Victus Spiritus


Is Ego An Unseen Adversary?

11 Dec 2009

Thoughts on internal resistance to learning, socializing, and success.

web definition

an inflated feeling of pride in your superiority to others

A few problems with ego:
1) Ego directly impedes our ability to listen and learn
2) Ego blinds us to our natural perceptions
3) Ego causes us to out weigh the information in our mind when compared to external evidence and reasoning from others

Ego isn't all bad though. We have evolved with a sense of ego to help protect ourselves. It's a simple form of self defense in which we prioritize our own needs over those of others. One could think of ego as giving us a rapid default decision making process. In the absence of additional information we rely on our own knowledge and instincts. This allows us to rapidly make decisions, many of which have little consequence. Ego is a psychological construct of selfish perspective.

Ego's Contrast to Self Confidence

Self confidence is based on believing in oneself. There's no judgement or bias inherent to confidence. Self confidence does affect our decision making though, as our experiences help frame new questions. We can think of self confidence as an excellent form of conditional probability for predicting an unknown outcome.

When we're confident, we exude an aura of social strength which is comforting for folks to be around. Confidence is founded on experience and trust in one's ability, while ego is based on an automatic diminishing of external views (not invented here). Prove to me you're an expert and I'll trust your confidence. In contradiction, false confidence in self can feed one's ego.

I tend to mirror the ego of people I talk with. The process of finding common ground expediates and enhances communication. I'm naturally inclined to seek out and befriend those who have a tendency towards suppressing their ego. A natural and easy communication manifests between folks who aren't preoccupied with proving they're right. These are the people I rely on most for honest and reliable feedback.

Psychological Framing Ego

Sigmund Freud is well known for his analysis of the das Es, das Ich, and das Über-IchId (Id, Ego, & Super Ego).

I'm fascinated by the promise of motivation and enthusiasm hidden within our Id:

It is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality, what little we know of it we have learnt from our study of the dream-work and of the construction of neurotic symptoms, and most of this is of a negative character and can be described only as a contrast to the ego. We all approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations... It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organisation, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle.