Spiritually speaking, ego is who you think you are as a being. That decision was made when you were a child in your developmental years. It is now unconscious, meaning you are likely unaware how you defined yourself then.
Like most people, your unconscious self-definition—your ego—was formed when you were experiencing some level of emotional pain. Your pain may have been acute or chronic, actual or perceived. More than likely how you defined yourself was based in fear—specifically the fear that you may not survive the situation; that you may not continue to exist.
Perhaps you were physically or emotionally abused or neglected. Unconsciously you probably felt that your life was in danger. So unknowingly you may have defined yourself as “I’m not loveable” or “I have no worth” or “I can’t do anything about my situation” or “I can’t get close to people because it hurts too much.” There is a long list of possible conclusions you may have drawn, and no two children in the same situation will define themselves in the same way. Whichever way you defined yourself as a young person, that definition—that unconscious belief about who you think you are—is the essence of your ego.
These types of conclusions about who you are as a person are bound to lead you to much dissatisfaction and suffering in life. Why? Because as you think, so you are. If you concluded that you have no worth, then you’ll act unworthy, which can only lead to emotional pain. If you think you’re helpless to change you situation, then you’ll behave as a victim. The result: emotional pain. If you believe that you’re in danger when you get close to significant other(s), then you’ll withdraw emotionally from the important people in you life. The result, again, is emotional pain.
Once one becomes aware that his or her ego is causing the pain, a natural reaction is to attempt to fight it. It is not uncommon to hear people on spiritual journeys say that they are working to overcome, crush, resist, conquer, or destroy their egos. But doing any of these things never works, it only makes the situation worse. This is because crushing, overcoming, and conquering are themselves acts of ego.
You cannot overcome ego with ego. Ego is who you’ve always thought you are, so trying to overcome who you think you are is an assault upon yourself.
You must love who you think you’ve been. And you do this by acknowledging ego and accepting it for what it is every time you’re aware of its presence. This is the way that ego stops hurting you and gives in to your warmth and fades away to nothingness.
Think of ego as a great block of ice. When you slug ego, you play by its hurtful and pain-inducing rules. You bruise your knuckles and grow angrier each time you slug it. But when you hug ice, it has no choice: it must gradually disappear. Not immediately, no; but if you persist, it will melt, will it not? This is precisely how it works to rid yourself of ego. Hug it and it melts away. And what remains is the oceanic freedom that is the pinnacle of human existence—the freedom to live, to love, and to be loved. At a personal level it is pure self-love and joy; at a collective level it is a peace that can save our beloved planet and grace all the peoples of the world.
~ Dr. David Mutchler