Ego work is necessary, not because it will ensure you manifest your desire, but because the ego flares up during the process and we need to know how to make sense of it. This is not the same as believing you need to release all of your deep-seated childhood trauma in order for your desire to manifest, it is understanding that when you focus on your desire the ego will present its stories and feelings that are attached to it, and that this is normal for this to occur. This is why we must work with the ego rather than against it, for the ego can only help you when you stop making it a self-sabotaging enemy or the obstacle to your desires.
There are usually two schools of thought when it comes to this topic — they are not the only ones, but they are prominent enough that it’s worth highlighting them. The first is when someone puts so much emphasis on ego work that they unconsciously make it an obstacle course that they must successfully navigate before they will manifest their desire. The second is when someone believes that manifestation has nothing to do with ego work at all, and will dismiss the process entirely in favour of focusing solely on the desire and ignoring any feeling, thought, or circumstance that arises.
The second is the approach that is most common in the online community, where the focus is heavily on ignoring circumstances, flipping and resisting negative thoughts, and persisting only in the positive ones. Circumstances are dismissed by deeming them “not real” without the deeper understanding of what “not real” truly means. The problem with this approach is that its reductive: it distills the teachings down to simply “ignoring everything and focusing on what you want”, and although this is correct in theory, it is completely ignorant to the practice as it does not equip anyone with the skills to successfully understand the purpose of the ego and how to work with it. This is the part I really want to emphasise: what is said in theory is not how something is experienced in practice. The reason this approach is so common is because those that preach it are only repeating theory; they are not speaking from the lived experience that arises when putting theory into practice. If they were, they would know it is not as simple as ignoring your ego.
I have met many people who have adopted this blinkered approach, only to become hysterical later when they realise their ego did not disappear because they ignored it, and when manifestation is “not as easy” as they were expecting it to be, because they have been told that it is simply a case of ignoring what you don’t want. Of course they feel like failures when they can’t execute it so simply, because they have been mislead in the first place. I have spoken about this form of spiritual bypassing many times, and so I will focus on another common approach that is seemingly the opposite of this: putting ALL of the emphasis on ego work — as if we can only achieve the manifestation when the work is done.
On the surface these two approaches may seem very different, but they are just two extremes on the same spectrum. They are both operating from the misunderstanding that manifestation is about an act of doing to make something happen rather than being and knowing that it is done — it is true that manifestation is simple, and this is the reason why. It is not simple because you simply just need to ignore your feelings and circumstances,it is simple because it is not about doing but only about being who you are when you feel your desire is already here. Manifestation itself is simple, absolutely, but the process of encountering your ego as it arises can often be unpleasant and I feel it is extremely important to normalise this. This is not me saying that you must suffer before things get better, but that having the ego come up is normal and we must learn how to work with it, rather than ignore it entirely. We also do not need to make the ego something we must conquer before we can have what we want!
Because both of these approaches are based on the idea that we have to do something (hint: actively ignoring something is still doing) in order to manifest, this is why they usually lead to the same result: the person sees little or no change in their circumstances, and to make it worse, is now experiencing a decline in their mental health as a result.
Treating ego work as an obstacle course is usually adopted as a shift away from the second approach, where the person has now realised that ignoring their feelings doesn’t make them go away, and that flipping their thoughts is exhausting and inefficient. They will likely have devoured a lot of information on manifestation (some of which will be contradictory), and will have hired many coaches and mentors to be told that they must simply get rid of their limiting beliefs, further solidifying the idea that something is wrong with them that they must fix. They will have resisted for so long and tried every technique under the sun, that they approach ego work as if it is a manifestation technique as well. This is where the issue starts — when we see ego work as something we are doing to get what we want, we are making the following assumptions:
- that our manifestation is a “reward” given to us only when we have “fixed” the parts of ourselves that are “blocking” or limiting us in some way;
- that in order to manifest, we have to do something to make it happen;
- that we don’t have our desire, which is why we need to manifest it.
When you tell yourself that you have to do something in order to get your manifestation, you are accepting that the manifestation is not here and that it is outside of you. Then, no matter what technique you do, you will only see a reflection of this state: the state of not having. If you then tell yourself that you can only have the manifestation after you have done your ego work, not only does it put obstacles between you and your desire, it creates a framework in which you have to do things right in order to be rewarded. I have noticed that people with a deep inner belief of not being “worthy enough” gravitate to this approach very easily, as they apply the internalised shame from not feeling worthy in childhood to the manifestation process, and punish themselves the same way that caregivers may have mistreated them as a child when they “don’t see results”. The absence of their manifestation confirms to them that it is true that they really must be unworthy or incapable, and their mental health begins to spiral downwards. Of course, this sets the person up for failure, because deep down they do not believe they are worthy of their desires manifesting, and they are reinforcing this with their approach of “if only I do this, then I will be rewarded.” Similar to a child performing for the love of their parent, the person then uses ego work as the thing they must conquer until they are finally deserving of what they want. Of course, this is a generalisation and is not indicative of everyone — using ego work as a means to an end can also be attractive to people that were socialised to believe that hard work means a reward, or where expected to be perfect achievers as children. There are many ways this can play out, but ultimately what you need to understand is this:
Ego work is not an obstacle course you complete and then your desire is at the end of it.
Ego work unfolds in the moment.
Ego work is in how you live your everyday life! In any given moment, you are either surrendered to what is or you are resisting it. Resistance occurs when the ego is trying to reassert its identity — this will happen many times a day as you experience different states, feelings, thoughts, and circumstances. Ego work is not something you do before these things occur to stop them from occurring — ego work is an embodied practice that allows you to understand what the ego is presenting in the moment that it unfolds. It is is how you respond (rather than react) to your circumstances, it is how you tend to your negative thoughts and low moods when they arise. Ego work is not about taming the ego, but integrating it and working with it, knowing that the ego is not a problem but a compass that has been pointing out the direction to you the whole time. We can’t quietly do our ego work in hiding and then emerge perfect for the world and finally be deserving of our desires— this would be like trying to eat 100 meals today so that you will never be hungry again, something that of course will never work, because you will be soon be hungry tomorrow.
Approaching ego work as a way to “get” your manifestation is also assuming that when you manifest the desire, you will be free of all of the limiting beliefs that bind you and will finally be happy. Again, this happens when people see ego work as a means to an end, they do not realise that their manifestation will not save them from whatever ego identifications they have going on. This is particularly true for those who desire a relationship, and they will likely have a rude awakening when their manifested partner begins to mirror back to them their deep, buried ego identities. Then they will realise that the relationship, although it was possible to manifest, did not save them from themselves! This is also very common in those who are fixated on manifesting lots of money. This is not to say that manifestation is pointless and that you shouldn’t bother having desires because it won’t make you happy, but instead to embody the happiness you feel this desire will bring and allow yourself that happiness now, rather than putting it on hold. I am also reminding you that yes, when you manifest your desire, you will still experience ego delusion — because the manifestation is merely a manifestation, it does not alter who we think we are.
This is exactly why ego work is not a prerequisite for your manifestation but is an ongoing process that does not stop. I know this may sound disheartening to some of you, but when you no longer treat it as a means to an end and it is just the natural way that you approach life, it won’t be a chore, it will just be part of the identity of who you are: a self-reflective person, who understands that the physical world is only a mirror of your being, and shifts accordingly and without question because you truly accept that the physical is a mirror of your self. You do not resist the mirror or ask “how am I reflecting that?” because you know that your true identity as Source is one with everything — there is no question as to “how is this me?” because you already know that you are Source playing all of the parts. You do not blame yourself for the mirror, as you know its reflection is not a consequence for something you did wrong. Instead, when you see a reflection you don’t enjoy, you will simply go within and shift because you know you have the freedom to do so. You will catch limiting thoughts as they arise, knowing that they are not a problem, but are only indicative of who you are being in that given moment, with the knowledge that this identity is fluid and can easily be transformed. When we approach ego work as an obstacle course, we are also seeing the ego as if it is static. We see it as static because we have confused it with who we are, and so instead of understanding it as a temporary expression we see it as a fixed entity that needs to be changed.
What’s funny is that when ego work is our embodied approach to life rather than a technique to make something happen, it stops becoming “work”. Ego work is not mental gymnastics, it is an embodied practice. You notice your ego in the moments it flares up, as you are living your everyday life. When I was a baby, I refused to walk unless I was holding what I thought was a “magic sock”. If I dropped the sock, I would suddenly fall down and start crying, because I didn’t believe I could walk without it. No amount of telling me that the sock is not powerful, that the power was within myself, would have helped me because in order to know for myself I had to drop the sock. Only when I took the action of responding differently to my circumstances (continuing to walk even though I had dropped the sock) did I realise that the limit was only a story. This is the same for manifestation: no amount of thinking about getting rid of your “limiting beliefs” or unwanted ego identity will allow you to drop it, you will only drop it when you literally step out of the identity and stop acting from it. The moment you choose to respond differently to a triggering circumstance (rather than affirm to yourself over and over how that circumstance doesn’t exist and only the opposite is true), is the moment in which you transform.
The ego is a marker for who you are being. It shows you very easily through your thoughts, feelings, and reaction, who you are being in this moment when react to the outer reality. Without understand this, you would have little capability for self awareness, and would go around in a deeply unconscious state, running like an automaton from your conditioned beliefs. In fact, most people who have not discovered their spiritual essence will live their whole lives this way. So the trick is not to demonise the ego or ignore it, neither do we need to see it as a problem that we need to fix before are rewarded with the desire. Instead, embody the feeling of your desires being done right now — where in this moment, they are no longer desires, but an actuality, and embody that feeling and go forward in it. Do NOT make this a technique to “get” your manifestation — the moment you go to this kind of thinking you have already come out of the embodied state of having. It is very subtle, but it makes all the difference when you understand how to embody the desire, for when it is embodied, it is no longer a desire at all, it is who you are, and the physical world will reflect it back.