5 Signs You're Experiencing An 'Ego Death'

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Each of us has an ego — a self-constructed sense of identity developed over time and with life experiences. Our social conditioning helps us to develop a mental construct of who we are, also called the ego.

This ego controls how we behave. The ego helps us to define ourselves as individuals, independent of the world around us. We try to get rid of anything we consider bad or wrong, while attaching ourselves to what is right.

Living in accordance with your ego, or what you expect yourself to be, can cause anxiety, depression, or isolation when you struggle to meet those expectations.

What is an ego death?

An ego death is an important part of a spiritual awakening. It is an elevated level of consciousness about the ego that takes away its control over our lives.

The ego can never truly die, so those experiencing ego death are transcending the ego, their sense of self, and the rules that make up their personal identities.

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The term "ego death," also known as ego loss or ego dissolution, was coined by neurologist and psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud.

Freud said that the ego is the part of our identities that has been changed due to direct influence from the external world. Ego death experiences allow us to move beyond those boundaries.

From a psychological perspective, an ego death is an opportunity to look at ourselves and our lives objectively. It is a key aspect of healing and personal growth.

An ego death is brought on by spiritual practices or psychedelic therapy. Psychedelic drugs have also been known to induce ego death.

7 Stages of Ego Death

An ego death lets you embody your true nature and allows you to return to your authentic self. It can be terrifying if you fight against it, but knowing the steps can help you understand and embrace the process.

Stage 1: Spiritual Awakening

The first stage is the act of "waking up" to life. It is an intense feeling that something is missing or having a quest for a deeper understanding of life.

Spiritual awakenings are often accompanied by feelings of depression, anxiety and uncertainty, or an existential crisis.

Stage 2: Dark Night of the Soul

The second stage of an ego death is the dark night of the soul. During this phase, you are keenly aware that you are out of touch spiritually.

This is a time of loneliness and isolation where you are unsure which direction to go. The dark night of the soul is the height of your suffering but is necessary to change course.

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Stage 3: Spiritual Seeking

An ego death feels like rock bottom. In the third stage, you start to seek spiritual relief in any way possible.

You become committed to ending your suffering. This leads to various practices like energy healing, yoga, and even mystical experiences.

Stage 4: Enlightenment

This is the moment when your ego completely melts away. You get a small glimpse into your own consciousness and have a chance to discover your true self.

Some are scared by this moment and can stunt their own spiritual growth. But enlightenment, or "Satori" in Japanese Buddhism, is a life-changing experience.

Stage 5: Elder Soul

This is the realization that we are trapped in a cycle of fear, suffering, and isolation by our own egos. Stage 5 is marked by self-discipline and focus.

During the elder soul stage, we learn discernment, our souls mature, and we reconnect with our higher selves.

Stage 6: Dissolution and Deconstruction

The sixth stage of ego death is about giving up everything that is not a true representation of who you are.

Here, you rid yourself of limiting beliefs, negative self-talk, and destructive patterns of behavior. It’s about letting go and allowing new beliefs and behaviors to come into your life.

Stage 7: End of the Search

Stage 7 is the culmination of all that you’ve experienced during your ego death. You realize that everything you need is within you.

You are no longer blinded by the illusions of peace and love. You are actually experiencing them from internal sources, no longer reliant on the outside world for validation.

After all stages of ego death have been completed, you now know that your ego is simply a tool and not a measure of who you are as a person.

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5 Signs of Ego Death

Now that we know what an ego death is and are aware of the seven stages we must navigate to complete the process, let’s talk about how to know if you are experiencing an ego death.

1. You're experiencing a dark night of the soul.

We already discussed the apex of your suffering, known as a dark night of the soul. It is a necessary milestone in letting your ego "die" to give way to new ideas and thoughts.

2. You're exploring different spiritual practices.

One of the phases of an ego death is to seek spiritual practices that can provide relief. A sudden interest in yoga, meditation, holistic medicines, and so on, can indicate an ego death.

3. You're tuned in.

If you have started to be aware of the effect your ego has on your actions and responses, you are in the beginning of an ego death. Separating yourself from your ego is the purpose of this awakening.

4. You're no longer moved by things that were once important.

You have started detaching from people you once needed to validate who your ego said you were. As you grow and mature, you are more interested in substance than status.

5. You feel connected.

A dying ego opens your eyes to the world around you. Rather than the isolation you first felt, you have a sense of connectivity and oneness with the universe and the people in it.

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.