Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ego and Self

One metaphysical approach to psychology that I particularly enjoy is the following:

There is ego, and there is self.

None is better or worse than the other, both just are. Ego is about setting boundaries, affirming yourself, being your own (wo)man, independent and strong. Self is about being connected, in tune with everything, at one with others and the universe as a whole, interdependent and without any need for boundaries, endless, loving, unconditional.

Most metaphysical "spiritual" systems seem to have some bias for self over ego. Modern western psychology, on the other hand, mostly doesn't.

(The problem is, I suspect, ultimately unavoidable: The sentence above - "both just are" - is itself an expression of self, not of ego. It's an expression of nonjudgment over judgment. Perfect balance seems impossible. So, the best we can do is be aware of the issue and not, as my usual motto goes, fall for our own b.s.)

Basically, what I think is that you just naturally go from one state to the other, and back again, several times every day or even every minute. It's fun to realize in what state you are, right now, and there are visualisations that can help invoke one state when you need it.

In fact, those visualisations are so obvious and unexciting that I hasten to name them. Strong roots that connect me to all the world? My crown chakra completely open to the whole of the universe? A strong, white, glowing like that surrounds me like a vigorous armor and protects me from outside influences? The knightly warrior, ready to strike?

I'm sure you catch my drift and can come up with your own images for the two states, if you so decide. It's a fun little exercise to evoke those states, perfect for a rainy day, and probably of some use in more serious contexts, too.

The most important bit here, though, is the realization that you do change your state over time. When you're completely disconnected from everything, wrapped up in anger and rage, you're in a state of ego. Now is probably not the time to go bargain for that raise. But you know that you will be in a different stage, a few minutes or maybe hours later. So you just have to wait, or if you're impatient, practice changing states.

Note that this is precisely the opposite of an "esoteric typology": These are not character types, but rather states or functions of the mind. This has nothing to do with being a "left-brainer" vs. a "right-brainer" (oh how I abhor that nonsense!), analytical brainiac vs creative artist. Even your most hard-headed businessman depends on his empathy, if only for acquiring new customers. I find those typologies extremely limiting, because they tend to see a human being as static, fixed, unable to change. When you feel that you're too analytical for your own good, or that you need to set up more and stronger boundaries, well, change it, focus on the aspect that you want more in your life! Just... don't forget that the other part is equally important and necessary for your wellbeing.

Well and of course, please, never forget that this is not "true". I guess we can show different states of mind with MRIs or CATs or something like that. But I highly doubt that "ego" and "self" can be shown in the brain. It's just a rough approximation of personal experiences that seems to work for many people.

I find this to be tremendously relieving.

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