THE STRONGER MY EGO -
the healthier I am
Previous: S & I – EGO (Part 1)
Article: “Defense of the Ego”
Basic Components of the Healthy Ego
For ACoAs & all other wounded people, the following Ego qualities are what we want to strive for as we heal from our damage. The stronger these are, the better our self-esteem. ‘Ego functions’ are the means by which people successfully adapt to the world:
Affect Regulation – The ability to maintain or increase positive
feelings & a sense of well-being, while minimizing or regulating stress feelings & defensive states. Gives the ability to cope with all types & intensity of emotions, without being unduly overwhelmed by them. It is the result of the growth, development & links of our emotional brain (limbic system) based on our early experiences with parents
Defensive Functioning – The automatic psychological processes that protect against anxiety & being aware of internal or external dangers or stressors. It maintains our defense mechanism, both those developed in childhood & more mature one (intellectualization, projection, rationalization…), to protect us from any powerful identity-threatening feelings that get stirred up
Impulse control – (opposite of impulsive or compulsive acting out)
The ability to choose when & how to act – allowing us short or long-term gains as we move in a particular direction or toward a specific goal – the ability to wait in order to get something we want.
An important use is to manage aggressive and/or sexual wishes, to prevent immediately acting them out, OR forming various symptoms from repressing those desires (obsessions, hypochondria, actual ailments….)
Good Judgment - (NOT being judgmental). The ability to form the best opinions & decisions, by objectively considering, comparing & evaluating known information, while resisting influences of peer pressure & our own emotions. It allows us to act responsibly, which includes identifying possible courses of action, anticipating & evaluating likely consequences, & making decisions about appropriate actions in each circumstance
Object Relations – how the The Self (or subject) relates to Objects (other people) in the unconscious, which is based on internalized images of our actual parents (or parts – like the breast), as well as images we create about others (ogre, angel…). When emotionally healthy we have the capacity for mutually satisfying relationship – seeing ourselves & others as whole objects, with three-dimensional qualities. We can form emotional bonds with others instead of being focused only on ourselves
Reality Testing – The ability to distinguish between what’s going on in our own mind of thoughts, feelings, fantasy & distortions from objective facts & the external world, in order to act in a way that shows an awareness of accepted social norms & customs. By imaging, labeling & organizing our observations, we can make sense of them & put into mental files so we can make decisions about their “value,” potential threat or benefit….
A reality test is something that helps us come to grips with reality. Using ‘reality-indicators’, the mind can determine whether an experience is happening in the present or is the recall of a previous one
Synthesis – (opposite of Splitting) – the most basic of ego functions : the capacity to string together succeeding moments of experience into a single preserved ‘event’, allowing all the other ego functions to be used.
It forms the process of organizing & unifying the various aspects of personality – allowing us to think, feel & act in a consistent way. It means that we can be internally congruent – not being in deep conflict with different parts of ourselves (PP vs HA, LP vs WIC…) A meshing of healthy ego identity, personal identity & group identity gives us a framework for successfully operating in the world
Thought Processes - 2 states of the thinking mind (vs. the emotional):
a. Primary – ‘primitive’, animistic style of thought, during altered states of consciousness, not in the Ego’s control - from wishing, day-dreaming, night-dreaming, fugue states – all the way to psychosis, and may include some loss of motor function
b. Secondary – the stable Ego’s work to minimize free-floating mental energy, the mode of normal waking consciousness of adult humans. It has been called ‘inhibited’ or ‘bound’ because it is guided by the ‘Reality Principle’. This ego function gives the ability to develop & hold logical, coherent, and abstract thought. It allows us to make appropriate decisions, use cause-&-effect thinking & be goal-directed.
From Ego Psychology
Ego development gradually occurs in sequence, during a child’s growth, & is made up of a combination of factors:
• our innate & inherited qualities • having our basic needs met • identifying with others (copying admired adults) • interpersonal relationships • studying & learning • mastering development tasks • effectively solving problem • successfully coping with life’s challenges
✶ The healthy ego exists for a legitimate purpose, an integral part of spirituality & the totality of being. To remove the ego is like removing your right hand & only keeping the left one.
NEXT: S & I – Separation