The ego doesn’t really exist. The question could just as well be, “what uses do you think unicorns have?” The question presupposes that the ego (or unicorns) exist in the first place. However, the ego is just thought. It is the thought of a “me”…a doer, thinker, etc. I have seen through the “me” and when the mind is silent (i.e. no thought), there isn’t even something you could call an ego present. The ego is a “me”. There is no “me”.
However, there is a recognition that when the name “Eric” is called near me…there is a very good chance someone is trying to get my attention. There is a recognition that “Eric” refers to this body/mind. Also, there is a recognition that conscious awareness is limited to the localized senses of this body. I am only aware of the computer screen in front of me…I am not aware of the computer, tablet, or phone screen you may be reading this on now.
I do not separate ‘what there is conscious awareness of’ and ‘what there is no conscious awareness of’. I don’t say what I am consciously aware of is in reference to a “me”. I don’t claim ownership of one and disavow the other. Just like if one finger is pricked, only that finger feels the pain and not the other fingers…this does not mean the fingers are of different bodies. Only if there is identification with conscious awareness (via the senses) or identification with only what is under voluntary control, then there is a concept of a “me” and an ego.
The concept of “me” is the same as ego, but it is a fiction of the mind. Recurring thought and memory create the illusion of a continuing “me”.
Now, responding to a name could be considered egoic. In fact, I have said so in the past. There is a sense of “me” that knows it is being called. I have also said that the ego is not destroyed…but just seen through. In a sense, this is also true. To continue playing the game of life, there is limited control…mostly over this body…and limited awareness (to the senses of the body). A “me” is easy to infer. When I speak about in-joy-ment or appreciation, this could be considered in reference to a “me” or ego.
This does not change the fact that the ego is just a recurring thought. It does not make the ego something that exists in its own right. At times we might play with thoughts that are in reference to this body/mind. Such as with in-joy-ment and appreciation, because it brings about a deeper feeling of joy. It keeps a certain feeling of engagement. It makes the game more fun to play.
Ultimately, I think too much attention is given to “ego”. Often people speak of the ego as if it is something separate or other than themselves. “Oh, that’s my ego!” This is a fictitious splitting up and separation. People want to deal with, reform, or eliminate their egos. Of course, it is the ego that wants this. It is all self image and sense of “me”. The ego is an illusion. It is just thought, concept, and belief.
There is a tendency to recognize the label assigned to this body/mind and respond to the name called. Is this ego…sure, you could call it as such. It is not just habit, because you could change your name and you would respond to the new name. The habit would be to not respond to any other name, but we do. At the same time, it is also possible to have seen through the “me” and clearly see there is no ego…and then go to the gym and tell your gym partner, “I’m going to add 10 more pounds to the weight today.”
It is a mystery for those who have not seen through the “me” how this all works out. To be in the world, but not of it…in a way. To play a part without identifying with or believing you are the part. Understanding that a part is a construction of the mind and there is only the whole show…nonduality…there is no other and no separation.
It is like being a great actor…there is a persona acquired by the body/mind, but you know that is not you. You act your part and do things in the play, but you don’t take the identity (i.e. persona) seriously. You can respond to your name, you can appreciate and in-joy what is happening, you can do whatever you want (as it is improv and not scripted); but, you do not really identify with any of it. You know it is not “you”. In fact, there is no “me” at all. No personal “me” in any way. You are the whole show, and yet still playing (i.e. consciously aware of) one specific character in the play.
Ultimately, the ego is an imagination. There is no other…no separation…and the ego needs others to exist. There has to be what is not “me” in order for “me” to exist. There has to be ‘what is not ego’ for ego to exist. As the ego does not really exist (it is just a thought)…it can’t really do anything. We assign activities, happenings, doings, thoughts, etc. to the “ego” and others are not of the ego, but that division or separation is a fiction of the mind.