"... a Quiet Ego"

SA blog: The Pressing Need for Everyone to Quiet Their Egos


Great article :anjal::dharmawheel:

Make no doubt: the self can be our greatest resource, but it can also be our darkest enemy. On the one hand, the fundamentally human capacities for self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-control are essential for reaching our goals. On the other hand, the self will do anything to disavow itself of responsibility for any negative outcome it may have played a role. As one researcher put it, the self engenders “a self-zoo of self-defense mechanisms.” I believe we can refer to these defensive strategies to see the self in a positive light as the “ego”. A noisy ego spends so much time defending the self as if it were a real thing, and then doing whatever it takes to assert itself, that it often inhibits the very goals it is most striving for.


I also particularly liked the utilitarian nature of the following:

I think it’s time for our society to realize (and put into practice) the fact that you don’t have to choose either concern for the self or concern for others. In fact, intentionally practicing to maintain a healthy balance between these fundamental concerns is most conducive to health, growth, well-being, high performance, creativity, and actually arriving at the truth.


Imagine if in addition to learning math, reading, and sex education in school, we also learned how to cultivate the four characteristics of the quiet ego? Or imagine if before any potentially heated public debate, the ground rules included at least an attempt for all participants to practice these characteristics?


Better yet, how about instead of the goal of the debate being “who won?”, the debate concludes by having each participant state the things they learned from the other person as a result of the discussion? Would that really be so boring? If so, then I think the problem cuts even deeper than I thought.


The piece correctly observes that psychologists use the term ego in very different ways. For practitioners there may be a important difference in method and emphasis – one not addressed in the piece. I propose a more productive view is that the aspect of the ego spoken of in the piece is not so much quieted as it is balanced out by other internal “voices”, perspectives, views or mental frameworks. From this view, instead of being the dominant or main spokesman for the self, the “ego” spoken of in the article becomes one of several voices of a larger, more mature ego.

A dynamic balance of differing urges/desires/motivations makes major life changes difficult. Think of making a major change to diet and exercise for instance. And yet it is possible to change the balance … and yet still retain some desire for or enjoyment of certain types of foods.

I’m thinking it’s important to note the author’s definition of “ego” and “self” used in the piece.
In addition the piece seems to conflate the particular definition of “ego” with “self”.
I come to this with more than a passing interest in the field of adult developmental psychology.

Since psychologists use of the term ego is very different ways, let me be clear how I am defining it here. I define the ego as that aspect of the self that has the incessant need to see itself in a positive light. Make no doubt: the self can be …

[Note: I assume the author meant to write “psychologists use the term ego in very different ways”]

FYI: I interpret the EBT’s as recognizing a widespread default sense of self with the goal of enabling the development of a more mature, enlightened “self”. The two versions of “self” being so dramatically different at key points that it speaks of the mature self as a negation (roughly translated “not self”) of the default self.

From some psychological viewpoints therefor, the self does not cease to be but rather is transformed. As is the “sense of one self”.

The piece seems to share a similar view:

To be clear, a quiet ego is not the same thing as a silent ego. Squashing the ego so much that it loses its identity entirely does not do yourself or the world any favors. Instead, the quiet ego perspective emphasizes balance and integration. As Wayment and colleagues put it, “The volume of the ego is turned down so that it might listen to others as well as the self in an effort to approach life more humanely and compassionately.” The quiet ego approach focuses on balancing the interests of the self and others, and cultivating growth of the self and others over time based on self-awareness, interdependent identity, and compassionate experience.

In my mind this so-called “quiet ego” is actually not so quiet at all … but it is playing different music.

IMO the following idea may not be helpful or accurate:

A quiet ego … doesn’t need to constantly resort to defensiveness whenever the ego is threatened, and yet has a firm sense of self-worth and competence.

Rather than thinking in terms of “needs”, better to begin with observations of what arises. I hear people that seem to have a quiet (or quieter than average) ego note the desire to resort to defensiveness followed an arising of other notions which work to counter act the defensive movement. Just noting the arising of the defensive urge is a start.

I suggest that the defensiveness cannot be stopped (except perhaps by the highly developed). BUT defensiveness can be balanced out by other reactions.

I’ve written here more about such practices here:

…using psychology.

With metta

Hi Feynman :slight_smile:

Your take is very interesting.

As I am going through a rather major change of life at present I particularly liked the following. (It’s an interesting time to be present to my being!)

However, this:

…adds a different flavour to the matter.

So, I don’t view any “self” or “ego” as being inherently stable or controllable.

So when I have conflicting emotional stories “arise” within myself at present, I view them as streams of conditioning. One set being conditioned by my past habits, influences and choices. And the other conditioned by different past habits, influences and choices. Different conditioned processes, and “I” am making choices now also - not just in the past.

Choices about how I respond to each, what attention I give them and what the quality of this attention is and what attitudes I bring.

I would say, balanced out by different streams of conditioning.

However, in terms of what we seem to experience and operate through on a daily basis, as unAwakened humans, there is a sense of “I” existing. Apparently a delusion, around which I haven’t yet achieved any kind of truly experiential/felt knowledge. But in reality, it feels like I am here. So, from this basis it can be useful to talk in terms of quieting ourselves down.

To me, what this article, though using different definitions as you so rightly point out, is saying is that we need to learn kindness and meditate so that we can become happier, more peaceful and more useful members of our community.

As I see it, this is exactly what the 8 Fold Path does. The 8 Fold Path is an acknowledgement that most of us function as if we do have a ‘self’, and then gives us the tools to create a kind of quiet, kind, balanced (as you say, quite rightly) self which then, becomes a platform for eventually realising that there isn’t a self at all - that we truly are like the heart of an atom - empty of an inherent nature.

There is an ongoing development of renunciation that runs through out all of the factors (especially the 2nd) of the 8 Fold Path and culminates, through our ability to be truly present to our being, in an understanding of what that “being” is actually made up of.

With metta, and thanks for your useful comments. :slight_smile:

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And then… so the theory goes… we will naturally find ourselves renouncing that too. So there’s - so the theory goes - nothing there.