The ego is basically your middle man between the id and the super-ego, meaning it holds the ability to rationalize between internal instinct and external influence. The ego is your concept of reality.
Another spin on the word is to see ego as one’s perception of self. Your ego is an instinctive concept of who you are, a reflection you imagine when you’re not near a mirror. It’s who you think you are. And this is all the ego knows.
The ego is, in this definition, a representation of how selfish you are. It’s the definition I became accustomed to, having heard the libel about egoists, being egotistical, having a big ego, having a wounded ego, etc. The egoist wants to be right, wants to win, wants to tell people about it, wants to spread the news across the ocean of social media, and wants to get everything they want all the time every day.
The egoist is their ego, or they’ve at least given up the driver’s seat.
It’s often considered a thing, like a heart or a white blood cell or a rib. This ego is within us, in our minds, perhaps, just pulling our puppet strings.
I could’ve sworn I didn’t really have one, and if I did, because Freud said I did, it was not one I fed, monitored, considered, or was aware of. Sure it felt good to be appreciated or complimented, and yeah it felt bad when people accused me of things I didn’t do or challenged my character, but I’d grown deft at shrugging things off.
I always felt so calm. So collected. I never felt selfish. I never felt like I needed praise or wanted attention. I just existed and was happy enough with that, like a koi fish. Over time, I simply believed that the ego didn’t exist for everyone. Some of us were good as is.
Nope. The ego exists.
Even the ego in the deepest hibernation in the deepest cave can be poked with a long enough stick, and those deep sleepers usually have the deepest roar.
Trust me. As someone who literally thought they were immune to intense emotional experiences, this experience, which I call an ego-attack, proves to me that the ego is a crucial, if terribly unpredictable, part of every one of us.
An ego-attack, nearly identical in mental catastrophe as a bad shroom-trip, is a situation where one (more specifically, one’s ego) feels completely cornered and targeted by the universe entirely, as if it were all about them, all for them, all against them.
Caused, for example, by a broken heart, the death of a relative, a lost job, or any number of traumatic moments that really shake you up, loosen those emotions, and stir awake the ego that was sleeping so soundly just a moment ago…
The first thing it does is blame everyone else.
It is the most selfish I’ve ever felt. The most derailed I’ve ever been. It felt totally out of my control. It felt like my skeleton was trying to break out of my skin, the ego wanting to burst free and fight the world. Trapped, it threw a tantrum in my temporal lobes and sent regular pain missiles through my heart, stomach, and shoulders.
I’m not sure if this violent metaphor relates to everyone who encounters their ego for the first time. Perhaps it depends on the circumstances. In my case, my ego received a heavy dosage of jealousy and heartache, combined with an immediate distaste for my work environment, resulting in a befuddled, misguided ego that didn’t know what else to do but garner and harbor massive amounts of disdain.
What I learned is that, when on the attack, the ego doesn’t really care about your work performance. The ego doesn’t really care about eating well. Doesn’t care about friendships. Doesn’t care, doesn’t care, doesn’t care. What it cares about is winning.
That’s all. It wants that chalk mark under the W column, and nothing else, because winning is setting things back to how they were, or at the very least, forcing some kind of ramshackle imitation of normalcy to appease itself for the meantime.
I was terrified by this instinctual urge boiling out of me.
My initial reaction was to run. To take my awakened ego and hide it from everyone, because it had transformed me. It took over. Like a toothache or a stomach cramp, it boldly claimed ownership over my every waking thought. The crazy thing about it is how unnatural my behavior felt, yet how familiar that ego was, this cracked-mirror reflection of myself. Another part of me. Someone I hadn’t seen before, but knew all along.
I wanted to run. Quit. Close up. Shut down.
I’m not a mean person. I never will be. I’m not selfish, and I steer clear of those who are. I’m a genuinely happy guy. But the ego doesn’t care about “genuinely happy guy.”
The ego did what it thought it had to, and I’m glad I managed to get control of it again when I did, because it was really starting to bum me out. I like to laugh and goof off and be carefree. The ego took everything too seriously. The ego was basically the star of its own soap opera that no one watched.
What I learned from all of this, however, is that the ego is a part of me that I’ve neglected. As obnoxious and ridiculous as my emotional core has been behaving under leadership of the ego, it was a shock to the system that I think I needed. A lot of ideas were reaffirmed, a lot of life choices were given extra value, and in the end, the ego-attack proved useful, if not annoying and embarrassing as all hell.
I mean, even though I didn’t care much for the guy I became when the ego took over, he had some good points.
I think the ego is always present, paying attention to your life and the things around you, this little concept of reality that you’ve come up with in your head. Think of your ego as one of those girls in the pool who predicted crimes in Minority Report, all chill until something goes down (or will go down, in some cases).
The moment the ego feels threatened, it will demand answers and retribution from those who awakened it. On the other hand, if the ego is pleasured by a compliment or good fortune, it can have a more outwardly positive effect, resulting in euphoria and confidence. Basically, the ego is either going to wake up wanting vengeance or a high-five.
I’m not sure how we can get to know our egos better. They are quiet operators, way more influential than you could imagine. Already, mine has returned to its depths like some electric eel that ran out of juice, heading home to recharge. At least now I know what to expect should I ever have another ego-attack in the future, and maybe I’ll be able to sit down for a moment with my ego over a cup of decaf coffee and find out what makes it do the things it does.
That would be the greatest knowledge of all, to not make sense of the world, but to make sense of why we care so much about keeping it all designed to our liking.