What is Ego Death?

First things first, those just joining us may be wondering : what is ego death? Well, here’s a little explainer…

What is Ego? 

You probably know what an ‘ego’ is. We’ve all got one. It’s our sense of identity — our sense of self — that develops throughout our lives. It controls our behavior based on the norms and expectations we encounter day-to-day, helping us to craft our identity as individuals. However, although the ego is very useful in many ways, it can also cause difficulty for us too. 

When we cannot meet the expectations our ego has established — based on what we believe society expects of us, or even the standards we have set for ourselves — we can fall into anxiety or depression. We might isolate ourselves or develop destructive coping mechanisms. 

who are you scrabble pieces
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

What is Ego Death?

Ego death is a key part of spiritual awakening. It can be achieved via high doses of certain psychedelics, such as LSD or magic mushrooms, as well as transcendental meditation and other spiritual practices. It is when one achieves such an elevated level of consciousness that the ego’s iron grip on our lives is temporarily loosened. The ego cannot ever really die, so ego death (or ego dissolution/ego transcendence/ego loss) is more about transcending the ego, to be able to see from a bird’s-eye view the rules that hold us in place and form our personal identities. 

In this way we are given an opportunity to see ourselves and our lives objectively. This can help us in identifying the changes we need to make to achieve understanding, healing, and happiness. The term ‘ego death’ was coined by Freud, but don’t let that put you off. For many people ego death is a true turning point, even described by some as a salvation that helped them reconnect to themselves and to the wider world. (Read our full Ego Death explainer here)

person with glowing head
via Creative Commons

The 7 Stages of Ego Death

Ego death is said to have 7 stages — not unlike the 7 stages of grief after a ‘physical’ death. This is because — to reiterate— ego death is no joke. It is about discovering your true self; someone that could be hiding under layers and layers of false beliefs and anxiety. It is a stripping away, and smashing down of walls — after which you can build yourself up again. Knowing the stages, and later the signs, can help you to understand and welcome the process. 

Stage 1: The Spiritual Awakening

The first stage is the process of ‘waking up’. The realization that things are not right and something must be done. This feeling of uncertainty can cause some to feel anxious or depressed — a sort of existential crisis. 

Stage 2: The ‘Dark Night of the Soul’

Famously, the ‘dark night of the soul’ is a time of extreme questioning, and painful processing before the eventual ‘salvation’. Although difficult, it is a necessary stage on your way to change. 

Stage 3: The Spiritual Quest Begins

Here is where you begin to seek relief from your spiritual upheaval. You realize that to end your suffering things must be done — and you are the only one who can do it. 

Stage 4: Enlightenment

This is the moment when we transcend the ego, and have the possibility to emerge as our shining true self. This moment can be scary. You may get a small glimpse into your consciousness, you may be hit by a wave of your own insignificance — and the joyful freedom that brings. 

Stage 5: Soul Growth

This is a stage of growth and realization. The realization that we have been stuck in a cycle of anxiety, fear and irrationality by our ego. It is about focus and self-discipline — that now we have had these realizations, something must be done. 

Stage 6: The Shedding of the Skin

The sixth stage is about ‘shedding your skin’. It entails giving up everything that you realize is superfluous and not part of who you truly are. Negative patterns of behavior, and unkind self-talk, beliefs that limit what you feel you can do, be, or achieve. Here you make space for new beliefs and behaviors. 

Stage 7: Finding Yourself

This is the end of the search, the culmination of your experience. You have learnt that everything you thought you needed was within you all along. You acknowledge your ego as a tool, but you know that is is not how you measure yourself as a person.  

The 5 Tell-tale Signs That You Are Going Through Ego Death

So now you know the stages that one must pass through for a ‘proper’ or ‘complete’ ego death — though these will always look slightly different to each person. But when you’re actually ‘in’ it, deep within the process, it can be very overwhelming. Luckily, you can identify whether may be going through the process by referencing these 5 tell-tale signs.

Of course when you are tripping *hard* It is difficult to think straight. Additionally in the period after, it can feel like you are entrenched in a quagmire of confusing emotions and revelations. But, by learning and integrating these signs it will make it easier for you to reach them when you are deep in the ocean of your experience. 

Photo by Harry Quan on Unsplash

Sign 1: You are Deep in a ‘Dark Night of the Soul’

As we discussed above, the ‘dark night of the soul’ is the rock bottom in terms of inner turmoil. If you are feeling this way you could be at the beginning of your ego death journey. 

Sign 2: You Wanna Get Spiritual

In the aftermath of your ego death, or in the lead up of taking this plunge, you may find yourself gravitating towards more spiritual practices. These can include mediation, yoga, breathing work, holistic medicines, and psychonautic exploration. This shows you are questing, open, and keen for spiritual change. 

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

Sign 3: You Are ‘Awake’

You’re awake, you’ve tuned in, you’ve become aware. You have seen objectively how your ego may have negatively influenced your actions and the way you live your life. Beginning to be able to separate yourself from your ego shows you are well on your way. It is difficult to explain but in your gut you will just ‘know’. 

Sign 4: You Priorities Have Changed 

You may find yourself with new priorities. Less interested in constructing a ‘public image’, you may be more interested in self-care or lending an ear to a friend. You do not have to seek validation anymore, and your actions reflect this. 

Sign 5: You Feel Connected to a ‘Higher Power’

When you transcend your ego, you become more porous to the world around you. Rather than the isolation you previously felt , you feel a glowing connection and oneness with the universe and everything in it. From people on the street, to the herbs growing in your garden, to the stars on a clear night, you feel you are part of it all. 

Photo by Omkar Jadhav on Unsplash