International Lifestyle Magazine Issue 51 - Page 38

B een hearing a lot of people talking about ego and its evils lately, and how important it is to vanquish it, and I’d like to take this opportunity to turn this notion on its head, as it’s not only misconceived, misinterpreted and misunderstood, it’s also doing a disservice to our human family at this crucial juncture in our history. Ego is a term coined by the godfather of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud, himself a much misinterpreted, misunderstood genius and intellectual giant. The fault on our part lies in not having studied him, but merely being swayed by pejorative remarks made by envious intellectual pygmies into a negative view of his immense contribution to our understanding of ourselves. When Freud referred to the ego, he meant the psychoexistential structure we each build from birth onwards with the help of input from parents, siblings, teachers, books, stories, movies, the media, social trends and so on, consisting of a complex of opinions, beliefs, prejudices, predilections, fears, desires, hopes, habits and fantasies, coalesced into the appearance or illusion of an actual entity, we assume is ‘us’, a structure with a mask on: a personality – the word deriving from ancient Greek, persona meaning mask, through which we’re able to more or less successfully conduct our transactions with our fellow humans, the meta-organization of whom into the modern version of clans, tribes and groups, we call society.Behind this layer of the constructed self, or ego, lies the id, the swirl of primal drives often so powerful and potentially destructive if outwardly expressed, no sensible transactions could occur and society would fall apart at the seams, as happens, for instance when war breaks out. The ego’s main job is to present an acceptable face to the world through which the drives of the id can be expressed constructively rather than destructively. Above all of this reigns the super-ego, the conscience or higher intelligence, that sits as adjudicator over the negotiations between the id and ego, to ensure as much as it can a sensible attitude and ethical, decent approach to all your transactions with others. When Freud posited this schema, incidentally, he wasn’t presuming to suggest it was absolute truth, merely a way of organizing a helpful model to explain the psychic structure. It wasn’t meant as a new religion or dogma, as has been so wrongly supposed over the decades, in other words. In this schema, along with the ego, the id and the super-ego, he also placed ego-defenses. These are the web of lies we tell ourselves, the conceits and deceits we subscribe to, the vanity, the arrogance, the hubris, the hypocrisy and the dishonesty, which en mass has led to this hyper-neurotic, narcissistic society we now live in and struggle with. When new age spiritual, selfhelp, neo-Buddhist, control-