When we use the word ego in modern everyday language, we often mean the greedy, competing and selfish part of our mind. “He’s very egotistical. It’s his ego who controls him. It’s your ego who fabricates those explanations.”
The original Latin meaning of the word ego, however, was I. The word I was originally neutral. There was no valuation in it. “I am hungry. I am at home. I will meet you later.”
Freud used the word ego to denote the conscious executive part of our mind.
“To hell with wife and whining kids. I need to have some fun, not just endless harping and complaining. I shall go to the cabin over the weekend, with Monica. It’ll work out somehow with the money.” This is the ego’s voice.
“No, I’m not going to the cabin with Monica, even though she’s wonderful. I shall not cheat on my wife now when she’s going through all these things. I shall stay at home and play with the kids.” This is also the ego’s voice, as Freud used the word. Ego and selfishness was not the same thing to him.
Some people believe that ego is something bad which we have to get rid of, or that it will fall away, somehow, when we’re waking up. Others believe that a big strong ego is something good and that it’s important to strengthen it. They believe that a competitive ego is good in the struggle for a position in the hierarchy. In our modern societies many people are totally possessed by ego. In the old days, in the agricultural societies kids learned early that they could not have things their way.
Eckhart Tolle defines ego as the mistaken belief of who you are. You are not a miserable looser. You are not supposed to be pushing. These are ideas you have.
So, what is ego? What is it made of? What would happen if the ego disappeared? Which ego? What do you mean with the word ego? Are the ego and the observing self the same thing?
What is a memory? What does a memory consist of? Electric and chemical activities in the synapses? Isn’t it amazing that you remember who you are in the morning when you wake up?
Without an observer there would be no awareness of anything. Without an observing self nothing and nobody would exist. Nobody would be there to be aware of anything. From this point of view is the ego crucial.
Confusion arises when we use the same word in so many different ways.