The human psyche is made up of a many moving parts. Waking up means all of them work together to shift which part is in the lead. The three parts that matter most are the ego, the Higher Self and the Lower Self. The Mask Self is really just a nuisance that gets in the way and needs to go.
The part that needs waking up is the Higher Self. In most people, it lies dormant in the center of our being, rarely seen and seldom consulted. It’s not so much that our Higher Self is asleep, but we’re simply no longer aware of it. It’s patiently waiting for us to access it—to operate our lives from this deeper place within. We have arrived at a separated sense of ourselves precisely because our ego has lost contact with this highly connected, inner domain.
The ego, by contrast, is the part of ourselves we’re very familiar with. In fact, we always have full access to our ego. So this is the part that needs to do the heavy lifting of surfacing our Higher Self. Hence, having a well-developed ego is fundamental to the process of waking up. (See Meeting the Selves from Spilling the Script.)
To this end, humanity has been focusing on developing our ego. We’ve learned to use our mind in powerful ways. We’ve also learned to make the effort needed to live a functional life. Now that many of us have become accomplished at applying our ego in the right way, we’re in good shape for the challenge of waking up. Truth be told, we’ve been working up to this for a very long time.
But take note, if our lives aren’t currently in reasonably good working order, our ego is not yet ready to wake up. For waking up is not an easy task, and an underdeveloped ego is more apt to slip into spiritual bypass than make any serious progress. Spiritual bypass is what happens when the ego attempts to look “spiritual,” but actually avoids doing the hard work of self-development.
Living from Our Ego
The ego is a limited aspect of ourselves. It performs certain important functions but it lacks any depth. So for example, the ego may learn something and spit it back out, but it can’t come up with new creative ideas on its own. Perhaps the biggest deficit of the ego is that it’s perpetually stuck in duality. By definition, this means that when we’re living from our ego, we’re typically living with conflict.
By giving up our fighting stance towards life, we can overcome the pain of separation and the untruth it stands upon.
Here’s how it works: The ego divides everything into right or wrong, good or bad, black or white. The ego can’t hold both sides of really anything—it can’t hold opposites—so it must always take one side or the other. Typically, it scrambles for the good, while running from the bad. (Although sometimes, out of sheer hopelessness, the ego will turn and embrace the “bad,” kidding itself that this is a good idea.) But any time we are missing half the picture, we’re not seeing the whole truth. The Higher Self, on the other hand, resides in the unitive state where opposites are necessary to complete the entire picture.
With our dualistic ego-oriented approach, we take on life with a “me versus the other” attitude. But the bigger truth about life is that it’s always “me and the other.” This is why we say that conflict is an inherent part of the illusion of duality. It’s only by giving up our fighting stance towards life that we can overcome the pain of separation and the untruth it stands upon. (See Blinded by Fear: Insights from the Pathwork Guide on How to Face our Fears, Chapter 6)
Further, the ego tends to go for a hard-lined, fixed position. It likes rigid rules, lots of control and ironclad opinions. It especially likes to be right. This, the ego thinks, is the way to win. But crouching in such a defensive posture—which is the ego’s version of strength—creates stress and anxiety, along with tension in the body. It’s hard to stay healthy when we tax our system like this. It’s also not true we can ever “win” this way.
So How Do We Get There, From Here?
What stops the ego from learning to identify more fully with the Higher Self is the Lower Self. In a nutshell, the Lower Self is the layer of negativity and destructiveness that causes us every disharmony in life. So if we let go from our ego before we have transformed our Lower Self, we may find ourselves swimming in a world of hurt.
Truth be told, the average person is going to have to cover a lot of Lower-Self ground before traveling from the ego to the Higher Self. We must clean out all our dark inner closets, so to speak, as part of the waking-up process. This is the only way to transition from an ego-led life to one that’s grounded in the greater truth of our being. (See Doing the Work: Healing Our Body, Mind & Spirit by Getting to Know the Self)
When we live from our ego, we do battle with life instead of figuring out how to make peace with it. For living in peace requires us to see and understand the whole truth. In fact, it’s only after seeing truth in its entirety that we will reconcile opposites, drop our cases, let others off the hook, and move into a more peaceful existence. All self-development, then, is really about unwinding our inner negativity and rediscovering the truth.
Waking Up is Not the Same as Winding Up
But isn’t it true we must fight for what’s right? In truth, until everyone is living from their Higher Self, it will always be necessary for people to stand up for what is right and true—to oppose that which is destructive and unjust. But to do so from duality is to get stuck in the quagmire. So we may certainly need to take action to help correct wrong systems and practices, but we can do so more effectively when we are thoughtful and mature. More often, we tend to add to the fray because we are driven by our rebellious fight against unresolved inner pain.
Due to our history of pain and struggle, now the only way to feel alive is by fighting.
From our one-sided perspective, we jump into fighting as though this is a sign of success. In such a wound up, energized state, we will feel enlivened by the conflict. What’s actually happening is that due to our history of pain and struggle, our wires have gotten crossed so that now the only way to feel alive is by fighting. But all we’re really doing is amping up the negativity. As such, we’re contributing to the darkness.
This, friends, is not the way out. This is not the way to stand in the light. The first step of our work is to turn the spotlight of blame towards our own inner darkness. And whether we’re aware of it or not, it’s there.
Why We Can’t Find Peace by Ourselves
Waking up doesn’t mean that bad things no longer happen. It means we have learned to accept the good and the bad, and are then able to give up our resistance to life. It means we have found the error inside ourselves and no longer feel compelled to fight against it in the outer world.
Our goal is to live in peace, but this is not something we can achieve in isolation. For every conflict we face with other people reveals an untruthful aspect of our inner terrain that we need to set right. Chances are, we aren’t even aware of how we are contributing to our struggles. So it’s good to work with someone who can help us develop better self-awareness. Beyond this, if we opt to withdraw from interactions as a way to find peace, we will discover the pain of separation is even worse than living with conflict.
Waking up is not the job of the world. It’s what each of us is being called to do.
The way to view our struggles, then, is to see them as flashing lights, pointing out our inner work. If we avoid these signals, we will remain locked in painful difficulties. If we turn and face them—and do the healing work necessary to unwind them—we will continually find ourselves more and more freed from conflict.
All told, waking up is what naturally happens when we clear away our inner disturbances and resolve our problems in the world. Conflict is what happens when we remain isolated from our own Higher Self, living from our ego and avoiding our dark inner corners while demanding the world showers us with light.
But waking up is not the job of the world. It’s what each of us is being called to do. Once we do our all-important inner housework, we’ll find ourselves bringing more light out into the world. And the world will then reflect our light back to us.
When that happens, we will discover that life can be lived with grace and ease. After we clear away our resistance and the untruth that underpins it, our lives will naturally become more manageable. We will cooperate with life, bring an end to our chaos, and we will know peace.
Learn more about waking up in After the Ego: Insights from the Pathwork® Guide on How to Wake Up