The worst thing that ever happened to me was a few years ago when my marriage hit a major crisis and everything on which my life depended seemed to be crumbling to dust before my eyes. My whole world was turned upside down in a single day and I thought I would lose everything, wife, kids, house, and my business. Things I had taken for granted for so long, that I’d thought of as cast-iron certainties, were suddenly proving to be as delicate as soap bubbles.
It was a wake-up call, and a massive jolt to my ego. ‘Fragile?’ It lay in pieces at my feet.
But what is the ego? You can’t see it. You can’t touch it. How could something invisible hurt so much? If I think back to that dreadful time now – and it’s not something I make a habit of – it was like entering a very dark tunnel, like I’d climbed aboard some evil, twisted ghost train ride made up of all my worst fears. Chief among those fears was that I had failed, a very familiar theme. Forty years of insecurity and self-doubt engulfed me. For a while I was drowning, swept along by a tsunami of negativity, desperately trying to find any piece of passing driftwood to cling to. There seemed to be no escape from the feelings of inadequacy. Here was proof, finally, that those predictions that had been made about me all those years ago – that I would never amount to anything – had been absolutely correct.
It’s easy to forget that the whole psychology movement founded by Sigmund Freud, (or ‘Sick Man Fraud’ as Richard Bandler likes to refer to him), is only just over a century old, a blink of an eye in the history of our species. Before that time the concept of an ego, along with the word itself, did not exist. At a stroke Freud ushered in a new paradigm, what you might call the cult of personality, which continues to shape our modern world. According to this theory we humans are reduced to a bundle of neuroses learned at our mother’s knee which, (unless we’re in receipt of the proper long drawn-out and very expensive treatment), we are helplessly doomed to act upon our entire lives. Previously held ideas about our common humanity, our shared ‘soul’, were suddenly irrelevant in the thrusting new Edwardian age of machines and expansion, relegated to the realms of philosophy or religion, where they have remained ever since.
Let me state at this point that I am not religious. I do not believe in a God who created the world. What I believe – what I know – is that we share a common humanity, a common soul, even if the term I use for it is Mind. It seems to me completely obvious that we all sprang from the same seed, that each one of us is born with the three ‘gifts’ of Mind, Consciousness and Thought. As Sydney Banks made very clear when he first directed us towards these fundamental principles in the nineteen seventies, it’s how we use these gifts that define us, now and in the future. We do not have to be in bondage to events that happened in our past. Freud was wrong, and his legacy was ultimately to perpetuate human suffering, not bring it to an end.
Seen in this light, the very idea of an ego is revealed to be an illusion, something that the mystics have known about in every culture, on every continent, since humans first walked upright. It may not be fashionable to acknowledge it in the modern world. Perhaps it comes across as a little New Age, too corny by half. But it is true nevertheless. There is nothing to separate you and me. Let me quote Sydney Banks’ own words, taken from his book ‘The Enlightened Gardener’:
“Which is most likely to be correct? On the one hand we have an extraordinary enlightened man, Buddha, saying ego is a delusion. On the other hand we have a physician and scholar, Dr. Freud, saying that ego is a reality. Which one is correct?”
I was lucky. I survived the near break-up of my marriage, and my study of the three principles was enormously helpful in bringing that about, (though that’s a story for another day).
So tell me: how fragile is your ego?