Matt Perryman

Scared to be an individual person

By Matt Perryman

“Ego is the enemy” they tell you.

I’m suspicious. Any time a sophisticated idea gets popular, the good bet is it’s turned stupid.

Eastern ideas, mainly borrowed from Buddhism and Taoism, made their way into the US by way of California hippies, which makes Westernized interpretations even more suspect.

What does it mean that your “ego is the enemy”?

Your ego is your conscious personality, the part of you that thinks in words and experiences feelings and wants to be accepted by other people.

According to “Eastern ideas”, a soul achieves enlightenment by stepping away from this ego and achieving a state of “no-self”.

I spent some time practicing these methods around a decade ago.

Pros: It can feel great to get into a state of blissed-out deep trance.

Cons: Good luck feeding yourself as a blissed-out zombie.

Those of us mortals inhabiting living bodies, with a foot in this material aspect of reality, need to breath, drink, eat, and get on with the business of living.

What I discovered is that much of this “let go of yourself and just, like, be, bro” is white-wash from the California cult.

The actual writers and teachers of Buddhist thought were nowhere near this dumb.

They recognize, first of all, that a desire to be without desires is logically incoherent.

If you want to be without a self — then who or what is wanting?

There are good answers to that question which, sadly, will not be found in most books on the topic (and definitely not in those stupid quote-spam “inspo” accounts on social media)

Western traditions of philosophy and mysticism have their own understanding of the mind, now little known with all the Oriental fetishism.

What if the problem is not the ego…

…but a lazy, flaccid, undeveloped ego?

Not too much mind, but too little.

This is hard to see. We’ve all grown up in a mechanical civilization that prizes numbers and “the market” above anything else.

Ask yourself how much of your life was freely chosen, versus chosen because it will get you something in exchange. Money, status, recognition, love, s\*x, power, anything.

Necessity is necessity and everybody’s gotta eat. But few people today can draw a line between the essential must-dos of survival and a real identity.

Most folks, I dare say, are inclined to be what others want them to be.

Psychiatrist Erich Fromm once wrote that such people don’t even have egos or personalities:


For they constantly change their egos, according to the principle: “I am as you desire me.”


Without a stable identity, you’ll pick one off the shelf like an outfit — or have it chosen for you by invisible forces acting on your mind.

This is another kind of “no-self”.

There is no personality, only change to fit what others demand of you.

What’s the solution?

Not less ego, but more. Stronger. Disciplined. Focused. Confident. Indifferent to the demands of others.

Fear of being yourself comes down to an untrained ego. Like a muscle, if you don’t use it, train it, put it under constant challenge, it’s weak and useless.

Matt Perryman

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