While speaking with a friend earlier this week, we came upon a topic that I found very interesting – perhaps a topic that not many have heard before, called “ego death”. When ego death occurs, it is considered the loss of subjective ego, a person’s sense of self-esteem, self-importance and self-identity. In Psychology, ego death may be called a psychic death, a term coined by Carl Jung, the man behind Jungian psychology.
Ego death is often referred to as an enlightening, yet potentially terrifying experience which may be brought forward in many different ways. More often than not, it is considered a spiritual experience, one where you experience the cessation of sense and feeling of control living your life. The feeling of being in control is replaced by feelings of being helpless or powerless as you go about the motions of life, with a sense that the thoughts you’re experiencing are somehow being inserted into your mind. While it sounds like a terrifying experience, many individuals who experience it often regard it as a very humbling transition into the next stage of their life, allowing them to harmonize with things they were unable to harmonize with before.
In Jungian psychology, ego death is often referred to as the death of consciousness, which may be accompanied by panic. Jungian psychology refers to ego death as psychic death, and goes on to explain it as a “shift back to the existential position of the natural self”. It is thought that after one experiences the death of consciousness, the consciousness is then resurrected. Carl Jung called this process the “the transcendent function”, which he believed led to a more “inclusive and synthetic consciousness”. It is believed that this process is a fundamental transformation of the psyche as it allows individuals to develop further understanding and peace of mind with the world and its inhabitants.
While ego death may be experienced through spirituality or rigorous introspection, it may also be experienced through the use of psychedelic drugs, such as LSD. Individuals who experience ego death through this method often are looking to experience what lies in the recesses of the human mind or to experience spiritual liberation. The early stages of ego death induced by a psychedelic may be terrifying, but those who experience it say that it is a liberating feeling, one that gives them a feeling of unity with other individuals, nature, the universe and God.
While the experience itself seems quite foreign and terrifying, it is something that I, coming from a mindful perspective, whole-heartedly believe is beneficial for personal development. Putting aside one’s subjective views is an important skill – one that allows individuals to view the themselves and the world around them objectively. We are all characters in this world we inhabit, and as such, we should try and make the world and our characters better each and every day.
If you would like to read more about ego death, I suggest checking out this page for more information.