In psychology, the ego plays a significant role in our psyche. It builds the foundation of our self-concept and is a crucial part of our cognitive function. However, the ego is seen as an obstruction in the spiritual path. A monster that can hinder you from achieving spiritual enlightenment.
That’s why there’s ego death. The concept of losing oneself. It’s like a form of death in which you let go of your sense of self and identity.
This article will guide you on what ego death means, how it happens, its stages, and how to achieve it.
The Ego (The Mediator)
Before learning about ego death, it’s important to first understand the ego.
Sigmund Freud expounds that the ego is the part of the id that the external world’s direct influence has shaped. The ego influences how you project yourself to others and how you think about yourself.
On the other hand, psychotherapist Annette Nuñez, during her interview with Mind Body Green, explained that the ego is your sense of self you developed at a young age. It is the only part of your conscious personality.
Furthermore, Dr. Saul MacLeod shared that the ego functions according to the principles of reality. The ego functions with reason, while your id is unreasonable and chaotic.
The ego acts as a mediator between the external world and the unrealistic id, preventing you from making actions that can harm yourself and others.
It functions as a guardian of our consciousness by allowing us to be aware of only those thoughts that respect our self-image.
Psychologists say that it is important for some thoughts to be eliminated because they are irrelevant or useless. By this reasoning, the ego acts as a sieve that prevents damaging thoughts from entering our mind since they could harm our self-image, self-esteem, or self-identity.
However, the ego might give rise to cognitive bias or a dualistic lens through which we understand life.
A dualistic lens corresponds to a self-constructed reality that divides our understanding of all aspects of life into good or bad, positive or negative.
What is Ego Death?
Because of our cognitive bias or duality, the ego can establish boundaries that might isolate us. Most of the time, the ego hinders a person from achieving their highest potential— feeding their thoughts with fear and the illusion of their need for survival.
According to Sarah Regan, people choose the dissolution of their ego to break free from the restraints it has put them on.
Ego death makes you realize that you are not wholly the things you identify with. And that the sense of self your ego had created was all just fabricated.
Slowly, the wall that separates you from the universe and the world crumbles down. The death of your ego leaves you at peace and connected to your true self and the other existences.
Ego death can lead to more empathy and honesty by showing you an unbiased reality. It also allows you to feel connected with other people, which could lead to personality shifts and even self-enlightenment.
The Origins of Ego Death
The concept of ego death can be terrifying, but you’ll be surprised how many people strive to attain the deaths of their egos.
Many people resort to recreational psychedelics for varying reasons, one of which is to abolish their egos.
Leary described in his book how ego death could occur while using lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).
He stated that the experience of ego death might be enlightening or traumatizing, depending on how prepared you are during the process.
Ten years later, acclaimed psychologist Stanis Grof suggested that ego death be the primary aim of psychedelic therapy.
How Does Ego Death Occur?
We can experience ego death differently. Dr. Annette Nuñez notes that there are common triggers or reasons for ego death. These include meditations, psychedelics, sound bathing, and out-of-the-body experiences (OBEs).
Sarah Regan also added that ego death could occur spontaneously for some, similar to the initial moment of spiritual enlightenment, where you suddenly realize that your spirit is separate from your ego.
The Stages of Ego Death
According to Shannon Kaiser, spiritual author of Return To You, The symptoms of ego death include loss of subjectivity, excitement or joy, more connection with one’s surroundings, and greater control over mind and emotions.
You can go through seven stages of ego death, which are explained below.
1. You’ll experience a spiritual awakening.
The first step takes place upon waking up. Instead of delving into your daily routines and desires, you ask yourself, Who am I? What is my purpose here?
This awakening happens when you realize the presence of a void inside that cannot be filled. It is often accompanied by the feeling of being lost or in a depressed state.
You will feel that your ego no longer has power over you.
2. You’ll undergo the dark night of the soul.
You are dismal and know that something meaningful needs to happen to you even though you do not know what it is. This phase is when you isolate yourself from others.
3. You’ll enter a phase of exploration.
Despair leads you to look for things that make your life more meaningful and fill the void within you.
You might indulge in activities involving art, astrology, music, energy healing, and other practices which connect the mind, body, and soul.
You might also reach out and find methods beyond spiritual ones to comprehend your feelings.
4. You’ll get a view of true enlightenment.
Upon completing the third phase, you’ll experience your first glimpse of enlightenment, called Satori.
You’ll come across your true nature during this exploration and may become afraid upon such an encounter. Your fear might prohibit you from exploring this phase further or discovering more about yourself.
5. Your soul will grow.
During this phase, your soul grows over a long time. This phase can take months or even years to accomplish.
When your soul begins to mature, you start comprehending which spiritual practices function well for you and which do not.
You may develop spiritual beliefs that will help you cognitively and emotionally. As your soul grows, you adopt those practices which improve your focus, discipline, patience, and ability to think objectively.
6. You let go of your ego.
In the sixth phase, you slowly surrender yourself. Upon becoming familiar with your ego and soul, you identify and surrender all that your ego created and all aspects not included in your true nature. You’ll achieve spiritual enlightenment by surrendering practices and fears that hold or limit you and do not allow your soul to grow.
7. You’ll develop deep self-awareness.
When you reach the last phase, you have grown into a new version of yourself that is not hindered by your ego.
You look back on where you started and realize that your ego was showing you illusions. Armed with your true self, you know that your ego must not define who you are. And you ultimately realize that you are greater than your ego.
How Is Ego Death Achieved?
Humans have experienced signs of ego death in different forms throughout centuries. Sufi Muslims pursued religious devotion by entering a state of consciousness called Fana. And Buddhist monks similarly sought spiritual enlightenment.
First, note that you must seriously take ego death as it’s not a casual procedure. Before anything else, it’s important to have a clear goal on why you want to achieve ego death, why you want to let go of your ego, and your plans to achieve it.
One can achieve ego death through childbirth, meditation, near-death experiences, and psychedelic drugs like LSD, DMT, or psilocybin.
Of all these methods, psychedelics are the quickest way to induce symptoms of ego death. However, it’s crucial to note that psychedelics are associated with serious health risks and should be used under supervision and with caution.
Why Do People Strive for Ego Death With Psychedelics?
The process can be challenging, but it promises the key to unlocking a new vision of yourself and discovering what it feels like to reach your pure state of well-being.
However, like all psychedelic therapy work, it depends on the individual if they will actively integrate the process into their life or accept it openly. Ego death is just the first step, as rebirth is the real adventure.
Psychedelics can be alarming if you are afraid to let go of your ego. It could also be frightening if you are not prepared to accept the consequences of ego dissolution or if you want to fight the process.
Any attempt to fight ego dissolution may cause an individual to think they are dying or losing control of their mind and body.
It is recommended that when a person is experiencing signs of ego death, they must surrender to the experience and be immersed in unity and connection. It can improve overall well-being and outlook toward life.
The Pros and Cons of Ego Death
While ego death can be a mesmerizing experience, it can be burdensome for many. It’s important to take note of the benefits and risks associated with ego death before diving into the experience.
- You could feel extremely positive about yourself and your surroundings.
- Ego death can help you see who you truly are. It helps you see what you do not appreciate and think rationally about becoming a better version of yourself.
- You might experience emotions you usually do not have due to your ego. With the dissolution of your ego, you will get in touch with your true self.
- Your view of the world changes with ego death. Your insecurities, fears, and desires will no longer cloud your judgments and decisions.
- People go through feelings they have not encountered since childhood. Ego death will purify your mind and free it from preconceived notions or judgment.
- People can see who they truly are and cannot find protection through their ego. This feeling can make some uncomfortable and reluctant.
- People experience emotions and feelings they have not felt in a long time or have been hiding from themselves.
- No insecurities or hidden desires are left upon attaining ego death. This might be frightening to some people.
- Symptoms of ego death include changes within a person’s thought patterns that could make them feel disappointed in who they were in the past.
- It can trigger health risks, especially if using psychedelics to induce ego death.
Common side effects of psychedelics include paranoia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and increased anxiety. Some of these side effects can stay long after the experience is over.
Wrapping It Up
The ego dictates how we act, think, and present ourselves to the real world. It’s an important filter that prevents us from acting purely according to our instincts.
The ego is crucial in forming social order; however, as important as it is, it can become a monster that hinders a person from achieving their highest potential.
People who are driven by fear prevent themselves from walking the spiritual path. They cannot surrender themselves to life, which is the most important action in leading a spiritual life.
For this reason, people resort to the dissolution of their egos to regain control over themselves and return to their purest essence. Ego death allows people to get rid of their objective perspective of reality and form stronger connections with the universe.
You must have a clear goal, reason, and plans to achieve ego death. And ensure that you have a great will before undergoing the process. Most importantly, be sure to seek guidance from experts to prevent the worst from happening.
Ego death should be a path to spiritual enlightenment, not to your destruction.
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