Ego Ideal vs. True Self

Seeking the Real/True Self as an Ideal

Human beings have a strong desire/drive to be real; true; authentic. Think not? Here are the Google search results for:

  • “Real Self” = 6.5 million results
  • “True Self” = 18.4 million results
  • “Authentic Self” = 5.6 million results

A lot of searching reflecting the interest and search for realness and authenticity. Our longing to be real and authentic is, at first, mixed up and conflated with our personality’s ego ideal.

ego ideal real self

Our personality/ego-mind idealizes some way of being or behaving that it believes is more real; truer to its idealized image of wholeness and completeness. Our belief is that attaining this ideal will bring us the wholeness, contentment, and satisfaction that we instinctively know is part and parcel of being authentic and real – true to the core of us, our essential nature.

Unfortunately seeking the ego ideal will not bring us closer to what is real, but will, in fact, lead us further astray. This is because we are merely chasing an idea, a concept of what we imagine realness is.

If we reflect on our ideas and beliefs about and our desire for our “true self,” it is fairly easy to see that we are chasing an imagining that maintains and perpetuates the “me I recognize and know” with some romanticized improvements and accessories.

Observing our everyday life and reflecting on our past, we can see that ego/personality, our current self, is trying to actualize a “self” that solves all of its (our) problems and shortcomings. Our true self will be lovable, or smarter, or more confident, more alive, more, more, more… You see, the same self, better paint. It’s like we want to take our sense of self in for cosmetic plastic surgery. because we want to appear more both to ourselves and to others.

By understanding how, on the one hand, the ego ideal shapes our personality and, on the other hand, how the characteristics and traits of our personality reflect an unconscious connection to the essential, we may be able to recognize the quality of essence that is being idealized and sought.

fales self ego ideal

It is only when we know that our ego ideal is not the real thing—that it is a facsimile, a conceptual approximation, just an idea or picture in our mind—that we can have the openness, the space for that essential quality to arise. This means we need to see that our ego ideal is a fake reality constructed from intuitions and obscure feelings combined with conditioned patterns from our early upbringing and cultural programming.  (emphasis mine) –  A. H . Almaas, Keys to the Enneagram

The Diamond Approach is offering an 11-month course that explores the ego ideal, its connection to the real self, and specific ways to transcend the personality to allow the real and authentic to shine. This course and understanding use the Enneagram as a model for exploring this terrain.

keys to the enneagram course

Here are a few paragraphs from the writings of Hameed Ali (A. H. Almaas), founder of the Diamond Approach to Self-realization that point to the real:

Being Real

To be real means that we need to be able to live in a way that reflects the reality of what we truly are. It is important to recognize, however, that being real doesn’t happen in a moment. Learning what it means to be a real person is a process of unfoldment and transformation. It is not something you fall into or recognize all of a sudden, as it sometimes can be in the discovery of or awakening to true nature. It is a maturational process. And it begins with being honest, truthful, and real about where you are and investigating that. Every moment holds the possibility of more realness and more in-touchness with the presence of essential Being.  –  A. H. Almaas & Karen Johnson, The Power of Divine Eros

The true self doesn’t seek, it is

When you are being your true self, you are not looking for pleasure, you are not avoiding pain, you are not trying to get approval, nor trying to get someone to admire you. You are not out to criticize someone else, or to defeat someone else, and you are not out to gain fame or power. You are naturally and spontaneously living as a genuine human being who has respect and consideration for other human beings. You are not trying to love someone; you are just loving, without even thinking about it. If you are a mature person, it is second nature that you are loving, that you are giving, that you are respectful, and considerate, and that you behave and act in a refined and mature human manner.  –  A. H. Almaas, Diamond Heart Book Four: Indestructible Innocence

Being Real Requires Vulnerability

If the personality understands what vulnerability actually means, then we become receptive to our deeper nature and it acts on us. We are no longer the actor; we are a permeable membrane. We are acted upon, we are penetrated by our nature, and we allow it to come out. And the work on the personality, which can be seen as refining it, allows that membrane to become increasingly vulnerable to our Essence. The less defended and opaque the personality is, the more it is permeable to Essence. And as Essence manifests through the personality — as it permeates it, influences it, as the personality becomes completely one-hundred-percent vulnerable to our truest nature and — we begin to see that there is no difference between them. We experience oneness, unity.  –  A. H. Almaas, Diamond Heart Book Three: Being and the Meaning of Life

Authenticity is From the Depth of Us

We have seen that in order for us to be authentically and fully ourselves, our identity must include the ontological depth of the soul, essential presence, and that to be presence means simply to be. When we are simply being, our experience of ourselves is direct, immediate, spontaneous, and natural, free from the influence of the thick veil of accumulated memories, ideas, ideals, and images. We have also seen that conventional experience does not allow the experience of self-realization because conventional experience is virtually determined by this thick veil of personal history. We have noted that ordinarily, the self cannot experience itself separately from the self-representation, and that, in fact, it experiences itself from within, and through, that representation … it now becomes clear that the veil of personal history is the self-representation. Regardless of how realistic the self-representation is, it cannot contain the true reality of the self. –  A. H. Almaas, The Point of Existence

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