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Illusion of Ego – is authentic happiness possible?

By Lizandra Barbuto

December 2021

The human being has a curious and mysterious condition: he manages to be blind to infinite conditions that may seem obvious, but do not become obvious under the veils of illusion. Blindness is the action of the ego, a part developed in every human being that leads him to see the world with a filter to see only what can cause him pleasure and self-exaltation.


Thus, people lead their lives through illusory pleasures, arising from the satisfaction of desires that, sometimes, become the goal of life, to satisfy desires to “Be Happy”. “Being happy” as a goal in life often creates an illusion of awareness and denial of loss and pain – which are so necessary for the experience of reaching maturity.


Being purely focused on personal satisfaction disconnects a very important part of being, of truly feeling, whatever that is.


Neurologically, the pleasure center is the same as the pain center, just as love is the polarity of pain. Loving implies feeling something pleasurable and painful, like the act of being born, for example, one of the greatest examples of love, but accompanied by pain. However, we have been domesticated over millennia to see and recognize only what is good. This is the disease of today, which causes every little emotional discomfort to be classified as a disease that can be cured by a pill, an illusion because whatever the pain, it will remain there, until it is recognized and cared for.


It is true that not fulfilling such desires can cause some pain, such as making your heart sink, feeling isolated and not belonging. This is the main action of the ego: to continue seeking pleasure and satisfaction at any price, so as not to let your heart sink.

What is the ego anyway?


The ego is a part of us, in fact, essential to survival as humans. As traditional wisdom teaches, he must be our servant, and not we being the servants of the ego.


The path of self-knowledge is the process of reducing the ego and developing the most essential and authentic part of the Human Being, which is hidden like a pearl. That said, there are two paths to follow: one is the path of illusory pleasure and satisfaction, fueled by justifications such as “having pleasure”, or phrases like “in life we should be happy”. What happiness is this? An insatiable quest for fame, power and possessions, allowing oneself to be carried away by more archaic impulses of self-exaltation or fleeting pleasures.


The other is realizing the illusory condition of the human being, becoming responsible for oneself, assuming the real consequences of each action, and considering everything as an opportunity to recognize oneself and walk the painful and magnificent journey of ego reduction. This happens through the process of inner work.


The tricks of the ego appear in many ways, not necessarily as something immediately painful, but as a false pleasure, covered by an illusion of happiness. These tricks make it seem like everything is fine, but interference from this state appears in behavior, such as through the manifestation of illnesses, addictions and conflicts, which can create an unrealistic sense of “knowledge” and “power”.

The Dangers of the Ego Illusion


There are many manifestations of the ego. Under the principle of self-deception, the person himself is the most harmed. Some examples of this are: prejudices and personal certainties that eliminate information, keeping only what confirms existing beliefs; forgetting events the way they actually happened, to maintain a sense of comfort.


If a conclusion supports your existing beliefs, you'll rationalize anything that supports it. In other words, instead of voluntarily looking for the new, the reaction is to awaken a sense of defense of one's own ideas without really questioning them – whatever that information may be. As the American writer and humorist Mark Twai said: “It's not what you don't know that gets you in trouble. That's what you know for sure."


"The whole trouble with the world is that fools and fanatics are so sure of themselves, but wiser people are full of doubts" - Bertrand Russell


Working on yourself requires humility to recognize that the more you know, the more you realize that there is a lot to know, especially about yourself. This is the attitude of the wise and, therefore, they are always open to learning, because they know that there is so much to understand.


The feeling of certainty generates the feeling of power, which makes showing the world a happy and accomplished being – a fact that is often not real. Among 11 countries, Brazil is the one with the most cases of anxiety (63%) and depression (59%), according to a survey carried out by the University of São Paulo (USP). And according to Azos, the number of suicides in Brazil increased by 28% between 2014 and 2019.


Faced with this illusion, relationships are also directly impacted and conflicts end up emerging. Because? If the egocentric look is predominant, everything is considered personal. Assumptions fill in the gaps that make information confirm those assumptions, and this dynamic feeds into the structure of the ego and self-delusion.


Finally, being driven by the ego leads one's life to be influenced by context and automatisms, imagining, in fact, that one is acting independently.


An important aspect that reinforces self-centered actions is the need to belong. This raises the importance given to the judgment of others and adequacy to external requirements, leading by the ideas and beliefs that make the person belong.

Exercise to look at yourself


To explain how this process of concern with the external manifests itself, it's simple: notice how you behave in the face of praise or criticism. If they praise you, is there self-aggrandizement? If you are criticized, is there pain and feelings of invalidation and injustice? That's the ego.


Napoleon Hill treats this behavior as exogenous happiness, that is, when it depends only on external factors and considerations. Endogenous happiness, in turn, is the satisfied and serene inner state, which does not depend on external factors.


Can you identify if you are a person deluded by the ego? If so, would an authentic presence be possible, responsible for what you choose, taking into account its consequences, and not overestimating criticism or praise? Yes, but only when you realize this condition is this a possible way out.


The classical teachings offer a good study of this. The work on oneself is the search for inner serenity, to be active and centered in any situation. The force and potentiality of life is to allow the full human potential to be developed, being active to gain power over oneself.


Obviously, each person is different, like a seed of their own, ready to develop all the potential of human nature with its different aspects, reaching the natural state: a truly free being. Only in this way is it possible to be and act in the world, with so much movement (from tranquility to serenity) to center oneself, find meaning and peace in excellence; be the leader of your own life.

Therefore, an inner work alone is not possible. It takes support from a group, a therapist or a tradition because once you are in the illusion, how do you know if the way out is not an illusion? So the first step is the decision to start serious work on yourself.


In this work, self-observation and the development of attention to oneself are important steps. Attention is used as a means to reach self-awareness, to be present in the here and now. to be able to be attentive to emotions, feelings and thoughts.

With attention on oneself, true self-observation takes place, and from what is observed it is possible to work to overcome what can be overcome.

Having developed these skills, the path is to follow a firm and committed step throughout life to see and use everything that life offers for self-development, because every day there is a new discovery about oneself and a new overcoming.


Making Life a free Life contemplated with meaning.



Hadot, P. O que é a filosofia antiga? Edições Loyola. SP. 2017.


Hill, N. Quem pensa enriquece. Citadel Editora. 2018.


Ouspensky, P. Fragmentos de um ensinamento desconhecido – em busca do milagroso. Editora Pensamento. São Paulo. 1998. 


24 Cognitive Biases That Are Warping Your Perception of Reality. Jeff Desjardins, 2021.

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