Put your ego aside. You must kill your ego. Or, as Beyonce sings, “You’ve got such a big ego.”
So many people are telling you what to do with this part of you, not many quite grasp what an ego really is. In most cases, the ego catches a bad rep. It’s synonymous with someone who’s self-absorbed or very defensive. Why should we let someone tell us what to do with something that most hardly know the truth about.
I want to take this moment to not only tell you what your ego is, but also how it’s developed and it’s proactive uses in the grand scheme of your life. It’s a lot like nuclear power. It can be used to power great things in your life, or it’s failure can cause toxicity that pollutes you almost to the very core. This one piece of your psych has the ability to be your greatest asset or your greatest hindrance.
What is the ego?
Freud says that it’s what interprets and balances the basic instinctual drives of your id and the ever critical conscience of your super ego. Deepak Chopra tells us it is the self-image, or the ‘not true’ self. Webster defines it as ‘the self especially contrasted to another self or world’.
All of these imply that the ego is a construct of your mind. A filter of your beliefs, values, and ideas. The collection of ‘I’ statements that stream through your thoughts. The ego, though, transcends thoughts and also moves into what are affectionately named ego-states. I’ll talk a little bit about those in one minute, though.
To put all of this simply it’s a template that consists of your self-image and states of consciousness and it’s interaction with the environment.
Why is to know all this important? Becoming aware of the ego in general and your particular ego gives you metacognitive knowledge or knowledge of how you operate as a thinker. Now I’m going to go deeper into the metaknowledge by explaining the developmental stages of the ego.
Jane Loevinger proposes 9 different stages of ego development. They are based on the works of Erik Erikson and Henry Stack Sullivan. The ego was theorized to mature and evolve through the stages across the lifespan as result of a dynamic interaction between the inner self and the outer environment. Here are the stages at a brief glance.
Stage 1- The Pre Social Stage
All humans start off at this stage. When a baby is born, it is egoless. An infant can not differentiate itself from the world. It’s thinking is essentially delusional. The infant quickly moves to the symbiotic stage as it begins to develop recognition for objects. They tend to be very attached to the caregiver, suggesting a unity in cognition and emotions.
Stage 2- The Impulsive Stage
The child moves from egoless to egocentric. They are completely present to the moment and preoccupied with their impulses. When their needs are or aren’t met, the child responds with an impulsive retaliation. The childs needs and feelings are experienced in the senses.
Stage 3- The Self Protective Stage
In this stage, a lotus of control begins to emerge, although it is primarily external (blaming others). This stage is represents the first step towards impulse control. The child becomes in need of a strict unchanging set of rules to develop. If an older child or adult remains in this stage, they can become opportunistic, control oriented, and manipulative. Although the basis of conceptual knowledge begins to develop, morality is mainly regarded as ‘If you can’t be good, be good at it.’ or ‘Don’t get caught’. It is based on a system of punishments and rewards.
Stage 4- Conformist Stage
The individual becomes part of a group. Loevinger classified this stage as having the greatest cognitive simplicity. This is because the group clearly defines what is right and wrong, therefor the individual has no need to concern themselves with greater moral implications. The individual is concerned mostly what the group thinks about them what the group believes is the individuals place is. They become very invested in the groups interests. Many adults stay at this stage of development.
Stage 5- Self- Aware Stage
This stage is largely identified by the individuals ability to consider multiple possibilities in a situation and an increased awareness. They begin to see the difference in what the group think is right and what they think is right. This conflict creates a greater sense of inner conflict. Because the individual begins to consider different possibilities and a lower perspective, their interest in interpersonal relations increases.
Stage 6- The Conscientious Stage
In the conscientious stage, one’s locus of control begin to moves inward. The individual begins random psychological development through self-evaluation and self-criticism. They begin to feel shame for breaking a personal code of conduct rather than feel shame through breaking social norms. Beginning to understand the depth and complexities of themselves leads to a greater empathy of others.
Stage 7- The Individualistic Stage
A broader appreciation for individuality and interpersonal ties develops. They begin to show a broad minded tolerance and acceptance for the autonomy of their self and others. They begin to distance themselves from identities and replace moralism with an awareness of inner conflicts and personal paradoxes.
Stage 8- The Autonomous Stage
They begin to respect others need for autonomy in clear terms. They cultivate a higher tolerance for ambiguity. Interdependent systems are more valued than independent systems. The stage might also see a ‘confrontation with the limitations of abilities and roles as part of deepening self-acceptance’.
Stage 9- The Integrated Stage
The ego begins to not only have a higher tolerance for inner conflicts but is also able to reconcile and make peace with unsolvable issues. It’s noted by it’s self-actualized nature and a reconciliation of one’s destiny.Learning is understood as unavoidable.
These stages signify a movement to a higher conscious.
Here’s a quick video on the criteria for a healthy functioning ego.
Here you have the metaknowledge side of yourself. It’s up to you to decide where, who, and what you are.
Stay tuned for the second part of this article. I will discuss how your ego ties into metaexperience and touch a little bit on how you can gain the most and grow the most. I will feature a video from one of my personal favorite Self Actualization teachers.
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