Is the False Self the Same as Ego?
By Cathy Eck
False Self or Ego?
People often ask me if the false self is the same as the ego. Why don’t I use that very popular word? Let me tell you why. It all comes down to the fact that people are far too quick to believe what someone says, especially if that person has declared themselves to be a theologian, an awakened guru, or a master. We often don’t know what the words they use really mean. Sometimes they are purposefully vague; but more often, they just assume their meaning is obvious. We believe them because of their status or authority, and we unconsciously get their words in our mind without even knowing what we are trying to get or eliminate. This causes great confusion. It generates the thinking and feeling that so many have these days of “I don’t know what I want.”
My perfectionistic nature has been helpful in the sort of writing that I do. I’m constantly making fine distinctions in words to allow people to see behind the illusion. Many words have been overused in a way that make them incredibly confusing. If I use those words, I have to define them carefully each time I use them. An example is the way that I constantly clarify if I’m talking about the false God or the Creator God. Most writers just roll those two characters up into one neat little ball. This is why discrimination and good communication are so damn hard.
Everyone these days wants to get rid of their ego. But I don’t think anyone really knows what they are trying to get rid. They just trust the gurus and spiritual teachers and hope that if they do the practices, they will one day wake up ego free. People have a notion of what ego free looks like mostly based on their observation of gurus. They want to be a guru. This makes it weird for someone like me who thinks that being a guru would be a better class of slavery. The thought of wearing an orange robe or denying my body as valuable or being treated as special all the time nauseates me. It’s better than being a janitor (since I also find cleaning bathrooms a bit nauseating) but not much. So if getting rid of the ego means denying the joys and spontaneity of life, it is clearly not something I want. If spirituality means boredom, why would I want to be spiritual? You see something is off in the way we view these concepts. And that is why everyone is so confused. Who do I follow? Which beliefs do I keep and which do I let go?
I know that discrimination leads to freedom on any subject because I’ve experienced it in myself and others thousands of times: and if we keep letting go, one day we can all be free of our false selves. But we will still have a false self. It will now be a creative tool, not a dominant authoritative voice within us. We’ll use our false self to store short-term beliefs necessary for creating whatever we want to create. We’ll use our false self for remembering things like names, where we live, or where we’re going. But at that point, we’ll also know how to make our false self virgin again. We’ll be able to let go of anything once we no longer need it.
In short, we’re not trying to get rid of the false self forever in the same way that one removes their appendix. We’re simply trying to clean the false self of unwanted debris. Then we will use it as it was designed to be used.
In all of my years of study on this topic, I’ve not found a way to let go of the false self all at once. And that makes sense. But that is the goal of eliminating the ego. We approach the false-self cleanup as a project to let go of the beliefs that we no longer use and are taking up space on our hard drive. We take control of our OWN false self. The ego is treated like we’re trying to do a lobotomy. We completely remove it, and then we are enlightened. That makes no sense because enlightenment is about seeing beyond the illusion, and you can do that with a false self.
Anytime we move into our True Self, we see clearly the facade of the illusion. In fact, that moment when we slip beyond the false self and into the True Self is when the journey to freedom begins. It creates the desire to live from that perspective all the time. It’s when we recognize that we’ve been hoarding beliefs and conned into believing what we were told.
What Does Ego Mean?
I spend a lot of time looking up words in the dictionary to find out what they really mean and where the words came from. I’ve learned a lot that way. Often, the history of a word explains the beliefs that we associate with it. According to dictionary.com, the word ego is pretty hard to peg down:
e·go [ee-goh, eg-oh]
noun, plural e·gos.
1. the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.
2. Psychoanalysis: the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment.
3. egotism; conceit; self-importance: Her ego becomes more unbearable each day.
4. self-esteem or self-image; feelings: Your criticism wounded his ego.
5. ( often initial capital letter ) Philosophy .
Definition one sounds a lot like the True Self. But when people are not distinct, we don’t know for sure. Thinking, feeling, and willing happen in the false self but can occur based on the direction of the True Self or the false self. We will ourselves to let go (True Self direction) or we can will ourselves to kill someone (false self direction).
Definition two makes no sense unless you understand Freud; so here is a summary of his id, ego, superego construct from wikipedia. “According to this model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the super-ego plays the critical and moralizing role; and the ego is the organized, realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego. The super-ego can stop you from doing certain things that your id may want you to do.” This is why people are so damned confused. When people value knowledge over wisdom, they overlook the simple explanations that are always the closest to truth.
In my experience, definition two is all false self. Morals are completely false self. You don’t need them unless you believe that humans are bad by nature. I feel fear around moral people because the shit under the mask is not good.
What Freud calls instincts are not instincts to me; they are learned responses. One of the most interesting things that I’ve discovered with letting go is that my fight-or-flight response has decreased significantly. I suspect it will eventually disappear. That proves it’s a deletable function of the false self. It proves that it’s learned based on beliefs. The initiates confirm this in their stories. For example, the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den was meant to remind us that if we are our True Self (often called innocent), we won’t become food for an animal because we have zero fear of the animal. If we have no fear, why would we have a fight-or-flight response? There are many modern stories of people befriending wolves, bears, and lions. Their trust and love keeps them safe. Sadly, the illusion tries very hard to make us think that we were born with fear and instincts, and therefore we don’t let them go. Our medical and science professionals can’t see beyond the illusion’s blinders either, so they find proof of their own beliefs.
Wikipedia says that the word ego actually comes from Latin or Greek and just means “I.” I doesn’t tell us much in the same way that the term True Self doesn’t tell us much about a person. We can’t see the uniqueness until they express themselves. But if we add the word am to it, we learn a lot. (Now don’t get this confused with that New Age “I am” bullshit that tries to make “I am” the words of God. That was our friendly false God speaking!) So you say, “I am wise;” or you say, “I am stupid.” You say, “I am an accountant,” or you could say, “I am nobody.” I am defines us in a false self way. But if you say, “I am a spider,” which is a legitimate sentence with noun and verb, you will be locked up. We know you’re not a spider. So the “I am” statement is a statement of reason and judgment. If you say, “I am wise,” many will judge that. “Oh, s/he is being so arrogant,” they might think. That is how the false self works. However, wisdom is natural for the True Self. This is how we convince people not to be their True Selves, we judge them until they fold. If you want to set yourself up for judgment, just finish “I am” in a truthful way — I am peaceful, joyous, loving, wise, etc.
Now is any of that helpful? Do you know what you are dropping or killing if you annihilate the ego? I sure don’t. In my experience, most gurus are just very good at projecting. They still have incredibly strong false selves. They know what they believe, and it all centers around their religion. They are no different than a devoted priest or preacher. They have strongly associated themselves with the good or positive part of each divided religious thought so that they feel no emotion anymore. This is the most deceptive aspect of the masculine role. A completely psychologically reversed person looks and behaves like a True Self; however, their minds don’t work based on true and false. They work based on good and evil, right and wrong, or win and lose. It’s why we all get tricked so easily by the wolf in sheep’s clothing. One who projects their shadow completely looks exactly like a True Self on the outside. But they don’t feel like a True Self. That’s for sure. We feel their psychological reversal in their judgment of us.
There’s Something About Mary…
Let’s look at a common example. Mary is my friend (kind of), but when I see her I go the other way. She constantly tells me about her problems. But she’s not complaining, she’s just accepting that which has been given to her. Those are her words. Often someone else is to blame, or God was just teaching her a lesson or testing her. She sees herself as floating aimlessly in a world where she has no power or control. If I suggest that she might believe something that is the cause of her problems, she’s quick to assure me that she doesn’t believe that. Oh no! She might even think I’m judging her. There is a certain pride in her victimhood…like she was picked for this crappy role. If I try to help her, I’ll just get stuck in her crap too.
Mary thinks that her job is to endure the tests that she is given or learn the lessons (which she never does because she tells me the same story over and over again) and even smile a bit while she endures. Does Mary have an ego? I guarantee you that Mary doesn’t think she has an ego. She will say that she is religious, and religious people strive to look humble. If you need to look humble, you will keep creating shit to make sure that happens. There are no exceptions to the way creation happens, but we don’t see that until we let beliefs go. Mary doesn’t try to be anything special. She’d never be like those successful people because they aren’t good. They’re egotistical.
Now you might notice that her use of egotistical is exactly the opposite of the way the ancient ones used the false self. The True Self couldn’t help be be exceptional and wise and joyful. The false self was that which veiled that perfection. Mary has that completely reversed. The True Self in her mind is the enemy. It needs to be knocked down to a normal size. My friend used to say that her mother would remind her, “They cut the tall poppy because it messes up the field of poppies,” when she accidentally succeeded at something or just happened to be happy.
Mary can’t stand when someone mentions their own good qualities. God forbid they suddenly become joyful within a 100 yards of her. They would make her jealous, and so they are bad. Mary doesn’t get that her thoughts are creating her emotions. Thus, she is creating her own jealousy. She wants what everyone has, but she won’t stoop so low as to allow herself to have it. That would be egotistical. If you mention that in some oh-so-meek way to try and stop the tsunami that she has sent to flood your beautiful beach, Mary will insist that she isn’t jealous; they flaunt their stuff in her face to provoke her. There is no winning with Mary, and Lord knows some of us have tried and tried. We don’t want to dump her as a friend, but she’s a fucking mess. And the worst part is that she thinks she is holy or spiritual. Why can’t we see her holiness — it’s further proof that we are not holy — in her mind.
Mary always presents her shadow first but not in a way that she owns it. She thinks that’s good. She says things like, “I won’t ever have money,” or “I’ll never be someone special.” And she perceives that as a way of speaking that is pleasing to her false God. She fits into society, blindly follows her religion, and checks her morality compass everyday. She believes that she was born bad, but she has overcome her demons. This is a slick way of projection; the presumption is that you haven’t faired so well as her.
Mary is like a zombie. She sprews the belief that misery is Godly everywhere she goes. She doesn’t really live, but she exists. Now I must confess that I lied in order to tell you that story. Mary is not my friend. If Mary was in my life, she would not be a friend. I’d say she was more like Satan’s spawn. Just joking! But that isn’t Mary’s fault. Mary was programmed to think that way. She has a false self that has sinful or fallen being at the core. In the east, people have life is suffering at their core. Mary has sacrificed her life; and you can’t blame her for wanting you to sacrifice with her. She’s lonely. She’s deprived herself of any fun or joy. We all are like Mary when we separate ourselves from our True Selves.
To anyone who doesn’t hold themselves in that lowly position, Mary is a real downer. When Mary looks at someone who is alive and joyful, Mary judges them. I’ve had relationships with male and female people just like Mary. I got bored listening to them, but that wasn’t what chased me away. What chased me away was the feeling of being judged every time I admitted that my life wasn’t filled with suffering. I often found myself making up a little tidbits of suffering or focusing on the worst parts of my day to avoid their judgment. But I was torn when I did such a stupid thing because I knew my thoughts and words were creating my life. I recognized that I was giving their view of life credibility (believing it) in order to avoid their judgment. Talk about giving my power away! This is how we end up like Mary. It is a slow cook method where we don’t notice that the water is heating up and will eventually come to a boil.
This is where you must remember the biggest trick of the false self: The false self is wired to make others think they are doing to it what it is actually doing to them. We must see this if we are to free ourselves from the Mary’s of the world.
Mary has an agenda that she won’t tell you. She is actually looking for approval. You see along with this dreadful personality is a solid stance in the sewage of good and evil. She believes that if she puts herself down, you will bring her back up. You will declare her good. Since she didn’t say it, she’s not taking the risk of bragging. And if you do this, she will reward you and quit judging you.
If the conversation turns to focus on you, she’ll generally find your weak point. If you just lost your dog, that is what you’ll talk about. And you can be sure, she’ll put two or three scoops of ice cream on your manure. She’ll have those ready-made bullshit lines like: “He’s in a better place (like she fucking knows).” “At least you had this time with him (yes and I wanted more you stupid bitch).” My words are in the () in case you couldn’t tell.
I grew up around Catholics, and they all did this. Guilt and shame are their badge of honor. Most religious people get pretty damn good at it. Then I later got some New Age friends and they put my Catholic friends to shame. In fact some of them made businesses out of doing psychic readings. In my Master’s Degree program, I had to take a class in psychic stuff. It was so clear what they did. They got into my energy field and read my thought forms. They found what I wanted to hear and told it to me. What I wanted to hear was that my problems would go away or someone loved me or I’d get what I desired. They zeroed right in on that. They loaded that ice cream on my manure. I wasn’t impressed. But what was really cool is that after letting go for awhile, I went back to some of them to see what would happen. They couldn’t read me…nothing they said was remotely true anymore. They couldn’t get in my energy field. I didn’t have the typical hooks that let such people in. Likewise, as I let go, the Mary’s of my world all just disappeared.
A shiny moral ego is still an ego. And that is why I use the term false self. It makes it clear. You don’t have to analyze the speech patterns of a person or try to figure out the right words to say in their presence. You simply notice how you feel around them. I can assure you that judgment and approval are two bottom of the triangle states of being. For the average person in the illusion, they feel good when they get approval and bad when they get judged. Thus, other people’s opinions become their false God. The desires of their True Self are temptations to be avoided. And you are evil if you listen to that tempting voice. You see how it works?
False selves aren’t a problem. We’re all learning how to use them for creativity. We’re learning how to take on beliefs, and how to let them go. I’d never judge someone for having a false self. In truth, I can easily be around someone who is talking trash or sharing their bad experience and be just fine if that person is congruent. They are even interesting. They aren’t telling me about their dead dog while smiling. They feel their own emotions. Their emotions are saying to them that what they are speaking isn’t the truth, and they often get it on some level. This person will tire of those emotions and will let go. They’ve dipped into the illusion but they won’t stay there.
Mary is another matter. She is the poster child of ego because she doesn’t know how damaging she is to herself and others. She doesn’t see beyond the illusion at all. First of all, she is retaining false beliefs in her mind as absolute truth, and second she wants you to validate them and believe them along with her. Life with Mary cannot be anything other than lose-lose. And the sickest people relabel lose-lose into win-win. Mary wants you to absolve her of her wounds after you’ve taken them on as true. She got what she wanted — sympathy, company, or approval. Of course, she doesn’t return the favor; she doesn’t give you approval except to tell you how wonderful it has been to chat with you. And you wonder how far it is to the nearest bridge.
There are a few core beliefs at work that allow Mary to be Mary. We all have a Mary in our life who is a supreme egoist but believes they have no ego. You can find your own beliefs, which are the ones that count, by bringing your Mary up into your mind. Play out a scenario from the past very slowly. Play the scene line-by-line and notice which lines don’t feel good — like probably all of them. Notice your judgments and fears around Mary, and also let those go. You will probably find some core beliefs that look something like these.
1) There is something wrong with being extraordinary. In most religions, ordinary is good. If something good happens to you, God gave it to you so you don’t deserve to say it. And just in case you thought it was a reward for being good, you’re wrong. He was just being nice. Or the words that used to drive me insane, “I was lucky.” Or they think they gave up that thing so you could be happy, so don’t dare make them jealous by talking about it. If you were good, you’d give it to them or give it away to charity or something like that.
We accept this kind of Mary thinking as normal. To be what we label normal, which is pretty dismal, we have to cover our True Self with a thick coating of gloom. It’s a lot of work. Wearing that mask takes a good memory because we must keep those superficial words around for whenever we need them. We have to deny creative ideas, and suffer a lot as we pretend we don’t have answers to our problems. We have to pretend to be sad or to suffer to get approval.
When you get to the point where you see yourself putting on the puppy eyes to look sad so you don’t get judged, you will crack up laughing. This is when they try to say we’re crazy. How can we laugh at something so sad. We’re not in denial, although they will say we are. We just got tired of suffering. We’re tired of needing advisors and caretakers to wait on us while we suffer. We sick of working harder to pay for all of the effects of not being our True Selves. Blah, blah, blah….I could go on and on but I’m falling asleep writing about it.
2) Morality was made up to compensate for the ideas that we are sinners, who came to earth to suffer. We don’t need morality if we drop the false self. We can’t even think of harming another. Which takes more work… to connive, trick, steel, kill, lie, or to just be your Self?
3) We need to put ourself down so that people will like us. In the world of the false self, this is labeled being humble. Neither humility or its opposite, pride, are true. They’re just opposites at the bottom of the triangle. The True Self just says what is so. It is congruent. To get back to this state, we first must get real. We must feel our own emotions. We must accept that our emotions relate to our beliefs or those we hear about ourself, others, or the world. And we must clean out our OWN minds. As we do, we just can’t help but be authentic. We stop trying to say what others will approve of because the approval of our True Self is far more important.
Those with big egos of the Mary sort will pretend to be fragile. They might say we are hurting them. But that is just their own emotions returning to them. They created them so it is right that they get to keep them. It can sound harsh, but when people have to suffer the emotional pain of their own distorted thinking, they will want your help in letting go. The world will return to Heaven when we get rid of accepting projections from others because we believe that we have to honor their distorted and harmful view of reality.
Old Humpty Dumpty falls of his fricken wall. And remember all the kings horses and all the kings men (the rich elite with all the knowledge and money) can’t put that false self back together again. Fragile egos break and when they do, a True Self just might hatch.