Sum, ergo ego

Elsewhere on the internet today, someone asked a question about why it seems like everyone is hating the ego these days. What I thought would originally be a short response turned out to be a little more involved – since I think this question and my response to it would fit here, I’m posting it :-)

“Funny how words get changed over the years. ‘Ego’ at its root simply refers to the self.

I think the problem is more with inflated egos than with ego itself; and I think a lot of people don’t understand the difference … it’s a sort of mass knee-jerk reaction, where people hear about the dangers of inflated and overly-gratified egos and think elimination of the ego is the best solution. I knew a man once who tried to kill a mosquito with a shotgun – it’s much the same with ego. There is also a trend in Western society to embrace elements of Eastern philosophy; which to some extent advocates an attempt to eliminate the ego. The attempt, like any attempt toward the ideal, is not designed to succeed – however through the process of attempting, the ego achieves a lesser state of gratification (this is why I say that Eastern philosophy advocates the elimination of ego ‘to some extent’).

In Western philosophy, the school of Stoicism, to which I adhere, pursues not the eradication of ego, but rather the replacement of the selfish ego with a more altruistic focus. This seems to me to be more in line with my concept of what is Natural … we all have an ego, it is a part of our Natural condition, and trying to sweep it under a rug and pretend like we don’t have one tends to solve nothing. I prefer the approach that allows this to be, yet focuses on ways to make the ego lean and healthy, rather than inflated to a point where it can serve no purpose other than its own continued inflation. Consumerism is, therefore, anathema for me – it does little more than promote excessive ego gratification for the purpose of making money that doesn’t belong to us anyway.

From psychology, we often hear about the perils of narcissism, and I’ve seen in a lot of places where people are confusing pathological narcissism with hyped-up egos … actually, the converse is true, as clinical narcissists tend to have egos that are locked in the darkest dungeons of their psyches. Such people find it difficult, if not impossible, to receive gratification from within and must therefore seek it from external sources. In a society fixated on consumerism, where there is a mass knee-jerk reaction that tries to vilify the ego and shame people for having one, it’s scarce wonder why narcissism seems to be getting closer to epidemic status.”

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13 responses to “Sum, ergo ego

  1. Reblogged this on Coyote Impertinent and commented:
    Loved it!

    In the tradition of shamanism I’m studying, ego is one ogf the 3 parts of the soul that are equally important. It refers to the part that intellectualised things. Ego can bring clarity, but can also brings the contrary, control of the experience bla bla bla…

    Interestingly enough, the people I met that want to “break” their ego are the one that never even considered being balanced.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think it’s unhealthy to break or try to eradicate parts of our psyche / soul … if we think we are going the wrong way, why hack off our legs when turning in a different direction would solve the problem?

      Liked by 1 person

      • In a conversation with a friend of mine, who also happens to be a psychotherapist, we were discussing the search for the true self. I told him that I had determined that sometimes, I was pretty sure my true self was a complete ass. I’ve seldom seen my friend laugh so hard. It’s the simple truth, though – contemporary society seems to train us early on to feel shame for so many parts of our bodies and souls that I’m surprised we’re even allowed outside our own homes sometimes. I think this tendency encourages unhealthy spirits … tying this more closely to conversations you and I have had in the past, I think this is part of the wisdom of the Contrary, the Thunder Clown or Heyoka, in that they are able to challenge their communities and help people maintain their connection to their own selves.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree! That doesn’t mean that if you have some Heyoka inside that you won’t feel ashamed. :P In fact, it is also said that there is 4 “nightmares”: Shame, Jealous, Guilt and Regrets. Shame is the one that talks about perceptions and outer influence.

        True self is a hard concept to comprehend. It takes a butt-load of honesty and intense work to get rid of programming, expectations and control. I guess that when you are unhindered by judgement, you can begging to understand what it means to feel aligned with that authenticity, who YOU ARE without veil, what you bring to the world.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m pretty sure I’ve written somewhere before that I am not fond of judging people (or myself, for that matter) – I prefer estimating to judging. An estimation is something that is not only easily changed when circumstances change, just from using the word, people tend to expect that the estimation will change to adapt to the circumstances. People change – our own selves included – judgments tend to be harder to change. Guilt gets involved and hounds us (I wrote a poem about this many years ago – if I can find it, I can send it your way sometime). We judge ourselves, and we are afraid sometimes to accept that our judgments are no longer relevant. Hence, estimation instead of judgment.

        I agree with you – the search for the true self requires time, patience, brutal honesty, work and sacrifice. I set out on this search a long time ago, convinced one day I would reach the golden core of my true self. I managed to reach it; but when I did, my ‘golden’ core was Raven black ;-)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. ugh, I meant to post a comment, but It seems I shared it!! I’m glad I did hehehe. Here was the original comment.

    Loved it!

    In the tradition of shamanism I’m studying, ego is one of the 3 parts of the soul that are equally important. It refers to the part that intellectualised things. Ego can bring clarity, but can also brings the contrary, control of the experience bla bla bla…

    Interestingly enough, the people I met that want to “break” their ego are the one that never even considered being balanced.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That last paragraph is what’s been causing problems for years. My ex is a narcissist and divorcing him is a nightmare. That inability to find gratification from within is causing him to lash out and find comfort in “sticking it to” me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally agree with your point on consumerism. I think Eastern philosophy’s approach (particularly Buddhism) is actually brilliant in its methods. You mentioned that it’s approach is not designed to succeed. Just to play devils advocate, and with my experience, it dissipates the ego by frustrating a person to the end of their wits. It can be an arduous process, but I believe that in particular schools of Buddhism, gurus give their followers impossible riddles to frustrate the ego and eventually lead to the realization that cannot be described via concepts/words.

    Liked by 1 person

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