Issue 21 January 2006
The Negative Ego
A Response from Hal Stone and Sidra Stone to a letter
asking for clarification about the concept of the negative ego.
What we generally refer to as “ego” is in fact a group of sub-personalities that each of us has grown up with and these sub-personalities ( ego ) determine how we feel, think and perceive reality. If you have grown up in a family that is identified with mind and you are an oldest son then you well may identify with the mind as a primary self. Going along with this will probably be the selves we refer to as impersonal, controlled and possibly perfectionistic. Our “ego states” are simply the many selves within us that we have identified with in the course of our growing up process.
To refer to them as “negative ego” is really quite sad. They are the selves that were conditioned into us in the maturation process and they have been doing their best to keep us safe and protected and successful on the planet. Now spiritually identified people come along and they say that the mind or arrogance or selfishness or self-involvement are false selves or parts of the negative ego. For us nothing in the psyche is, in itself, negative or positive. The mind is a very handy thing to have available so long as you are not identified with it. Arrogance can give you power. Selfishness can give you boundaries. Self-involvement gives you entitlement. The trick is to learn how to not be identified with them or married to them.
The issue of identification is the key to understanding the psyche. From our perspective each self is an energy pattern and they are neither bad nor good. So we have developed a method to help you to separate from your primary selves ( ego states/ negative ego/etc ). We have you move over and we talk to the mind. After we have done this for a period of time you move back to the place you were before the work started. The you that is sitting there is not the same you that was there before because the new “you” is no longer identified with the mind. You are now in the Aware Ego process . Separated from the mind you begin feel energetic connection to me. You begin to experience feelings and emotions because your mind can no longer shut down the opposite side. Eventually we spend time with the opposite selves — with your feelings, your more personal selves, your selves that are related to intimacy.
Eventually you come back to the center place, the Aware Ego place, and now you are resting between opposites. On one side is the mind/impersonal selves and on the other side is the feeling/personal selves. The Aware Ego has to learn constantly to rest between opposites — and there are many of them. On one side is the primary self system and on the other side is the disowned self system. Whenever you judge someone you are dealing with a disowned self. Whenever you are unconsciously fascinated by someone or feeling inferior to someone, you are dealing with a disowned self.
Is compassion good? No — it isn’t good and it isn’t bad. It depends on what part of you is practicing compassion. If you are a spiritual type and you have learned that compassion is good, then you will always try and be compassionate. If you always try to be compassionate then you will bury your “non-compassionate nature.” So you will have compassion as a primary self and underneath it will be the garbage dump of all of your disowned selfishness, judgment, negativity, etc. Our approach is very different. We simply would begin to talk to your compassionate side. You would learn about it and hear its voice and enjoy it but you would no longer need to be married to it or identified with it. We then would talk to your other side — your non-compassionate nature. Here you might be in for a surprise because the more you try to live in the light, the more darkness there is on the other side.
Let us say that your spiritual teacher tells you that you are arrogant and this is part of the negative ego. Now you must get rid of arrogance. You can meditate and you ask for God to bring in the loving energy and light and the arrogant feeling disappears. Where does it go? It goes into the giant energy pool of disowned material that keeps psychotherapists in practice unto all eternity. You can mask the arrogance, but it doesn’t disappear. It simply goes underground. In our dreams we discover the multitude of disowned energies, often chasing us and terrifying us and making us victims to them.
We do something very different. We say — Okay Michael so you are arrogant. That is an energy, a self that lives within you that is behaving unconsciously. So let us talk to it. We then move you over and begin a dialogue with arrogance as a self. We find that it gives you great power and authority. It is angry at you because it feels you have always hated it so. It is always trying to break out of the prison that has been created by your “anti-arrogance” selves. Then we go back to the Aware Ego and eventually to the other side where we talk to your spiritual voice or your anti-arrogance voice and then back to the Aware Ego and now you must stand between these opposites.
You must embrace your arrogance while at the same time you embrace your anti-arrogance. In this way the Aware Ego is in a constant state of sweat because the opposites are so numerous. There is Christ and Satan, Pusher and Beachbum, Power and Vulnerability, Hatred and Love, Personal and Impersonal, Being and Doing, Extraversion and Introversion, being open and straight and being Machiavellian on the other side. The list is endless.
God is many different things and manifests in many different forms and energies. Certainly for people who work with the Psychology of the Aware Ego, God lives also in our ability to sweat the tension of the opposites. It is our view that every conceivable form of darkness is a part of us just as the highest and sweetest expression of divine light is a part of us also. This is the human condition. Nothing can be left out of the equation. What you leave out bites you, over and over again, until we learn to honor that which we thought was our enemy.
I hope these ideas are helpful to you in your search.
With Best wishes — Hal and Sidra Stone