What is the ego?

The ego acts as a regent, ruling until the human person reaches sufficient maturity to rule alone. Then the ego becomes a wise counsellor, the Grand Visier or Lord President of the Secret Council, advising the inner light on its actions, though movement and repose increasingly come from the real self or inner light.

In the Real Me is my playfulness, creativity, intensity, Love, Joy, sexuality, gentleness- I am soft, gentle, peaceful- perception of beauty, spirituality, and

Life.

Here is everything that stimulates, delights, excites or motivates me. Here also is the Sulk- if the ego becomes a tyrant, the Real me becomes a grumpy teenager; and possibly any addictions, where I seek a brief dopamine hit if oppressed by circumstances, Tyrant-ego or the Monster. I hurt: the Real Me is where my deep sadness is.

Trans Gurus write, She is not in you, she is you. She is not weak, she is holding you together. She is waiting patiently. Let go and be you.

I called the monster Sulley, but that was a mistake. The monster exists still, submerged in the unconscious, able to hurt. There is my disproportionate self-doubt, my internalised transphobia, that which condemns and hates myself, old fear, misery, possibly addiction, suicidal ideation, the rage and terror directed against myself, and death.

What could be in a good ego, a good adviser recognising its subordination to the Real self or inner light? An urge to self-improvement, and consideration of where efforts to self-improvement might be usefully directed, perhaps. A more reflective, responsive “What will people think?” Consideration of past and future, which I do not seem to do well.

It is that image: I was in a dark, dingy corridor, with doors off it. Looking through the doors was overwhelming, with light colour and movement I could not fathom, and terrifying. Yet as I moved along the corridor it got darker and more constricting. The Monster is that corridor, and the Real me is through one of the doors into life and freedom. I thought it was in St Paul, but it’s Deuteronomy 30:19: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”

It is tempting to view the US election in apocalyptic terms. If Trump wins, the 2024 election may not happen, or will not be an election in the sense we are accustomed to. The comments sections of the papers I favour are full of such misery, and I am likely to fall into the wailing and gnashing of teeth. For example:

The disastrous President Trump
On America, he takes a dump
Taken in by his lies
our democracy dies
or we flee from his covid death slump.

That is cleverly expressed, but it buys into the apocalypticism of the Republican convention. These people are asserting that if the Radical Democrats gain power they will not be safe in their homes. That level of fear and anger does democracy no good. It is a white privilege thing to imagine that democracy was working in 2016, or 2012: lots of Black people could not vote, then, or found their choices curtailed.

I want to turn away from that kind of misery, and the communal indulgence in it that is comment threads. I am pleased with the 45 upvotes my limerick got, but slightly queasy. I need a balance between keeping abreast of current events, and getting sucked into a storm of misery.

It is better to pay attention to possibilities, opportunities, and hope, than blackness. Again Philippians: “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” I must keep returning to that verse.

Self-knowledge, accepted or declined

My name is Clare, and I am agoraphobic.

I attend several zoom groups a week where speaking authentically is valued, and wearing a mask is pointless. Making this AA-like declaration- actually I said I am “a functional agoraphobic” but now would drop the adjective- helps me. I admit it to others, and thereby admit it to myself. It is now part of my self-understanding.

Then on Monday I needed to go to Swanston, and sat, and didn’t. I could go on Wednesday, I thought. Aye, right. I would just put it off again. I still could not motivate myself to go. I had a shower, had a cry about getting kicked out of local Quakers in January, and then wanted to write. I wrote my pronouns poem straight out, and changed two words. It got 33 likes, seven hearts, nine cares and one cry.

Then I joined a zoom with a professional musician and an aspiring singer/songwriter, who both loved it. I was in heaven. Profoundly affirmed, I cycled into Swanston.

I would need an enabler to buy groceries, etc, to be a perfect agoraphobic.

A pitfall around spiritual lessons is that I can imagine I have learned them once I acknowledge their truth, and thereby avoid the hard work of taking them into my heart, but also any benefit they might bring. And, it seems to me that admitting I am agoraphobic has dented my agoraphobia. I find agoraphobia shameful, and I dealt with the shame by denial. How else? The pretence, “Of course I could go out if I wanted to,” would not fool anyone else who cared enough to form a view, and it did not really fool me, but accepting the word makes the idea concrete for me. It feels like a positive step.

It is frightening- what can I do about it? All this stuff seems insurmountable! And positive, as I am making progress. “What do I feel, now?” is a good question. I should ask myself that more often. Now I am enjoying the writing and analysis even if it is tiring. I don’t want to excuse agoraphobia. I know the reasons, but what to do about it now is more important.

Do you want to cure it?

Not necessarily. Going out, I would not necessarily be in a more comfortable position. I would like more control of it. How to control it I don’t know. Admitting I do not want to go out mitigates it.

Two years ago I identified fully with the “ego” that needs to cajole the Real Self into action. Now I identify with the Real Self. What might remain in the “ego”? The outdated “what will people think?” I inherited from my mother may have been jettisoned.

All this is in one brain, but it might be worthwhile developing Captain Sensible. The Captain thinks about things like “What will people think?” He knows that people think a lot of different things, most not centred on me, and some things disgust or delight some people. It is my own judgment I want to develop, not what I inherited, or adopted in a panic as a child. I would try to see real people, rather than my inflexible condemning judgment, and the hacks I used to get round it, finding things forgiveable where others might not.

Captain Sensible might consider medium term plans, leaving the Real Self to sing. That part of me which seeks self-improvement is only a bad thing when it starts beating me and screaming at me to Go Faster, however hard I am working. That would be a healthier ego, in balance with the Real Me.

Where’s the monster?

The image that comes to mind is of Sulley from Monsters Inc, an unfrightening monster who much preferred provoking laughter. Sulley becomes friendly and caring in the film. Again, I don’t want to imagine I have done the spiritual work if I haven’t, and The Monster could be biding its time, but right now it feels defanged, like the Woodlouse. The monster’s power resided in an ego it could terrify, that would slam the door on the Real Me and hide me in the dark.

Slamming the door is an extended metaphor. I don’t want to rely on it as a perfect map. “Fightings and fears, within, without” are not so easily overcome. Yet the monster seems less powerful.

It did not want me to be-
it is hard to get the word out. There are inner voices challenging that. I want to notice when I can’t say something, and overcome the refusal. The word is “feminine”. The inner voices say “feminine” is not a coherent concept. It means something to me. Possibly those inner voices still resist that.

Then the monster would be diffused. I would not panic and shut down-

yes. “I”. There is one brain.

I would not panic and shut down, but might still avoid places my old programming finds dangerous, which could be liberating.

And then, there’s the actual experience of other people, like getting bullied at Newport. I have told this story without weeping before. Now I want to get it out in limited time, and remember other details of the chaos of it, and weep. And I can say “I was bullied” without The Evidence, those facts that show it was bullying and not reasonable management of a recalcitrant worker- and I have to tell The Evidence as well.

I have really bad experiences of other people, over and over again, and great distress thinking of them or my situation now.

Ego-strength

Much of the spiritual literature I read condemns the ego. It seems close to the “Petty-man” that Confucius condemns. For example, on facebook someone quoted John Butler: self-willed but imaginary ego causes all our trouble, [and] ignoring it deprives it of its power. I am reading Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, who gives the ego a kicking:

Only great love and great suffering are strong enough to take away our imperial ego’s protections and open us to authentic experiences of transcendence.

To move beyond our small-minded uniformity, we have to extend ourselves outward, which our egos always find a threat, because it means giving up our separation, superiority, and control.

For Jung, wholeness was not to be confused with any kind of supposed moral perfection, because such moralism is too tied up with ego and denial of the inner weakness that all of us must accept.

So Ego, here, is illusion, possibly akin to the Self-concept of Carl Rogers. The self-concept is the illusory belief in who one is. One of my main drives is to preserve my illusion to myself. It matters less what others think as long as I can affirm it, and the cognitive dissonance from everything that contradicts it can be denied.

Yes, I have read the Analects, but at University. Possibly 2,500 year old Chinese wisdom is too far from my own concepts for me to usefully interpret it. The Superior Man is all-embracing and not partial. The inferior man is partial and not all-embracing. I bring together Rohr, Confucius and Rogers in confusion rather than synthesis.

I am interested to see the phrase ego-strength as a good thing: it promotes resilience. The challenge… for individuals in crisis is to figure out which parts of their identities are already functioning well and which parts are no longer working and need changing. The strong, valuable ego is well-attuned to the World, and flexible enough to stay so.

As far as I understand it, the spiritual path for Rohr is to strip away the illusions and be ones natural self. That is part of community and the biosphere. All that is is Christ’s body, and without ego-illusion we can all be our true part of that body. Ego is only illusion, only fraudulent separateness, the falsity which I cannot convince others of, or even myself, so my terror increases. But there may be people with positive beliefs about themselves, which are affirmed by others, where ego helps them navigate their world.

I was going to write “people whose beliefs about themselves are affirmed by others”, but that is the Law of Attraction, that everyone’s beliefs about themselves are read and believed by others, and affirmed. I have negative beliefs.

I read that one purpose of the beliefs was to help us to lie convincingly. “Of course I’ll help you,” I cry, warmly, and you believe me. Then I am surprised to find myself not helping, or that my “help” does not help- or perhaps I don’t notice.

I met a psychiatrist, and chatted socially of meditation. I talked of old people in care homes, sitting in a room, doing nothing. “They don’t seem unhappy,” he said. Possibly they are resigned. They are kept alive. They might have to dress themselves, or only to co-operate while they are dressed by others. I would rather do things, have greater aims than my continued subsistence. Here am I, writing and thinking. (Analects: To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous.)

Would that we could know about these things. Wanting to know is part of my self-concept, perhaps; or it could be real self-

I want to bring the truth into consciousness, and observe what gives me pleasure, what repels me, how I cope with difficulty, how I relate to others, are not necessarily what I thought. On Deutschland 86 I have just seen Tina Fischer who left East Germany because she cannot bear the damage done by its illusions broken by arrest, interrogation, humiliation, false hope, and now being separated from her children at which she breaks down. I felt her break, and felt intense pleasure. The darkness is that dark.

That “consultant psychotherapist” said I had a “fragile sense of self” as if that were a bad thing. Perhaps he meant that my self-belief needed a lot of protection, because it was erroneous, perhaps he meant something I still cannot understand.

Ego as strength, and ego as what holds you back from Life in Christ. Beliefs useful, truthful, or even perhaps both! I may eventually understand, or I may eventually find beliefs I can live with. I find a rigid dichotomy between Consciousness and Awareness, which I may write about.

Masculine ideal, feminine reality

I lay on the floor weeping “I am not a man”, and I knew I had to transition. But what is this “Man” I was rejecting? It was the idea of masculinity I had taken in from my family, the wider culture and individual interactions with people. Underneath it was a Real Me, rebelling and subverting it, so that I was at war with myself.

I imagined myself manly, and took action to develop that. I joined the territorial army. Why did they not send me to the District Assessment Board? Because I was “insufficiently military”. This does not mean that women could not be army officers. I told a female officer I would be attending, and then later that I would not, holding back tears. Tears would certainly not have been military, and she acknowledged that effort while distancing herself- I had been a possible friend, and was now a private.

What else? The army is the myth I picked on. Walking the Lairig Ghru, perhaps, and back by the Lairig an-Laoigh. I was at risk, and should not have done it alone: at the end, I was exhausted. I had to ford a stream where the plank bridge had been washed away, wading thigh deep in fast flowing, cold water; I did not know what the Ordnance Survey map symbol for “cliffs” meant, so clambered down rocks, twisting the frame of Trefor’s rucksack. I was OK, I managed. I feel that self-reliance is a good thing which need not be gendered, and I coped with the challenges I had not anticipated. I don’t know where I am with that: proud of doing it; not sure about the instinct which drove me to it, which could be an idea of manhood and my own failure to live up to it, bullying myself or developing myself.

Developing myself was good. I wanted to keep fit, and settled for swimming about a mile three times a week. I could enjoy the effort. Everyone should exercise.

Interactions with others- it is so instinctive. How could I know, now, or read from memory what was going on? What I thought at the time and what I would think now support my ideas and desires. When I started in Perthshire, I wrote in my diary: “I cannot endure this job. I must enjoy it.” I did not understand the world, any more than anyone else in his early twenties. I know more three decades on.

It seems that the “manhood” was one part of my being, who I thought I had to be to fit in with society, and my femininity was unconscious, manifesting itself in my behaviour despite attempts to control it but not acknowledged or valued, seen as weakness and failure. I have two models to understand this. Picking on two parts of the self oversimplifies, but the models do and I feel they map on to each other fairly well, and to my Masculine Ideal v Feminine Reality.

Richard Rohr, mystic contemplative, favours the unconscious self which comes into consciousness as we age, the Reality which I had to transition to unearth. Life and God ask us to let go of our false self—the passing, egoic identity we’ve manufactured in order to cope and survive. To be freed from self-preoccupation, we must be centered in the Real, our inherent and unbreakable identity as God’s beloved. Once we’re connected to our Source, we know that our isolated, seemingly inferior or superior individual self is not that big a deal. The more we cling to self-importance and ego, the more we are undoubtedly living outside of union.

Steve Peters favours the ideal self which you consciously imagine yourself to be. Unusually, he gives his academic title on his book cover- “Prof”- to give himself credibility. Do you sabotage your own happiness and success? Are you struggling to make sense of yourself? Do your emotions sometimes dictate your life? Yes, yes and yes; but I had to let them, as trying to impose that ideal which I came to consciously was torturing me. He wants to give the ideal the power to control the emotional, unconscious part underneath, which he calls the “Inner Chimp”.

The book cover quotes “Sir” Chris Hoy: The mind programme that helped me win my Olympic Golds. The Inner Chimp, laziness and the inability to defer gratification, gives way to an ideal of devotion to training and mastery.

Possibly making a crude identification- Feminine Reality equals God’s Beloved equals Inner Chimp- gets in the way. Rohr has seen the beauty and wonder of the Human part, which he finds underlying, and Peters the beauty and wonder of the conscious understanding, which he wants to develop. Peters wants the Chimp on board, and the person finding goals which the whole person supports.

Certainly some people find the negotiation between the two easier than others. I find it particularly difficult. I feel seeing the wonder, good and beauty in both parts would help. I need to understand, value and reconcile both.

Egos and souls

Lovely phrase I got from Jamie Catto– “Egos trying to act like souls”. We imagine we know what “Enlightenment” looks like, we judge how far along the path we are, and we try to behave as if we are more enlightened than we are, or even have Attained Enlightenment. This can be a good thing. It is good to walk your talk, and acting in a particular way strengthens the brain connections leading to acting like that. We wear down the path. It is a bad thing if it gets you to suppress contrary information out of consciousness. You reach cognitive dissonance, and deny reality.

I thought, oh brilliant. Another thing to judge myself on. I shall immediately start to judge and analyse whether I do that.

It’s not conscious and unconscious self. The unconscious self is looking out of my eyes, hearing what I do not hear consciously, fully aware of all my sensory input. Something in me notices my friend, and I become conscious of her. There is a constant interplay. When I write, words bubble up from unconsciousness, I am consciously aware of something, it fades away. Always there is that memory within me of sitting on my father’s knee, crying and being comforted, and it surfaces for a moment now and then. Sometimes consciousness ruminates, like chewing on gristle, ideas I have chewed over many times, and sometimes it goes to work analysing a problem new to me. Analysis is good. And a temporary solution to a problem popped into my head just now, it had been stewing unconsciously, and I emailed it to a friend.

Insofar as there is a “self” or different “selves”, they are both conscious and unconscious.

So what is the Ego, as opposed to the soul? Is it Ego when I am judging and analysing, soul when I am simply perceiving? So INTP is always more enlightened than INTJ? What about Thinking/Feeling, is Feeling always more enlightened, or is that another false dichotomy?

The concepts of ego and soul, considered as different from each other, might not mean this, but ego is divided against itself, with superego telling it to be sensible and id trying to overwhelm it with impulse. Soul is one, thinking out routes to feeling-driven goals, thinking and feeling working together to prioritise, getting to know people and learning new information, seeing what is, and what is possible, going with the flow to build a structured life- EISNTFJP. Not that I’m there yet, I can talk without walking, the best “The Healthy Relationship” articles are written by divorcees. If the Tao is flowing like water, does that include learning how to perform a task, or just performing it?

I hold myself back, because I am afraid, because I am hurt, self-conscious, untrusting. BAD THINGS MIGHT HAPPEN and however not-bad they turn out they still seem bad in advance.

Ego and impulse

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/19/El_Greco_006.jpgHow can I distinguish ego-motivation (bad) from Heart/Spirit/God motivation (good) except by thinking about it?

Different parts of the brain say different things. There are impulses and drives, and so often the drive is self-destructive: should I do another Spider Solitaire at 1.50am? Probably not, and yet several times later than that I have done. And yet that breakfast: people thought my impulse would be to pig myself on a cooked breakfast, and I needed moral self-restraint (good) to resist that impulse, whereas actually I looked at it and my impulse was to eat muesli. I watched C eat cereal by itself, without milk, and thought that is him asserting Control in the only way he can- no-one could actually like it like that- because he is still living with his parents.

If I label my year of unemployment with just three job applications my Great Sulk, that seems bad, and if I label it my Retreat for Self-Healing, it seems good. Possibly it is a bit of both.

On Facebook I read that procrastination can be a good thing, allowing onesself to mature into doing something rather than forcing onesself. I scrolled through just now and can’t find it, but I did find this from Abraham Hicks: Worthiness, in very simple terms, means I have found a way to let the Energy reach me, the Energy that is natural, reach me. Worthiness, or unworthiness, is something that is pronounced upon you by you. You are the only one that can deem yourself worthy or unworthy. You are the only one who can love yourself into a state of allowing, or hate yourself in a state of disallowing. There is not something wrong with you, nor is there something wrong with one who is not loving you. You are all just, in the moment, practicing the art of not allowing, or the art of resisting. Oops, the Hickses are talking sense again. The loving or hating onesself is generally unconscious, my feelings of unworthiness are very deep: how may I change from one to the other? Can I use my ego/mind/conscious thought and analysis to shift into self-love and respect? If not, how might I so shift?

It seems to me that I learned young that I am Worthless. This promptly went unconscious. I then realised I felt that way very deep down, by ratiocination- (Oh My God the Monkey mind Ego Bad Bad Bad) but also by a guided way into my Unconscious- it is my Hoffman name. (Mystic!! Good!!). If I kneel in my ritual space and say, portentously, “I am worthy of Respect” or try to Think Through reasons why I am worthy of respect- either simply by being human, or by characteristics- can I in that way move from that hate to self-love?

I have faith that the human being heals, and I seem wiser and more self-accepting than before (if my ego is perceiving correctly). I was all knotted up. Can I help myself unknot, by thinking about it, or by practising willing my own good?  What do you think?

Or, going back to Being Human, if I can see bits of myself in the shero Alex even if she is not the most well-drawn human being, is it better to spend time watching that rather than reading Proust and seeing myself in the pitiable Marcel?

Fear and illusion

I was so frightened of you!
-Why?
A good question I could not then answer.

Fear of the threat to my illusions, fear of being spontaneous, descending to my amygdala.

What illusions?
That I am a good person. That I am effective. That I am perfect.

This is what I mean about believing something true, or true enough, for the wrong reasons. I have a false view in my heart of what “good” might mean, of how to be effective. I need to cultivate the idea of good enough. “Perfect” is debatable. I have a very carefully constructed set of illusions about the World and myself, so that I can feel safe in it. However, the illusions being fragile, rather than seeking to make myself actually safe in the world, I seek to protect my illusions.

My friend Dawn blogged recently,

Just as my ego can tell me I’m all that and a bag of chips, the flip side will tell me I’m not worth the crumbs that fall out of the bag.

Yeah. And I noticed that in me aged 20, and thought, but that is nuts. Possibly-

Um. Possibly, the Centre of the Universe bit is me in my illusions, and the completely worthless bit is me which needs my illusions.

So I got to, “I am a human being”- the golden mean between I am the centre of the Universe, and I am worthless- a couple of years ago, but from there it is seeing how to make that real, how to bring the wild swinging of the pendulum from one side to the other down to stability in the middle. I need to stop needing to protect my illusions.

I am afraid of being hurt, again.

I am afraid of just being, just doing, being spontaneous. Rather, I want to do what will appear to be right, to my illusions.

I still want to be rescued. I want someone to deal with this for me, to kiss it better, or, just, look after me for a bit 
and
possibly
if I see the problem, if I see the bonds binding me, I can work my way out of them.

————————————————————————————————————–

Mark 4:25-

Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them

echoed even more terrifyingly in Matthew 25:29, gives me hope.

Ah. That’s the bit I was looking for:

“Each of us should have two pockets,” the Rabbis teach. “In one should be the message, ‘I am dust and ashes,’ and in the other we should have written, ‘For me the universe was made.’”