The term “ego,” originating from the Latin language, has a history just over a century old. Its significance has evolved dramatically since its inception. Coined by Sigmund Freud, it was initially defined as consciousness.
However, as Freud continued his research deeper into psychoanalysis, he realized that the concept was far more complicated. Thus, on the one hand, the ego became the bridge between our unconscious thoughts that guide our daily lives and decisions. On the other hand, the ego acts as the middle man between our primal instincts and the personal desires influenced by socioeconomic factors.
The Shifting Reputation of Ego
Over the last century, the term “ego” has acquired a somewhat tarnished reputation. It has been associated with negative concepts, including pride, conceit, flatulence, and self-importance. Moreover, it has been linked with egoism and egotism, suggesting that ego is inherently problematic.
Even philosophical works like “A Course in Miracles” offer a critical view, describing ego as a symbol of self-centeredness, confined to a mortal body destined to suffer and ultimately face mortality. In short, as a jerk.
In recent years, the word “narcissism” has taken center stage in discussions about ego. Since 2015, ego, with its twin brother, narcissism, has become a political term associated with backward and biased thinking. This shift prompts us to question: Why, in light of its negative associations, do we possess ego in the first place?
The Purpose of Ego: A Psychological Perspective
To understand the role of ego in human existence, it’s important to know its psychological function. The ego serves as a part of our psyche, contributing to our sense of self-identity, safety, and autonomy. It enables us to navigate the complexities of our social interactions, allowing us to establish boundaries, make decisions, and pursue personal goals. All that while caring for the survival instinct, i.e., staying alive and healthy.
The Balancing Act: Ego in Harmony
What we are looking to cultivate is a healthy and well-balanced ego. While excessive or unchecked ego can lead to traits such as arrogance and selfishness, a healthy and balanced ego is essential for personal growth and well-being. It serves as a foundation for self-confidence, resilience, and the pursuit of individual goals. Achieving a balanced and healthy ego is a delicate process. It involves self-awareness, introspection, and a willingness to acknowledge our strengths and limitations.
Cultivating a healthy and well-balanced ego begins with the ability to observe one’s self without judgment – the very foundation of the way to happiness.Eva Fanari
The term ego is just a century old, but we have always lived with it and understood that part of ourselves. We’ve understood the suffering we end up enduring when we lean into the ego’s voice more than to our spirit’s voice.
The answer is the same as it’s been for thousands of years. Rather than dismissing ego, we need to strive for a balanced approach. The goal is not to shame and shun a part of us. Instead, it’s to appreciate its positive attributes while remaining vigilant against its potential pitfalls.
By doing so, we can cultivate a healthier, more nuanced relationship with our sense of self.