What is the difference between the "Ego" and the "Aware Ego"? You also use the term "Operating Ego" and this gets to be quite confusing.
We discovered early in our work together that we were made up of many different selves. The ones that we identified with in the growing up process we called our Primary Selves and the ones that got rejected became known as the Disowned Selves, a term first used by Nathaniel Brandon who - at that time - was referring then to the rejected emotional lives of people. What we discovered was that "the Ego" that was traditionally seen as being in charge of the personality, was, in fact, the group of primary selves people were identified with. It also became clear to us that trying to “get rid of our ego” as directed by so many spiritual writers, was not a good idea. To get rid of the ego means that we are getting rid of the primary selves that essentially run our lives (as best they can). It would mean getting rid of our primary way of functioning in the world and handling the complexities of our lives. We learned very quickly to not try to get rid of anything.
So it was that a different path opened for us. Instead of getting rid of these primary selves on the one side or allowing them to rule us unconsciously from the other side, why not talk to them and help someone become aware of - and experience - these primary selves and then learn to use them in a new way, a more conscious way, which for us meant using them through the Aware Ego Process. What might this look like in action?
Jim comes to us with a variety of symptoms and clinically feels stressed and overworked. It is clear that he is a very responsible person and pushes himself in a very hard way. So we have identified two of his primary selves; the selves of Responsibility and Pushing. These, together with his Mind and Perfectionist are part of his Primary Self system.
So we start a Voice Dialogue facilitation with Jim and, after getting a history, we ask to talk to the Voice of Responsibility. He moves over to a different physical space and we begin to talk to this Voice of Responsibility. We take as much time as is necessary so that we have a clear understanding of this Self - of why is was born and how it protected him. Then we move him back to the chair where he was sitting in the first place.
Something has happened however. Jim is not the same person. He is quite amazed to have met this responsible person as an objective self. He begins to see how strong it is in him and why it is that he can’t say no to the demands of the life that he lives. If he feels a need from someone, then he must say yes to that need. So we must give a different name to this new Jim. When he first sat down the "governing body" in his psyche was a system of primary selves that he knew nothing about - what historically would be known as his "Ego". After our facilitation, he has separated in some measure from one part of this primary self system. He has become aware of and has experienced the Voice of Responsibility as an objective self that has been running his life. He now has the beginning of an Aware Ego process in relationship to the part of him that requires him to be responsible. With time the Aware Ego Process will get stronger and he will begin to have more choices about what he chooses to do or not do when someone asks him for a favor.
So Jim has gone through a refinement. He has begun to experience the Aware Ego Process in relationship to the Voice of Responsibility. In another session we may choose to work with the opposite voice, with the part of him that does not want to be responsible, the part of him that was not rewarded when he was growing up in his particular family system.
So now Jim has an Aware Ego Process that stands between two opposite self-systems. It is the Aware Ego process that allows us to become aware of - and to experience - the many opposites that live in each of us. It is a very good start that Jim has made. However, despite the fact that he now has the beginnings of the Aware Ego process in relationship to Responsibility, he doesn’t yet know about the many other selves that still run him – his Pusher, his Mind, his Perfectionist, and many others.
As with all of us, the new Jim is run by a system of primary selves that we call the Operating Ego. This Operating Ego is the group of primary selves that are still operating unconsciously in him, but this group is less powerful than it used to be because of his new awareness of the way he uses responsibility in the world.
This process goes on and on. It is an ongoing clarification of selves or self systems and a gradual movement into a stronger and stronger Aware Ego Process. But - in this movement - there is continuing respect and gratitude to the original primary self system for the way it has protected Jim through the years and enabled him to function in the world until now.
Now to summarize:
The "ego" is in fact the group of primary selves that we develop in the growing up process that rules us in an unconscious way.
The Aware Ego is not a thing; it is a process. It is an energy in the psyche that moves us towards change. It is constantly requiring of us that we separate from these unconscious selves and learn to use them in new ways. It gets stronger as we separate from more of our primary systems and learn to become aware of and experience our disowned self systems. It ultimately gives us the ability to stand between opposites and live with this tension so that new possibilities can begin to emerge from the deeper - and wiser - parts of our psyche.
The Operating Ego is the group of primary selves that runs our personality. We are constantly refining this system as the Aware Ego steps in to separate us and allow us to embrace the two sides of the opposites. As the Aware Ego grows stronger, the authority and power of the Operating Ego is reduced and choice making moves increasingly into the hands of the Aware Ego Process.
For a complete picture of the Aware Ego Process, listen to our 5- disc CD set, The Aware Ego.