"The fact is that there is a point, one single point in the immeasurable
world of mind and matter, where science and therefore every causal method of
research is inapplicable, not only on practical grounds but also on logical grounds,
and will always remain inapplicable. This point is the individual ego. It is a
small point in the universal realm of being, but, in itself, it is a whole world,
embracing our emotional life, our will, and our thought." - Max Planck
Thoughts on the Ego Problem
Here is what Bryan Appleyard has to say on what I think
is the root of the problem:
Freud's vision was the climax
of a project that had conclusively humbled our religious arrogance and
scorned our humanistic hubris. Understanding the present means, to a
great extent, grasping something of his conclusive tragic vision of man.
His work may not be science, but there can be no doubt that his tragic,
literary grandeur and imaginative power finally deliver the one clear
message that science has wished to pass on to us ever since Galileo
applied his eye to the telescope: that we are nothing but trivial
accidents and that each man must hope and believe what he can in the
grim certainty that nobody and nothing will ever be able to tell him
whether he is right or wrong. - Appleyard, Bryan, Understanding the
Present, (Anchor Books, 1994) page 74
Do I have an ego problem? Oh, yes! But the premise here is
that having an ego problem is NOT my fault. I didn't ask for or sign up
to have an ego problem. So, why do I have it?
Many books have been written on this subject, but
instead of seeing that our egos are naturally and ineluctably shaped and wounded by
the "environment" that we develop in, many guru authors define the ego
as something that needs to be killed or done away with instead of being
healed, fed wholesome spiritual food, and made healthy.
Nothing is real except the present, and already,
I feel the weight of centuries smothering me.
Some girl a hundred years ago once lived as I do.
And she is dead. I am the present, but I know I,
too, will pass. The high moment, the burning flash,
come and are gone, continuous quicksand. And
I don’t want to die. - Sylvia Plathe
There are two major aspects to the
"human condition" that we find ourselves in that contribute to
the illness of our egos, and the vitiation of our ego health:
Disempowerment, and this has been dealt with on the page
Also on this same site it has been written,
spend our lives growing, learning, becoming wiser and more loving,
becoming richer, deeper, more wonderful human beings. But the material
universe doesn't notice, doesn't care. The message from the physical universe that is
constantly in the background is one of relentless indifference. No
matter how famous, beloved, celebrated, or virtuous, gravity never lets
you skate by one time when you fall over a cliff. Electricity never
lowers the voltage to a safe level because you are loving, wonderful or
This introduces the second major contributor to a
wounded ego, devaluation. This last part has evidently largely been
missed by the “great” philosophers and psychoanalytical philosophers.
They have seen the more obvious evil or traumatic aspects that the
developing child inevitably encounters, such as the
trauma of birth, toilet training, weaning, sexual development and
rejection trauma, some unavoidable level of a mixture of childhood physical
and emotional abuse, and destiny of death. But what should be obvious is
that bad experiences in a loving environment are not as destructive to
the ego as a much more moderate level of negative experience in an
environment of indifference. It has been noted and said many times that
the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.
The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to
be indifferent to them; that's the essence of inhumanity. - G.B. Shaw
We are born into this tumultuous, noisy, dirty, messy,
troubled, dangerous, insane world and from moment one onwards we NEVER
have everything—represented by IF-I-SEEK-US—that we want and need.
Reality seems to be indifferent to desires and needs being the essence of
our souls. There are two and ONLY two fundamental implications:
1) The universe and/or God cannot
deliver what we naturally want and need.
This would seem to be a dead end with the only way
forward being that we must fend for ourselves to get what we can in terms of
sustenance and fulfillment.
2) It/He doesn't want to.
Only in this option two is there any wiggle room for a pathway to total,
unimpaired success being delivered by God; a way to understand why this is
not being delivered.
Thus the continuous, incessant implication or message that
comes to our unconsciousness from this indifference is that we don't
matter, we don't have any real, eternal value. We are alone and on our own
in our quest to be satisfied This is the background
within which our egos develop, malnourished and malformed.
And so we lurch along with our unhealthy egos coping with
the wide variety of troubling attitudes within, and troublesome
behaviors by ourselves that we don't like to see in other people.
These coping mechanisms are legion, and run the gamut
from cowering fear and timidity to delusions of invulnerability and
immortality, from inferiority complex to superiority complex. The effort
to convince ourselves and others that we do matter, do have value, runs
from self-deprecation to self-aggrandizement, from being cowardly to
heroic, from abject sacrifice and servitude to greed and selfishness,
from false humility to arrogance, etc. Our unhealthy egos are vulnerable
to the unwarranted or irrational guilt and shame often fostered by
institutional religion, and vulnerable to many levels of denial as to
the true state of our personalities and character.
One of the worst aspects of our ego problem is
the denial that we have been careless, delinquent, not even close to being
intellectually responsible, in building or accepting our belief systems. Our ego is
immediately alarmed and armed if our belief system is threatened and attacked. We
almost always react defensively and/or aggressively even though it
has been developed without intellectual responsibility, and isn't consonant
with reality. This is a HUGE
impediment to any progress toward sanity and unity, is it not? And this
defensive reacction is a sure sign of insecurity in our beliefs.
We also usually react defensively
and/or aggressively when someone takes a superior or
patronizing attitude towards us, or tries to fix us. I TRY
to be aware enough so that when this happens I can say
jovially, “You’re not trying to fix me, are you? I don’t
remember crawling up on the operating table and handing the
scalpel to you.“ But so many times the procedure is subtle and done through
innuendo, and we are “het up” before we realize what is going
on. And it IS galling when this is done in a clumsy way or
when someone of lesser understanding tries this.
We also get internally uptight when
someone mirrors our own smallness and/or ego problems. Again,
I am not saying that having an ego problem is our fault, but
we are derelict only if we fail to become honest with ourselves
and have the courage to look at and admit external and
internal reality for what it is.
And there is also the resistance to admit it when we are
wrong or make a mistake. No need to elaborate here.
Could the healing of our egos come through a convincing
demonstration, and an understanding of it, that we truly do have enormous and eternal value?
Is there any way to really believe that?