The most common definition of ego going around is, the opinion you have of yourself. While this is not incorrect, it’s not strictly accurate. Nonetheless everything you do or don’t do is pegged on your ego. Given it affects all aspects of life, I thought it was time I found out more.
Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche describe three theoretical constructs in terms of whose activity and interaction our mental life is described, ‘id’ , ‘ego’ and superego.
The id(Latin for it) is the only part of our personality present from birth. It contains human basic and instinctual drives and is the source of our bodily needs, desires and impulses. Particularly aggressive and sexual drives(libido) the primary source of instinctual force that is unresponsive to the demands of reality and act according to the pleasure principle.
The ego(Latin for I) is the organized part of the personality structure that includes defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive, and executive functions. Originally, Freud used the word ego to mean a sense of self, but later revised it to mean a set of psychic functions such as judgment, tolerance, reality testing, control, planning, defense, synthesis of information, intellectual functioning, and memory. Its task is to find a balance between primitive drives and reality while satisfying the id and super-ego.
The superego( From German uber-ich) reflects the internalization of cultural rules, mainly taught by parents applying their guidance and influence. It forms the organized part of the personality structure, mainly but not entirely unconscious, that includes the individual’s ego ideals, spiritual goals, and the psychic agency (commonly called “conscience”) that criticizes and prohibits his or her drives, fantasies, feelings, and actions. The super-ego aims for perfection and works in contradiction to the id.
Phewks! Now that we are done with the technical bit, back to what I had to say. So turns out, we all have a backbencher(id), middle row(ego) and prefect(Superego) in us and they all want different things. The id is our we-aint-nothing-but-mammals part, driven by desires and impulses with no reservation about right or wrong. It is not bothered with morality only the tendency to seek immediate gratification of any impulse. It is up to the ego to reconcile the demands of the id with reality. The reality principle that operates the ego is a regulating mechanism that enables the individual to delay gratifying immediate needs and function effectively in the real world. The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions. The ego has unenviable task of finding a balance between primitive drives and reality while satisfying the id and super-ego. It has to do its best to suit all three(plus the outside world), thus is constantly feeling hemmed by the danger of causing discontent on two other sides. It is said, however, that the ego seems to be more loyal to the id, preferring to gloss over the finer details of reality to minimize conflicts while pretending to have a regard for reality. The super-ego is constantly watching every one of the ego’s moves and punishes it with feelings of guilt, anxiety and inferiority. It seems like there just is no way for a girl to win 😦 The ego however after being stuck in a perpetual war has developed a few moves.
To overcome this the ego employs defense mechanisms. The defense mechanisms are not done so directly or consciously. They lessen the tension by covering up our impulses that are threatening. Ego defense mechanisms are often used by the ego when id behavior conflicts with reality and either society’s morals, norms, and taboos or the individual’s expectations as a result of the internalization of these morals, norms, and their taboos. Denial, displacement, intellectualisation, fantasy, compensation, projection, rationalization, reaction formation, regression, repression and sublimation were the defense mechanisms Freud identified. I shall spare you the lecture on these defense mechanisms.
The ego is trickiest part of our psyche as it often tricks us into thinking it(we) has everything under control. We often get in our own way and are too arrogant to realize it. For some, we lack mastery of our lives and often wait for others(God, relatives,friends, lovers) to come save us. Whether you are suffering from an inflated or deflated ego, balance key. Just like salt you have to get it just right. If you walk around like the sun shines out of your rear end, considering yourself God’s gift to the world, take sometime to see what you’ve actually contributed. Who would truly feel your absence if you were gone?
Finally, to those of us who are doormat-ish letting others walk all over us, thinking we are not good enough and the other crippling insecurities that at times plague the best of us, do not give in. Surround yourself with positive and uplifting people who you can confide in and trust to provide comfort and guidance. Ego is your constant companion and learning to wield it to your advantage will greatly improve your social interactions and mental resolve. Good day everyone!