An Idea for Your Self
In search for safety, people focus their identity on an idea of their self, i.e. on the mental abstraction called Ego or Personality. All the information concerning one's self and the world can be defined in terms of aware or unaware assumptions, or ego concepts, that colour one's personal experience, for example:
- I am not creative, I have no imagination
- I am an intelligent person
- I can never do what I want to do
- I am very sensitive / insensitive
Or as beliefs about the world, such as:
- There is something wrong about money
- Performing arts are a profession that will take me nowhere
Note that positive and negative assumptions are both part of our self. On a psychological level, it would be more beneficial to adhere to positive assumptions about our self than to negative ones. For example, your self-confidence and self-esteem would gain more if you adopted ego concepts such as "smart" and "successful" and not "boring" or "stupid". Such ego concepts would make you more resilient psychologically. However, from a spiritual perspective this is not the case. From the spiritual point of view, any such assumption about your self would be perceived as being part of the illusion that stands in your way to life as it is. Be it a positive or a negative assumption, it would still colour your glasses and somehow distort the experience of the moment. From a spiritual point of view, freedom would only be achieved if we had the choice of taking off the glasses, and removing the concepts that colour reality with positive or negative assumptions.
Jane Roberts invites us to imagine the ego as a fence through which we see the world. We make an effort to capture as much as possible, but our vision is limited to the cracks and spaces between the poles: “You must first recognize the existence of such barriers, you must see them or you will not even realize that you are not free, simply because you will not see beyond the fences; they will represent the boundaries of your experience” .
This quotation illustrates the role psychology plays in the spiritual journey. Roberts advises us to first recognize the ego concepts that are floating around in our minds. Those assumptions you make about your self, about other people, and about the world around you. If you do not recognize these assumptions and the impact they have on your relationship with life, you will not be aware of the fact that you are not free.
You are free to experience the adventures that life is offering you only as far as your personal "fences", your ego concepts, allow you. As long as you do not recognize the fences and their influence you would not be able to realize how limited your experience is. Although your ability to experience life “as it is” could be unlimited, your interpretation of the experience stands in the way, and restricts this original potential. Remember that these assumptions, your personal "fences", are all mental concepts, that is, part of your own psychological experience. In the course of the psychological journey you will discover your mind and its assumptions. This journey is essential to the spiritual transcendence that enables you to pull down the "fences" and experience life as it is. Transcendence, in this context, means bypassing mind processes, and relating to life directly, free of assumptions. To achieve transcendence it would be necessary to undergo the psychological process by which you get intimately acquainted with your mind’s patterns.
I have heard students say that their life has lost its sense of adventure, the feeling that anything is possible. This could be the result of accumulated ego concepts. With time, the list of assumptions grows longer, curbing our experiences. The potentials of life disappear and experiences that had the sense of an adventure (as all potentials were incorporated within them) now seem to be dull and grey. Why this change? The experience that had been so exciting a few years earlier has not changed; it is your own perspective, the accumulation of ego concepts that had such a detrimental effect on your sense of vitality and adventure. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this process is to take a look at children. For a child, every stimulus is a celebration; every moment is an invitation for an adventure. Children do not have as many expectations, fears, desires and assumptions as adults, and are therefore able to simply enjoy the moment. Children sense intuitively that there are no bounds to their experiences, and they celebrate this freedom. You may recall that unrestrained sense of liberty, and long to recapture it. In many ways, regaining that child-like attitude is the essence of the spiritual journey. I don't suggest that you become irresponsible as most young children are, but that you revive that sense of awe and joy that you have lost over the years. This child-like experience has been stifled by ego concepts. Transcending these assumptions and ideas could take us back to that original, free space.
Written by Dr. Itai Ivtan
Dr. Itai Ivtzan is a positive psychologist and a senior lecturer at the University of East London. His work is focusing on Positive Psychology, Mindfulness, and Spirituality. You can find his workshops, books, and scientific work on his website: http://www.awarenessisfreedom.com/