The Concept of Ego in Recovery
Let’s first define the term “ego,” as we use it in our treatment programs at Spirit Mountain Recovery. Ego – as Eckhart Tolle best describes it, is an individual’s conditioned “mind-made sense of self.” It is who someone believes they are, based not only on what they think about themselves but on what others have told them about themselves as well. Ego is often characterized as that “voice in your head.”
In other words, ego can be defined as a superficial “form construct” of the mind and is often expressed by someone as “their story,” which has evolved from birth. This man-made “identity” of the mind also appears to have evolved as a primal construct in the development of the human brain. Sigmund Freund said, “the task of the ego is to find a balance between primitive drives, morals, and reality.”
By its nature, the “egoic” state of being is evidenced by an exaggerated sense of self-importance and superiority. This egoic state is also accompanied by a negative outlook on life and overreacts emotionally in stressful or anxious moments—the ego judges and labels people. The ego can cause an unhappy state of being. All of these can be significant factors in the development of addiction issues.
The 12 Step Program of AA describes ego as “selfishness, self-centeredness… the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows, and they retaliate.”
At Spirit Mountain Recovery, we believe ego to be a superficial “man-made” construct of the mind. In recovery, someone’s inability to suppress or obliterate their ego and the continued reliance on it will severely impede them from fully recovering from addiction.
How to Free Yourself of Ego
Egoic thought will have to be severely deflated or suppressed to make way for a new world of self-consciousness to occur. A critical step needs to occur for someone to be able to transcend from their previous life of self-harm and chaos to a new way of perceiving and reacting to life in a healthy way.
As Eckhart Tolle would put it, “to be free (of your ego), you awaken to who you are beyond your life story.” In other words, you discover your “essence identity,” where you become aware of yourself at a deeper level.
Your “essence identity” is free of ego. In other words, you live in a more conscious state of being, free of your mind-made sense of self, “your story.” You have become more conscious or aware of your destructive mind-talk and dysfunctional egoic-driven actions and can better avoid them.
Unfortunately, as this is often the case, the key to defeating ego most often comes from severe desperation. Typically, as the result of experiencing the pain, suffering, and calamity of the everyday life of someone suffering from substance addiction.
It is through experiencing this state of hopelessness that a significant deflation of the ego occurs. Where the ego dissipates enough for someone to truly realize the severity of their condition, let go of their self-will, and ask for help.
It is in this deflated state of ego that it is possible for someone to transform their lives. Fracturing one’s ego leads to a more conscious awareness that they will not be able to recover from their addiction by themselves or by their own means. This “surrender” that occurs for 12 Steppers typically leads to Step One: acknowledging that I am powerless over alcohol (any substance), and my life has become unmanageable.
Then, Step One leads to more evidenced consciousness in the embracing of Step Two – the realization or belief that there is a power greater than themselves that, if sought, can help them. Having now become aware that a power greater than themselves exists, they commit to turning their lives over in the direction of this new life force.
Ways to Access a Deeper Consciousness
In addition to the deflation of the ego that occurs as the result of the spiritual experience as outlined above, there are additional ways of suppressing ego and accessing the peace and calm that comes from discovering a deeper level of consciousness. They are as follows:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapies that deal with learning to mitigate stress and anxiety and to correct belief or thinking errors.
- Meditation, Yoga, and Focused Breathing are often characterized as mindfulness-based recovery regimens that direct the participant back to concentrating on living in the present moment, or what Eckhart Tolle refers to as “living in the now.” Spirit Mountain Recovery provides both meditation and yoga therapy programs for addiction.
- Other experiential activities that center around being outdoors in nature. Spirit Mountain Recovery provides experiential therapy for addiction issues in Utah.
Overcoming Ego in Recovery at Spirit Mountain Recovery
As for anyone, but most importantly, for those who struggle with a substance addiction, the most crucial question of their life is: who am I? The answer to this question can mean the difference between living a wholesome and healthy life or being subject to the typically dissatisfied and discontented nature of one’s ego. Often it can mean the difference between life and death for those who are addicted.
The discovery of your true “essence identity” is accomplished by learning to access a deeper, greater state of consciousness within you. It means choosing to live in an enlightened state of being where someone is no longer a captive of their self-destructive ego. A state of being at its deepest level is the power that connects all of humanity to each other.