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04 The EGO is the Enemy: Why Self-Transcendence is the Key to Your Transformation

by Achim Feige

Dear Transformers, dear Co-Creators, dear Shapers of a new time!

You are on a good path. You are a transformational leader. But things keep getting stuck. There are unproductive arguments. Stress comes up.

What is the problem?

The ego gets in the way!

The ego is our inner program for security, survival in a rather hostile environment. It hates change, it doesn’t want to evolve, it just wants to stay the way it is. And it always invents new excuses not to have to move: I don’t have time for this! That’s just esoteric nonsense! They only want to make money from me! Everything went well until now, why change anything! And so on.

Those who listen to the ego will not rise above themselves. The transformative class, however, consists of those who rise above themselves.

But the path is rocky at the beginning. We’ve all had this problem: Those who set out quickly reach their limits first. There’s a wall. Somehow you can’t go any further. Many then ask themselves: How do I become a true transformational leader?

I say: The ego stands in our way.

This happens when we are still moving in the old mindset.

I would like to briefly explain how this happens. Let’s start at the beginning. What do we try first? Usually the obvious: Agile work techniques. New Work. These can be good improvements, good first steps. But they don’t change anything about the fundamental problem: The view of oneself and the world always remains the same. And because that’s the case, failure soon comes in small ways, then stress arises, then everything gets stuck.

Even if we already aspire to be a self-author, even if we are already getting fit in flow techniques, this can happen again and again.

This is because self-optimization techniques are always within the existing framework. They will not bring a real leap in consciousness. Self-optimization is the wrong way. I don’t use the word at all. It has become similarly problematic as the universally known self-actualization. It goes back to the humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow. He said: When man has fulfilled his basic needs for things like food, security, partnership, recognition – then comes a new, greater desire. Then man also wants self-realization, then one becomes individual, develops his talent, his potential.

Unfortunately, many misunderstand this today as an egoistic circling around oneself. That’s not really what Maslow meant. That’s why current psychologists like Scott Kaufman are now taking his psychology a little further and saving it from the cliché. Their core is: We want to become greater than we were, we want to be surprised by what is still inside us. Today we call this path: self-transcendence.

(This is, so to speak, self-realization 2.0).

Self-transcendence is the tool to overcome the ego.

We need this decisive step out of the jungle. Only then can we really transcend the old – and only then can we find a way out of failure.

The real leap of consciousness happens only when I break the old frame, I like to call it: enlarging my “vessel”. The vessel is an image for all that I can grasp, the contradictions that I can endure, the world views of others that I can accept without bowing to them. In short, the wealth of information I can process. We want to increase it. I need to open up to the world, let it in, and consciously magnify myself. We then look at our blocks, our unconscious script that keeps trapping us. We see ourselves in connection with the world. From this higher state of consciousness, I can then work on myself and my view and connection to the world.

A Transformational Leader needs a practice to do this. We need a practice of overcoming ourselves. This could include, for example: Reflection time every day. Time out every quarter. A retreat every year.

My process of Waking Up, Showing Up and Growing Up is our macro technique. All we’ve talked about so far is Waking Up, Showing Up, and Growing Up. We’ve hit the ground running, we’ve strengthened our self-authorship (episode 02), we’ve discovered flow states to help us (episode 03). Now we want to rise above ourselves, make it to the top. That’s why we’re now talking about self-transcendence.

This is growing beyond ourselves on the path of Waking Up, on the path to Ecstasis. (In the ancient Greek, original sense: to step out of oneself).

Various ways to this goal are immediately open to us. One can try them out in a very safe setting. Bodywork can uncover subtle levels of states of consciousness. Micro- and macro-flow (see episode 03) connect us to the abilities that lie dormant within us. Dancing can also be an access point. These are all experiences of ego-death and oneness, being one with everything, then tangibly lead into something greater, a new self can emerge. Modern neuroscience has an explanation for this: we reset the so-called Default Mode Network in the brain once – then old thought patterns can be checked and replaced by new ones.

The Czech-American psychologist Stanislav Grof achieved transcendent states in his clients with breathing techniques. He called this “Psychedelic Breathwork.” The word psychedelic is made up of soul (psyche) and opening (delos). This means: the boundaries between the ego and the outside world become fluid for a few moments. You can experience yourself in a new way and go a little bit beyond what you thought was your fixed ego. Expand yourself.

You can find a very practical exercise below under the point “Practices”: The neurodynamic breathwork, which is so to say one step below very demanding techniques like holotropic or psychdedelic breath. But with this you can get to know how it feels to reset your brain a little bit and then elevate yourself to new levels.

Self-development is elevation and expansion, and it is the Path to the true self. The real path to you.

We always talk in the context of a transformational leader.

When we were talking about flow, everything was still on the level of: How do I achieve more productivity within the existing framework? The idea here was indeed “take back control”, unleash your potentials – but that was all still within the existing game, in the same worldview, with the same mindset. But now we take it one big step further. Now comes a redefinition of all the rules. Now you have to look at yourself.

Before was: Play within the rules. Now comes: Play with the rules!

Before was: Slow Performance. Now comes: Go beyond yourself!

To inspire comes from the Latin inspirare, which actually means literally “to blow into something” – we use it in the sense of “to inspire”. In religious myths, from Kabbalah to Christianity, a divine entity “breathed life” into the world and people, that’s how it all began. So the linguistic usage is actually still now: If one  is inspired, spirit was breathed into him, he is “inspired”!

It is important: This happens emotionally. In the deep regions of the brain, not in the bright and clear mind.

That’s why we need techniques like dance or breathwork that speak directly to the emotions. They can be very different.

  • For some, the key lies in religious experiences
  • For some it is the sight of the Grand Canyon (or the Alps – it’s about the power of nature)
  • Or listening to Beethoven’s Third Symphony in a concert hall
  • Some experience it in a Tantra seminar, yoga or sports
  • And some in a techno club (and by the way, you don’t need drugs for that).

As different as they are, they have a few characteristics in common: Cou feel completely absorbed, you perceive more, you forget space and time, you leave your ego behind, you lose fear and inhibitions, you can accept yourself and others as they are.

From a religious perspective, one would have said in the past: You have seen God. With modern neuroscience, we now say: The so-called God Spot in the brain, the anterior cingulate cortex, ACC for short, is activated. This lowers depressive feelings and, according to the latest research, is probably even helpful against dementia. Because this is how growth happens in the brain, the moving on to something greater.

This process is not linear. We always take a few steps forward, start again at the bottom in other areas, slowly rise again. We work on our Sensemaking and Showing-Up, and slowly go further and further. Please don’t start with the Himalayas! First it’s the little Teufelsberg in Berlin. Then it’s off to the Harz mountains. And so on. Step by step to ever higher summits.

By the way, the already mentioned Abraham Maslow speaks of two worlds in which we can operate. Either we stay in the world of deficieny or we enter the world of growth. The deficiency needs are something like: I am hungry – give me food. I feel lonely – give me love. I am anxious – give me security. These desires are existential and simple. The growth needs function quite differently. Those who feel them ask themselves: What can I do to find even more wholeness and serenity, and to develop my abilities ideally?

When you pass from one realm to the other, Maslow says, it’s like replacing a cloudy lens with a clear one. All of a sudden, you’re no longer driven by fear, apprehension, suspicion of others. It’s no longer constantly about the outside world having to give something. Instead, one becomes more serene, more accepting, discovering more affection for others.

That’s my practical advice for this week: take off your cloudy glasses as often as you can! Look at the world as a world of possibilities. From the standpoint of the higher self, not the fearful ego.