The Ego is Benign

One of the things I help my clients sort out is what is the neutral personality of the self and what is the ego (personal thought system). They are confused because the ego is the thought system in their mind that tells them that the self is their reality and that they need to measure themselves by the self. So it’s hard for them to see that the self – the body and personality – is neutral and that it is the ego that is not neutral.

For example, clients will say something like, “I know it’s ego but…”

“…I like mountain biking…”
“…I want to study medicine…”
“…I enjoy horror stories…”
“…I prefer to be alone…”

First, you can see by the “but” that what they mean is, “I want this even though I know it’s bad.” They judge the ego as “bad” so what they see as expressions of ego are therefore “bad”. But actually the ego is not wrong or bad. It is nothing. Second, all of those traits that come after the “but” are just neutral expressions of a neutral personality. They have no meaning in themselves. They are not expressions of ego, which is a judgmental, evaluative thought system of lack, guilt and fear. It is the ego that has determined, after you start reading A Course in Miracles, that the ego is bad. And it is the ego that judges neutral personality traits as bad.

I used to write about the ego attacking me to hold my attention but I have come to see that the ego is actually benign because it is nothing. It cannot change Truth so the ego has no real effects and I can see that now. When I listened to the ego I projected my belief in guilt, which I learned from it, onto it. I really believed I was guilty, but saw the guilt in the ego, just as I often saw guilt in others. But the ego does not attack. When your attention goes elsewhere it will do what it has to do to hold your attention once you turn its way again. It will pursue the thoughts, usually negative, in your mind that it knows work to hold your attention. But if you don’t believe in it, this will not work. Just as with others, you are only affected by what the ego says about you if you believe what it says about you.

The ego is really just the thought system of the human animal. And it functions like an animal, doing what it has to do to “survive”. In its case, “survival” means seeming to exist for you. Your belief in it is its sustenance. And when you withdraw your attention it seems to “attack” to get you to feed it again. But you won’t experience its attention-sustaining measures as an attack when you see that it is nothing.

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will said…
I am assuming when you say in the last line "when you see that it is nothing" is a shift that only the Holy Spirit can provide. If we read this blog intellectually and then begin to tell others, thinking 'I' have made this shift by understanding what I read, it only reinforces the ego?
ACIM Mentor said…
Yes, Will, it's an awareness that comes from the Holy Spirit. It's something that you really see and feel.
Unknown said…
So how do we let the Holy Spirit operate? How do we hear the Holy Spirit ? All I hear in my head are the promptings for the things I need to do to survive, like I have to get to work this morning, or i have to take care of this or that or it will incur a fine or some extra cost, or I love to play the piano so i am going to take some lessons to take my plying to a higher level, or I like this cause so I am going to volunteer a bit of my time to it etc...etc...Are these from me,the ego, or the Holy Spirit? How do I allow the Holy Spirit ?
ACIM Mentor said…
Those are all from you, Lionel. Just do what you want to do and bring the Holy Spirit with you. As you go about doing these things turn inward several times a day and acknowledge the Presence of the Holy Spirit within you. If you have a practical decision to make or an obstacle to peace, look at them with the Holy Spirit in your awareness. This is how you use those things to grow your awareness of Truth. Everything then has one purpose, no matter what it is.
hannah said…
liz, id like to ask about selfishness and unselfishness in the light of this blog.

while i can see both these perceptions are flip sides of one story about selves as real, i really cant seem to find a restful place with the ideas when it comes to the decisions i make in life. practical decisions dont seem to get me, but anything else and wham im selfish.. which i AM! ;) i see victims and perpetrators left right and centre.

so it seems that the ego is inherently selfish, as a story about the self as real and self centred. day to day, it feels like this selfs desires mean something valuable, so that i cant (in my current head space) be at peace no matter what choices im making, altruistic or self centred. 'one or the other' seems like a very true statement.

lol, so my sentence would be.. "i know i want this even though it affects others in ways they wont like, but.." so HOW do i look on this in myself with holy spirit? what would holy spirit remind me of?? does the self eventually give up all attachment to its own desires?
hannah said…
what i have been doing, is reminding myself of what i read recently in RGFIP:

"For obvious reasons the two greatest sins that you can commit from the personal thought system’s point of view are to question your guilt and to question its god. But these are what you must do if you want to release guilt and be at peace."

what it feels like is, i can rest in the zone of.. peace that is 100% totally unaffectable, complete and unwavering and loving. (i experienced it completely once and when i described the experience to you, liz, you told me that i had experienced knowing what god is.. and that beautiful, quiet, peaceful, all-encompassing experience is what i turn to in memory with the knowledge that it reflected truth, and do my best to let it flow into the now) but when i come to make a choice again in the world, it comes back down to choose for me or choose for choose for another.. feel deprived or upset someone elses peace.
Unknown said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said…
Thank you. This sparked an understanding, another crack has formed. There was an undercurrent of "something not right" re: the ego. Labeling it as bad only reinforced more judgement and guilt--and I'm like: isn't it the point to undo that in my mind w/ the Course? It helps to look at it as nothing and to simply stop believing in it. As you said: it can't change Truth. Pretty much a shadow puppet without substance.
jerryo said…
Takes some practice to get over or past something within using
everything it comes into contact with to reassure a being
that they are no good.
The mind and its tricks seem to never run out

ACIM Mentor said…
Hannah, the ego IS selfish. But I think some of your interpretations may be off. You cannot hurt another. If they feel hurt by a choice you make it is their choice to experience it as an attack. You are taking too much responsibility for others. Co-dependency is the ego's guilt-based filter for relationships.

Remember, the goal is not to perfect the ego or to make it Truth-like. It's not going to change. It is inherently selfish. But you are perfect in Truth so you do not need to perfect the ego. The goal is to let it go in the recognition that only the Truth in you is true.
Unknown said…
Liz, I remember reading in the Course that the ego is nothing, does not really exist. But I also remember it saying that the ego wants to kill me. Here is one of the passages. So it does not sound so neutral or practical, but more like it really has intention to harm.

T-12.VII.13. Remember, then, that whenever you look without and react unfavorably to what you see, you have judged yourself unworthy and have condemned yourself to death. (2) The death penalty is the ego's ultimate goal, for it fully believes that you are a criminal, as deserving of death as God knows you are deserving of life. (3) The death penalty never leaves the ego's mind, for that is what it always reserves for you in the end. (4) Wanting to kill you as the final expression of its feeling for you, it lets you live but to await death. (5) It will torment you while you live, but its hatred is not satisfied until you die. (6) For your destruction is the one end toward which it works, and the only end with which it will be satisfied.
ACIM Mentor said…
Richard, when I say the ego is benign and nothing I am speaking from the Awareness of Truth (Holy Spirit). It IS nothing and it cannot actually kill Truth. It has no real effects. Its own intentions do not change that.

So if you believe in it, then you experience it as harmful. But when you realize it is nothing it has no effect on you.

Unknown said…
Yes, I see. However, I am not realizing it is nothing or perhaps should say that by thinking that it is nothing, or saying it to myself, does not seem to have any effect. Obviously there must be a realization but the conscious attempt to have that realization happen does not work, at least so far.
ACIM Mentor said…
No, Richard, it's not enough to say it. As your awareness of Truth grows, and you undo your belief in guilt, the awareness of the nothingness of the ego will come, too.
will said…
How to learn is deeply ingrained in us by our school years. For instance, the multiplication tables. Once you memorize them you’re pretty much ready to use them. It’s like that with most school subjects, memorizing leads to getting a good grade. Learning like this is a part of who we are as people.

The Course is different. It’s like those 1000 piece box puzzles you get at the store. You learn something and it becomes a piece to put in the pile with the other pieces. You don’t put the puzzle together, the Holy Spirit does. When you have enough pieces that fit together you get a miracle. Voila! Wa-Lah! I understand!
hannah said…
Liz, i feel such relief when you speak about the actual goal of letting go the ego as real rather than trying to change it. and i see that allowing Truth to become real in my awareness, by spending time with that focus, is the only way for this to come into my awareness and stay there.

and i can see what youre saying about codependency and taking responsibility for what is being chosen in a another seemingly individual mind. yet the following is coming up as an obstacle to staying in that awareness: my desires are outside of the social moral codes of others at the moment.

you said recently that once the belief in absolute or intrinsic guilt is released, following the social moral codes of your current society is easy (or thats my understanding of what you said), so i obviously still hold a belief in intrinsic guilt, which im currently constantly using to remind myself that only the truth is true. but alongside this practise, i feel like im repressing something in me if i respect those rules of society, and thats what is getting me tangled. i either feel selfish or repressed, victimiser of victim. its a relief to know that its all just.. nothing playing games with nothing, but practically i dont know how to be at peace with my current desires being either fulfilled or unfulfilled!
hannah said…
that should read victimiser OR victim
Unknown said…
This " happy dream", benign ego,body,world, past and future,nothingness. " Today belongs to Love, let me not fear ",W 274.Don't be afraid of it(ego)." The Stillness of God's Peace is mine ".
will said…
Hannah it's just my opinion but some things need to be addressed without bringing the Course into it. The Course can make some things so incredibly complicated and unmanageable that you can't seem to get untangled. I ran into this same thing in 12 Step.
ACIM Mentor said…
Hannah, I also point out in my book, "Releasing Guilt for Inner Peace", that social-morality is relative and changes with the times. Perhaps what you are seeing as social-morality is something to be questioned. Do you yourself think the moral issue here is valid or is it based on false ideas? If you feel it is valid and you understand why it is important then to violate it will violate your own conscience. So you will hurt your own sense of integrity if you act on your desires.
will said…
and Hannah, I wasn't referring to your posts, just the craziness that can go on inside a persons head. In the first few years of recovery a lot of the time it felt like a hurricane inside my head.
will said…
For me this is a really tough blog. I have been looking at it off and on this past week and still don't have a handle on it.
ACIM Mentor said…
You can email me your questions, Will. Or set up a telephone appointment.
will said…
I appreciate that Liz. I kind of want to wrestle with it a while longer. To try and understand it I have to take it sentence by sentence. If I get frustrated I'll be in touch!
Desert Dreams said…

I was taken aback when I read your words Liz, 'The ego doesn't attack' but became determined to figure out what you meant. You wrote that the ego, ‘is a judgmental, evaluative thought system of lack, guilt and fear.

I’m beginning to see what you meant and what the Course meant in Lesson 2, when it said, “I have given everything I see, all the meaning that it has for me”.

If we entertain the ego’s thought system, we will utimately use attack against ourselves or others but it is OUR decision to do so, based on listening and believing these ‘thoughts’ which color our reality and keep us from truly seeing Reality (our Oneness with our brother.)

This seems to apply to what Richard quoted from the Course on the ego’s wish for our death. If I ascribe to the thought system of duality, of me vs other, and use judgment of that ‘other’ to condemn and attack (them and ultimately my self), and ascribe wholeheartedly to the false belief of separation, then I DO own the reality of death for me… I own what I ‘believe’ to be inevitabiity of a death of the my self as opposed to the eternal Truth of our Divine Eternal Self.

T-12.VII.13. Remember, then, that whenever you look without and react unfavorably to what you see, you have judged yourself unworthy and have condemned yourself to death.

You have condemned yourself to the ‘belief’ that you are separate from others, that judgment of guilt and shame is possible, for yourself and others, and that you are finite and can die, which denies your unity (your joint Selfhood) with Divine Loving Awareness (aka God) …which is eternal.

Therefore, what I believe becomes real for me. Death becomes real in my thought system. But the ego didn’t actually do the attack or desire anything. It’s just a ‘belief’ in unReality and that belief accomplishes the task.

(2) The death penalty is the ego's ultimate goal, for it fully believes that you are a criminal, as deserving of death as God knows you are deserving of life. (3) The death penalty never leaves the ego's mind, for that is what it always reserves for you in the end. (4) Wanting to kill you as the final expression of its feeling for you, it lets you live but to await death. (5) It will torment you while you live, but its hatred is not satisfied until you die. (6) For your destruction is the one end toward which it works, and the only end with which it will be satisfied.

Sometimes the Course personifies in order to teach. I am prone to read and it try to fit these precepts into my existing reality. It doesn’t go well LOL

Maybe I could just interject ‘thought system’ for the word ‘ego’.

All I can say is thank God that my True Self is One with the Divine and remains undisturbed by ‘thought sytems’ which create this illusion.

At least that’s what I’m bankin’ on!! ;-)

ACIM Mentor said…
It would've been more succinct, and perhaps less confusing to readers, if I had just said: "From the ego's point of view it IS attacking you. But you won't experience an attack when you no longer believe what it says."
hannah said…
LIz, i think youre spot on regarding my choices hurting my own sense of integrity. it is not what i have done, or would like to do, that i find disturbing, but only that it would involve keeping some things secret from someone who would not like the choices.

i have been torn by being able to see and feel potential for healing and/or growth in areas of self worth no matter what choice i made. but only one choice does not involve going behind someones back. that is what still makes me feel guilty.

and thanks for yout comments will, as always xx
hannah said…
i have actually felt a bit frightened as the feelings of guilt fell away from areas of my mind, and became focused on only one aspect.
Unknown said…
Hi everuONE,

Personally, I think the Course defines 'the ego' as the idea of BEING A SEPARATE PERSON AT ALL, not what that person does or thinks...good or bad, selfish or unselfish... I recommend reading workbook part two, 12. What is the ego ? - (relates to the fact stated by the Course that (in Truth) you are not a BODY - which then relates to 14. What am I ? ). Blessings and peace to everyone !
hannah said…
you know what i discovered in the end? its not surprising really.. but this was a lesson in forgiveness, in understanding, in value and in strength. shifting identity. im very grateful for the experience, and im also grateful to all who helped me here to move through the confusion and to become more honest! i got better at seeing my own smokescreens. thank you x

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