The ego is a funny thing. Most of us don’t think of the ego, what it does, why it exists, or the fact that it actually does exist. What is the ego and what does it have to do with this series on flow. We often see someone who boasts, thinks highly of themselves and talks about it and we say, “They have a big ego.” But we all have an ego off some type. The ego is what gets us out of bed each morning and allows us to accomplish the tiniest of tasks. It helps us accomplish the big things and it also can get us into trouble too.
.” But we all have an ego off some type. The ego is what gets us out of bed each morning and allows us to accomplish the tiniest of tasks. It helps us accomplish the big things and it also can get us into trouble too.
Sometimes when we talk about ego it is used interchangeably with the word “subconscious.” So, what is the subconscious? Now, if you are a psychologist or PhD in neurobiology or simply heads and shoulders smarter than me you can email me privately, but here is my simple explanation of how the ego or subconscious work:
Think of the subconscious as your random-access memory (RAM) on your computer. RAM is the part of the computer that stores the directions needed to function. It takes temporary information and files it and uses it again if needed. It builds the narrative of the computer operations. As you create files, you take that temporary information and put into your hard drive or the conscious part of your brain. This where things can go awry.
The ego or RAM has no ability to make decisions. It simply takes instructions and places no value on it. It can receive poor information and over time place it in your hard drive to the point it becomes part of your belief system. If that belief is a limiting belief or a belief that causes harm, too bad for you. For example, to get attention as a child you throw a tantrum, scream and yell and put up a fuss. Mom and Dad cave into your demands; do it all the time and your RAM starts programming this belief system (throwing a fit gets me what I want) into you and eventually storing it into your hard drive. Pretty soon as a young adult, or even later in life, you can’t understand why people think you are toxic, stay away from you or avoid you (it’s your volatile personality, dummy).
Perhaps you have suppressed this behavior enough times that you have risen into a position of leadership but are often saddled with this volatile behavior and consistently never quite get to the top. Your ego has done you in, my friend.
This limiting belief can be changed, but it takes some work. The ego is filled with all types of narratives, good and bad that have programmed us and have either created a monster, a loving well-balanced individual of amazing empathy and compassion, or for most of us something in between. There is likely a little monster in each of us, isn’t’ there?
The ego is the part of our “Self” that protects us. Think of it as the actuator when it comes to survival. It is the part of us that wants to defend us when attacked. When we lived in caves on the plains, it protected us against tigers and other things that would and could eat us. Today it protects us mostly from psychic attack.
So how does this fit into flow?
When one is in flow, Csikszentmihalyi the father of FLOW says, “the ego diminishes, and self-consciousness disappears. The ego, wanting to protect you is absent and any thought of self-consciousness, or how we appear to others is gone. One does not care about what the ego is saying as the burden carrying its load is diminished or deleted. You are one with the universe and the challenge before you.”
Sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? The ego diminishes, it other words when in flow you don’t listen very carefully to the inner voice, the ego, the subconscious telling you, “You can’t do this,” or “remember how you screwed this up last time?” Because all the other characteristics are pressing up into your mind, the ego is suppressed, and you are excelling at what you are doing.
Again, we have all been there. Whether sports, or musical performance, the big presentation, or the entrepreneurial pitch, we have all performed at an optimal level of flow. We have suppressed the inner voice and we really don’t care what the world around us thinks. The endorphins and all the pleasing brain chemical are firing, and you are one with the universe.
Triggering this takes practice. The greatest skill to trigger flow and push down or kill the ego is to be acutely aware of the subconscious. Everyone talks about being present, being in the now, being in the present moment. But practice makes it happen.
Practice this by engaging in the thing you are best at. Is it a creative outlet, maybe its cooking, or even reading? Performing in a play, a musical recital, playing in the bar band. Triggering flow with the things you are most passionate about will trigger flows in other areas of your life. We all have had the computer technician tell us to unplug the computer for a few minutes and then plug it back in to fix it. It often works. Once it powers up it works like a charm. They can’t tell you why it works, but it does. If you unplug your ego, your subconscious and then plug back in, you too well operate at a higher level, at a level of flow.