of experience. By directly engaging with the unconscious motivators, we come in under the radar and access the storyteller rather than the story. We find the created self, the ego, but also the power that creates (the map and the map-maker). Here we are breaking through our conditioned patterns and responses, through our ego "truth" and superego pressures. We begin to deconstruct the personality and work at the core.

In Hakomi Therapy, the therapist's goal is to decode the belief system, study the effects of the belief while working to change the belief, and to connect directly with the Source. We do this by staying present to all that is arising. We also facilitate experiments in mindfulness in which something arises in the client, a thought, feeling, image, or memory. We stay with this, stabilizing mindfulness while accessing deeper levels of connection to the core belief system, and then we introduce a new option for the client and watch what happens. Fritz Perls used to say, "Whenever there is an itch, study the impulse to scratch."

We study the organization of the core material, the beliefs, habits, and memories that motivate and organize our reactions. We examine ways that we block nourishment. We find the defense mechanisms, the conditioned reactions that limit our experience and our expression. We uncover and move through layers of pain and trauma. We keep moving through the persona (the false self), the consequent defense strategies, and the intense feelings at the core until we come to the fundamental hurts and fears that are driving us. To be free you must be willing to go where you are most afraid to go.

THE TRANSFORMATION PROCESS

The Enneagram has been called the Philosopher's Stone, the alchemical secret that can turn lead into gold. Our quest does not bring about improvement or perfection but brings about a maturity, an enhancement of our humanity, and a deeper wisdom.

When we return our attention to the Here and Now, our awareness expands and the ego's grip loosens since awareness and ego cannot coexist. With Presence, we have a different place to stand. We experience a profound shift of identity from being the ever-changing contents of our minds to being the awareness in the background. Ken Wilber, during a Boulder talk, said, "Everything I know about myself as an object is exactly what I'm not. This is binding my sense of self to a fragment." By staying present and inquiring into the nature of the conditioned structure that is arising without identifying with it, eventually that very structure begins to dissolve and Presence, rather than the conditioned structure, becomes the ground of our Being.

The goal is to wear our personalities more lightly and to "expand our wardrobe" by understanding and engaging the archetypal nature of all of the types on the Enneagram. When we are no longer identified with the ego, we rediscover our connection to the Divine. From that same talk, Wilber claims that: "Waking up to the Pure Self is nothing less than God. God is the witness in me, the unbroken ray of consciousness."

When we explore the truth of our immediate experience without preconceived agendas and judgments, we are less caught up in what has magnetized our attention. Our defenses, strategies, and stories fall away and our system begins to reorganize. As we stay with what is arising moment to moment, we notice what calls us away from the moment. We cross a critical threshold from efforting to relaxing to receiving inner wisdom. As we expand more fully into our Essential Nature, our senses are awakened and everything becomes more immediate, vivid, and alive. We are inside our experience. Eckhart Tolle claims that, "Most people don't inhabit a living reality but a conceptualized one". Here we are interacting with life from an inner quiet and stillness. We are grounded in our body with an open heart and a quiet mind. Gratitude fills us and we have a sense of Wonder and Awe. The moment is just arising, organically, and we are abiding in our depth.

For further information on either the Enneagram Model or Hakomi Therapy, click on ENNEAGRAM or HAKOMI.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kurtz, Ron. 1990. Body-Centered Psychotherapy, the Hakomi Method. LifeRhythm
Tolle, Eckhart. 2005. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose. Dutton
Wilber, Ken. 2006. Notes from a Talk in Boulder on 4 November 2006

Your feedback and ideas are welcome.


Contact Lynne Foote

Phone: 303-447-2987

Email: Lynne@LynneFoote.com


Top of page