Taming The Primitive Ego: A Non-Religious Spiritual Path To Awakening, Compassion, And Kindness (#286)

As readers of the Stonyhill-Nuggets blog, you probably already know that I believe inflexible, rigid ideological beliefs, whether religious, political, or economic, are humanity’s most dangerous threats to the future of our planet… and the survival of our species. More than any other human behavior, I am convinced that rigid ideological beliefs, coupled with the human ego’s need to be right, create more conflict, violence, pain, and suffering than any other human behaviors.

I also believe that taming the primitive ego is a powerful, nonreligious way of intentionally awakening the human consciousness, and reducing humanity’s unconscious tendency to adopt inflexible, rigid ideological beliefs, and the need to be right.

As a result, I get a lot of conversation from readers asking me “if we don’t have strong religious beliefs, then how are we ever going to learn to manifest peace, compassion, caring, and empathy in the world”?

Which course is the perfect segue for me to begin talking about taming the primitive ego.

I tell them that “taming our human nature has been the primary goal of every religion for millennia. It was the primary goal of the spiritual founders of every religion, and the primary goal of every great spiritual teacher in human history. Taming our primitive ego is simply a non-religious path toward the same goal; a mature adult spirituality that manifests compassion and kindness in the world. Taming the primitive ego and taming human nature are both focused on the human ability to increase compassion and kindness in the world.

Human Nature Is Designed To Protect Our Childhood Self -Identity

The primary goal of human nature (primitive ego) can be summed up in one simple concept. It is essentially the sum total of our unconscious conditioning from childhood as we struggled to create, and then defend, our fragile childhood sense of self-identity. Over time, this childhood conditioning became our unconscious “human nature”.

Unfortunately, most of our “adult” human nature is nothing more than an unconscious attempt in adulthood to continue using that childhood conditioning to protect our childhood self-identity. Because a child does not have the life experience to successfully navigate the adult world, this immature, unconscious childhood conditioning, will create a great deal of unhappiness and conflict in our lives. Until we do the work necessary to become more self-aware and intentionally awaken our consciousness, this unconscious childhood conditioning will continue to control our adult thinking and actions.

As we mature our thinking and awaken our consciousness through intentional growth in self-awareness, we become more aware of the negative energy we are unconsciously sending into the world. This is especially true when that negative energy begins to impact our relationships with others.

For example, some common aspects of human nature, or childhood conditioning, we adopt in childhood include:

  • the never-ending need to be right,
  • the illusion of separateness,
  • our need for immediate gratification,
  • our obsessive self-focus,
  • our tendency to blame others for our own shortcomings, and
  • our narcissistic tendency to obsessively focus our attention on “what’s in it for me”.

These are only a few of the unconscious human behaviors that come under the umbrella of  “human nature”, or what I refer to as our unconscious childhood primitive ego. Awakening to the presence of this childhood conditioning, and then learning the skills required to tame our unconscious primitive ego, will begin our inner spiritual journey on a non-religious path toward compassion and kindness that religion has been attempting to teach us.

When we learn to let go of our need to be right, it increases our ability to listen. We begin to recognize that no one is smart enough to be right or wrong all of the time. We begin to look for the truth on both sides of every issue. What I refer to as middlepath thinking. An adult middlepath spirituality teaches us there are always truths present on both sides of every issue in our conversations with others….assuming we are willing to have an open mind and listen for those truths. That, of course, requires honoring the other person and their truths….by asking questions, and then listening very carefully to their answers…… especially when we are in disagreement with them.

Letting go of our need to be right is the most important change in human nature we can undertake if our goal is the reduction of conflict and violence in the world.

Taming The Primitive Ego Is Important Because We Use Our Minds To Create Our Lives

I’ve been developing the concepts and insights of Primitive Ego Psychology and writing about taming the primitive ego for almost three decades. One of the questions I get quite often is a skeptical  “Why is taming the primitive ego so important? You say it’s about awakening our human consciousness. You say it’s the path to adult spiritual growth. You say it’s the path to happiness and success. You say it’s the path to growth in self-awareness. You say it’s the most important and critical work we can do if our goal is the creation of compassion, empathy, wisdom, and humility.”  So how can it be all of those things at the same time? How is that even possible?”

My answer goes something like this. “We use our minds to create our lives. So the more we know about how we think, and the accuracy of our core beliefs, the better job we can do creating the life we were born to live. The life we’ve always dreamed of living.”

The usual response is “Yeah, that makes sense. But how does taming the primitive ego of childhood do all of the things you say it does? Aren’t you talking about psychology? How is that spiritual? How does it create compassion and wisdom and humility? I don’t get it.”

I nod and then I say “I know I talk a lot about all the benefits that result from simply taming our primitive ego. But think about it. Most of our unconscious adult core beliefs come from early childhood. Our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us are learned when we are far too young to think about them very critically. Because our life experience as a young child is very limited, we simply accept as accurate the beliefs, assumptions, and opinions of our parents and the world around us; including the beliefs and assumptions we create inside our own minds.

In other words, we rarely question the conditioning and learnings of our childhood. We just assume that all those beliefs are true and accurate. We simply accept at face value what we are taught about the world and life. But unfortunately much of what we learn in childhood is not only wrong, it is dangerous. It badly distorts our understanding of reality, creates pain and suffering for ourselves, others, and even our planet.”

“Can you give me some examples?” they ask.

Defending Our Core Religious Beliefs As Absolute Truth

“Ok. Let me give you an example of a belief that is creating much of the conflict and suffering we are witnessing in the world today. If a person believes that their religious faith beliefs represent absolute truth…. and then someone challenges those beliefs. How do you think they might feel?

“I don’t know. Angry? Tell the other person they’re wrong?”

“Right”, I said. “It’s reasonable to assume they might also distance themselves from that person in the future. The inflexible childhood belief that their religious faith beliefs represent absolute truth, would almost certainly cause them to be judgmental, and angry with anyone who disputes or rejects their beliefs. Their rigid beliefs, coupled with their childhood need to be right, would probably cause them to send negative, judgmental energy into any relationship that dares to challenge their rigid faith beliefs.

“Yeah, probably….in fact, that has actually happened to me.”

The Never-Ending Need To Be “Right”

At this point in our conversation, I say “Ok, let’s step back and take a look at what happened in this example. They honestly believe that their faith beliefs represent absolute truth. But that would deny the whole definition or concept of faith. Wouldn’t it? Faith is defined as accepting something as true without proof.

In other words, they have the right to believe whatever faith beliefs are comforting for them. Whatever brings them a sense of peace in their lives.

But assuming that their faith beliefs represent absolute truth gives their ego permission to

  1. a) assume they are right, and
  2. b) permission to insist that others need to embrace their religious faith.

They ignore the reality that faith and truth are different subjects. Faith is a subjective truth for the person who holds that belief, but it cannot apply as absolute truth for others.

In other words, their faith beliefs are simply subjective truths that they happen to believe. Beliefs that make sense to them. Now think of all the pain and suffering being created in the world by person’s who are attempting to aggressively force their faith beliefs onto others!”

They agreed, nodding thoughtfully.

“What I am attempting to illustrate for you is the concept that a rigid unconscious defense of a personal subjective faith belief typically comes with the tendency to immediately create a powerful, judgmental, knee-jerk need to be right as the ego struggles to protect its self-identity. This will cause their ego to begin sending aggressive, rejecting, judgmental, negative energy into the world or into any relationship that is openly rejecting of their faith beliefs. Their feelings and actions will reflect the unconscious conditioning of their childhood. An awakened, self-aware adult consciousness would have the ability to be reflective and non-reactive ”.

“Yeah, I can kind of see that. But how would taming the primitive ego be spiritual?”

“Good question” I answered. “When we have an awakened, self-aware consciousness, our ego can avoid the unconscious emotional knee-jerks designed to protect our self-identity. We have the insight and self-awareness to manage the negative energy internally; including the ability to intentionally choose to extend compassion, caring, empathy, or kindness to those who might happen to strongly disagree with us. We don’t have to take the other person’s lack of agreement toward our beliefs personally. The world’s religious and spiritual teachers called that loving your neighbor. A non-religious person might prefer to call it taming the primitive ego and being kind to others.”

Again, they nodded thoughtfully

I ended the conversation by pointing out the reality that there are many unconscious beliefs from our childhood that have the ability to create the negative, aggressive energy we are seeing in the world today…….as people unconsciously defend their beliefs and their never-ending need to be right. This is especially true when our rigid, inflexible religious, political, and economic beliefs and opinions are challenged, and we aggressively defend them.

The amount of aggressive, negative energy being sent into the world today reflects an unconscious defense of our collective ego’s unconscious self-identity. The overwhelming lack of kindness, compassion, and empathy in the world today is both alarming and frightening. Our collective human consciousness needs to evolve and begin intentionally awakening to the unconscious conditioning of childhood. Our future will depend on how successful we are in accomplishing that task.


Inflexible religious, political, and economic ideological beliefs and the need to be right are destroying our collective ability to compassionately work together as a global human community. This is especially true in our rigid religious and political beliefs. We need to awaken our human consciousness to the simple reality that an another person’s faith belief may actually hold some truths…..but it does not necessarily represent absolute truth or the only truth.

A personal faith belief is a subjective belief that guides one’s personal behaviors, actions, and choices in life. It is not a rigid, inflexible, absolute truth that requires defense nor is it a belief that can be forced onto others. We can only share our faith beliefs, and our core values, with others. It is up to them whether they want to adopt them as one of their own core beliefs or values.

I believe taming the primitive ego and awakening the human consciousness to the many unconscious beliefs and conditioning of childhood is critical if humanity is going to effectively solve the global crises and challenges that are coming. Challenges that we unconsciously created. Challenges that now threaten our very future as a species.

The future isn’t what it used to be. Our world is experiencing rapid change. If we are to survive the crises and challenges that are coming, taming the primitive ego through intentional growth in self-awareness, and finding the courage to deal with the unconscious beams in our own eyes, will both reflect the most important spiritual growth we can collectively undertake as a species today.

Conclusion: Taming The Primitive Ego Is A Non-Religious Spiritual Path To Compassion And Kindness

Taming the primitive ego is simply a non-religious spiritual path toward the taming our human nature in order to increase compassion and kindness in the world……which of course was the goal of the spiritual founders of our world’s great religions. Taming the primitive ego, like every major religion in human history, has been focused on taming the human nature of our species; to increase humanity’s ability to manifest love, compassion, and kindness. A growth in human consciousness that reduces our human tendency to focus on ourselves, and adopt a more “we” focused consciousness based on empathy, caring, healing others, feeding the hungry, and loving our neighbors.

Primitive Ego Psychology teaches a simple truth…….if you don’t love your neighbor, then you don’t love the God you claim to worship. If you don’t love your neighbor, your choices and actions will not reflect your stated faith beliefs.

If our goal is the reduction of conflict and violence in the world, taming our primitive ego, and letting go of our never ending need to be right, will be the two most important and urgent changes humanity can undertake.

Taming the primitive ego is simply a non-religious spiritual approach designed to support the awakening of our human consciousness, and the taming our human nature, so-as-to increase our ability to increase our compassion and love toward others… those we call our neighbors.


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