S2:E7 Strengthen, Don’t Shrink, Your Precious Ego

Hi and welcome to Shaman Talk. My name's Rhonda and I'm your host and this week we talk about the idea of ego. What is it? How important is it? And why do we seem to always want to break it down and not discuss building it up? I'll offer some ways for you to recognise what you need in regards to your ego and how to implement some changes after this podcast. First though, I'd like to ask you a small favour. If you enjoy and benefit from what I offer, and you listen to this podcast on Spotify, Apple or Google, please, can you subscribe and rate Shaman Talk? It's super helpful for me and it's the biggest thanks and energetic reciprocity that I ask for.

So thank you to the many people who have taken this step and gifted me a little more of your precious time by subscribing and rating this podcast. I deeply appreciate your efforts. Thank you. Now, the ego, let's define it. That can be quite difficult. People get a bit confused. The ego, at its simplest is the aspect of ourself that we consider our self. It's the mental construct of our individual identity, composed of our self-perceptions, our beliefs, and the narratives and stories that we create about who we are. This includes how we see our personality traits, our worth in the world, our abilities, our limitations, things like that. It's the voice in our head that narrates our life from the first person perspective, right? Like it shapes our experiences and our reactions. It's the thing that is you. Ego is your eye.

Now, as a baby, I love to bring in this analogy. As a baby, you're whole, you're completely at one with yourself. You simply are your infinite, divine self. And as you grow, an ego begins to form and pulls you away from the full flow of self and into observance of self. So you know you are a person separate from your mother. You're able to look at yourself and think about yourself, which is not a bad thing. We are human beings having a human experience. We wouldn't get very far if we stay in that baby state of complete flow with no sense of ourselves or our place in the world. That would be weird. So we're not trying to do that. So that's the ego. And then I mentioned there your divine, infinite self. That doesn't go away either.

Now, the self is your eternal or infinite being, like an inner God. For example, the self, which is part of the energy gifted to your lower cauldron at birth, has access to great unspoken flow and innate wisdom. And as an aside, when your lower cauldron is out of balance, so is your innate unspoken flow. It kind of runs your ability to hear your inner wisdom. So the ego is carried along on the back of the self, yet fails to often understand the vast possibility of the momentum available within this relationship. So you have the ego, which is the thing that makes you human, and then you have the self, which is your divine, infinite being within. So we're going to talk about this in a different way. We're going to use a metaphor of a tree.

So where the self could be likened to a deeply rooted tree, the ego could be related to the leaves on the branches. So let's expand on that. Each leaf or the leaves experience the world from its own perspective, flutters in the wind. The leafs or leaf or leaves encounter various challenges and delight, say, the harshness of a storm or the gentle sunlight. And the leaf has experiences that are diverse and shaped by external factors, and it will depend on the leaf's position on the tree as well. However, the leaf is often not aware of its connection to the greater self, which is the tree. To the greater tree. It may feel isolated in its individual experience, forgetting that it is an integral part of a larger sustaining organism. So this is the thing about the ego.

It thinks that's it and that there's nothing else. Now, the tree, which is the self, also some people call it the soul, with its strong trunk and deep roots, represents the core of your being. Stable, grounded, enduring, infinite, divine. It is a reservoir of wisdom, strength and life energy that nourishes the leaf or the leaves. The roots are deep down into the earth and they draw nutrients in water, symbolizing our connection to the earth, our ancestry, maybe, and perhaps the collective unconscious. And it stands firm. Weathering changes and the trunk supports the entire structure, like your enduring spirit. Now, the leaf, although it comes and goes throughout the seasons and we'll mention that in a second, it's not a passive beneficiary of the tree's support, right?

The ego is not a passive beneficiary or something that can just be thought of as a bit of a nuisance. It plays an active role in the life of the tree. So through the process of photosynthesis, the leaf will convert sunlight into energy, which is a vital contribution to the tree's sustenance and our individual actions, our thoughts, our experiences that we have through the ego contribute to the growth and evolution of our broader self. Okay? So just as the leaf transforms sunlight into nourishment, our individual experiences and our perceptions of those experiences can transform. The deeper self can be transformed into observed wisdom and inner growth, but only if it's balanced, which we're going to get to. So the ego is this complex and dynamic part of our psyche that interacts with the external world as well as our deeper self. Okay?

So in some sense, the ego is the bridge between your outer world and your inner landscape, or the bridge between our earthly existence and all its confusion and our authentic soul that's often buried. The ego is the thing that helps us observe and navigate this life on Earth. It's the real human part of us that lives and breathes. Now, of course, ego can become a source of limitation. It can be attached to our achievements or our failures. Perhaps our ego inflates our sense of importance, or maybe our ego undermines our self worth and carries criticism and inner doubts. Now, the ego is directly affected by the condition of your three cauldron power centers. And I discussed those in episode one of this season. And one aspect of a cauldron's path is to get to know where your ego lies on the scale.

Does your sense of self need softly brought down to earth or gently lifted up? Okay, now let's add a flavor of gender to the conversation. The language I'll use here is not meant to exclude anyone from the conversation at all, but just open up channels of thought and discussion around normative gender roles in our society. I think the conversation about ego in spiritual circles needs a little shaking up. And for that, I think gender is an important aspect to bring into the discussion. So for men, for most men, for many men, can we say, societal norms often emphasize attributes such as competitiveness strength, independence, zero emotion, aggression, that kind of thing. And this leads to often the development of a rigid or particularly dominant ego. Okay, that's not to say all men have rigid, dominant or overinflated egos.

But culturally, there can be greater encouragement for men to assert themselves in ways that bolster the ego, that build the ego up. Now, the alpha or dominant traits I see when working with some men not all men at all. But it's often men. So usually the men in my groups like to speak as if they are God. They come in pontificating from on high while making sure everybody knows how spiritual they are. That's what I often find about men in my groups. Now, what happens with those men is that as soon as they find out about eye language I. E they cannot speak as if God, then they leave. And the men who stay are absolutely amazing. And I love the guys. And the guys in my group. They bring so much nuance and balance to the space, and I'm very grateful.

But 95% of men who find their way to my groups don't stay for that reason. So this in this scenario for break, you know, growth, spiritual growth may involve breaking down ego. This does not mean destroying it. It means softening its hold, allowing for vulnerability, for empathy and a recognition of interdependence with others and with the world. So in this scenario, if we talk about the ego being a bridge, it's like the bridge between the outer and the inner world is either nonexistent or gated off, fortified and closed down. On the other hand, women, not all women, but many women have historically been socialized to be nurturing, accommodating and relational, often at the expense of their own individual identity.

The ego in many women, not all can be underdeveloped in the sense of personal power, self worth, boundaries, looking after themselves, asking to get their needs met. So for many women, particularly the women who find their way to my group, building up the ego can be a path to healing. And the suggestion that they need to break down their ego can actually be harmful. So that looks like fostering a healthy sense of self that supports assertiveness self expression and personal boundaries. If I give an example comparable to the previous example of men in my groups, I'm talking about my social media groups here women who join my groups tend to come as the savior. They give advice and they tell people how to deal with their issues and they don't appear to have much thought for themselves or their energy levels.

And they would give and give in that space and they would also disempower those around them as well with their constant advice giving. So in this sense I would say maybe 10% or 15% of women who join my group will leave as well because it's too painful for them to look to themselves using eye language which means only talking from your own experience, not giving advice based on your opinion. It's a very different way to communicate and many women find it just too painful to even try. So in this case it's like the bridge between the inner and outer is again either nonexistent or has been badly built and it's rickety and shaky. So from a shamanic perspective then, the ego is not something to be eradicated. I don't understand where that came from. I can't find that in any religion anywhere.

It's not something to be eradicated, but balanced and accepted, lovingly. It's about finding harmony between our individual presence in the world and our connection to the larger forces of life and of spirit. So both the breaking down of and the building up of the ego are paths to balance. It depends on your journey, it depends on your cultural imprints. And of course you may be male or identify as male and feel that the description I gave of many women is more relevant to you and vice versa. Tap into it, feel where you are with this. I think it will be immensely helpful on many people's spiritual journey to know that maybe building up your ego is the thing you should be doing. So let's talk about the aim.

The aim is to reach a state where the ego serves as a smooth and open bridge between our earthbound self and our spiritual essence, not as a barrier, which is usually the case. I'd like touch a bit more deeply now on the conversation around how ego can be troublesome for people who need to build their ego up and why that is the case, like, how can you tell? So I've got some examples to illustrate the point from my perspective because that's how I like to do things here on this podcast. So a lot of these are from my perspective and as a 40 some year old woman, obviously they won't refer to everybody, but you can get the idea. So women are frequently encouraged to see motherhood as their ultimate role, which can overshadow and overpower other aspects of their identity.

So their intense focus on being a caretaker for children often leads to women putting their personal aspirations, their dreams, their thoughts, even their basic needs on hold. And that can result in a loss of individuality everything about them that isn't motherhood personal interests, career goals, creative pursuits, take a backseat to the demands of parenting. Now, I am a mother of two children. My oldest is 22 and my youngest is two. I love my role. I am deeply connected to the process of bringing up my child. I have sacrificed so much for both of them in different ways and I am so happy to do that. But I don't give everything I have to it and I don't allow it to become my only identity. I don't lose myself to it. No one around me expects me to lose myself to it either.

And then I remind myself, what am I teaching my daughter if I do that? And what would I be teaching my son if I had a son? And I do have nephews who live with us as well. I want the kids around me, my kids and my nephews to see me model behavior that will set them up well, putting myself first, having boundaries, being able to disappoint people. I can also advocate for my family. I can say no to my wider family when it's the best thing for my child. I can really show and model to the kids what this can mean for them so that they don't have to struggle with this lack of ego. So I had to build my ego up and into balance to achieve this.

It's definitely a work in progress as a former people pleaser and a big fat savior. But I feel like it's one that I have benefited from hugely. The other thing that I struggle with a lot is the nice girl expectation. So from a young age I was taught to be agreeable, polite and accommodating, even usually meaning that meant I would suppress my own opinions, my desires, basic needs. Sometimes I watched my mom do it for my dad. I watched other women do it for other men around me. It was absolutely internalized from a very young age. It was through media of all kinds, through the relationships, that I saw the adults around me having. It permeated every place that I found myself and it persisted into adulthood. And then I continually prioritized the comforts and needs of others over expressing my true self.

It got me into all kinds of sticky and sometimes dangerous situations as well. I do not want this for my kids, especially my daughters. And over time, this nice girl attitude I had internalized meant that I all but lost myself. Every time I betrayed myself for someone else's comfort, part of my inner life force slipped away. I was completely depressed, I was suicidal. And then I woke up and I thought, I'm going to have to do this differently. I'm going to lose myself altogether. Now, it was a long, hard road for me to pull back my life force, my personal power, in some cases, pull back my lost soul parts, but it was absolutely worth it. And it was because I realized I had to build up my definition of I, of who I was and the stories I told about myself.

I deserved to say no. I deserved to be heard. I deserved the same thing as the men around me. Now, that is a story that I tell myself as part of my ego, and I needed to build it up, not break it down. Beauty standards is the last one I'm going touch on. Societal beauty standards often pressure women to focus on their appearance and men as well. Now I'm seeing it more and more with men, but anyway, it suggests that value, intrinsic value, is linked to how we look rather than who we are or what we achieve. And this is just a really OD emphasis on our external physical attributes being our internal worth. So strange. Anyway, this applies to aging as well. Like, I love my wrinkles, my scars, my wobbly bits, my saggy bits. Like, I've earned every last one of them.

I do not have a preoccupation with youth. I look after myself. I like to look nice, I like to feel good, but it's not because I want to be young. That's a dangerous fixation on youth, and it is the opposite, I think, of embracing death and dying. And elders in this society, they're not venerated, they're not looked up to, they're not loved or listened to. And I mean often that's because many of our elders are still children themselves and they're very damaged just because our culture is a mess. And the way that we've accidentally kind of gotten off track in the last however many decades or hundreds of years, possibly. Anyway, that is a whole other podcast. But what I choose to do is sort myself out as much as I can and become the elder that I didn't have.

Now, I don't profess to be anywhere near that place yet, but it is a focus of mine. I don't want to stay young and stupid. Why would I want to go back there? Wild horses couldn't drag me back to my 20s. No, thank you. But my goal is to be older, if I live that long, God willing, and be some kind of support to my community, and I think ego plays a role in that. So an underdeveloped ego probably wants to be seen as pretty and young and desirable, and an overdeveloped ego might want to be controlling and aggressive. So neither are any use for an elder, whereas a balanced ego, acting as a bridge for innate wisdom and flow, will be an elder that we can look up to.

So maybe that's something that you aspire to be too, and maybe that's an ego thing that you can look at. Now, men also experience hardships of an unbalanced ego, and I don't think men have it easier than women necessarily. That is a very nuanced conversation. Now, I am confident to talk about my experience as a 40 some year old woman, and I do hesitate to discuss or give thoughts directly on the experiences of men in general simply because I am not one. The same can be said for those who identify as other than their assigned birth gender. I choose not to speak in too much detail to issues I've not experienced myself.

And I add this to the podcast because whenever I post about this issue, I receive comments from people letting me know how hard they have it to or I haven't spoken about them, and I get it. For example, men gosh, you guys, you have such a hard time. Men under, I think, like under 25 commit suicide at alarming rates, the highest rate of all the demographics, and that the rhetoric of shutting off from your feelings has caused unknowable amounts of damage. Like, I get it, but it's just not entirely appropriate for me to talk about that because I am not a man, and that there are plenty of places and support and creators who do talk about that, and the same for those who are transgender or nonbinary.

So I'm adding that in because I love you guys too, but I am not you, and I don't have the experience to talk about it, and I don't think it's right for me to do that. However, women who need to build their egos up, I'm all here for it, ladies. I'm all here for it. Okay. Now, finally, in the spiritual community, is this finally maybe there's more to go. Let's see. In the spiritual community, there's a prevalent idea that spiritual enlightenment or growth requires transcending or dissolving the ego. And there are so many esoteric practices that you can try if you have hours and hours of spare time and no other responsibilities. Now, I jest, but it's true. If you want to follow, like, a Buddhist path, for example, you do need a lot of time.

Now, while these practices are highly effective for some people, of course, and they absolutely have their place, of course, and I have great respect for them, this narrative of overcoming the ego, like it's something to get rid of or escape from, is not universally appropriate, especially considering the socialization of women to be nurturing and self effacing. For many people, the spiritual directive to break down the ego reinforces this notion that their personal identity and desires are obstacles to be overcome. Like the I that you are, is not a unique expression of the divine to be celebrated and integrated. It's something to be ashamed of and to escape from. It's really sad and it's not correct in my opinion.

So given what we've talked about, so those who have been culturally conditioned to undervalue their personal identity, those who might need to cultivate their ego in healthy ways rather than diminish it, that can be male, female, nonbinary, if you identify with that problem, here are some ideas for you. Asserting boundaries. Asserting boundaries so folks can benefit from spiritual practices that affirm their right to personal space and respect. Your Guardian guide can really help with that. And there are free resources on my website, There's a how to guide in there that will show you how to meet and work with your guardian guide for boundary work both energetic and otherwise. Now, spiritual paths that honor individual dreams and goals can really help you reclaim parts of your identity.

So the way that I teach shamanism in particular, so building a relationship with your shamanic guides is a great step here because they can really help you to know where to focus your efforts. Because when you first start doing this work, it can be quite hard to know where to even begin. And then we're really looking to celebrate personal power and agency and in some sense humility. And humility is seeing things as they are, like seeing the truth of your amazing skills and your gifts and also seeing where you need to improve and grow. Okay, so personal power, agency and humility can really encourage a change in your relationship with your ego.

Now the Cauldron's path, the three Cauldrons Power Centers path is one of the best ways to do that I know, and I mentioned this, we discuss it in an earlier podcast in the season. So have a listen to that and see if you can get a sense of how this path will build up your ego as a balanced, important part of your life. So check that out. I think you'll find that quite helpful. Listen to it in the context of this podcast. So the key is to balance and recognize your individual needs on your spiritual path rather than this one size fits all approach. Spiritual communities can benefit, I think, from acknowledging the diversity of ego development, the role of ego in everyday life, and its relationship to cultural conditioning. And this will offer you a much more personalized path to growth and fulfillment.

And I have one more final thought on the subject. I am not on this spiritual path to become enlightened. I don't care about being enlightened. It sounds like really hard work and not something that I am destined for. I'm not interested in transcending my ego or escaping my very human, beautifully mundane life. My sole mission is to learn how to embrace and enjoy my life in all its facets. I'm only going to get one go at this, in this form and in this body, and I want it to be good. I want to be good at it. I want to be good at the agonies and the joys and the surprises and the sadnesses and the difficulties and challenges.

And I want to be able to fully embrace the deep love, the well of love I have inside, that I have to give to others and that I can receive from others. I'm not there yet, but if I'm brave enough in my path, I might just reach it in this lifetime. I want to live my life. I do not want to escape from it. And my spiritual path is about that, living my life in a balanced way with my ego fully on board, fully balanced, doing its job as a loving member of my team. So thank you very much for listening to this week's podcast. I've really enjoyed writing this. It's one of the longer ones in this season because I think it's a really important conversation to have. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this across my various social media platforms.

You'll find me on Instagram at center for Shamanism. You'll find me on Facebook. Same at center for Shamanism. I'm on TikTok too, but I'm not really as active on TikTok at the moment, simply because I can't focus on everything, all the know. I'm not superwoman. So currently I'm available on Instagram and Facebook. So I'd love to hear what you think of this. I'd love to hear if you have any things to add, any conversations to have. So go ahead, hit me up over there. And thank you so much for listening. Oh, yes, and until next time, may the wisdom of the ancients guide you, the warmth of your heart comfort you, and the sacred cauldrons within you find harmony and balance.

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This is where you master the spiritual secrets of the ancient Celts and create a deeply connected and magical life.

Step into the Centre’s very special Shamanic sanctuary. Inside the Cauldrons Way, you’ll find live gatherings, ceremonies, retreats and guided teachings designed to help you activate your inner cauldrons and amplify your spiritual connection. Plus, you get near-daily support from Rhonda and her team of six trusted practitioners. 

Oh, it gets better! Get full and immediate access to ALL THE PERKS when you start a risk-free* membership today

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