Chapter 4 in Eckhart Tolle’s book “A New Earth” centered on the roles that egos assume and the “many faces” of individual and collective egos.
To get its needs met, an ego will play a “role”. Things it may try to get from someone are material gain, a sense of power, superiority, specialness, and gratification – either physical or psychological.
People are usually unaware of the roles they assume. Other things the ego through a role will seek are attention and psychic energy. They will seek the energy outside themselves because they are unconscious that it exists within them. So attention, recognition, praise, admiration, wanting to be noticed, and needing to have its existence acknowledged are aims of the ego roles that are assumed.
Egos derive from a conceptual sense of self, whether positive or negative – positive might be (I’m the greatest) and negative might be (I am no good). Tolle says that behind every positive self-concept is the hidden fear of not being good enough and behind every negative self-concept is the hidden desire of being greater or better than others. For instance, the shy, inadequate ego that feels inferior has a strong sense of superiority.
Some egos will settle for other forms of attention through a “villain”-like role if it can’t get praise or admiration. Not getting positive attention, they seek the negative , maybe by provoking someone else to get a negative reaction out of them. For example, we see children misbehaving to get attention. An important point made in the text was that the playing of negative roles is pronounced when the ego is magnified by the pain body, rather emotional pain from the past that wants to renew itself through more pain. You see this when people commit crimes for fame or seek attention through notoriety and condemnation. The voice behind the seeking is “please tell me I exist, that I am not insignificant”.
Playing the victim is a common role of the ego that consists of the personal drama of “me and my story”. Egos don’t want the false stories to end. They think that problems equal their identity. The voice that very well might drive this type of person is “I am treated unfairly by life and God.”
Role playing the lover is done to attract and keep a relationship going or to initiate one with a person who will make a given ego happy, make them feel special, and they believe that a certain person will fulfill all their needs. Falling in love is really, in most cases an intensification of egoic wanting or needing. Egos become addicted to people, rather the image they have of them. Falling in love, most of the time has nothing to do with true love. It is a matter of “I want you” vs. “I love you”.
LETTING GO OF SELF-DEFINITIONS
This section focused on the idea of having roles being conditioned by environmental and social structures. In this modern world, people are confused about where they fit in and who they are. Tolle’s main point under this subheading was that “when you fully accept that you don’t know (if you look to thought for an identity) then you enter a state of peace and clarity that is closer to who you are.”
When you play roles, you are unconscious. But, when you catch yourself in a role, you “create a space.” This is the beginning of freedom from a given role. Some people totally identify with their roles, for example a doctor who doesn’t see their patient as human, but just a case history.
When people do identify with pre-established roles or function, “human interactions are inauthentic, dehumanized, and alienating.” Furthermore, “pre-established roles can give the comforting sense of identity, but ultimately, you lose yourself in them”. Functions in heirarchical organizations lend themselves to becoming role identities. For instance, in a government institution, the military, church structure, and in corporations.
Some pre-established roles are “social archetypes” such as the middle-class housewife (diminishing), the tough macho male, the female seductress, the “non-conformist” artist or performer, people of culture, and the adult. As a note, the Hippie Movement was a rejection of social archetypes, roles, and pre-established patterns of behavior in addition to egoically based social and economic structures. “Hippies” refused to play roles imposed on them. The 1950s were about conforming while the 1960s was about rejecting conformity. The Hippie movement made possible the movement of Eastern wisdom and spirituality to come to the West and play a part in Global Awakening.
To summarize more efficiently, Tolle spent time debunking false happiness and roles people assume, examined the roles and functions that enter parenthood, such as manipulating children through unconscious behavior versus being alert, aware, still, and present in the moment, he talked about conscious suffering and how suffering both comes as a result of the ego, but also burns the energy of the ego up, using the “man on the cross as an archetypal image to show how suffering does in fact erode the ego, he talked about how hard it is to give up the roles, fearing a loss of identity versus coming to know yourself as being, and then he examined the pathological, paranoid, schizophrenic, and split-personality nature of the ego and its roles.