When a human is being born, an ego is born too. Nothing wrong with that. In fact we all need an ego to maneuver through life. It gives us a perception of the outer world as well as the ‘self’. A well-developed ego works to satisfy its desires in a realistic and socially appropriate manner and makes it possible for us to live in this crazy world. To put it briefly: a healthy skilled ego knows how to take care of its host or hostess with sensitivity and care for the wellbeing of other beings and of its living environment. So do you have one? Be happy and treat it with respect!
But what happens if an ego goes off track?
There are many causes of the ego taking over. For example if our parents or educators gave us the feeling that we are loved for what we do -and not for who we are– there is a big chance we start to believe that we are our ego. And if we are our ego, we had better start reinforcing and protecting it with all we can for the sake of survival. We had better start building our ego with a search for confirmation, for applause and for compliments all the time. We had better protect it from failure and critique and avoid any form of vulnerability. We become the best students, the best doctors, the best leaders.
When the ego is dancing, safety is at stake.
For the insecure ego is afraid that it will fall of it’s throne, when somebody sees its vulnerability. This ego gets anxious for not being perfect. This ego doesn’t believe in sharing and caring, but grasps on to the religion of shaming and blaming. This ego is convinced that if you’re not with me, you’re against me. And last but not least this ego thinks that success is on its account and its account only and -of course- failure belongs to the other side of the table. All because it hasn’t learned to be selfcompassionate and it’s too scared to look at its own mistakes for it might die.
We only have to look at the world stage to see what happens if leaders choose ego over compassion.
The same happens in healthcare. Lives get lost when people are busy building ego instead of focusing on being in service of the ones they lead or the ones whose lives are in their hands. Where insecure egos might present itself as the surgeon who is shouting at his operational assistants creating a psychologically unsafe place. Science shows that medical errors are more likely to happen in such environments. Ego might show itself as the nurse that gets personally annoyed by an anxious patient who asks for attention and who in turn becomes more anxious because of the nurses behavior. This interferes with healing as we know from research. Ego might have the face of a healthcare manager who manages people with demand and control instead of guiding and helping them by moving obstacles so they can do their work as effectively as possible. It might take the shape of a doctor who want patients to do as he or she tells them to and lacks curiosity to really listen to what is needed.
Insecure egos stand in the way of efficient and compassionate care.
Antidotes for the ego that believes that it is the center of the world, are mindfulness and compassion. For mindfulness is all about being aware and being attentively present with a warm heart and a clear mind. Mindfulness discerns what is helpful and what is not. For compassion is the sensitivity to suffering of others and self and has the intention and the courage to help to relieve the suffering. Compassion chooses courage over comfort and care over ego.
Mindfulness and compassion free us from our identification with a fixed separate identity and help us to be fully connected to all being in the here and in the now.
Being Free and Connected.