EGO - the lie we are continually being soldsteemCreated with Sketch.

in #psychology5 years ago

We are constantly told that having a big ego is bad and that we should strive to have no ego, but in reality people don’t understand what ego is.

We all know that classic big ego guy who constantly yells and walks over other people. And we all know that spiritual guy who never argues with anyone and is constantly calm and cool. We are told that the letter types overcame their egos and become better humans.
We’ll this is nothing more than a bunch of populistic propaganda which wants to make you more apathetic and malleable. Let’s borrow some Freud’s teachings here to explain this.


What people term ‘ego’ in day to day conversations and low quality (quasi-psychological) articles is really a misunderstood version of Sigmund Freud’s concept called ‘psychic apparatus’. The letter consists of 3 distinct parts:

1. ID: is the collection of our primal feelings, like our need to reproduce and secure food and shelter for ourselves. It is our wants and needs; the selfish, self serving part of us. We are born with this part (and only this part); it is genetically conditioned - inherent to all of us.
It is this part that we usually refer to as ego in day to day conversations, and people who exhibit a very pronounced ID traits are called egoistic.
One could say that the urges and instincts of ID are hardwired in our brain. In business psychology we sometimes refer to this part as ‘crock brain’.

2. SUPER-EGO: is usually referred to as the third part of the psychic apparatus but for easier understanding i will describe it as second here.
This part is quite the opposite to the ID. It is the caring, unselfish part which puts others far ahead of itself. We were not born with this part, it was imprinted onto us by our surroundings, our parents, teachers, peers, TV… it is our very own socially conditioned law enforcer who decides for us what we perceive as good and what as evil.
But all is not as bad as i made it seem above as the super-ego represents our highest values and aspirations. It represents the absolute highest of (everything) we think we should strive to amount to. But it is idealistic to the point where it is usually impossible to live up to its standards.

3. EGO: developed as the mediator between the ID and the SUPER-EGO to satisfy as much of the ID’s needs as possible without suffering consequences either physical or sociological - as learnt from the super-ego.
A strong ego can keep ID in check completely and let super-ego take over, however a weak ego is controlled by the ID on most irrational pursuits. Either way the ego is just there to find a way to accomplish a goal - either ID’s or super-ego’s.

*for more information refer to these sources 1, 2

The witch-hunt

From the above we can see that the problematic part is the ID, which just wants to ‘take’ by any means necessary. The EGO which is nowadays constantly subjected to witch-hunts is actually what is supposed to keep the ID under control. Hence the “egomaniacs” are actually people with extremely low ego or their super-ego is not in accordance with our own super-egos.

You see, we do not judge just ourselves based on what our super-ego believes but we also judge others by the standards of our very own SUPER-EGO.
Because our society has conditioned us all with largely the same beliefs and values our super-egos are more or less in agreement about what is good and what is bad. But when we encounter someone who was conditioned differently we see him as bad/evil and label him as an egomaniac or even antisocial, yet his ID has not necessarily taken over him. He might just be operating on a different set of values.
It is not easy to say whether we are at fault by judging a man with a different set of values or is the man at fault for letting his animalistic ID rule over him. But either way the EGO itself is not the issue, rather it is either the ID or the SUPER-EGO. Having a bigger more developed ego would actually mitigate the issue that guy presents for us in both cases.

So why is ego portrayed as “the bad guy” in modern day media and mundane conversation?

Well, the ego is the part of us which finds doable ways for fulfilling ID’s or super-ego’s demands and potentially executes them. As such it is the figurehead of your persona, which means it gets all the credit and blame even though it deserves none.
Of course this doesn't mean that all the litigations aimed towards the ego have no “physical” background, after all the ID and the super-ego cannot physically manifest themselves without the ego, but it is like blaming the car for drivers drunk driving. Sure, you cannot go driving drunk if you don’t have a car, but without ego there is nothing. Just an empty shell hooked to life support systems.
Saying we need to get rid of our ego is the same as saying we need to commit suicide… Geez, no wonder so many people suffer from anxiety and depression when we are being bombarded by such populistic nonsense.
The EGO is ‘I’, people…
Not ‘I want’,
Not ‘I won’t’,
Nor ‘I will’.
Just plain and simple ‘I’.
Now, why is the TV telling me ‘I’ am wrong, bad, evil and a menace to society? Ohh golly, i should quickly go buy a selfhelp/spiritual book to tell me how to terminate myself (‘I’).

Sounds absurd, doesn’t it?
Yet people with the biggest SUPER-EGOs keep telling us exactly that.


Furthermore people mix the ego with automatic defense mechanisms. They think aggression, extortion, psychological tormentation, etc are the doing of a big ego but they are not. By their nature automatic defenses are much closer to the ID than to ego; but either way they come out when the ego can no longer mediate between the ID and the superego.
Hence violent outbursts are a sign of small ego as much as crying is. The same way inaction or constant action can be a sign of a weak ego.

Ever react like you’re a freight train with a gun?

The fallacy of the good (right) and bad (wrong)

Above i have shown how things are not always clear whether the ID, the ego or the super-ego is in control. And i mentioned that our perception of good and bad depends on our social conditioning.
Now let’s ask ourselves, why is good, good? And is bad really bad?
We know what is good, right? We just know…
But do we really?

Since day one we have been conditioned with others beliefs about good and bad; and they have been just as well. This extends as far back as we can conceive. But we think of ourselves as independent thinkers, so why don’t we question our conditioning?
Is good really good?

Why the hell is ID bad? Was it always bad?
Let’s go back, far back, to the times of animism when specific traits of animals and animals themselves were worshipped as deities. Back then primal and aggressive were not bad things. And sexuality was not a bad thing, no, it was worshipped.

Primal energy and liveliness of jaguar, who doesn’t want it?

So you see that our ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are not universal, they are changing with time. If we are to think only rationally, how can we then determine what is good and what is bad?

Either way, ego is neither. Ego just is. Like zen ego focuses wholly on doing and does not judge.
Build yourself a good strong ego and you can accomplish a lot in life, for ego IS a team player.

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There definitely is a lot of misunderstanding about what ego is, and like you said, different methods to get rid of it. I think it's mostly a matter of careless language, and you've done a nice job of explaining it. We cannot survive in this society if we don't have a well-developed ego.

Thank you very much :)

Wow, thanks for the refreshing insights. I love the metaphors. It's the cars fault for enabling me to drive while drunk. To clarify: the driver is the ID, the drunkenness is the super-ego and the car is the ego? Is that right?

I think it's grained within the language. For example: If someone says you have a big ego in Dutch, everybody assumes you are a selfish prick.
If you have pronounced ID, then you are a pride self-loving mf-er.
And if you mention super-ego. Uhhh, what is that?

Yes, exactly.
I agree on the language thing, but i think we need to start changing that as it is making us miserable. As i noted above, it is the source of anxiety and depression we so often feel. We must combat that - with education.

Thank you for your thoughts :)

EDITED: inserted wrong url...

I am a bit confused. It's like you are referring to an article you just wrote.

ahh, i'm so sorry... i inserted the wrong url.
i'll try to find the right one again

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Well written. There is nothing wrong with the Ego per se. Without it you have no drive to exist, to stand out from the otherwise homegeneous background. The problem arises in my humble opinion when the drive to fulfil our desires becomes compulsive. If you only want to do what you you thinks will make you feel good, you live in a compulsive hell. If you make the best out of every situation you face, no matter how uncomfortable, you gain a sense of freedom.

Very well said. I must point your comment to a friend of mine :)