PREVIOUS: Healthy S & I – #2
REMINDER: ACRONYM Page for abbrev.
DEF: “The purest definition for ego is – The individuated consciousness of Infinite Being…. a unique and distinct personality apart from universal consciousness”, says teacher & author Enoch Tan. Therefore Spirit & Ego go hand in hand: it’s the way Spirit has of expressing itself in its unique way, so without Ego you as an individual would not exist. (from Dream Manifesto)
To successfully Separate & Individuate (S & I), we need a HEALTHY EGO. It’s the source of our overall physical, emotional & mental health, in relationship with ourselves & to others. In modern psychological circles the word EGO is often replaced by “confidence, self-esteem, self-awareness”.
➼ It’s unfortunate that most people misuse Ego to mean ‘arrogant, self-centered, conceited, limiting’…. & therefore a bad thing! Because it’s almost always incorrectly equated with the real problem of adult narcissism, it is no longer understood for its original meaning. We hear this in 12-Step programs, therapy, ‘spiritual’ literature, even famous people talking about the pitfalls of our ego, such as ‘Oprah’s Lifeclass: The False Power of Ego’. (2 CHARTs re. Inner Family)
These labels are not correct meanings of the term. The ‘character defects’ being referred to come from our PP or WIC aspects. Neither of those internal ego-states have healthy egos! Wounded people are said to have damaged egos, split-personalities have multiple egos & psychopaths have fractured egos. NOT having a strong, clear ego causes us to be victims & doormats!
NOTE: Step 3 of AA’s 12 Steps says: “Made a decision to turn our will & our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him”. In this context, the focus is on the word will. What will? Who’s will? ACoAs are afraid of this Step because it feels like volunteering for slavery to yet another authority figure – in this case the “ultimate” one. This is one reason why so many ACoAs reject all religious or spiritual connection, or are drawn to spiritual paths that do not include a specific God-person. The WIC is still functioning from the experience that “God is an alcoholic parent” & therefore unsafe!
• Before Recovery (& even for a long time during) ACoAs do not have actual free will – no matter how headstrong, arrogant or genuinely accomplished. As long as we are still run by our childhood damage – the Toxic Rules – our will is not our own, but is fundamentally controlled by the Negative Introject ego state, which has the passionate devotion & obedience of the WIC. So, the point of S & I is to achieve the freedom of finding & expressing our True Self, by un-hooking from the Internal Bad Parent.
• A NORMAL (healthy) EGO is essential for normal & successful functioning – the center of consciousness, the “eye” through which we look at the world. It allows us to become strong, loving, valuable, contributing members of society, both in work and in relationships – the foundation for “emotional intelligence.”
It’s the adult / reality part of ourselves, the “I” that chooses what to think, feel & act. It is separate from the creations of our own thoughts, and from the Self of others. It is the natural capacity for perception, attention, memory, concentration, motor coordination and language. It is NOT something to get rid of!
• According to Freud, the EGO functions on the Reality Principle, ‘sitting’ mainly in the pre-conscious & conscious part of our mind, but its strong ties to the id means it also interacts with the unconscious.
Ego is the part of the ‘psychic apparatus’ that works to achieve a balance between the id’s anti-social wishes & our personal standards via the superego. It prevents us from automatically acting on those id urges, while working to satisfy them in realistic & socially appropriate ways. This is accomplished by using a variety of defense mechanisms, which can be divided into 4 levels, from worst to best: Pathological, Immature, Neurotic, Mature. (MORE…. )
The healthy ego mediates conflicts between the demands of the:
• id – the impulsive, unconscious part of our psyche that responds directly & immediately to human instincts, which is chaotic and totally unreasonable (the young narcissistic child)
• superego – the incorporated values of family & society becoming our own conscience & Ideal Self (Loving OR Bad Internal Parent), and
• reality – the demands of the social and physical environment
Exp: If someone cuts you off in traffic, the Healthy Ego prevents you from chasing down the car and physically attacking the offending driver (altruism). It allows you to know that that reaction would be detrimental to you & the other person, and socially unacceptable (identification). A strong EGO knows that there are other more appropriate ways of venting frustration & is in control of your choices (sublimation).
Psychologist Kit Yarrow says: “A person with a healthy ego is able to see their flaws, learn from their mistakes and forgive themselves. They allow others to know them, rather than to see only the surface. Because they do – they feel loved. They act purposefully rather than react emotionally to stressful people and situations.”
NEXT: S & I – Ego, (Part 2)