Unmasking the ego: A personal odyssey of healing and redemption

22 February 2024
Alja Zwierenberg Written by Alja Zwierenberg
Alja Zwierenberg

Alja Zwierenberg

Alja is an independent visual artist for individuals and companies and a co-director since 1995....

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This is a first-person essay and as such, is not verified by MyndStories’ independent panel of reviewers.

Is my ego, my ‘I,’ a representative of my own dark side? And do I have to eliminate it out of my life with the power of my thoughts and banish it elsewhere so that there can become space available for a form of love in my existence?

Or are there processes at work in which I do not (yet) have an insight and does my ego work in a way that is (still) unknown, serving the existence of a life in love?

What does my own ego actually tell and share with me about my own self?

Once … in my element, I enjoy life. My being and true nature. My beloved loved ones, my fellow human beings and the environment in which I abide.

Tailored to and in tune with what is needed to preserve life and bring it to growth, development and awareness, I take care of what is necessary so all of life can flourish and thrive.

However, out of nowhere a situation can arise that is threatening and endangering me.

Unmasking the ego: A personal odyssey of healing and redemption

A situation in which I can be easily hurt, influenced or attacked.

As a result of which my life needs protection in order to preserve myself.

At such a moment my natural aggression will instinctively deploy itself attentive, intuitively knowing what this threat can mean to and do with me.

With natural grace and a clearly delimiting ‘Ouch, stop. No! This hurts me’.

In this way I can liberate myself from the pain I experience, communicate what I need to be and feel safe again, and what this threat means and does to me.

When I experience no room to express myself or there’s no response to my ‘Ouch, stop. No’ and the threat persists, I no longer experience any space and place for myself to exist and live in.

In order to deal with this very painful, frightening and (life) threatening situation, to survive it and preserve myself, my natural aggression turns inwards and I split myself into the core of my being.

Ashamed I turn away, shut myself off from the pain the situation has brought to me and deny it as a reality in my existence.

And I join my attackers and agree with their thinking. I adopt the hateful expressions and thoughts they have over me as truth over myself and I will treat myself as such.

I repel my inner ‘own’ wisdom and freeze inside.

Hoping to protect, secure and safeguard what is most dear to me, what moves and inspires me, I leave my physical being lonely and alone behind. 

Unmasking the ego: A personal odyssey of healing and redemption

I become numb towards that part of myself for which I no longer experience true love. While in my inner experience my natural aggression continues to act against this injustice, in an attempt to still work out the pain I have suffered and to restore myself.

I now live and give shape to the hatred of someone else. I hold my breath and shame and blame my own body and being for being me.

I hold them both responsible for the pain that has been done to me. However in this way I myself maintain the pains survival and existence. I frighten myself.

An anxiously doubtful ‘not knowing what to do now’ becomes a part of my life.

I no longer understand the essential stories and tellings of myself, my own body and mind, and the outside world.

I live in a continuous state of alertness and acute preparedness, unable to be one with myself any longer.

Confused by all contradictions, it is no longer safe to exist as myself in my own life. To be the I in Me’.

I get bogged down in an ongoing inner struggle with myself.

Not knowing who or what to believe and which voice actually tells my truth and represents my own thoughts, I follow, seemingly automatically, paralyzed other people’s way of thinking.

Painfully desperate and hardening in disbelief, I live in a life that is not really mine. Separated from myself, I follow the wandering, convincing and undermining thoughts and ideas that really belong to others.

Unmasking the ego: A personal odyssey of healing and redemption

While I cook internally, I hate them and am ashamed of the fact that they are present in my life and determine my existence. They absorb all my happiness and suck the life out of me.

In order to survive I freeze myself in indifference.

And I will end up treating others, in the same way I treat my own body and inner self.

Pushing them to the limits and over the edge … of no return.

As long as this trauma in me is not healed, I will slowly but surely disappear into oblivion, gradually hardening in denial and dissolving in silence. To eventually vaporize in indifference to the time given to me.

Until, with the courage of despair and fear of completely losing all the love for my life, I decide that I cannot and do not want to live like this anymore. And that I, not knowing what is yet to come, will find my way back to myself. One way or the other.

Starting with recognizing that this life is my life and that I will give that reality the recognition it deserves. Which I deserve.

Therewith I decided to meet myself (again).

Dedicated to my ultimate goal, to reunite myself with my ‘I’.

By applying the discipline to make time, space and place. And to do the work that is required of me, by life itself, and that is necessary to do to realize and achieve this.

Deciding to consciously light up my face and eyes when I look at myself in the mirror (inspired by Toni Morrison*). So that I can become aware of all thoughts that prevent this.

Standing still by and listening to them, understanding their essential need, if possible fulfill them and address them in their origin.

Work that requires a lot of time, attention, care, courage, perse-verance, persistence, openness, etc. What must be made conscious and internalized by trial and error, in order to become skilled in it.

And asks to face fears, shame, hatred, pains and condemnations. To face myself and be honest and sincere about and towards myself.

Work that takes me back to the swampy swamps and anxious times of yore. To memories that I had hidden far away and I loved to stay far away from.

However, they are just waiting around the corner to be illuminated and enlightened by me.

A return to the moment when ‘the dragon’ could take over my world of thoughts, as if it was his. 

While I was completely intimi-dated and indoctrinated, convinced of his right, putting my existence aside and my life into his service.

Leaving myself painfully behind as unimportant, hated, ashamed and unloved, in an empty existence.

Now, thanks to my courageous commitment, having incorporated the lived life-experiences and gained wisdom, being able to consciously address the split-off remaining parts of myself. Recognizing and acknowledging them in what they stand for and what they do.

Filled with love for my being, decisively making me aware of a deep and intensely underlying suffering, which is present in my life and in need of care and attention.

A pain that represents a need in me, a deep desire and longing to be one with myself again.

A need that has to be fulfilled by myself.

Because I can only be refilled and reunited with the parts and bits and pieces that I already own.

By acknowledging the ideas of shame and hatred in their natural strength and recognizing the love with which they protected me and brought my soul to safety at the time.

And I now realize that they have been saving me all this time from reliving the pain that my existence would be burdensome for others and thus essentially unnecessary to be lived.

Unmasking the ego: A personal odyssey of healing and redemption

That I am grateful to them and that I forgive myself for having believed in someone else’s truth over me.

And invite them to let their energy, recognizable in my natural aggression guided by my instinctive and intuitive knowing, be part of me again. Trusting the energy of my inner ‘owned’ wisdom and being led in confidence and faith by it. Following in liberty.

To live together, in unity, and to continue the inner journey to earthly wisdom. Taking the time to listen, with care, consideration and attention, to life itself and continue our path together. Based on common sense and a moral awareness of boundaries. And to share the wonder of being alive with others.

All illustrations by Alja Zwierenberg

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