[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
Q. I keep hearing students talk about “my ego,” as opposed to “your ego.” But isn’t that a mistake, because isn’t there only one ego?
A. I’ve heard people say that there is only one ego, but the Course itself does not talk that way. Rather, it talks in terms of individual egos. Note these passages, for instance, which all speak of “egos” plural:
He is concerned with the effect of his ego on other egos, and therefore interprets their interaction as a means of ego preservation. (T-4.I.6:5).
Everyone makes an ego or a self for himself, which is subject to enormous variation because of its instability. He also makes an ego for everyone else he perceives, which is equally variable. Their interaction is a process that alters both, because they were not made by or with the Unalterable. (T-4.II.2:1-3)
This is such a fearful state that it can only turn to other egos and try to unite with them in a feeble attempt at identification, or attack them in an equally feeble show of strength. (T-4.II.8:2)
As you can see based on these passages, each person really does have his or her own ego. We each make an ego for ourselves, as our fundamental concept of who we are. And these egos do differ. True, they are all made of the same material; they all share the same basic thought system. But they emphasize different aspects of that thought system and in different ratios. For instance, in the original dictation, Jesus often stressed the different shapes of Helen’s and Bill’s egos. He characterized Helen’s ego as strong but unstable, and Bill’s ego as more consistent but weak. As a result, he would recommend that they work on different things in order to overcome their egos.
You could say there is a smidgeon of truth in the idea of a collective ego, in that, as the Course says, “Egos do join together in temporary allegiance, but always for what each one can get separately” (T-6.V.A.5:9). So there are “ego collectives,” but they are unstable alliances of separate egos who are each seeking their separate gain, and are thus prone to disintegrate, to be “temporary.”
It is appropriate, therefore, to speak of “my ego” as opposed to “your ego.” The ego, after all, is the idea of separate selfhood. You’ve got yours and I’ve got mine. Each has a somewhat different shape, and understanding that special shape can help us choose the particular “medicines” that fit our ego’s particular problems. Another advantage of this idea is that, since we each made our egos individually, we can let them go individually. We don’t need to wait for anybody else.