I’ve always had a funky relationship with the concept of the ego. It seems to get all muddy because different people use the term to mean different things. Sigmund Freud refers to the ego as part of a triad – the “id” is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the ego is the organized, realistic part; and the super-ego plays the critical and moralizing roles.
Then there are definitions used in spiritual teachings like A Course In Miracles, which essentially defines the ego as the illusion of separation. The ego is the part of us that believes that we are not God, not interconnected to all beings in divine Oneness.
And of course, there’s the garden variety use of the word “ego,” as it’s used in the word “egotistical,” which Dictionary.com defines as “given to talking about oneself; vain; boastful; opinionated. Indifferent to the well-being of others; selfish.”
Ick. Suffice it to say the ego seems like all around badness, right?
And yet we all have one, because we’re all human, no matter how holy we try to be.
The ego has massive blind spots, things we can’t see when we get caught up in it. The ego gets between us and the Divine, sabotages our attempts to heal others and ourself, and cuts us off from the life blood of the Universe. And yet, the ego never dies. And shouldn’t. Because it’s part of being human. It’s all about knowing your ego, seeing beyond the blind spots, and keeping your ego under check. Making friends with and managing my own ego has been part of my personal growth for years, so I thought I’d invite you inside to witness a little bit of my process.
Meet Victoria Rochester
I call my ego Victoria Rochester (which, incidentally, is the name I wished my mother gave me when I was a little girl.) Victoria (pictured above) is unabashedly a diva. She loves couture gowns, fine champagne, and getting carted around in a limo. She loves spotlights on stages in front of throngs of people. She wants her book to get on the New York Times bestseller list. She drools when you all read her blog posts.
While she doesn’t demand only green M&Ms in the green room (she prefers green juice), she knows what she likes and how she likes it. She can be downright nasty to waiters who bring her salad loaded with bell peppers when she already warned them she’s allergic. She brings her own pillow when she travels. She sleeps with a sound machine that plays rain sounds.
Victoria is HIGH MAINTENANCE. And she’s unapologetic about it.
Victoria loves hanging around famous people. It makes her feel important, like she matters, like she belongs. When Victoria spent the evening with Mama Gena, Kanye West, and Hugh Grant, Victoria started preening. She was delighted to discover herself on page 6 of the New York Post.
Victoria is super confident. She knows she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to. She’s determined and strong-willed and persistent and deep down, in her little girl heart, she’s tender and fragile and wounded and lonely and just wants to be loved and accepted, to feel worthy and seen. She’s never satisfied. She never feels like she’s done enough, accomplished enough, gotten enough love. She always wants MORE.
Victoria is on a mission to change the world, to heal health care, to get on television, to write that bestseller, to save people by teaching them how to heal themselves, so she can pat herself on the back and say, “Look how valuable you are.” Victoria wants to feel like she matters because she’s not really sure she does.
Then there’s this other part of me, the part my friend Steve Sisgold titled “Lissa-nanda” (“nanda” is Sanskrit for joy and is also the name of Hindu and Buddhist deities.) Lissa-nanda loves everybody, like REALLY loves everybody. She doesn’t judge anyone or make anyone less-than or more-than. When strangers look into the eyes of Lissa-nanda (not the eyes of Victoria, mind you, who sometimes takes over on book tours and can give you the evil eye for getting too close to her personal space), they see sweet, soft, pure, unconditional, magical eyes that channel divine love.
As I explained in this post, Lissa-nanda channels books, blog posts, and Daily Flames from your Inner Pilot Light. She’s the part that shows up after I meditate and pray “Make me a vessel.” She knows that even when she has what her BFF and spiritual counselor Tricia Barrett calls “her holy ideas,” she doesn’t get to claim credit for them, because they’re not hers to begin with.
Lissa-nanda is a true visionary with the heart of a healer. She is a bodhisattva-in-training, committed to easing the suffering of others. She wants nothing more than to be of service in this world and to serve out her life’s purpose. She’s willing to sacrifice anything if it’s part of her Divine mission here on earth. She’s not attached to any outcomes and surrenders to Divine will. Lissa-nanda doesn’t care about ego wins, like how many hits her website gets, how much media attention she gets, or whether her books become bestsellers. She’s pure love and just wants to radiate that love into the world in whatever way best serves the world and allows her to express her gifts. Lissa-nanda is my Inner Pilot Light.
Next: the struggle between Victoria and Lissa-nanda