Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary.
Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
The path you choose boils down to choice. I recently tested out my belief that once I successfully gain control over a past behaviour I should reintroduce it or revisit it for a trial period to see if I do indeed have control over it - try it as many times as you think necessary. The behaviour is a little deviant and could be destructive but it is a part of me; one of those pieces I'd hide but do have to acknowledge makes up the sum total of this entity I call myself. But therein lies the rub. Who I am is characterized by thoughts and behaviours. That seems sketchy but it is indeed the core. Who is generating the thoughts that influences behaviour? Ah that's the little man in the head, the ego. So the concept of self is a construct of ego. Memories reinforce ego though not necessarily in a defined way. Our compartmentalized brains collect memories to mimic mind at large but do so on a temporal level and further contribute to a sense of self.
I can’t really define who I am as a separate self because I am made up of a myriad of different personalities, thoughts, delusions, and beliefs. My body shell is basic instinct and from there I take that vehicle and start attaching behaviours to it. So the resultant avatar I create is of my own doing, with help from society and the environment. It was always about choice. I attached the behaviours from a pick of many available, to a particular instinct and created a part of me I then labelled as my dark side. I created my dark side and then fretted over having a dark side. This was all aided and abetted by that voice in the head. Who I have become is by choice. We see others in the same dilemma who have made choices and built their character and we judge the construct they have come up with, which is all endlessly fascinating. We incarnate as a blank slate and cultural, instinctual, environmental, and eventually neurosis, because of previous choices and influences, shape who we are, the decisions we make, and what traits we absorb most freely. Without being exposed to an available behaviour, there's a good chance I would not have taken on that behaviour. In combination with our basic instincts it becomes easier to suggest and manipulate behaviour through exposure and an appeal to these instincts. It is the foundation of the advertising industry. The desire to create this character is a function of ego as well as the need to establish an identity - behaviour which mimics instinctual traits in humans. Through the judgment of others and ourself, we further establish a separate persona. The teenager strongly feels this within for the first time as they have by this period in their life built up a pretty solid identity and they start to pull away from the parents with a strong desire for independence.
In terms of behaviour, as an example take a look at sexual habits. We are born with a latent sexual drive which at puberty manifests and allows for the propagation of the species. Human sexuality due to ego is quite varied. At first the sexual act is enough of a thrill on its own to engage the mind and senses. As we move through life we are exposed to more varieties of sexual behaviour and from this menu we take of what we like and want to try and at first these become fantasies. At this point they become attached to the sex drive but they are not instinctual, they are a product of the ego mind and in a way used as a method for control. If the fantasy is taboo it may become obsessional and upon completion of the act or living out the fantasy, the ego shames the human puppet it has established control over. It is very difficult to break out of this cycle at this point. The neurosis then invites you to go deeper into the behaviour. The sexual act and gratification is almost secondary, instead it has become a psychological pursuit and a need to satisfy the deviant thoughts that have been implanted within your head by the ego mind. The process repeats complete with shame and disgust but that fades within a day and then the thoughts reappear inviting you to continue the addiction. The same process is present in drug addiction. Part of what makes the sex drive operate is our desire for pleasure. Certain drugs, especially opiates, target the pleasure centres and are highly addictive and demand more and more control over the user. This leads to bizarre behaviour to satiate the addiction as well as a need to take more and more until it approaches fatalistic levels. Heroin junkies come off as extremely unhappy and desperate.
There is something about the ego that is at its core nefarious. It maliciously works its way into our heads, gradually becoming part of you, a trusted friend, before executing almost complete control over us. It projects this behaviour onto humankind at large with a bent towards sociopathic behaviour, and a desire for power and control. If the ego cannot accomplish what it most desires it turns on us, makes us miserable and depressed with low self esteem and it turns us towards other pursuits that curtail our potential, dim our light, and close down our hearts. It acts like a parasite and will kill its host if it feels the structure and behaviour it has created is no longing serving it. I have directly experienced this while in an altered state of consciousness. I desperately wanted to change the path I was on and where I was headed and my ego, disguised as 'god' told me to stay on the path I was on even though the behaviour I was engaged in was very destructive. I was told by this very mysterious character that if I did not follow this admonition that he would cause me to commit suicide. No joke, this actually went on during a trip.
I am satisfied at this point that there really is no self. I believe we are all of the same consciousness, what I call mind at large, materially birthed from the great mother. Spirit and Soul. Children of divine parents, who when combined is the all. But I don't know about this shadowy ego thing. It is demonic, devious, deceptive, and slippery. It is controlling and parasitical and tries to come off as your best friend much like a con man. It tries to gain your trust and once that is secured leads you away from the heart and derails human potential and destiny. If life is a game, a drama, an adventure then perhaps that is why we have this ego. A game isn't fun without an opponent, a drama isn't compelling without an adversary, and an adventure isn't worthwhile without a challenge. The ego has a part to play and does it very well. It deserves accolades for its performance. The game I'm playing has seen me finally take the lead, the story is reaching the climax where I've outed the demon. He doesn't like to lose but that's the situation he now finds himself in.
Reflecting on the lack of a self and discovering that who we think we are is just a bunch of acquired behaviours interspersed with thoughts and associations we've decided to hang onto, I think it gives the eastern idea of attachment a whole new spin. To discover who you are it is taught to shed attachment. I've taken that to mean attachment to the material world, the world of forms, because this will pull us back into incarnation as you are carrying the weight of the world. But I see now that attachment also refers to the concept of self. I realized during my last trip to Peru that the last and most difficult attachment to give up is the sense of self. Breaking down the self, it seems that it is composed of a feedback loop of transient identities that like barnacles have attached themselves to an artificial edifice, a dualistic byproduct of consciousness, and I locate this construct in my head. The self is conjured by ego and then masterfully the puppeteer takes charge. We are loathe to give up the sense of self because it has been a life long endeavour that in a sense has given purpose. Forfeiting self throws into chaos meaning for our life. Shedding the attachment of self and its associated behaviours breaks this down and eventually this non attachment leads to discovery of the higher self, self really being a misnomer as the higher self is really the mind at large, the mind at large being total consciousness.
So what happens when you shed yourself of attachments, personality, identity, the self? Do you become feral? Well I think not because at this point as a human you are connected to higher consciousness as well as your soul. Wisdom, knowledge, love, compassion, creativity, ingenuity will now become second nature to you. It is no more a performance but rather a reflection of who you truly are.