Breaking Free of Ego

Getting to the heart of who we are

Joe Cardillo
4 min readJan 12, 2022


In Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth, he dedicates three chapters to defining the ego, and the different ways it manifests in life.

In chapter 4, titled “Role-playing: The Many Faces of the Ego” he talks about pre-established roles we tend to identify with, such as “the middle-class housewife… the tough macho male… the ‘nonconformist’ artist or performer…”

He writes:

When you are completely identified with a role, you confuse a pattern of behavior with who you are, and you take yourself very seriously. (91)

This idea hit home when he talked about the role of the adult (which I’m still grappling with calling myself). “When you play that role, you take yourself and life very seriously. Spontaneity, lightheartedness, and joy are not part of that role.”

Ditto. As winter has set in, I’ve found myself with a heavy heart. It’s as if my body physically responded to sub-freezing temperatures with, “No thanks. See you in Spring.” Of course, not an option. Life goes on. The world doesn’t stop just because I want to hibernate.

In simple terms, I’ve been depressed. I realize there are varying degrees of severity when it comes to depression. For me, it usually manifests itself in a lack of motivation to go through the motions. Life feels bland, color-less, pointless. I’d prefer to fall into a listless, dreamless sleep for a few months, till something interesting happens.

It’s possibly because of a lingering pandemic that taints every part of life in some way, whether I try to avoid the news cycle or not. It covers everything like a wet blanket. With drab dullness.

I don’t want to stay in this mental state, of course. Perhaps that’s why framing it as “despair” may be more helpful.

David Whyte, in his book Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, describes despair in this way:

Despair takes us in when we have nowhere else to go: when we feel the heart cannot break any more, when our world or our…



Joe Cardillo

Technical Support Engineer at Linode | Linux & Kubernetes