Our ego is a key player in our soul’s journey to wholeness. A strong, mature ego aids our psycho-spiritual growth; a weak and fearful ego holds us back. To gain a better understanding of your ego’s status you can track your dreams. Your ego shows up every night as you, the dreamer: the one climbing the mountain, driving too fast down the dark road, running from the stranger, forgetting to feed the baby, standing naked in a crowd.
In my dream The Elephant in the Cave, the “I” trying to bar the door was my ego, and the elephant symbolized a strong inner force I didn’t want to acknowledge as part of me. In other words, my ego was frightened, rigid, closed, and one-sided. Oops. Several months later, my dream Going Against the Current confirmed that my dreamwork was paying off. But was I finished? Had my ego grown open, strong, and brave? Not by a long shot. A few months after that I dreamed Hiding from the Enemy. There was the fear again. Even though I (my ego) was taking my inner life seriously, the dream said I was still afraid of something in my unconscious, still trying to hide from it. Still rigid. Still one-sided. What was this all about? I had no idea.
Fast forward about a year when along came a dream I called Killing the Weeds:
I’m carrying a container of weed killer with a thin tube coming out of the top. I’m careful not to touch the tip of the tube because I don’t want to get poison on my fingers. I walk along a patterned brick path adjoining the foundation of a large house and let the point of the tube fall on two large weeds that have sprouted up in the cement joint between the path and the house.
This was confusing. Weeds are Nature, and although most of us want to get rid of weeds, they’re not always bad. A weed in one part of the world is a greenhouse plant in another. What if I was trying to kill something in myself that was actually good? It was only when I put the dream into the context of my waking life that I saw what it could mean. A few days earlier I had made an uncharacteristically outspoken speech to a group of Episcopalians and two priests had mildly disagreed with something I said. To my surprise, I was devastated by their implied criticism.
My dream explained my discomfort. Until that point in my life, pleasing and impressing conventional authorities had been fundamental to my personality (the foundation of the house) and this trait had served me so well that I had achieved a certain amount of success in the eyes of the world. But I had come to see my need for society’s approval as a pesky, unwanted trait (weeds) that had forced its way through the sturdy foundation of my spiritual journey (patterned brick path). Realizing that my strong tendency to conform marred my prospects for continued growth, I had chosen to rid myself of it by pursuing self-knowledge (my dream ego was killing the weeds), but this felt subversive and I was afraid of being punished (poisoned).
Now I know why I resisted my soul’s flowering for so long: The ego’s fear of retribution is a soul-killer! We feel so much safer trusting authority figures than challenging them. Isn’t this the message we were sent as children? But there comes a time in the life of every individual when we need to trust our inner messages and develop our own authority. When that time comes, it’s up to our ego to enter the soul’s garden, take a look around, and start weeding.