Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Ego and Labeling

Lately I've been noticing the amount of labeling we're doing as a species. When we label another person as "this" or "that" (or even as "not this" or "not that")we are reducing what is essentially the irreducible aliveness of an ever-changing being to a limited mental projection we have created in our own minds. We then give ourselves permission to treat that person as if they are the label we've assigned to them, rather than as what they truly are. By doing so we unconsciously allow our ego to circumvent the energy of Spirit, which knows all beings are a loving emanation from the One infinite/eternal field of life, temporarily existing as differentiated forms.

The human ego loves its mental labels! Once we've attached a mental label to something, the ego then feels free to judge it as good or evil, right or wrong, the same as "me" or different from "me," because discerning these patterns is the primary function of ego. Discerning patterns allows us, as human beings, to position ourselves in space-time and to form patterns of understanding about the world by which we can successfully navigate our sensory reality. As soon as a label has been attached to something, it becomes "objectified." The ego then grants itself permission to behave toward that object the way it believes best for itself based upon what that label tells us about the object, without any further concern for the life force moving within the object that the ego has judged. The ego then, is never in full relationship with the energetic field of life, because it concerns itself mainly with static objects and forms relationships with the world on that limited level. The ego's relationships consist of surface labels and judgments, learned patterns and conditioned, mainly unconscious responses to the various objects it imagines it encounters.

On a certain level of behavior the labeling function performed by the ego can be very helpful to us. If I notice a "rock" I become instantly aware I cannot pass through it and must instead go around it. I don't need to stop and contemplate the rock (or the tree, or the river) to know how to be in relationship with it for my own physical safety. This allows me to move through the world of form easily and quickly, so I can accomplish much more than if I were required to treat each object I encountered as if it were a brand new experience and as if I had no understanding of my surroundings or how best to relate to them.

On another level though, this process of labeling and reducing can be very harmful to us, as well as to those we encounter. When I meet another human being, perhaps in a restaurant, and label him as "waiter," I then give myself permission to behave toward him as if his sole purpose in life is to take my order, serve me my food and clear away my dirty dishes without disturbing my meal in any way. Unless a deeper awareness rises below and behind the surface level of egoic conditioned labeling, I will therefore miss the opportunity to interact with that being who is doing the serving on a soul level, where I can honor the depth and beauty of his aliveness and invite him to honor mine.

For a very long time - probably since the evolution of human language - humanity has learned to move through the world using labels and forming conditioned mental patterns with respect to objects. This behavior has allowed us to evolve rapidly, to create new technologies and to advance our capacities and objective understanding of the world. And yet...because we have become so attached to our labels and comfortable with our judgments, the technologies we've created and the ways we're interacting with our living planet and with each other often fail to root deeply enough to form loving, lasting relationships on the level of life itself. This explains why we can pollute a river without relating to it as something more than a "convenient place to dump waste," and why we can bomb a city and not relate to its suffering occupants as anything more than "enemies." Most of the suffering we observe in our world - and most of the damage we've done to our living planet - can be traced directly to our habit of objectifying and reducing life to mere mental concepts, and then relating to it in a limited way as if the concept we've formed is the whole truth of what we're experiencing.

I believe the evolutionary shift that is occurring right here and now in human consciousness is an internal thrust toward greater awareness of the limitations of assigning labels, as well as an awakening to the deep and energetic interconnectedness of all things. The realization that we can't neatly reduce the energetic field of life - in any form - to a static label and relate to it only in that limited way is a change that enables us to shift our present social systems (which are failing) toward new, deeper and more meaningful ways of being in relationship with one another and with the living world that contains and supports us all. That internal movement is urging our long-subdued spirits to awaken. An awakened spirit recognizes and honors the limited but crucial role being played by ego in keeping the body safe, even as Spirit steps forward and claims its rightful place as "captain of the ship." We're not here to eliminate our egos or blame and curse them for performing their given functions, but to direct them where they belong, in service to Spirit. That new contextualization allows Spirit to engage more fully and richly with itself in the field of life - as it meets and honors its infinite/eternal self in the form of all other beings with whom we share this living world.

1 comment:

  1. Very appropriate with the terror attacks in my country Belgium. I wanted to write a blog about labeling and ego when I came across yours. Couldn't do a better job. No need for ego. Thanks for sharing.