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The Maintenance and Destruction of Ego.

Another question raised by a member in the Vashita Gyan discussion group was on the matter or Ego, its identification and removal to evolve and enhance as a human being. A humble attempt has been made to answer the same.
Ego is an oft repeated word that continues to affect our daily lives in every aspect possible. It has the ability to hover around like a shadow and to color all the actions and reactions, and the very thought processes and take over the rational thought of an individual, thus giving free reign to the mind to take over and do its very worst. The Ego has been known to make and break people. It has the capacity to take one to the very heights of success or to completely ruin the individual. So what is this Ego? Are we born with it or is it just something that is acquired during the journey of our life or is it just something that is learned from the environment and the elders in our vicinity?
The ego has been the cause of many a dissension and has led to wars and upheavals in the social, political and the economic field and has led many down a path towards self-annihilation and aimless ventures affecting many a lives. On the other hand there have been many a success stories that have gone to inspire and help the new generation in shaping their life creating new pathways of thought and action.
Let us understand what this ego really means. The Cambridge dictionary online gives the meaning of ego thus: your idea or opinion of yourself, especially your feeling of your own importance and ability: In Psychoanalysis, the part of a person’s mind that tries to match the hiddendesires (= wishes) of the id (= part of the unconscious mind) with the demandsof the real world . It further describes the various types of ego. The “alter ego” in British English defines it as…the part of someone’s personality that is not usually seen by other people . Then there is the “super ego” in psychoanalysis, which is …the part of your mind that knows what is right and what is wrong, and causes you to feel guilty when you do something wrong. (Definition of ego, super ego and alter ego from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press : http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/ego ).
The Oxford Dictionary gives the meaning of ego: A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. Psychoanalysis: The part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity. Philosophy: (In metaphysics) a conscious thinking and the meaning of “alter ego”: a person whose personality is different from your own but who shows or acts as another side of your personality. And the “super ego”: Psychoanalysis: The part of a person’s mind that acts as a self-critical conscience, reflecting social standards learned from parents and teachers: ( http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/ego).
Thus the Ego just considers itself with the self-esteem, i.e. what one thinks of oneself in their own mind or more simply as they see themselves in their own eyes. This in turn is a function of their own wishes and desires and projections thus made. This would mean that we presuppose that the human being is able to do this honestly and without self-deception…a tall order indeed. Further the individual may misread reactions and his or her own desires may come in the way of seeing things clearly thus adjusting the circumstance to suit one’s own purpose leading to delusions of self-importance. Further how we think of ourselves is also colored by the reactions of others to our actions and our very presence. This would mean that there is gap between what the person wishes to be and what the person really is….the former taking precedence where the ego is concerned. This works very well for the mind that enhances it even further leading to the image of the self in the mind’s eye which is far removed from reality. We form an idea of how we should look to the world and then live it and insist upon it while the rest of the world doesn’t perceive you in a similar fashion hence the dissensions, arguments and misunderstandings and vehement denials and false notions.
From a psychoanalysis point of view, if the id is the unconscious mind, then verily there is no ego to begin with at birth. Here it is the instincts that will take precedence over conscious thinking. This means it will demand the immediate satisfaction of desire. Thus the tantrums of the child, when its desires are crossed. It is therefore evident that rationalism plays no role here. Its only later when one becomes aware of one’s environment and begins to relate things and develops the idea of the self that the ego develops. This is mainly the result of external stimuli and the actions and reactions with various entities and in varied situations that the picture of the self, starts to emerge. This to some extent is logical and may even be based on reason, the last of which is based on actual experiences, which may be true or false…a subject matter of individual perception. Thus the concept of right and wrong may be adhered to, though whether what is really right or really wrong is another question that has to be dealt with a this stage. The reason for this is that the individual is still in the process of satisfying his or her desires and remove the gap between the hidden desires and the real world, and in the pursuit of so called happiness may make relevant compromises. This would mean that the ego would go to any lengths to achieve its desires and so in that sense many at times end up making irrational decisions that defy all logic and may be even given to extremes in emotional situations. This is evident if one were to observe everyday behavior when a person becomes adamant and insists on having his/her way. If the child is accessed by the adult at this time, then despite being an adult the result will of course be disastrous.
The alter ego on the other hand is one which is well hidden and presented when circumstances demand it. This alter ego could be good or bad…its subjective…..for example superman is the alter ego of Peter Parker in the famous comic book series. There are real life examples as well, as the famous singer Christina Aguilera and X Tina. It’s another self which is created to handle matters that the original personality cannot handle or to present another side of a person, perhaps more confident and outgoing as opposed to the original one. Sometimes they may end up living a double life….and is wholly in the realm of the subject of psychology.
If one goes by the Oxford dictionary then there is a more positive side to the alter ego and that is its capacity to be self-critical….this could help the original personality to to enhance or deteriorate depending on the kind of criticism. This means that there is an element of lack of sureness as far as the contribution of the alter ego to character and evolvement in the positive direction is concerned.
This leaves us with the Super Ego. This is related to you conscience and with the help of the wisdom gained from experience , yours and others, one can enter the realm of analytical thought having both width and depth, enabling the individual to have better judgement and discrimination, leading to rational thought analysis. Thus the individual will have a better concept of right and wrong. The only care that has to be taken that relativism in this respect will have to be discarded so as to maintain truth. This would mean that absolutism would rule the day making any further analysis unnecessary as where there is only one truth the question of choice does not enter and the decision taken or the solution would prevail in all space , time and conditions.
Thus while the ego can be self-deceiving in that it creates a barrier to one’s development due to false belies of the self or belief in the projections of the self that one desires to be, the alter ego goes one step further in their creation of another self . Both can be harmful for development of both the earthly and spiritual self and result in dissensions that are harmful to both body and soul. Thus the ego may stop growth and development in a variety of ways and in some instances destroy ones personality and life as well. It is best that these are destroyed and not allowed to rule your life.
The maintenance of the super ego then seems to be a better choice as it tells one to differentiate between right and wrong and a sense of guilt is good for the soul and for the enhancement of character and personality and above all growth. As it is this ego that will spend less time in trying to impress or project unrealistic ideas of oneself. Life will indeed be more easy to lead and the wrongs will be easily accept and wrong thought processes acknowledged and in short one will be able to move on and not be stuck or stagnate due to an unrelenting ego that cannot let go.
However on the other side of the picture , many a times the absolute correctness that the super ego entails and its application is mistaken for the unrelenting ego by those who fail to understand the underlying truth or rather by those who have an ego that refuses to see the light of the day. In such circumstances little can be done and time is the only solution when reality of the truth will dawn on the individual to enable the person to mend his ways.
Finally in my opinion if one were to develop discrimination and rationalistic way of thinking it will over time, do away with the ego that so much inhibits the human psyche especially in the modern times.

Published inMentoring

2 Comments

    • Mamta Mamta

      Thanks…continue reading

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