WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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My Ego Gets on My Nerves

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My first graduate program’s Freudian tilt provided my most formative introduction to ego. Freud’s ego is a workhorse running interference between the bossy, priggish superego and the feckless, wanton id.  This ego reminds me of a manager I had during my cocktail waitressing days.  He was a frenzied blur yelling for more jalapeno poppers, appeasing customers, and bemoaning the higher-ups.  He felt put upon, to say the least.

In philosophy the ego is usually referred to as our thinking selves.  This thinking self separates us from others through its constant evaluations and comparisons.  It’s related to our self esteem, whether inflated or diminished, but rarely healthy. 

These ideas aren’t so much competing conceptualizations as contributing aspects. The ego is each of these.  It wants to figure out how to get things right in the midst of vying values.  It’s the assessments we make about our own and other’s worthiness, and it’s the less-than-best-self hubris we carry around to protect ourselves.

I empathize with the ego and the challenges it faces in negotiating all this.  On the other hand, the ego’s trouble and strife is largely its own making.  If it took a breath and got out of the way, most of us could figure this stuff out minus some angst.

For that matter, if the ego wasn’t always worrying and wondering how others’ saw it, our best selves might be more willing to show up in the world.  We could bypass judgments and predictions based on our own and others’ mistakes and successes.  Then we’d be free to right the messes we’ve made and try not to remake them.  We’d be free to recognize successes and keep on building them.

We don’t need to boost our own or others’ egos.  We need to send them on vacation and direct their resources elsewhere.  The elsewhere could be somewhere or something bringing joy to you and others, whether through good works, purposeless play or some creative combo.  Regardless, let’s not invite the ego along.  Mine would probably be relieved.  I think I get on its nerves, too.

Resources & References

Civilization and Its Discontents
$9.44
By Sigmund Freud
Whitney Cain