… give the poor ego a break …

Image by Daphne Jo Grant, created for my poetry collection in 1993 -Gapsy Truth.

Image by Daphne Jo Grant, created for my poetry collection in 1993 -Gapsy Truth.

I’m all for shielding the Ego from moral experts who succumb to counter-transference. Proverbs, turned inner voices, instruct: Put yourself last, be considerate, don’t let people down, adapt, respect trade-off laws, keep promises – the inner voices more or less prescribe what’s in your best interest to feel, think and do.

Noisy commotions, muddling any sense of ‘I.’

The poor ego not only holds awareness of our multifaceted reality, but is driven to distraction by conflicting demands, assumptions, chimeras of grandeur, bouts of doubt, all drowning the whisper deep down – ‘Who or what am I really ?’

‘Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.’  – John Lennon

John summed up the typical seesaw compensation attempt. Adding insult to injury, self interest is blamed for our social ills. Even astute spiritual wisdom falls flat when it fails to appreciate the ego’s task – to daily create new order out of chaos, attempting a compromise with reality. No wonder people become nervous wrecks when their temporary identifications are threatened, no wonder fierce defences are constellated. The battered ego-agent screams silently – I’m only loyal to my familiars.

Some familiar rituals guarantee a  child experiencing rejection, physically, emotionally or intellectually, will self-reject for failing the expectations of its superiors. Welcoming or neglecting, early responses by adults we depend upon set foundation for our personality. Break that mirror and you’re on your own.

Maps serve us as orientation, they don’t convey territory. S. Freud’s map of the psyche is powerful. Think of the Id as a Launchpad to stars. What Freud omitted is a higher unconsciousness, our inner guidance and intuition, later introduced by C. G. Jung and A. Assagioly

Freud’s ideas deserve studying. His terms slipped into common speech like brands and became tangled.



Take the ego construct. Sandwiched between the powerful gratification-force of the Id, in need of gentle and firm boundaries, and a cultural Super-ego, with its rules and regulations, the Ego has the unrewarding task of mediator. The Id, at worst, is a heap of misery dragged along, withholding its energy, while the Super-ego, at worst, hijacks personalities like a psycho terrorist, know–it-all, manipulator, fanatic …  having abandoned the powerless inner child with its distressing and embarrassing need for acceptance and love.

And let’s not fool ourselves, distorted ideals attach themselves to well-disguised tyrants in the collective psyche, slumbering, until the day when circumstances conspire.

Children who grow up anxious to placate, or are bent against authority, invent ingenious strategies for survival. Fragile or strong, balanced or torn by extremes, developing a personality is an art form, assembled from layers upon layers of impressions and accumulated memories. Only increased awareness lessens over-identification and softens defences.

‘The paradox of the arts is that they are all made up and yet they allow us to get at truths about who, and what we are or might be’. –   Seamus Heaney

creative recycling

creative recycling

creative recycling

creative recycling

Young children need space to playact, and adolescents need safe outlets for their natural aggression, opportunities for intense experiences, and encouragement to explore their self-image. The houses of identity we create, however basic or twisted, position us in space and time. They have windows allowing a view, and doors through which to venture into a wider world and align our personal myth to a greater myth.

The problem is clearly not the personal ego, but its cultural super-edition, coloured, at least in the west, by mechanistic templates that regard nature as enemy to be conquered and controlled.

Reprimands like selfish stem from a period when inducing guilt was a convenient social formula. Today this approach is counterproductive. Educational practices must catch up with the nuclear age and the fresh metaphors for space and time. New dimensions arise in our consciousness, compelling us to re-think:

Escher's Relativity

Escher’s Relativity

Relativity theories freed perspectives and brought a climate of moral liberty. In a psychological sense, moral advice became repugnant, which explains why western minds begun to question aspects of religious dogma. A way was opened towards looking inside, and individuation, in a Jungian sense.

Quantum physics has widened our vision further, and brought deep spiritual turmoil through new speculations that suggest a symbolic reality of consciousness that over a hundred years ago would only have been imagined by a minority – mainly mystics.

The Digital revolution has upset linear time and is gradually transforming our relationship with time and space, leading us to ask, ‘What is real?’

A mould, no matter how inadequate, is necessary for any new-born. Judging behaviour without acknowledging the initial and well-meaning intentions underlying the formation of personality will only strengthens neuroses, instead of allowing the acceptance of one’s imperfect self-creation, with a nudge towards a gradual softening of defences.

‘Form is a relic of eternal potential.’ – Fazal Inayat-Khan

This post contains excerpts pulled from past articles that were never published.


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10 responses to “… give the poor ego a break …

  1. BRavo. Nearly extinct wisdom of balance! Not many waltz with the ego these days, it is assumed dissolved, or if not, should be. Yet it rears and strikes ( when denied) in all those who whisper Namaste. Much more tame able when acknowledged in full view! Well done, well thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Philippa. Waltzing with the ego 🙂 keeps it in good humour.


  3. Thank you Ashen for this. Poor old ego – so necessary to hold in space and time but when it gets fixed, ergo, then ruthless, totally dominant and becomes destructive. No room then for anything beyond. Loved the Leviathan and Escher graphics thank you!


    • I know, Susan. The theme leans on my pet-gripe with social policies re: mental health in the UK. The dominant approach is hell bent on a clumsy material philosophy. The deep psychological knowledge available is blanketed over with quick-fix approaches, leaving no room for the crisis of meaning many people experience.

      So often the wheel of a carriage is fixed to get it moving again, but the driver remains clueless. (Sufi proverb)


  4. These terms, the Ego, the Id, the SuperEgo, good names for comic book superheroes, or anti-heroes. SuperEgo Saves Planet from Attack of Alien Ids! (As the Egos head for their Caves!). President calls up Libido Reserves!

    I remember reading Civilization and Its Discontents in school. I must have enjoyed it, judging from all the marginalia, the book still on one of my shelves. But did he point the way to a singularity, the importance of the individual? Everyone’s dreams meant something, not just the dreams of the Kings and Queens?

    But what he might have missed or avoided is an explanation of the altruistic impulse. Or did he place altruism in the Superego? But E. O. Wilson has lately reversed his earlier thinking that kin selection explains altruistic behavior, which has led to an argument between him and Dawkins and many others, which becomes hilarious when you see he simply does not take Dawkins seriously at all when he says Dawkins is not a scientist but a journalist. I’m not at all a Dawkins fan, but what does that make the rest of us who are neither scientist nor journalist?

    “What do you care about the universe? You’re here, in Brooklyn, and Brooklyn is not expanding!” Alvie’s mother yells at him in front of the cigar smoking shrink.

    In any case, the point is, we are still learning: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2014/04/search-until-you-find-a-passion-and-go-all-out-to-excel-in-its-expression/

    “As I walk this land of broken dreams…”
    What becomes of the discontented
    Who had love that’s now Deconstructed?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for that interview, Joe. I’ve great respect for E O Wilson, a wonderful being, who’s about the tiny creatures who run the world. I used to love watching ants as a child, there’s a little scene in my novel where a young characters stirs up a heap to observe how efficiently the ants work toghether to repair their palace.
      The comic plot 🙂 We create these alien Ids so the Super-dupers can take credit to rescue the planet, while the poor Egos head for the caves?
      Recall the drama triangle? The bully, rescuer and victim attract each other like iron-filings in any home, school, office or boardroom.
      There is so much to learn. I have cautious hope that the knowledge of child development will be more widely applied. Psychologically relaxed individuals have less white noise in their head, and are more receptive to intuition, and more likely to re-connect to the natual intelligence of altruism, based on the interconnectedness of all living species.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi,
    I stumbled upon your article in FB. A friend, Susan Scott, shared your posting and while reading it, I paid attention to what I was thinking and feeling as I read it. Especially your statements concerning guilt trips touched me, and I copied those sentences here: “Reprimands like selfish stem from a period when inducing guilt was a convenient social formula. Today this approach is counterproductive. Educational practices must catch up with the nuclear age and the fresh metaphors for space and time. New dimensions arise in our consciousness, compelling us to re-think:” This statement made me think of my own childhood. As the oldest child, whenever I wanted to do something that went against my parent’s wishes or the wishes of another adult that belonged to our immediate family, i.e. aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers, I was accused of being selfish and yes that was a guilt trip that has affected my life and that I have and I am still learning to deal with day by day.
    I enjoyed reading your article very much.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Patricia. I’m touched my post resonates with your experience. You speak for many, women, and men, who struggle with childhood memory-snares of guilt when it comes to healthy self care … a must if we want to be of any real use to others. Be a gentle friend to yourself ☼


  6. Pingback: Syntonic Counter-Transference | Earthpages.ca

  7. Pingback: … embracing the messy soul … | Course of Mirrors

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