Why Are So Many People Unhappy?

The ego is the chief culprit in human unhappiness. Learn how to overcome this natural force and take hold of your own happiness.

 Stressed young Asian woman

Why Are So Many People Unhappy?

Robert Louis Stephenson once wrote: “I have a little shadow who goes in and out with me; and what can be the use of him is more than I can see. He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head; and I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.”

Clever poem, but what is he talking about?

The ego, of course. It is the chief culprit in human unhappiness. Yet, most people live and die with this inner monster running their lives. They neither know this nor how to overcome it. If they did, they would take the necessary steps to bring an end to it.

“What is ego?” you ask.

It is your “social self,” as Martha Beck has labeled it. It is what the philosopher Immanuel Kant described as your “precious little self.” It is the illusory image of you, the karmic collection of all your life experiences. It is not really you, of course, any more than the you, you see in a mirror is really you either. It is the image of you instead, the self you project to the world. It is, therefore, what someone described as “your make-believe self,” or your “social mask.”


Ego is distinguished by the fact that it is self-centered, self-obsessed, and self-absorbed. It has one aim, as Wayne Dyer describes it, and that is to “Edge God Out.” It is, therefore, the human condition, the one reality all humans share in common. The Biblical equivalent to the ego is described throughout the Old and New Testaments as “sin.” It is that part of you that you may think of as you but it really isn’t you at all. It is instead the “shadow you,” as Stephenson described it, or the “dog,” within you, as the German philosopher Nietzsche is purported to have once called it.

Since the ego is this little monster inside everyone and is the cause, not only for personal unhappiness, but virtually all the relationship problems and social evils of our time, is there anything we can do—that I can do—to overcome it?

Here are three suggestions:

1. Know, first, that the talk that goes on inside your head is mostly the voice of your ego. Since I have written extensively about this in the book, The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God, there is no need to go into great detail here.

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Dr. Steve McSwain
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