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Principles of the Soul #2: The Ego

Principles of the Soul #2: The Ego

Your ego is that inner voice that makes you act like an idiot. Silencing it may not be possible, but controlling it is.


It’s 9:15am. You’re more than a little late. The traffic is thick and you’re still a long way from the office. The driver in front of you stops to speak to a pedestrian. You watch as they chat away. You wait another 20 seconds. You tap your horn lightly. The driver turns to give you a dirty look. That’s it. You fly into a rage, slamming your horn and yelling. You consider ramming him from behind and calculate the projectile. You grab around searching for a sharp object to throw. People are watching and you don’t care. Then the pedestrian turns and looks at you quizzically. You notice he has a dog. It is a seeing-eye dog. You stop honking your horn.

You have just had another encounter with your ego.

Your ego, referred to in Hebrew as Yetzer Hara (destructive force), is the self-centered, immediate-gratification-at-any-cost part of your personality.

The mystical sources say the Yetzer Hara covers your essence like mud on a windshield. It’s given to you at birth and dies along with the body. In the interim, it wreaks havoc. It speaks to you in the first person saying things like:

“If someone gets more recognition and honor than me, I’ll just die”

“I don’t really have to prepare for the meeting, maybe I’ll catch a movie”

“Just one more piece of double chocolate cheesecake and that will be it.”

The ego has no compassion for where others are coming from, and it's always there when you are stressed out, angry or upset. When you look back at your life on all the stupid, rash decisions you made -- be assured your ego was doing the talking.



If your ego is so terrible why is it there? Think about the last time you had road rage, you were making a catastrophe out of nothing. The job of the ego is to make things seem bigger than they actually appear. Why? In order to challenge the soul to strengthen itself –- and make the ego disappear.

The ego is like a giant man holding a battle-ax, standing in front of you at a crossroad.

The secret of overcoming the ego is having clarity that it is only an illusion. The Torah says that the ego is like a giant man holding a battle-ax who is standing in front of you at a crossroad. The fool is frightened and runs for his life. The wise person looks closely and sees that the giant has no feet. He walks right past him.

That’s the ego: all bark, no bite. To the degree that you can recognize the ego as a giant virtual mirage, you will be able to see through the mirage and increase the frequency of experiencing life through the soul. If the ego is the mud on lens of the soul, then this clarity is the water that washes it away.


Clarity begins with the awareness of the true nature of human experience: You are a soul -- but you experience life through the senses of the body. A thought in your mind and the corresponding feeling in your senses is called consciousness.

The process works like this: A pack of Dobermans is charging at you. Your consciousness translates the thought “OH MY GOSH!!” into a sensory feeling of abject fear.

Computer geeks may relate more easily to this example: Imagine your consciousness as a computer screen. A thought arises from your ego: “I know I’ve gone over this presentation 100 times, but what if I blow it?” Your screen is filled with a picture of self-humiliation in front of your boss and all your peers. Your speakers blare sounds of crowds murmuring about your failure. You feel like jumping off a bridge.

At every moment your consciousness is being bombarded by thoughts. You have the ability to choose.

The crux of it all? At every moment your consciousness is being bombarded by thoughts. Like a movie projector turning film into the experience of the big screen, your senses faithfully give you the corresponding feeling of whatever image is in your mind. You have the ability to choose whether what you are experiencing is just your ego doing its thing, or a true depiction of real life. You are a soul but you experience yourself as a chooser.

Is the trick to living a happy, well-adjusted life filled with a living reality of motivational posters? It’s the ability to recognize and choose to see that -– just because your thoughts and feelings appear real –- doesn’t mean that they need to have any greater impact than a bad B movie playing in your head.



Here are some exercises to help you develop your awareness.

Sit back and spend five minutes observing all the thoughts that come into your head. Notice that it is a continuous process that just keeps going.

Notice what feeling you get with each different thought. The more intense the feeling, the more real the thought seems to be.

Ask yourself at any given time: “Where is this thought coming from –- my ego or my soul?” If it’s from your ego, see that it is distorting reality. Choose to doubt its validity.


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February 12, 2000

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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) zeljka, February 29, 2012 9:02 PM

it is all just a part of life

I like the article. There is one or few thoughts though i would like to offer to the readers. First and most important. Ego is a reprecussion of being an individual. It is manifestation of a fear, insecurity, of pain of being a single identity. Not being a part of the whole. That insecurity and fear itself is an illusion created to experience duality, individuality... Do not try to condemn ego. It is You, crying and being afraid, feeling abandoned, pushed away. Instead, embrace the fearful hurt parts of your SELF with an understanding that You love and aporeciate and respect that hurt inner part of you. That is how you transcend ego. By love. Not condemnation. It is a Proces. It takes time to Heal the hurt inner part of you. The tricky part is that only You can heal the wound. No one else can do it for you. By compassionate discernment and loving acceptance of each of your angry or upset emotions you are sheding the light of understanding, compassion and love on the darkest parts of your Soul. The same way try to accept your fellow men, neighbours, friends, relatives... Remember, it is a proces. Evolution from fear to love based conciousness. Second what i wanted to point out is there are no good and bad stuff. Just the stuff which compliment each other thus justifying each others purpose. The mind, identity, the ego needs to label stuff good and bad. As far as love and life is concerned it is irrelevant as long as it exists. Good or bad? Huh, as long as you are my kid i love your good and bad stuff -kinda thing. Unconditionality.... But that is whay other story. Ego is our inner hurt kid who is down on its knees in fear and tears. Let us be the great beings of love and light and lovingly embrace that kid with compassion and love. I hope you can understand my message. Just a thought. Offering

(3) Theresa, August 4, 2011 5:33 PM

The ego causes us to doubt G-D

The ego causes us to doubt G-D. It tells us that we are G-D and we can do everything that G-D can do. It lies to us! G-D IS the ALL, we are HIS children, not the other way around. The ego tries to get us to believe that we do not need G-D when the truth is the exact opposite. We live and breathe because G-D allows it to be so.

(2) Anonymous, March 20, 2008 12:17 AM

Reality is not what see, but what we "choose" to perceive

In response to Jessie F.: It is your ego that forces you to question the importance of your soul here on earth, my friend. If you side with your ego, you deny your soul the clarity that will allow you to make the right decisions. The ego will convince you to something you know you should not do.

In response the article:
I have only recently begun to understand the conflicts caused by the ego and the soul. We create prisons for our bodies and our minds and we accept these things as easily as we accept oxygen in our lungs. My question always leads me to this: How is it that conquering the ego is such an elusive process? It is a revolving door. How does one evolve beyond the ego's prison permanently? Is this possible or do you have to be born with the strength to overcome it?

(1) jessie F., August 26, 2007 7:21 PM

how can something that is of my body,part of my body not be good for me such as the ego? if I choose to side with my ego how do I loose? infact in this world isn't it the ego that seems to be more tangible than the soul.Maybe in the afterlife the soul will be of more use to me.

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