Why “Letting Go of Ego” Doesn’t Work for Survivors of Trauma

Iris teaching

Iris being herself.

We often hear that we need to overcome what is called “ego”, to abolish it. This doesn’t make sense to me because then we have no core, no self, no internal cohesiveness.

The word “ego” has too many meanings and is used in too many ways, often negatively, to be truly helpful.

I think a better word for the sense of “who I am” is self. There is self that is the core of who we are in this body, this being, this life. And there is Self that is our soul, the larger part of us that transcends this current life.

We can see what is usually called “ego” as that accretion around the self–what coats and covers that core self and accumulates over time, throughout our life–and can blur what is necessary and blind us to our best self.

“Ego”, then, can include those things that we consider negative–pride, self-aggrandizement, jealousy, malice, know-it-allness, etc. If we see these as additions or add-ons to our core/true self and as layers that make us immune, perhaps,  both to hurt, and also to growth and learning and ultimate happiness, then we can see how peeling back the layers of “ego” can make us “better” people, or at least allow us to start to see the world more clearly and act more in accordance with kindness, compassion, and consideration (for others, for ourselves, for the world).

I think this accretion is the “ego” that is meant by the Eastern religions–or at least the Westernized, translated versions of them–that urge us to purge ourselves of the ego.

But I see also that some of these religions or traditions urge us to peel away everything that is “Us”, until we lose our sense of self and become one with God/Buddha/Krishna/All That Is/ Whomever.

That has never appealed to me.

My sense of being a self was too smashed in childhood for me to find the thought of giving up my “self” appealing.

I don’t believe that while we are in this body, this life, we have to.

We each have a kernel of the Divine within us, which is that self, and that is who we are for our time in this world.


If we have had that sense of being a valid being–a person who exists as their own sovereign body, mind, emotions, set of experiences–demolished, then we have no sense of self, which is what is meant by “ego” in a general sense.

If we have struggled to find any iota of what might be truly a part of our own unique, sovereign self so that we can figure out that we actually exist in this world, that we may have a few rights to have our needs met (never mind any wants!) and we have rights not to be used, abused, tortured–then, then, THEN,  the thought that we have to give up that tiny sliver of knowing we are allowed to exist and feel and make our own decisions and choose what is for us alone–is intolerable, and is a torture in itself.

For many survivors of trauma and abuse and neglect and torture, the challenge is to gain an “ego” and a sense of self, of self, and to know that they deserve, have a human-being right to have all, all, ALL of their feelings, no matter how “wrong”, “stupid”, perverse, “selfish”, scary, and uncomfortable they are. That they have a right to get their basic human needs for shelter, food, water, safety, love and connection met. That they matter simply by being alive on this earth, in this life, right now.

What is Enough?

horn of plenty How often do you think to yourself “I have enough”?

 It’s something I am starting to think about, and ask myself: What is enough?

What is enough for you, for me, for anyone and everyone?

Our society, or at least our current economic system, is based on the idea that you can never really have “enough”.

But what is “enough”? How many people actually sit down and ask themselves that question, and then answer it?

I’ve been asking myself and looking for the answers, because really it is a big question with many answers.

I started with this line of thought because one day when I was meditating, my guides told me that I have enough, I am enough, and that there is enough for everyone. I have it written on a piece of envelope on my fridge door.

I always feel that I am not enough: I am not good enough, not knowledgeable enough, not skilled enough…you get the picture. Just not enough to be paid anything or to deserve anything. It’s an awful way to feel and I am very tired of it. I’ve had enough (hey, there’s that word!) and my guides are helping me shift my thinking.

I am starting to think about how I am enough, that I know enough, am pretty enough….


One day I also started thinking about what I have and whether it is “enough”. All sorts of things—apartment, clothes, money, pets, friends, food, herbs, and so on. This is somewhat different, I think, than the “abundance” idea, where you visualize being abundant, which I guess means having lots of everything.

But enough isn’t about abundance, necessarily, though it doesn’t preclude it either. It simply says that at some point you have enough (that word!) and you don’t need any more. You may not need less, but you don’t need more. What you have is just right, or good enough (that word!).

There is a difference between being satisfied and feeling like what you have is okay but you still really need more, and truly knowing you have enough.


It seems you can’t define what enough is without that word creeping in. So let’s look it up in the dictionary. Random HouseCollege Dictionary 1982 rev. ed.

Enough: adequate for the want or good; sufficient for the purpose or to satisfy desire.

An adequate quantity or number; sufficiency.

In a quantity or degree that answers a purpose or satisfies a need or desire sufficiently.


Okay, that’s the definition in the dictionary.

What is enough for you? What does it mean to you?