The Root of Suffering
The main obstacle to relief from suffering is our current identity, what Einstein called our “optical delusion of consciousness.” Paradoxically, this same identity is trying to solve the problem of our suffering.
This identity seems very real, as if it is a separate self that feels located in our heads, like a “mini-me.” Both ancient wisdom and modern neuroscience now agree that there is no physical location of a separate self that can be found in the brain. Living as if there were a separate self inside your head is considered having a mistaken identity, and this is the root of suffering. We will call this mental self-referencing process ego-identification.
Shame-based core stories of being unlovable and worthless are held together by our mistaken identity, but we can be liberated from feeling worthless by shifting into awake awareness.
Ego-identification is only one limited way of organizing your identity. Ego-identification is not “you” identifying with your “ego”; it is a pattern of consciousness made up of thinking and ego functions (such as seeking and protection) that form during our early biological development. When this ego-identification pattern begins to generate the feeling that it has a physical boundary, a central seat of identity is created.
What is Ego-Identification?
Ego-identification is not our personality, our personal history, or our ego functions, although these are all natural parts of being human. The simple confusion of ego functions (what we do) and self-awareness (the ability to think about thinking) with our identity (who we are) is at the root of this type of existential suffering.
Ego-identification is a mental pattern of consciousness that creates the feeling of a “mini-me” inside our heads. But it doesn’t have to be fought, repressed, extinguished, denied, or killed. We don’t have to become a nobody, an angel, or a couch potato. Instead, when we discover awake awareness as our true nature, our ego functions can return to their natural roles and semi-retire from their second job as our identity.
A Glimpse of Our True Nature
Learn how to step back from the mini-me in your head with this short video, Breaking Free of the Mini-Me.
Sculpture Credit: Inner Dialogue – Jim Rennert, 2017