The concept of “ego,” has become a widely encompassing term connoting anything from self-righteous narcissism to a Freudian control center. For the purposes of this post, ego stands for all that gets in our way, our “opponent,” as the Kabbalists call it, the “pain-body,” as Eckhart Tolle calls it, or the part of self that causes us to unconsciously react vs. respond to life’s events.


“There is no greater enemy than that which lies within ourselves.” – Anon


In all spiritual and psychological texts, the main focus is to somehow obliterate or eliminate the ego. It is thought that in the absence of the ego, one is allowed to be present without judgment. It is the ego that tells us we should get the bigger house, the flashier car, the higher thread count sheets- all in hopes that someone might notice just how great we are.  It is the ego that creates “thou,” and “I,” vs. just “us.” It is the ego that ultimately disconnects us from humanity.

If we step back for a moment and look at the mental illness of depression, we can see that a hallmark feature of this disease is that the person is disconnected from the human race. The person seems to collapse into themselves, judging, ruminating, and maintaining a daily focus on self. Conversely, most studies of those that are the happiest among us (see Seligman) demonstrate that those people seem to be others focused, volunteering their help, and socially connected with many different varieties of people on a daily basis.Thus, one can begin to make the connection between the maintenance of the ego and depression.

How does one leggo their ego, you ask? Well, the truth is – there are Buddhist monks who have not entirely figured this out yet. However, there are ways to do so and we can begin by shifting our focus to others, as a start.

In studies of individuals diagnosed with severe mental illness, they showed that those who volunteered for as little as three weeks begin to show dramatic changes in the neurochemicals responsible for depression- namely Serotonin (mother nature’s proverbial Wheaties when it comes to happiness).

From an evolutionary standpoint it makes sense to think that when we are socially connected, we are happiest. When we relied on the support of others we likely survived best during times of famine and warfare. Also, you may have noticed that our neurochemistry is pretty well rewarded with any behavior that eventually leads to procreation (sex) among our species.

So what do we do today in our playstation-facebook-text-email-isolative driven society? We get off the couch, open our doors, and connect face to face. Sound difficult? It does to many who suffer from the debilitating illness of depression.

Depression can serve as a flu of the mind. Ever been so sick with a flu that it was all you could do to stay in bed and eat flav-o-ice? Same thing with depression, except for one tiny little catch 22- it doesn’t get better until you do, and often times that means “just doing it,” when all you feel like doing is nothing at all.

However, once you start to engage in the behavior of sharing and connecting with others, the depression starts to fade. Neuropsychologically- we are starting to engage the left brain (associated with novelty and challenge/feelings of well-being and contentment), which shifts the focus from our depression, deeply situated within the right hemisphere (associated with routine/negative feelings, depression, and despair).

Spiritually speaking, it is said that once you start worrying about others- the universe starts worrying about you. So what can you do today to reach out to others and connect?

Dr. Colleen Long is the author of “Happiness in B.A.L.A.N.C.E,” and practices in the Los Angeles area under the supervision of Dr. Richard Oelberger (PSY22186) . Dr. Long works mainly from a positive psychology framework as it applies to addiction, depression, relationships,  body image and weight loss. Her website can be found at www.DrColleenLong.com. All public speaking/media event requests handled through FreudTV (info@FreudTV.com).

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