What is ego, and can we identify it in ourselves?
We know we have a body, and if we are physically attacked, we will defend ourselves. We also think we know who we are psychologically, so we will also defend that. If anything threatens our sense of self, we react. If something is taken from us, we react. If we experience very difficult life events the resulting trauma and emotional pain can have an effect on the body too, and often results in physical symptoms and illness. But our body and our psychological self is ever-changing, being added to and subtracted from. How do we know this? We have to be conscious to know it. Consciousness is the sub-strata to our existence. Consciousness is needed for everything else to be there in the first place. Through consciousness we gain a sense of self, individuality - an ego - then this changes and grows, becoming gradually more entrenched in what it believes.
The ego is essential for survival, but in our modern life in an affluent society, most of us are fortunate not to only be forced to focus on food and shelter. We acquire all kinds of objects, ideas, beliefs and external attachments. Our ego sees these as possessions, parts of who it is. It becomes obsessed by acquiring and keeping and defending. It often feels important and sure that it is right. All kinds of behaviour can result. An ego that has gone beyond just its essential functioning can attach itself to extreme and bazaar beliefs, some of these resulting in incredibly selfish or hurtful thoughts and actions, anger, cruelty and wickedness. An ego can also very easily become isolated in itself and cut off from others because it sees everything and everyone as different and a threat to its survival.
We can easily see the ego in others, but can we see it in ourselves? Can we be the witness to our ego and the thoughts that arise from it?