One of the most profound realizations for me as a spiritual life coach has been how often the understanding of the Ego and the Soul get lumped together in people. Many of us have never taken the time to self reflect with curiosity and to notice that what we call “the Self” is comprised of two things, not one. And they actually oppose each other! Which is what makes being human so endlessly fascinating and complicated.
The Soul wants to tear through the fences, hit the open road and transcend any obstacles which block it from aligning with its destiny in this precious incarnation. The Ego wants total control. It wants us to stay small and manageable. It is directly threatened by the longings of the Soul. And it knows the best, fastest way to keep us away from the edge of our own advancement is to shame us and shut us down. So when we say that each one of us contains multitudes: it’s true! The real challenge of our lives is understanding the different, contradictory parts of those multitudes and getting them to sing harmoniously together, working toward the same end: our highest actualization.
Esther Perel, in her groundbreaking book Mating in Captivity shares: “When two become one connection can no longer happen. There is no one to connect with. Thus separateness is a precondition for connection.”
When I first read this I flashed on the memory of how my kids used to hold their drawings too close to my eyes and say: “Look mommy!” I couldn’t see their pictures - just a blob of colors. Without space, we cannot see accurately. When we smoosh the Ego and the Soul into one category we can’t hear their feedback accurately or weigh our options with the benefit of a deeper understanding.
We often think about the dynamic of ‘me + other’ when we talk about relationships. But what if we focus on the relationship we have with ourselves? In this sense, space becomes synonymous to objectivity and something we can cultivate between the Ego and the Soul, to better know who we are more broadly and completely, with authentic honesty.
How many of us actually differentiate these voices or make a distinction between our intuition (voice of the Soul) and our fear (voice of the Ego) when we’re making big, life changing decisions?
A client of mine is considering which attorney to hire to review the terms of a contract. He’s expanding his business and stepping out into a new market. He told me yesterday he’s going with the “obnoxiously expensive one” who has a reputation for being extremely thorough and thoughtful when it comes to deals and liabilities. My client said to me: “I know what I don’t know.”
To know what you don’t know is to be wise to your own ignorance. Think about how radical this concept is. Not to be defensive about your own ignorance. Not to deny it or fake a sense of certainty but to open, instead, to the idea that there are things we aren’t able to see clearly in ourselves, for ourselves. It’s like the picture that’s held to our noses. We need space. We need objectivity. We need to accurately understand that life is what happens in the tension between Freedom and Safety. The need to feel like we can trust our path and our reality and also the need to push through the boundaries of limitation and manifest our highest purpose on Earth.
We are paradoxical creatures living in a paradoxical world. We want to be held and liberated. Reassured and challenged. When we give ourselves space we give ourselves generosity. We give ourselves the room to hold two opposite truths simultaneously. When we don’t need to be right we can be fully alive and the Ego can serve the Soul, not the other way around.