How can you become aware of the ego in you? The ego is the sense of self that is created when your identity becomes all wrapped up in form: thought forms, what you have/don’t have, the state of the body, situations. And while an identity based on that which will inevitably change leads to suffering, the good news is that becoming aware of the ego is the easiest way to go beyond it and discover your true self.
Any moment when you watch your thoughts without judgment provides just such an opportunity. But for me, the ego becomes extremely obvious when I am criticized.
As a child the slightest hint of disapproval from another would reduce me to tears. By the time I was a teenager I was fed up with this reaction that I felt powerless to control. The suffering created by the disapproval of others was so obviously disproportionate to the experiences themselves that the dysfunction was easily recognizable.
What I didn’t understand at the time was that my identity was wrapped up in form, mainly in the thought forms, opinions, I perceived others held of me. When this ego identity was diminished by criticism the ego promptly rebuilt itself through my identification with the reaction to this diminishment, negative emotions and unhappy thoughts about myself and my situation. My ego also easily remained in place through identification with negative thoughts about the person who had first diminished it.
When someone criticizes or offends you, watch your mind. It will come up with thought after thought until you either find one to identify with, or until it quiets down from the lack of momentum created by your conscious presence.
One of Eckhart Tolle’s most helpful exercises is to occasionally allow the diminishment of your ego. When someone criticizes you, don’t immediately retaliate or condemn the other person. Allow the ego to die a little bit. (Just be careful that the ego doesn’t sneak back in through identification with the mental position of the other person or a negative self-image.) It feels uncomfortable at first, but gives way to a peace that makes that moment of tension seem wholly insignificant.