Disruption Mission: No Identity Day

All the world's a stage
and all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many  parts.
photo credit: Ivan Bliznetsov

For centuries philosophers have stated that the ego is an illusion. Shakespeare's quote suggests that we are like actors and our very identity is just a "role" that we play for 80 or so years. The ego illusion concept is a core belief in Eastern thought as well.

Before we delve into our next mission, let us define what we mean by "ego". Simply put we mean our "self", our identity. One definition reads, "The self, especially as distinct from the world and other selves." For me anything that defines who TORRIE is- that is part of ego. When I say I am an introvert, an artist, a mother, a person who hates beets- those are all just roles that "I" am currently playing. So if I am not really Torrie, I'm just playing the role of a woman named Torrie, then who am I really? I refer to that part as the AUTHENTIC SELF.

So herein lies the problem...
when I constantly forget that I am not really my ego. We get so sucked in to our story about ourselves that we believe it is concrete. In fact, we go out of our way to force things to fit into our little story about who we are because we don't want our story (our identity) to be DISRUPTED because that makes us feel very uncomfortable. We do this all the time when we say things like, "Oh, I can't meet new people because I am shy." So we go around playing the role of a shy person, and totally forget that we are just playing a role that is totally based on an illusion. Are you with me still?

I've been messing around with this ego stuff and having a grand ol' time with it. And I'm going to state a bold and super fun challenge for all of us: Pick one day and truly believe that your ego is a total fabrication of your own mind. If you find this hard to swallow, then just PRETEND, act as if your ego is an illusion... just for a single day. Are you willing to play along with me?

Now, what you will do during this assignment is to notice how you respond to things. Ask yourself, "How would I respond if I knew the ego wasn't real?" or another question I love from Byron Katie goes: Who would I be without my story?

For me I notice that I don't take anything personally because...well, it makes no sense to do so. When that dumb driver cuts me off (or flips me off) I wonder why they are having a bad day. I imagine that person laughing with joy, or crying with sorrow. I don't go, "You lousy #@#$%!!! What the F**** is your problem? Why are YOU taking your crap out on ME?" In other words I don't try to defend my SELF.

When the kids are behaving badly, I don't try to defend and justify my super-mom role. When something doesn't go according to plan I don't try to defend it. This allows me to see any situation with a crazy amount of detached clarity.

This is also a very powerful technique to use when facing a fear.
If we believe (or pretend to believe) that we have no real "self" to defend, then suddenly the idea of fearing failure seems absurd. And the absolute BEST part of all this is that when you begin to pull away from your ego the AUTHENTIC SELF begins to emerge. And all I can say about that is WOW. 

So won't you join me for one fine day of egoless living? Warning: if you try this you may want to keep trying it. Proceed with CAUTION.


  1. FUN. I'm in. Will report back with results.

  2. Yeah. Well. So.
    Maybe I just chose the wrong day, but when I tried to set it aside, my ego got attacked all day long. In fact I took things more personally than usual. But at least I was aware of what was happening.
    I might have to try this again. Any further advice or mental tricks would be helpful.

  3. I sucked at it this week too, Ruth! Most creatures try to retaliate when threatened. The ego is no different. The fact that it's retaliating means you're onto something. The fact that you were AWARE is huge! That is already progress so be proud of that. Try to have fun with it, like it's a game. If we try this and feel like we fail, that's our lovely ego's telling us we failed which totally defeats the purpose of the exercise. Go figure!