The struggle to awaken begins with the work to both recognize and control the lower self. The world of the lower self is characterized by the state of imagination (uncontrolled mind activity), illusionary suffering, and undue preoccupation with trifling matters. The lower self is not a single being inside of us, but rather the collection of attitudes, dreams, mechanical habits, and the animal-like nature that dwells within us. One of the ways esoteric traditions represent the lower self is as a skeleton.
Monk Callistus, Philokalia (Greek Orthodox Christian text): Sleep of the mind is akin to real death.
The lower self has little interest in the development of a Higher Self. In fact, it is opposed to Divine Presence, and when we make active efforts to be present and sustain presence, it continually attempts to lure us away from this effort. The effort to Be Present requires constant struggle against its ten thousand manifestations, including the incessant flow of uncontrolled imagination that it produces.
Gurdjieff: All mechanical habits, tastes, and weaknesses fight against conscious self- remembering in man.
Ibn Arabi (13th c. Andalusian Sufi mystic and philosopher ): There are three dangers which may keep you from examining yourself, making the accounting of your acts, and being thankful to your generous Lord. The first of these dangers is unconsciousness, heedlessness. The second is the flood of tastes and desires that gush from your ego, your lower self. The third is bad habits, in fact all habits, which make one like a machine.
Christina Rossetti (19th c. English poet) : God, harden me against myself, this coward with pathetic voice who craves for ease and rest and joys: myself, arch-traitor to my Self ; my hollowest friend; my deadliest foe, my clog whatever road I go.
Angelus Silesius (17th c. German priest, mystic and poet) : God (the Higher Self), whose love and joy are present everywhere, cannot come to visit you unless you (the lower self) are not there.
Hafiz (14th c. Persian Sufi poet): Step aside Hafiz, you are blocking the way.