This is not my quote – I spotted it in a magazine and I thank the source for the suggested wit and wisdom. Allow me another perspective.
Ego is often maligned due to a misunderstanding from Freud’s original thought. Ego is actually the buffer between our outrageous and primitive Id (subconscious) and the divine polarity of the Super-Conscious (the conscious self). Ego has the tough job and distinct role of introducing a more acceptable version of this animalistic creature to the outside world. It’s somewhat similar to when your messy drunken uncle visits you and he will be attending a dinner party you are having with your sober friends.
Id’s role in the psyche is powerful yet lacks moral conscience. Drawing upon biological personality traits, sexual instinct and aggressive impulsiveness, Id is focused on pleasure. When denied and “un-pleasure” is the result, it is un- pleasant. Fantasy, irrational and illogical, this brain function results in classic selfishness.
Although nowhere near the realm of the Optimal Self, Ego makes presentable the swamp monster that lives inside each of us. Operating according to the reality principle, it works out ways to satisfy the demands of Id. Ego too seeks pleasure and avoids pain but is inclined to devise a realistic strategy to obtain that pleasure. If the Ego fails to be realistic, frustration can occur resulting in defensiveness to ward off ill feelings.
However, let’s not give EGO too much freedom as we know it lives between two worlds and can be inclined to take advantage of the spotlight of one world and then, from the other side reduce our conscious speaking part to a one liner– Help!
The good side of Ego is that it has an awareness of one’s identity and how that personality is presented to the outside world. The bad side of Ego is that our personality is actually just a mask (persona) that is hiding the authentic self and is usually compensating for an inadequacy – thus the mask. With a leaning toward Id’s megalomania or even narcissism, Ego, when out of control, is not only in the spotlight – it becomes the spotlight and blinds any other light bearers into submission.
A healthy Ego provides confidence and courage when facing a challenge. An unhealthy presentation wins by any means necessary. Ego can be the initial power behind an idea and feeds the desire for achievement – but also recognition. When needy, Ego becomes an unquenchable thirst for the intoxicating drink of affirmation. “Less is more” – “Everything in moderation, nothing in excess” are reminders of age old Wisdom that has countered such need.
So how does the Super Conscious self prevail? I believe there are three stages as our post partum psyche develops.
The Mystic – The Divine Child – this is the side of our Super Conscious that is the eternal learner, the inquisitive mind and the mind that seeks meaning and purpose. “WHY” is the ever present question as this desire to learn from experience and the ideas of others becomes evident.
The Master – The One of Honor – this part of our being incorporates the values and morals of society and masterfully controls impulses desired by Id yet society forbids. This is the Conscience which leads to better decisions for all involved and good work results. Guilt and shame can result from failure which indicates a burgeoning moral sensitivity.
The Mentor – The Ideal Self – This is our picture of who we are to become and the reason we choose mentors based upon behavior. We inherently seek our optimal self and to become like those who have helped shape us. This is our Soul Self – the highest expression of who we are meant to become.
So Ego is not so bad after all. It has a difficult role suppressing the insatiable Id and yet has a foot into the Divine self to provide access to our highest aspiration.
The next time you feel the tension in this trinity of characters, acknowledge that swamp creature that beckons you from below but keep your eyes focused on the mountaintop above. It may not be that far off.