I think of the ego as a special program that runs in the physical mind of the “reality spacesuit” our true self wears in order to live and make its way within material reality. This reality space suit consists of both the physical body and mind. This physical mind thinks for itself (analogous to a computer) independent of the true self. Unless practiced, the true self has difficulty distinguishing between its own thoughts and the thoughts of the physical mind. The ego (as I said) is a special program running in the computer-like physical mind and was originally a tool designed for self-protection. Unfortunately, like HAL in Clarke’s / Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the ego became a tool that superseded its usefulness.
There is a point in childhood when a person abandons his true self ceding control of the physical mind to the ego. The child does this strategizing that the ego will provide greater protection from the aggressive forces of physical reality. At some point the young adult realizes that the protection the ego offered was illusory or came with too high a price. Much of adult life then becomes an effort to reclaiming his true self back from the ego (perhaps analogous to the astronaut Dave shutting down HAL in 2001). This process always begins with the realization of the ego’s true nature. Along with this realization comes the awareness of how deceptive the ego can be, how it operates through shame (and pride), and how ultimately self-defeating its methods truly are. The most important realization in this process is that the ego’s thought are not the true self’s thoughts.
One stumbling block standing in the way of this realization is loyalty. Because the ego dominated / shame based mind feels the need to remain loyal to the forces that keep it imprisoned it takes a supreme amount of effort for it to cast this loyalty aside. To do so feels immoral, irresponsible, undisciplined, selfish and brings about more shame. This usually works to create and repeat a cycle of lashing out and then feeling remorseful. Within this cycle the physical mind does not progress past its egoic confines. The cycle itself is the prison the ego creates for the true self and is the mechanism by which the ego maintains control. This is not to say that loyalty is a bad quality, indeed I believe it is good. However, the ego uses loyalty as a means of control and manipulation of its host mind.
Finally, the ego is self replicating. It performs this function through shame. By being shamed, a person feels the need to protect himself and thus creates his own ego (or perhaps cedes control of his physical mind to the ego). Then, having been shamed himself, the ego convinces him that the only way to feel better about himself is to seek out other people to shame. Once he does this new egos are then spawned in the shaming victims’ physical minds and the process repeats itself over and over.