The Ego can simply be defined Psychoanalytically as a reality mechanism, the intermediary between the primitive Id and the rational Superego. At a more spiritual level the Ego is our sense of self, the culmination of our conscience energy.
It is a important tool in the understanding of ourselves as individuals. Yet left untamed, the Ego can begin to distort and shift into something ugly. One which begins to attribute a bloated perception of individual value. Such value seeking is akin to drinking from a bottomless value flask where your character becomes addicted to praise and overly sensitive to criticism. Classic signs of an inflated ego are behaviours such as a constant need for everyone to respect your opinion, a relentless thirst to showcase your brilliance and consistently being defensive.
On the contrary there are many people who do not have an ego big enough! I believe that the interpretation of ancient spiritual teachings in regards to the dissolution of the ego could be interpreted by modern readers as a call to abandon any sense of self respect and confidence. Our ego's are a necessary part of our psyche and we should develop a strong sense of self believe in our day to day habits.
One important skill I have learnt throughout my travels is the skills of self reflection. During Ultra's you are forced to turn a mirror towards your own behaviors. My 8 weeks of running across Europe was a self reflective journey. I began to delve deeper into myself as a person. I learnt about the infallibility of the subjectivity of human existence. We are all carrying around life experiences and behaviours which effect our outlook of the world, we are a complicated total of our environment and nature. Our day to day behaviours shape our self perception, our Ego, with this in mind I have identified a few activities which I partake in regularly which help in the maintenance of my own ego.
I am a big fan of Meditation but I struggle to stay still for a long period of time. So I make time for it by running. Meditating whilst running is therapeutic for me. My body is being put to use, doing what it is was born to do in my eyes. It is working and my mind is focused, as I grow more fatigued I am forced more and more into the present which is a beautiful experience. I am also fortunate to live by the sea, whilst running along the seafront I am exposed to the awesome power of nature, at high winds I am battered by the sheer power of the elements. Such an experience is humbling as it reveals the fragility of my feeble body. The rocks which my feet pound reveal to me the sheer insignificance of my share of time here on earth. Of which their age dwarfs the history of mankind.
At the same time I am filled with a sense of resounding confidence and joy. I am alive and healthy, I am fighting against the elements and I am still running, no matter what your fitness levels are, embarking on a run will help regulate your ego, you begin to understand your body in a way you did not before you started exercising and at the same time value the treasure of good health.
For many people the idea of confrontation is scary. It renders many people into a state of fear in their day to day lives as they tip toe around conflicts avoiding the necessary with the nonsensical. The simple fact is that conflict is a part of human nature, the urge to compete is not "evil" or wrong, rather the opposite. It is one of the primary drivers behind human innovation and evolution. And a critical element of competing is entering into some form of conflict with another human being who stands in between you and your goal.
I believe that a part of a healthy ego management is to consistently put yourself into situations in which you are tested. Take it from me, there are few things a person can do which is more testing for them then entering a ring and fighting another human being.
MMA or Mixed Martial Arts is a beautifully brutal display of discipline, courage and skill. It is a simple and deadly expression of human competitiveness, where two combatants lock horns and attempt to defeat there opponent by Knock Out, Submission or by why of a decision within a controlled environment.
A key component within a Mixed Martial Artists arsenal is there ability to fight on the ground. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a martial art dedicated to establishing and maintaining a position where the practitioner can execute a submission with the aims of disabling an opponent on the ground. It is a full contact grappling activity which pits you against another human being. You slap hands and then attempt to gain a dominant position in which to execute a submission. The beautiful thing about this process is that it is 100% live. You draw upon every resource you have into disabling your opponent. The only difference in this process is that once a practitioner gains a submission hold the recipient to that hold will "tap" in recognition that you have won the round of "human chess".
This means that as a beginner. You are routinely being tapped out. Three to four times a week you are submitting to superior technique. For many people with large and unmanaged ego's, this is to much for them to bear. They cannot face the fact that there are men and women in this world half there weight that can literally render them paralysed within a few short seconds!
This fact is why Jiu Jitsu is such a good ego management activity. Many people who do do not do a Martial Art have an ill conceived image of fighters as arrogant, abrasive and violent. Where as most are the complete opposite. Fighting is the most honest activity in the world, it is the desire at the foundation of every sport. Many BJJ Black Belts, MMA Fighters and Muay Thai Kru's are some of the most relaxed and peaceful people I have ever met. This is because they have well managed Ego's. They know themselves well enough to not have a desire to partake in value seeking and egotistical behaviours.
Learning about the world is a sure fire way to help regulate your ego. We could spend an entire lifetime reading and only scratch the surface of human knowledge. Knowledge in itself is alive, constantly evolving with the expanse of human exploration. The ability of knowledge to spread from person to person is akin to a bacterial form of live, every sentence which I write is similar to the genetic instructions given within every living organisms DNA. It is the materialization of human consciousness. And reading is one of the greatest ways to tap into this oasis of information.
I enjoy reading topic across a huge spectrum. Reading keeps my ego in check because I can revisit the lives of the great humans of the past who have shaped my present, the stories of struggle, loyalty, bravery and determination fill my soul with a sense of confidence and modesty. For even the greatest of minds are still found contained within a finite shell of flesh which will weather to the winds of time. No matter how much power Ceaser accumulated in Rome, no matter how much land the great Mongols conquered, no matter how many lives Jenner saved with the Smallpox vaccine, they all succumbed to the pages of history in one way or another.
Gazing into the Nights Sky
There is a sense of universal awe when a group of people from vastly different cultures stare into a clear nights sky. When we gaze into the cosmos, we are presented with the inevitable fact that we belong to a system far greater then our tiny human brains could ever imagine. More so today then ever, Science has revealed to us our place in the Universe. But despite this fact we cannot help but feel an amazing sense of oneness with the stars. Our very beings are composed of the same materials which made them and even they share our dance with life and death. Even these nuclear super structures which burn for billions of years are finite, they too succumb to death, there final act displays before out eyes through the eye of a telescope.
There is no simpler and more beautiful way to manage your ego then by gazing into the nights sky for a few hours. Because it reveals, paradoxically, our irrelevance and important to the workings of the universe.
Spending Time With Family and Old Friends
Or I should say, spending time with the people who know you nearly as well as you know yourself. You should never, ever become too big for your friends to make a fool out of you. No matter what you achieve, realise that you can never become too big or important towards the ones that have know you well. One of the most common downfalls of successful people do not come from within themselves but from the influence of the people they have chose to aquatint themselves with. "Yes" men and career whores who will stop at nothing at using you as a step on their career ladder.
On the same token good friends and family will provide you with the vital mental stamina from which you can use to inhance your ego, they will remind you of how important you are to their lives and jolt your memories to all the amazing thing you have accomplished in your life.
These are just a few things I could think of the top of my head. To be honest there are many other things which I do which helps keep me in touch to who I am, but the few I have written about seem to be the most obvious and most effective!
Keep on Ramblin!