Ego and Self (and Resistance)

Let’s revisit the quote from Rabbi Mordecai Finley that we cited two weeks ago.

“There is a second self inside you, an inner, shadow Self. This self doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t love you. It has its own agenda, and it will kill you. It will kill you like cancer. It will kill you to achieve its agenda, which is to prevent you from actualizing your Self, from becoming who you really are. This shadow self is called, in the Kabbalistic lexicon, the ‘yetzer hara.’ The yetzer hara, Steve, is what you would call Resistance.”

I believe absolutely that Rabbi Finley’s statement is true.

There is a second self inside us, and it is exactly as Rabbi Finley describes.

But why? Why would such an entity exist? Are you and I half-demonic? Do we have the Alien living inside us?

What would be the purpose—in evolutionary terms, if nothing else—of such a psychic structure?

Seth Godin’s theory is that it’s the “lizard brain,” the amygdala, a holdover from millions of years ago. He may be right.

Here’s what I think:

I think the human being, in her deepest soul-nature, possesses two potential identities.

The ego is one.

The Self, in the Jungian sense, is the other.

I define the ego as the conscious mind, the “I” that applies reason, that sets goals, that helps us navigate the 405 Freeway and the Major Deegan Expressway.

The ego believes certain truths and lives by them. Here are a few.

Death is real. We are all mortal.

Time and space are real.

Each individual human is separate from every other. I can hurt you and it will not impact negatively on me.

The Self, on the other hand, is the deeper “unconscious” mind. It is not rational. It is quantum. It operates beyond the realm of reason and by other, more counterintuitive laws. The Self believes and operates by different truths than the ego.

Death is not real. The soul is immortal.

Time and space are not real. The gods travel “swift as thought.”

Each individual is bound inextricably to every other. If I hurt you, I simultaneously and with equal impact hurt myself.

The primary emotion that the ego lives by is fear.

The primary emotion that the Self lives by is love.

What, then, is Resistance?

Resistance is the weapon the ego uses to prevent the individual from seating her identity in the Self.






Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

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A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.



Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.



Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"



  1. Glenn on December 4, 2019 at 3:42 am

    Thank you for this . It’s been a long time since I’ve read this Truth about Self, ego and Resistance and I needed the reminder.

  2. Mary DOyle on December 4, 2019 at 4:51 am

    Thanks for this succinct rendering of the Ego and the Self – it’s as good a description as I’ve ever seen!

  3. Lyn Blair on December 4, 2019 at 8:27 am

    Yes, exactly. That’s what I believe too, only you said it so much better than I have. Discerning Resistance from Self intuition is our daily challenge. We are each our own sentinel at the gate of thought.

  4. Brian Nelson on December 4, 2019 at 9:01 am

    I find these posts the most compelling. This inner battle is maddening. On posts about Resistance, I’ve found it helpful to re-read some of the comments a few days later. One post was about how Resistance was kicking his/her a$$ for the past few years….

    I one of think the difficulties in ‘Turning Pro’, or becoming/maintaining an ‘adult’ perspective is that the battle is never over. Maybe another way to say is is that my ‘Self’ is a bit naive, continually underestimating the tenacity of Resistance.

    Because this battle is never over, your posts are akin to Division finally getting that ammo to the forward platoons. We need it. Thank you.

  5. Michael Scarborough on December 4, 2019 at 9:13 am

    A question I have is whether these identities are separate and discrete from one another, or lie along some kind of continuum that our conscious being selectively utilizes to get through the challenges of each day.

  6. K on December 4, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Thank you 🙂

  7. Maureen Anderson on December 4, 2019 at 9:34 am

    “Resistance is the weapon the ego uses to prevent the individual from seating her identity in the Self.”

    Is OCD, for example, an example of that weapon?

    • Rene Remington on December 15, 2019 at 4:42 pm

      That’s a great observation on OCD, it seems so.

  8. Andre on December 4, 2019 at 9:40 am

    Thank you for sharing this.
    It feels grim always battling resistance.
    If we were to say the opposite force of resistance had an equally opposite force, the one that pulls us towards leaning into self / love…what is that called?
    Compassion, gratitude…trying to not over focus on the enemy here ????

    • Jurgen Strack on December 6, 2019 at 6:21 am

      You’re not wrong A. Instead of being e.g. ‘anti-war’, try being ‘pro-peace’.

  9. Gigi Blackshear on December 4, 2019 at 10:18 am

    This part “Each individual is bound inextricably to every other. If I hurt you, I simultaneously and with equal impact hurt myself”, does the ego not know this or does it not care? Living apart from the seat of the self is not living at all. In fact, it is agony.

  10. Julie Curwin on December 4, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Steve: The War of Art was a life-changing book for me and I love the concept of “Resistance” as a shorthand for that nebulous part of ourselves that attempts to sabotage our best efforts. But I think you are being a little harsh on the poor “ego”. As I understand it, the goal in Jungian psychology is not to diminish the conscious mind/ego at the expense of the Self, but to integrate the two–to bring more and more of the unconscious contents into the light of consciousness, and also to integrate the Shadow—which is just those parts of ourselves that we have repressed for various reasons. It’s fascinating stuff and very hard to get your head around, which is why stories continue to be so important. Thanks for helping us all to clarify our thoughts on this.

  11. Ron B on December 4, 2019 at 11:35 am

    I was waiting for the answer to the initial question: what is the evolutionary or other purpose for saddling us with such a troublesome dualistic condition? Could it be that finding one’s true self all suffused with feelings of love is a recipe for non-survival? {Which of course would not matter if there is no such thing as death anyway]. But thaat does not equate to an evolutionary purpose.

  12. Pete Tittes on December 4, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    I have a more materialist view of resistance. All animals live in a world with scarce food resources. For a given species to survive, they cannot waste energy.
    Writing a story happens in the brain, which for its weight, is the bodies greatest consumer of energy.
    Resistance is simply the mind’s regulator, to keep the hopeful writer from wasting resources on such an energy consuming activity.
    From a species’ genetic point of view, it’s better to have the members watching or reading stories than to have them writing them. But our species needs stories, so a few of its members, outliers, are able to overcome the built in regulator, resistance, and write. It’s a struggle, but a few can do it.
    They say that a salmon will return to spawn at the stream, where they themselves were hatched. But this is not true for each salmon that came from one stream. There has to be outliers that go up different streams, otherwise every salmon would be going back to only one stream, while in reality, there are salmon spawning in thousands of streams.
    The regulator is not perfect. I believe there are means for us to overcome it. That’s something I’m studying now.

    • Paulinho Uda on December 5, 2019 at 1:16 am

      I like this idea.

  13. Devin Slater on December 4, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    This is very interesting. Perhaps this “Self” that can, as you say, kill you, is the root of split personalitys and our inner dark thoughts. Perhaps it is the side of us that, as you say, is irratinol, butaybe it is also the side of is that can, in some ways, help is realize things that the normal person would overlook. Perhaps it is something that Buhda used to reach enlightenment.

    But, thank you forakwing me ask questions! I enjoy reading things that force me to ask the questions that I do.

  14. Johanne KIeffer on December 4, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    Resistance is absolutely is a type of weapon to keep us in fear…of judgement, of worthiness, of vulnerability. Perhaps it is a tool the universe throws at us to measure how committed we are to the task before us. Fear: it will either possess you or motivate you to take a direction you never dreamed of.

  15. Barbara Newton-Holmes on December 4, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    Beautiful. Profound reminder.

  16. Jey Jeyendran on December 4, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    Sorry but I don’t agree. The goal of the amygdala is survival. Self-actualization involves risk so the amygdala tries to prevent us from taking these risks. So in its childish way, it is attempting to protect us not harm us. Do we really want to go to war with ourselves?

  17. Julie Murphy on December 4, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    Thank you for speaking profound truths so simply.

  18. Julio on December 4, 2019 at 11:20 pm

    Is anger resistance? Is anger ego?

  19. Rebecca on December 5, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Thank you.

  20. Adam Abramowitz on December 5, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    I just read this post and I’m totally tripped out.

    For real.

    I think the police said it best when they said:


  21. Jurgen Strack on December 6, 2019 at 6:28 am

    “Resistance is the weapon the ego uses to prevent the individual from seating her identity in the Self.”

    Is reading these posts, which I love, instead of getting on with writing, for example, an example of that weapon?

  22. Joe Jansen on December 7, 2019 at 5:27 am

    I’m trying to read a bit each morning from “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius. I see this one today, which is Marcus speaking to himself (Chapter 5:5, the Gregory Hays translation, which doesn’t have all the “thees” and “thous” of the George Long translation):

    “… there are plenty of other things you can’t claim you ‘haven’t got in you.’ Practice the virtues you *can* show: honesty, gravity, endurance, austerity, resignation, abstinence, patience, sincerity, moderation, seriousness, high-mindedness. Don’t you see how much you have to offer — beyond excuses like ‘can’t’? And yet you still settle for less. Or is it some inborn condition that makes you whiny and grasping and obsequious…”

    Perhaps that “inborn condition” is what we’re calling “Resistance.” And maybe one way to think of the fight is as jiu-jitsu — side-stepping it and “practicing the virtues you *can* show.” This probably equates to what Steve has written about as “turning pro.” I’m struggling as much as everyone here, trying to figure all this out.

    Aurelius was a Roman (sorry, Steve), but he DID write his meditations in the classic Greek. So we’ll let him into our little tree-house.

  23. Madalena on December 8, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    Resistance comes dressed in many guises. Some you will recognise, identify it and be able to overcome it’s effects. But I believe resistance is a good thing. Without it, we could not evolve – resistance is a natural part of our emotional and spiritual evolution. It serves to test us, to strengthen us and teach us. It can only be truly overcome via the higher self-that point of stillness we all possess. It is there for each of us (no one is exempt) and exists so we can become more than what we were yesterday. Living alongside resistance allows us to become a fuller expression of the Truth and universal spirit.

    Life itself is resistance. It’s like having one foot on the earth beneath you, and the other foot in heaven- but it’s bloody hard trying to keep your balance.
    So you are forgiven if you topple over at times.
    So next time you feel the sense that life is not as you would want it – let the feeling go.
    You are exactly where you should be….there’s no rush.
    Enjoy the knowledge that you are alive and free to experience what it gives you as you choose.

    • Wends on April 25, 2021 at 5:03 pm

      Loved your response, makes sense so much. I had been so tired of wresting with fear and ego and keeping it at bay and not knowing how to let go of the struggle. Toppling over again and again. What the hell is wrong with me. Nothing, I just loss sight of the game of life. The balancing act and remember ing what’s real and what’s not.

  24. Wouter on December 9, 2019 at 4:43 am

    Beautiful and true, thank you.

  25. Emma Harriet on October 3, 2022 at 4:32 am

    Una pregunta que tengo es si esas identidades están separadas y separadas entre sí, o si se encuentran en algún tipo de continuo que nuestro ser consciente utiliza selectivamente para superar las Moron escorts situaciones difíciles de todos los días.

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  27. Amalia Johnson on February 1, 2024 at 9:49 pm

    I like the way you break down the different topics so everyone can understand them. Keep it 10 Reasons to Let Your Baby Play with Food up!

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