A few posts back I promised to explore the concept of “ego”. Let’s do that now, shall we? Again, from David Richo’s How to be an Adult in Relationships comes his conceptualization of ego:
“The healthy ego – what Freud called a coherent organization of mental processes – is the part of us that can observe self, situations and persons; assess them and respond in such a way as to move towards ones goals. This is in contrast the the neurotic ego – the part of us that is compulsively driven or stymied by fear or desire, feeding arrogance, entitlement, attachment and the need to control other people.”
The healthier our ego, the more equanimity we feel, the better we are able to navigate our world, and the more functional and satisfying our relationships are. The more neurotic our ego, the more chaos, disequilibrium and internal stress we feel, our ability to navigate our world is more challenged, and the less satisfying and more turbulent our relationships are. Most of us oscillate between healthy versus neurotic ego state. Our quest to become a more psychological and spiritual adult means moving towards and residing in a healthier ego state more and more of the time. Much of what feeds the neurotic ego is rooted in the ways in which needs went unmet when we were so impressionable. Harville Hendrix says that there are two ways that children get wounded – by deficits in nurturing from early childhood caregivers, and from the overt and covert messages of a repressive society. Much of the effects of our wounding is anchored in our unconscious, supporting our neurotic ego. Our destiny is to bring more and more consciousness to what is and has been unconscious in us. In so doing, we are able to dwell in a healthy ego state more often. Just imagine how much better the world would be if we all prioritized having a healthy ego – adults would be happier and more satisfied in ALL relationships (including their relationship to self), children would have the benefit of parents who are better equipped to meet their needs, our communities would be safer, there would be more equality, societal issues would be handled with more civility, the needs of all would be considered when policies are crafted and so on and so on. Is there a down side? For the vast majority, the answer is no. For those who profit from hierarchies, then yes, they would lose influence and control. Seems like a good trade off to me, though. What about you? What benefits do you see in committing to working on developing a healthy rather than neurotic ego? What are the cons to doing so?
We will continue exploring ego states in the next few posts. Until then, peace.