Identity versus ego

In this post, I will describe some of the main differences between “identity” and “ego” as we use these terms on this site. One of these days, I will make a glossary of all the terms we use.

  • Identity is the internal signaling system.
  • Ego is fiction that overlays identity.
  • Identity is clear, practical, ethically sound.
  • Ego is theatrical, defensive and offensive, designed to communicate with other egos and to further ulterior motives.
  • We need an ego in social situations only because that is how everyone is.
  • People communicate through the fictions of their social groups because that is all they know.
  • You won’t get far with nothing but an identity in a world full of egos.
  • But you will get closer to the truth about yourself and others.
  • Two identities can create their own group without ego fictions.
  • The fictions of the ego are tautological or self-referential.
  • It is very hard for most people to see the difference between ego and identity as defined above.
  • The reason is ego is the major way they have learned to communicate with others.
  • You show me your ego and I’ll show you mine.
  • Ego is a story, a fiction.
  • Groups of egos will always have self-referential stories or fictions that identify them.
  • Groups of motorcyclists, groups of Christians or Buddhists—all ego groups have stories, signs, and symbols that identify them.
  • These stories, signs, and symbols are always false, never completely true, always serve the purpose of upholding the group and the egos in it.
  • People without egos or ego groups can communicate just fine, though it will always be hard for people with egos to understand them.

The ego is the “deluded self” or the “small self” of Buddhism. I suppose the “identity,” if it is very pure, is the enlightened mind, the Buddha mind, the Tathagata.

FIML practice greatly helps the identity see the difference between identity and ego. It does this by showing the identity how the ego interprets what it hears and frames what it says.

The ego is like a ghost in the mind, or a collection of ghosts, that distorts reality for its own purposes. It is hard to see by yourself where it starts and where it ends. With the help of a caring partner, the line between ego and identity will become much clearer.

We “need” an ego only because it is the main way that people communicate. We do not need or want an ego when we communicate with our FIML partners. If more people did FIML, there would be less need for egos.

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