Ego's Thought System

Let us consider the following possibility:

We invented the ego's belief system out of fear and guilt engendered by the mistaken belief that we have made ourselves separate from God.

The ego is a symbol of our belief in this separation. While separation from God is clearly impossible, through the eyes of the ego we believe this is true and that God wants to punish us for our guilty deed.

The purpose of the ego's thought system is to hide the memory of God from our awareness by reinforcing our feelings of guilt and fear.It can accomplish this only by destroying the reality of love and substituting the illusion of guilt in its place. Since the opposite of love is fear, the ego's existence depends on our continuing belief in the reality of guilt and punishment, and the acceptance of its goals of conflict, war, and death.

The ego's attitude toward God is inconsistent. At times it views God as some supernatural, external being beyond our comprehension that loves and rewards us if we are good, and punishes us if we are bad and have sinned. At other times it is ambivalent about whether or not God even exists, and sometimes it rejects the idea of God altogether. I sometimes think that I, and many others, have gone through life feeling guilty for the wrongs I think I have committed, feeling distrustful of myself and others, and wondering in what way I am going to be punished next. Because many of us have had painful life experiences in which we did not think our religious training and belief in God helped, we have ended up turning away from both.

Ego is a Body Identification

The ego can be defined as our body/personality or lower self. It is the part of our mind that is split off or separated from our spiritual mind, which contains only God's loving thoughts. This split in our mind can be thought of as illusory; it can be contrasted to our true mind, a mind filled with love that is indivisible.

The thought system of the ego is based on guilt and fear. Its motto is, "Seek but never find what you are looking for." It is preoccupied with condemning judgments, attack and defense thoughts and is a master of deception. Its goal is to control everything and to believe it is right all the time. It expends an enormous amount of energy trying to predict the future based on our past experiences. The ego's world is a pleasure/pain world, and, for most of us, there is more pain than pleasure. It believes that if you don't fear the past and worry about the future, the world will fall apart. Separation is its game; so thinking of yourself first, getting and holding on to what little you can claim as your own, jealousy, possessiveness, and rejection are the core of its existence.

Our identity as defined by the ego is limited to the five senses; hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, and tasting. It is based on the interpretation and evaluation of what these senses feed back to our brain. It is a limited identity based on experiences of the past extending into the present and projected into the future. Seen through the eyes of the ego, my identity is my self-concept at any particular point in time, and is dependent on the opinions and judgments other people have about me, as well as the opinions and judgments I have about myself.

Ego's Conditional Love

The ego's thought system is most clearly seen in relationships that we regard as particularly close or special. These special relationships are based on the belief that we lack something in ourselves which only other people can supply, and unless we get it from them, we will be incomplete and unhappy. Such special relationships are necessarily built on guilt and lack of trust. From the ego's viewpoint, other people exist to satisfy our needs, and, therefore, we are unable to see ourselves and others as we really are. This mutual meeting of needs is what the ego calls love. It is important to emphasize that this kind of love is conditional and exclusive. Unlike unconditional love, which is inclusive and based on total acceptance of oneself and others, conditional love is always based on qualifications, reservations, and limitations. Most of what we call love in our lives is conditional love, which is founded on scarcity, on getting and giving to get, and on bargaining and trading.

The identifying word in conditional love is "if”—

I will love you if you perform the way

I want you to, if you fit into the mold I have developed in my mind for you.

I will love you if you come home from work on time…if you remember my birthday…if you demonstrate more affection and become a more energetic sexual partner for me.

If the other person gives us what we want, or changes to satisfy our needs, we feel happy. If the person doesn't give us what we want or make the changes we think are necessary, we feel irritated and frustrated. And when our irritations and frustrations intensify, they become anger and hatred.

Relationships founded on conditional love are really love/hate relationships. They are based on wanting something from the other person because of a mistaken feeling of scarcity and the belief that the other person has something we lack. In these love/hate relationships pain, fear, and instability are insured because of the feelings of jealousy, possessiveness, and competition that characterize conditional love. Conditional love relationships are exclusive relationships, which shut others out. The purpose of conditional love relationships is to substitute for the inclusive Love of God within us that we have forgotten is there.

Ego's Attraction to Guilt

The ego's attraction to guilt cannot be fully understood unless we first discuss the nature of perception. For it is how we see the world around us that determines how we react to it. And it is our perceptions that tell us what we see, based on the interpretations and evaluations of what our senses report to us.

Each of us sees the world differently, depending on our individual needs, wishes, past experiences, and present beliefs.While we may think of our perceptions as photographs of things outside ourselves taken by a camera, they are really projections of thoughts that originate in our own minds. Since we always look in before we look out, what we see is our own state of mind reflected outward.That perception is a choice (even though we may not be aware of making it) and not a fact is clearly demonstrated by the various interpretations people give of everyday events in their lives. If ten people witness an accident, for instance, it would be unusual for any two of them to agree on the details of how it occurred. Thus, what we may believe to be the truth is simply our own interpretations and evaluations of what we perceive. Many of the difficulties and disagreements we have with other people are based on the highly individualized nature of our perceptions.

Guilt is the feeling of self-condemnation that we experience after we do something we think is wrong. It is impossible to experience feelings of guilt without also anticipating punishment of ourselves or, when the guilt is projected, the punishment of others. Although we may not be consciously aware of it, the underlying source of our basic guilt is always the belief that we have "sinned," (changed our real identity of love), and the fear that God will attack and punish us for our unworthiness. Guilt and fear cannot coexist with love. When we hold onto these negative feelings, we are prevented from experiencing the peace and presence of God/Love within us. It is a psychological fact that if we hold on to guilt, we will attempt to handle it either by attacking ourselves (frequently expressed as symptoms of depression or physical illness), or projecting the guilt onto someone else.

The ego tries to conceal from us that when we take responsibility for our mistakes, they no longer call for guilt and punishment, but rather for release through correction. The game of "who is guilty and who is innocent" takes place in most marriages and other relationships as well. One person throws a "hot potato" of guilt to his spouse, partner, colleague, or friend. The other person has a choice of catching it and holding on to it, or throwing it back. More often than not, the other person throws it back, and this is the way the game of "who is guilty and who is innocent" is played. The only way both parties can win is to stop playing the game.

Decision-Making

We cannot live in the world without making decisions, and in order to do so, we must listen and be directed by one of two voices; the voice of the ego, which speaks for our changeable perceptions, or the voice of Love or God. Our ego mind has a continuum of mental pictures based on our past perceptions of guilt and fear that determines what we think we want in the present. To survive, the ego tells us we must look for guilt in others or in ourselves, and this preoccupation with who is guilty and who is innocent becomes the basis for our decision-making. The continuous search for guilt as a basis for making decisions leaves us feeling more and more fearful and devoid of love.

Projection

When we perceive others through the eyes of guilt, we are likely to engage in projection. Projection is the mechanism by which we deny responsibility for and externalize a thought or feeling we are experiencing— such as guilt—by holding someone else responsible for it. This someone else can be our spouse, business partner, parent, child, or anyone who seems to play a role in our lives. We believe if only they would behave differently, then we would not experience the difficulties we are having. Projecting our problems onto others never solves the problem; it simply recycles the guilt.

Forgiveness

The ego looks on forgiveness with a split mind; it counsels us to forgive but don't forget. It is really a double message that says, "Don't forgive completely; don't forget the past or you will be vulnerable." Lack of forgiveness is the heartbeat of the ego. It continues to justify making condemning judgments since its survival depends on believing in the reality of guilt rather than forgiveness.

The ego would have us practice pseudo-forgiveness. In effect, it says, "I can forgive you because I am superior to you. Therefore, I will sit on my anger and repress it, rather than be consciously aware of my desire to kill you, which is what you really deserve." This pseudo-forgiveness only reinforces guilt because it is a double message that continues to emphasize the unhealed separation between the innocent and the guilty.

God's Thought System

On the surface level of my ego I still hear the chatter of doubts and uncertainties in my ears, but in the depth of my heart I know that God's love is the answer to all problems. When I permit myself to experience God's love, and give His unconditional love away to others, I am sane and at peace. When I experience fear, I am insane, riddled with doubts, uncertainties, and worries; and I feel unloved and unloving.

After seeking and searching in many different directions and places, it is exhilarating finally to know what my goal is and how to reach it. I stumble; sometimes I fall down; and sometimes it looks as though I am going backwards, but I know that I can no longer retreat. Although my spiritual practice is far from consistent, I know that God is directing my life, and that the peace of God is my goal. When I give in to the temptation to make condemning judgments, my peace of mind disappears. When I am able to resist the temptation to judge others, I can see them as teachers of forgiveness in my life, reminding me that I can have peace of mind only when I forgive rather than judge.

Love shows the way to trust and faith that God's love will dissolve all of our difficulties and misunderstandings. To live in love is to be an eternal optimist. It is to believe that there are no accidents, no coincidences, and everything that happens to us is according to God's plan and provides a lesson that He would have us learn.

Let us think for a moment what it would be like if we could constantly have total trust and faith in God's love (our real Identity). I think the answer defies our wildest imagination. But somehow I think it would be a state of mind in which we would never worry or feel depressed, angry, fearful, or guilty. Instead we would experience peace, love, and joy all of the time. It is amazing to me how many people there are who do not remember having even one instant of peace and joy in their lives, but all of us can imagine having that experience for just one second. When we choose to accept the thought system of God/love and apply it in our lives, we are asked only to do this for one moment, the present instant of now. Giving total and complete love for one second allows us to feel a wholeness and oneness with no sense of separation from others. In that moment of limitless loving and giving, we lose the awareness of our body-self. In remembering God and feeling the presence of His love, this one second becomes a holy instant—a brief glimpse into eternity.

What is Unconditional Love?

In all of our relationships, everyone we meet gives us an opportunity to experience a holy instant—one moment when we can join together with no sense of separation, blaming, or judging—that is unconditional love. This kind of love can only be experienced when we are giving it away and feeling joined in oneness with others. The following statements attempt to summarize what unconditional love is all about:

It is giving our love totally to everyone, excluding no one.

It is loving and giving without expectations, or wanting to get love or anything else in return.

It is total acceptance of another person with no desire to change that person in any way.

It is seeing only the light of love in everyone.

How is Unconditional Love Accomplished?

By letting go of all our guilt and not projecting guilt onto others.

By forgiving and letting go of the past, staying in the present and living in the joy of now.

By not making demands on anyone.

By resisting the temptation to judge.

By giving all of our needs, wants, desires, and feelings of scarcity to our inner teacher, and letting the voice of love transform them. By making each moment an opportunity for offering forgiveness; and for seeing everyone as our teacher of forgiveness--thus giving ourselves the opportunity to practice and learn the benefits of forgiveness. By recognizing that when we know our real Identity of love, we have no need except to extend that love endlessly.

 

 

Goodbye To Guilt by Jerry Jampolsky, M.D. As I look back, I realize that my life has been one of intense seeking without knowing what it was I was looking for. At times I sought after such things as health, self-esteem, money, material possessions, prestige, social status, professional recognition, security for the future, and friends I could trust and love. Despite my success in pursuing most of these, I never experienced the happiness they were supposed to bring. It never occurred to me that I had the wrong goal, and that by searching for happiness outside myself, I was looking in the wrong place. Little did I realize that the love, joy, and peace of mind that I was looking for outside myself were already bountiful within me. I had absolutely no conscious awareness that I was suffering from a self-imposed state of spiritual deprivation, that I was starving myself and suffering from spiritual hunger and thirst. I began to change my way of looking at the world in l975.

 
Related Excerpts:

COURSE'S HISTORY

ACIM'S UNIVERSAL CURRICULUM

RETURN TO LOVE

ENLIGHTENMENT
ARISING NEW CONSCIOUSNESS
SPIRITUALITY VS REALITION

AWAKENING

SEARCH FOR WISDOM

 

 

 

   

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