Ego Trip #1: The Ego Unmasked

Monday, October 17, 2016 0 Comments A+ a-

Hey! Happy Monday! I hope your week is off to a good start. Mine is--or at least, it's as good as it can be when you're walking around with coconut oil in your hair, lol. I slathered it on last night before bed, slept on towels, and plan to wash it out later today. Long hair can take a real beating from heat and styling products. So I do this once a week, and it's awesome for adding moisture and shine.

Me with soft, shiny hair...and eyes that
totally disappear when I smile (if only
coconut oil could fix that, too).

And now that we have this week's beauty tip out of the way, it's time to get started on the ego stuff. :)

My last post included a brief overview of what I hope to accomplish with this series. To begin, I need to define exactly what I mean by "ego" and how it should be viewed in regard to these posts. There's a pretty broad range of definitions out there, and we can't use them all. We need to nail one down.

So let's grab a hammer and "unmask" this ego thing.

What is the Ego?

Well, I'm sure you've heard of it. The word gets tossed around a lot in conversation and pop culture. There are egomaniacs and alter egos, for example. You can stroke someone's ego or observe someone displaying egotism on a grand scale. Some people refer to it in a negative way (that dude has a big ego), using it to criticize a person's exaggerated sense of self-importance.

Merriam-Webster gives the basic definition of ego as "the opinion that you have about yourself", which means pop culture really isn't too far off the mark. But there are psychological, philosophical, and spiritual definitions, too. It all depends on your approach.

Honestly, I'd like to keep it simple. The books and articles I've been reading generally refer to the ego as that part of the psyche which consciously mediates between what we think and what is real. This is a philosophical approach. And except for today, I'm not going to delve too much into the id or the superego. I want to concentrate on how the ego contributes to the way we view ourselves as separate from reality.

Ego 101

When you're born, you don't have an ego. You have something psychologists call the id. It's comprised partly of your biological personality and partly of primitive instincts. According to a Simply Psychology article written by Saul McLeod, the id is your personality at birth and remains with you all your life. It's a primitive thinking process based mostly on selfish desires.

Your ego develops later, when you begin interacting with the outside world and learn that your primitive, selfish desires aren't socially acceptable. You start defining your sense of self and who you are (as well as who you aren't). You have a name, a gender, an eye color, and so on. As you grow, culture, religion, and family dynamics all contribute to this "idea" of you as a unique, separate person. Unlike the id, your ego is conscious and can override your primitive urges.

Your superego, according to McLeod, starts developing around age 3-5 (I'm assuming the ego and superego develop together). Its job is "to control the id's impulses, especially those which society forbids, such as sex and aggression. It also has the function of persuading the ego to turn to moralistic goals rather than simply realistic ones and to strive for perfection."

The Middle Child

So basically, the ego is sort of the "middle child" of our identity. It has the grueling task of bringing us pleasure in ways that satisfy the id without violating the high standards of the superego. Unfortunately, like most middle children, its sense of belonging comes from what it believes about itself rather than the important roles played out by the older and younger siblings.

Your ego is influenced by many things, primarily your childhood. The way you're raised, the personalities and home life you deal with, the things you repeatedly hear about yourself...these all become part of your identity. You can imagine, then, how different the ego of a child raised in a positive, loving environment would be from the ego of a child subjected to years of ridicule, criticism, and abuse.

Your ego helps develop your's a complex structure of thoughts and beliefs formed over years of exposure to society and culture.

It's who you think you are.

And it's not always right. In fact, much of it is an illusion. So in our next post, we're going to slip into the Twilight Zone and take a look at what's real...and what isn't.

Stay tuned!

Image Credit: Squinty Meridian (me), Ego Unmasked, MC Rules