I’ve always had a funky relationship with the concept of the ego. It seems to get all muddy because different people use the term to mean different things. Sigmund Freud refers to the ego as part of a triad - the “id” is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the ego is the organized, realistic part; and the super-ego plays the critical and moralizing roles.
Then there are definitions used in spiritual teachings like A Course In Miracles, which essentially defines the ego as the illusion of separation. The ego is the part of us that believes that we are not God, not interconnected to all beings in divine Oneness.
And of course, there’s the garden variety use of the word “ego,” as it’s used in the word “egotistical,” which Dictionary.com defines as “given to talking about oneself; vain; boastful; opinionated. Indifferent to the well-being of others; selfish.”
Ick. Suffice it to say the ego seems like all around badness, right?
And yet we all have one, because we’re all human, no matter how holy we try to be.
The ego has massive blind spots, things we can't see when we get caught up in it. The ego gets between us and the Divine, sabotages our attempts to heal others and ourself, and cuts us off from the life blood of the Universe. And yet, the ego never dies. And shouldn't. Because it's part of being human. It's all about knowing your ego, seeing beyond the blind spots, and keeping your ego under check. Making friends with and managing my own ego has been part of my personal growth for years, so I thought I'd invite you inside to witness a little bit of my process.
Meet Victoria Rochester
I call my ego Victoria Rochester (which, incidentally, is the name I wished my mother gave me when I was a little girl.) Victoria (pictured above) is unabashedly a diva. She loves couture gowns, fine champagne, and getting carted around in a limo. She loves spotlights on stages in front of throngs of people. She wants her book to get on the New York Times bestseller list. She drools when you all read her blog posts.
While she doesn’t demand only green M&Ms in the green room (she prefers green juice), she knows what she likes and how she likes it. She can be downright nasty to waiters who bring her salad loaded with bell peppers when she already warned them she's allergic. She brings her own pillow when she travels. She sleeps with a sound machine that plays rain sounds.
Victoria is HIGH MAINTENANCE. And she’s unapologetic about it.
Victoria loves hanging around famous people. It makes her feel important, like she matters, like she belongs. When Victoria spent the evening with Mama Gena, Kanye West, and Hugh Grant, Victoria started preening. She was delighted to discover herself on page 6 of the New York Post.
Victoria is super confident. She knows she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to. She’s determined and strong-willed and persistent and deep down, in her little girl heart, she’s tender and fragile and wounded and lonely and just wants to be loved and accepted, to feel worthy and seen. She's never satisfied. She never feels like she's done enough, accomplished enough, gotten enough love. She always wants MORE.
Victoria is on a mission to change the world, to heal health care, to get on television, to write that bestseller, to save people by teaching them how to heal themselves, so she can pat herself on the back and say, "Look how valuable you are." Victoria wants to feel like she matters because she's not really sure she does.
Then there’s this other part of me, the part my friend Steve Sisgold titled “Lissa-nanda” (“nanda” is Sanskrit for joy and is also the name of Hindu and Buddhist deities.) Lissa-nanda loves everybody, like REALLY loves everybody. She doesn’t judge anyone or make anyone less-than or more-than. When strangers look into the eyes of Lissa-nanda (not the eyes of Victoria, mind you, who sometimes takes over on book tours and can give you the evil eye for getting too close to her personal space), they see sweet, soft, pure, unconditional, magical eyes that channel divine love.
As I explained in this post, Lissa-nanda channels books, blog posts, and Daily Flames from your Inner Pilot Light. She’s the part that shows up after I meditate and pray “Make me a vessel.” She knows that even when she has what her BFF and spiritual counselor Tricia Barrett calls “her holy ideas,” she doesn’t get to claim credit for them, because they’re not hers to begin with.
Lissa-nanda is a true visionary with the heart of a healer. She is a bodhisattva-in-training, committed to easing the suffering of others. She wants nothing more than to be of service in this world and to serve out her life’s purpose. She's willing to sacrifice anything if it's part of her Divine mission here on earth. She's not attached to any outcomes and surrenders to Divine will. Lissa-nanda doesn't care about ego wins, like how many hits her website gets, how much media attention she gets, or whether her books become bestsellers. She's pure love and just wants to radiate that love into the world in whatever way best serves the world and allows her to express her gifts. Lissa-nanda is my Inner Pilot Light.
Inside of me, there’s a war going on between Victoria and Lissa-nanda these days, and trust me, it ain’t pretty. Lissa-nanda knows that Victoria needs to be tamed, and she knows the only way to tame her is to love her. But Victoria is like a wild animal trapped in a cage.
Lissa-nanda hangs out mostly at home in her pajamas, because she’s shy, introverted, and needs a lot of personal space. She meditates, hikes in nature, does yoga, and reads inspiration/spiritual books to facilitate her evolving awakening.
Because Lissa-nanda is so committed to being of true service, she makes great efforts to send Victoria to time out when she’s working with her mentoring clients and leading workshops. Lissa-nanda does most of the writing.
In the past, Victoria has been the one who shows up out in the world because she’s fearless and confident and willing to get out of her pajamas. Victoria has nerves of steel. She can harness the butterflies in her belly to conquer even the worst stage fright. She goes on book tour and gives TEDx talks, though Lissa-nanda writes the books and the speeches. Victoria keynotes events where 3,000 people are watching her. At one point, she showed up for twenty television interviews in one day on a satellite media tour.
On those days, Victoria comes in handy, because frankly, Lissa-nanda freaks out.
But over the past year, Lissa-nanda has been practicing getting out more and Victoria is wigging out. Victoria is dying for validation. She feels threatened, like a wounded animal, and the more threatened she feels, the more she fights for relevance.
The wars usually begin right after Lissa-nanda has been at the steering wheel for a while. For example, Lissa-nanda will sit down and write a totally channeled post like this one, and suddenly, lives will change. People will transform.
When the two of them talk, it sounds something like this:
Victoria: Holy shit! I just wrote this killer post that made people quit smoking and check into rehab.
Lissa-nanda: Good for you, baby, but...um...that wasn't you. That was The Universe, writing through me.
Victoria: But I sat there at the computer! My fingers moved! All that creative writing training I got sure comes in handy. Thank God I’m such an awesome writer and can put out great stuff like this. Look how many people read that post! I ROCK!
Lissa-nanda (sighing, shaking her head): Honey, it's not you. But I'm super grateful for all you've done to help me grow and learn so I can write posts that help people heal. Thank you for what you've done.
Victoria (started to have a hissy fit, not even acknowledging Lissa-nanda's gratitude): Nuh uh. Mine. MINE! ME ME ME!
Victoria wants to personalize Lissa-nanda's spiritual awakening journey. She wants to claim credit for helping people heal, for transforming lives, for writing good shit, for giving helpful speeches - basically, for every single holy thing that happens. She’s spiritually arrogant - she wants to make herself better-than, other-than, separate-than, those who aren’t even trying to wake up. To be honest, Victoria is a royal pain in the ass.
Lissa-nanda, on the other hand, knows better. She’s patient, kind, and tolerant with Victoria, but her nerves are fraying. She just wants to conk Victoria upside the head with the Truth and knock some sense into her, but she knows Victoria is like a hurting child and the only way to handle her is with love and patience.
Ego, Be Gentle
I’ve determined that 2012 is the year I end the war. I’ve been working with my spiritual counselor Tricia Barrett, who has been holding my hand while lovingly helping me navigate the relationship between my ego and my Inner Pilot Light. She’s helping me learn to wake up without making it personal, to end the separation story I have played out time and time again in my life, to stop the suffering I bring upon myself, to keep the helpful, confident, self-accepting, cheerleading parts of Victoria, while making sure she knows her place when it’s time for Lissa-nanda to step out and do her work in the world.
Wish us luck. As Tricia said, “Waking up is not for the faint of heart.”
Do You Struggle With Your Own Victoria?
Every healer and visionary has an ego and we'll never fully release this part of ourselves. But to fully support those we aim to heal, we need to be willing to see our blind spots, face off with our ego, and learn to make peace. To listen to a free telejam for healers that I did with my spiritual counselor Tricia Barrett regarding this issue, click here.
What about you? Do you struggle with this? Feel free to teach me what you’ve learned. Share your wisdom with me as I navigate this journey. Be my spiritual counselor. What can I do to be more Dalai Lama, less…well… almost everyone at the Grammy’s?
I’m finally ready. I’ll do whatever it takes.
Battling it out,
Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities LissaRankin.com and OwningPink.com, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary. Join her newsletter list for free guidance on healing yourself, and check her out on Twitter and Facebook.
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