Understanding and Helping The Ego

In psychology, the ego is defined as our reality principle - what mediates between our impulsive id and the very stringent superego (Freud). It is also described as the identity of an individual through which the shadow, animus, anima, and persona find equal bearing to co-exist (Jung). Furthermore, ego is also recognized as a form of character and a set of traits that make us who we are (Allport). But with ego managing between the many sides of ourselves, it really can be quite overwhelming. If you liken it to a clock, the ego is what holds the long, short, and second hands of the clock together, making sure that they all beat and tick at the precise moments in order to tell the right time. But when the ego is overwhelmed, sometimes the clock can experience a malfunction, wherein the hands of the clock are either moving too fast, too slow, or they've just come to a complete stop.

Guiding The Ego

You see, the only way the ego can function as it should, is if it also goes through it's own preventive maintenance check-up. Like a car or any machinery for that matter, the ego needs a constant tune up so it can be guided to make better decisions and to function at optimum - giving you a better quality of life. Imagine an ego that's been beaten down by it's super ego (the voice that says "you should do this, you should do that, didn't I teach you anything?!") and it's shadow (the voice that says "you're not as great as you say you are. you have so many secrets that you keep from the world and I will break you when I get the chance to appear")? What a burdensome life that would be! And this is exactly what the borderline, depressed, anxious, and schizophrenic disorders tend to look like - a mix of the superego and shadow beating down on the ego. 

So how can we better guide our egos? And what does it really mean to guide a part of ourselves that is intangible? 

The Reality of Ego

The ego is our physical world identity - our character, our personality. Therefore the first step in strengthening this is to be able to look at what is physically present to you. Hardcore evidence can always be a good way to temper the ego as it sifts through the many messages of our personality. Why? It grounds us in reality, helping us become more honest with ourselves when we tend to bring aspects of the past or events that have not even happened into the conversation. 

The second step to strengthening your ego is to identify areas of your persona and what each of them are telling you. Are they applicable to the situation you are in? Why and how did they get so noisy? Do you really need to be listening to what they have to say? Try a 2-chair exercise and explore the battling sides of you to fully understand your circumstance.

The 2-Chair Exercise works like this:

1) Grab two chairs

2) Sit in one chair and identify ego with it - your present reality

3) Let the ego ask it's questions in order to understand the situation further

4) Sit on the other chair and identify another part of your personality with it (your superego, id, animus, anima, shadow, the part of you that tends to come out when drunk, the part of you that tends to show up when you're highly stressed, you choose)

5) Take the conversation from there

6) Explore the needs and wants of both sides

7) Explore how they can compromise


And finally, a good way to reset your ego space is to look at your ego in relation to other people. Create a constellation of the people in your life who have influenced you and try to see if you can cluster them into the different parts of you where you tend to hear their voices the most. Looking at yourself with respect to the people who have influenced your life is a good way to determine where you tend to lean when you are faced with a difficult circumstance. 

Learn to take good care of your ego and in turn it will take care of you. 

Here's to hoping that your ego needs are constantly grounded in reality, with ease and grace.