The Ego, A Story Teller

A wood cut-out of an ink stamp reads "fiction."In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Within each of us survive volumes of stories, an ever-expansive library that holds perceptions about people, events, and experiences in our lives. Each story ends and dove tails into the others, weaving a tapestry of tales that the unconscious reads often, and we come to believe as truth. Right now, your ego is the storyteller, albeit one who is reluctant to rewrite them.

All of our perceptions about our internal and external worlds unfold from the stories that the ego holds as truth. Throughout our lives, the ego has collected volumes and volumes of narratives—stories about you, others, and the world around it. No matter how the story is written the larger message from the ego is: you are separate from other people, not connected; you are alone in your feelings and experiences. The ego only wants us to access stories that perpetuate this idea of separateness, even from our true selves.

The illusion of separateness appears in our forgetting that others often share the same stories as we do. The ego’s greatest stories are those that perpetuate the idea we are not like our friends, co-workers, therapists, and loved ones. No one could have similar thoughts and fears as we do. In truth, only the the way those stories are presented, or the circumstances that caused them, may be different.

Connection

Some of the ego’s stories about yourself and the world are larger in magnitude, yet short and concise.

Nevertheless, these stories are filled with content that is anything but small. In actual fact, these stories are quite powerful and succinct. They form a malevolent, self-deprecating, abbreviated haiku of sorts, such as “I am not good enough;” “I am not likable;” “I am not deserving.”

From those shorter stories come the often seemingly innocuous perceptions that unfold on a day-to-day basis. These perceptions get entangled with our perceptions of not only ourselves, but also the world around us. As one would expect, such stories help to maintain the ego’s larger story of separateness. These unfolding stories manifest in the form of thoughts and perceptions of your past and future, and show up in your interactions with people, and your reactions to events.

From the ego’s all encompassing, but shorter story, for example, “I am not good enough” comes the erroneous perception that a failure on a test is intolerable, that the job has to be flawless, or that loved ones cannot have faults. Likewise, the short story of “I am not likable” lurks in the background of the interaction with a peer, creating the perception that “she doesn’t like me.”

What are the stories that you tell yourself? What are the stories that you tell yourself about other people in your life? Even more importantly, how do you act out, based on those stories? When you act out of those stories, are you in line with your authentic self? Are you acting from a story that your ego wants you to buy into, to keep you disconnected from the world?

Your Personal Paradigm

Layer upon layer, story upon story, each tale grows and grows to form our personal paradigms. And, like all paradigms, the ego ignores perceptions that hold the smallest grain of evidence to the contrary. Refusing to investigate or explore the validity of connectedness, the ego does not allow a challenge to its paradigm. The ego rejects, hides from view, or just plain ignores stories that refute what it wants us to believe—that we are separate from everyone around us.

Sure, we ask of the scientific world to give us research, to prove certain concepts, theories, or ideas. Yet, ironically, we do not ask that of ourselves. Rather than researching and exploring why things are so, our egos deflect that process, and we automatically believe the stories that it feeds us. The proof becomes part of the actual perception itself. There is no discernment, no challenge to the paradigm that we hold of ourselves. Instead, anything that does not fit into the paradigm of stories that it creates becomes something that the ego rejects.

In contrast, I challenge you to read this next paragraph and own it in your day-to-day life:

I am not my story. My story is separate from me, though I have the illusion that it is a part of me, and me a part of it. I am underneath the story, underneath the layers of illusion that my ego asks me to adopt, believe in, buy into, and appreciate as if they are truly a part of myself. I see my story in the actions of others, the words that they say, even the perceptions of what I thought was there, even if it wasn’t really there in the first place. If I am to be myself and connect with my true nature the perceptions that I have adopted need to be broken apart, worn down, and rewritten, rather than automatically believed.

To recognize and expose the true story of who you are is to abandon the need for a story in the first place. Ironically, a person’s belief in reality comes from the proof they think they see in their perception of reality. The challenge of how to explore and change the ego’s stories remains the same. While your ego is often the storyteller, you are not required to believe it.

© Copyright 2009 by By Sarah Jenkins, MC, LPC, CPsychol, therapist in Tempe, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jonnatha

    Jonnatha

    January 11th, 2009 at 8:22 AM

    This was a very deep article. I think we all make things out bigger than what they actually are. We think no one knows how we feel or they don’t feel the same when in actuality, they do.

  • Benjamin

    Benjamin

    January 12th, 2009 at 1:47 AM

    This was a grand slam ego buster read. It is so true about the stories we weave. I think the “My fish I caught was bigger than yours” stories comes from an inflated ego. I know we all do it all the time. The subtle hints about the big holiday in Hawai or the time we shopped in the same place as Leonardo di Caprio. Upgrading feels good and it makes it easy to throw away the false stories. I dont know how I would feel about downsizing. But I guess that’s what being true to oneself really means.

  • Grayson

    Grayson

    January 12th, 2009 at 11:27 AM

    I think that it is nice to reflect upon the common shared experiences that all of us as humans have with one another and use this to draw us together rather than pull people apart. It is nice to have a connection with someone from all across the world, people whom you have never before met and do not even know. It makes the concept that the world is indeed very small seem all the more real.

  • Karma

    Karma

    January 13th, 2009 at 3:26 AM

    How true! If we would only give others a chance to understand us and stop assuming that we are alone.

  • Cal

    Cal

    January 14th, 2009 at 5:10 AM

    It’s that darned ego getting in the way time and again! :-)

  • Sarah Jenkins

    Sarah Jenkins

    April 6th, 2009 at 8:28 PM

    I see that this has connected with you all about our common ground, that we struggle with our ego, consistently. But, while the ego is a wild horse we seek to tame, how wonderful to know that you, all of us, keep holding onto those reins! Thanks for checking out the article ;)

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