T. Madhusudhana rao , research scholar, Spiritual Awareness Program ( SAP ), Hyderabad . ( India ).
Key Words – ego,human being,development,quality,yogic concept, transcendence.
1) Introduction:- It seems to be illogical to have the utilisation of ego in the vibrant society . This is because, we have been informed that ego is mainly responsible as a hurdle while interacting with people, object , places and situations. It has also been informed that the ego is not a desirable element in the development of spiritual arena .
To clarify these points, i have intended to write on this subject.
After reading some spiritual books & scriptures ,it is likely some readers may have a wrong notion of the word ” ego”. The ego is viewed as a block to spiritual enlightenment with its desires and also it is viewed as an illusion which does not exist at all. It is viewed as a distraction from spiritual awakening.
But people are able to have a spiritually meaningful life while maintaining a dynamic ego. Through this blog i want to highlight the misconceptions of the meaning of ego from readers mind taking references from the book ” The ego” by James Harvey Stout and from some articles by famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.
( 2 ). The General Meaning of the word ego and the importance to know the reality of ego.
Some of the general meanings we attribute to ego are self, personality, identity, individuality, behaviour etc. It is important to know the reality of ego. Because there are actually two very different ways the ego can show up : as the negative ego or the positive ego. And it is important to free ourselves from the negative ego.To all , the negative ego is developed because of emotions like angry, aggressive, bored, competitive, conceited, moody, obsessed, reactionary, greedy, ignorant, guilt, pessimism, anxiety etc . According to Maharishi Patanjali a great psychoanalyst in his yogasutras mentioned the “five hindrances “( pancha klesha ) or obstacles for a healthy and balanced ego are (a) Avidya , ignorance (b) Asmita, egoism (c) Raga, craving (d) Dwesha, aversion and,(e ) Abhinivesa, clinging to life.It is important to know what is positive and healthy ego.
( 3 ).When and how this ego enters in human being :
According to an article in wikepadia ” the ego” is the organised part of the personality structure that includes defensive , perceptual or become aware of something through the senses, intellectual -cognitive and executive functions.
According to Sigmund Freud a german psychoanalyst used the word ego to a set of psychic functions such as judgement, tolerance, control, planning, defence, intellectual functioning and memory. Sigmund Freud says personality is composed of three elements known as ( a) id (b) ego and ( c) super ego. Each of these three elements of personality emerges at different points in life and they create complex human behaviours. Let us analyse the same. (a) The id is the only Component of personality that is present from birth. This aspect of personality is entirely unconscious and includes the instinctive and primitive behaviours. The id is driven by pleasure principle which makes efforts to achieve immediate gratification of all desires, wants and needs. Young infants are ruled entirely by id. Next ( b) The Ego is the component of personality that is responsible for dealing with reality. According to Sigmund Freud, the ego develops from the id and ensures that the impulses of the id can be expressed in a manner acceptable in the real world. The ego functions in both the conscious and unconscious mind. The ego operates based on the reality principle which strives to satisfy the the id’s desires in realistic and socially appropriate ways. Freud compared the id to a horse and the ego to the horse’s rider. The horse provides the power and motion , yet the rider provides the direction and guidance. And the last component of personality is ( c) The super ego . There are two parts of the super ego. ( 1) The ideal ego includes the rules and standards for good behaviour. These behaviours include those which are approved by parents and other authority figures like teachers. Obeying these rules leads to feelings of pride , value and accomplishment. ( 2 ) The Conscience includes information about things that are viewed as bad by parents and society . These behaviours are often forbidden and lead to bad consequences and feelings of guilt and remorse….. The super ego make the ego act upon idealistic standards rather than upon realistic principles. The super ego is present in the conscious and unconscious. A person with good ego strength is able to effectively manage these disruptive forces and pressures.
The key to a healthy personality is a balance between the id – ego and the super ego. An individual with an overly dominant id, for example might become impulsive, uncontrollable or even a criminal. An overly dominant super ego , on the other hand might lead to a personality that is extremely moralistic and possibly judgemental. An excessively dominant ego can also result in problems. This individual may seem very concrete and rigid, incapable of accepting change and lacking an internal sense of right from wrong. The need of the vibrant society is to have people of healthy ego. It has been observed that the chromosomes and genes of our ancestors also play a role in formation of id, ego and super ego.
( 4 ) Benefits of having a healthy and balanced ego and how to develop it. : James Harvey Stout writes in his book ” The Ego ” about the benefits of a healthy ego and how to develop it. The task is to strengthen the ego .To develop a sense of individuality, independence, self- esteem , self respect, personal boundaries , assertiveness, values , presence , conviction of opinions and perspectives, specific tastes and preferences and freedom from contrary inner psychological forces which would dominate the ego. When we have these qualities, we have an ego which can be termed well- developed , well defined. A well developed ego is beneficial in many ways.
(a) we can approach people from a position of strength and vigour than from neediness and emptiness.
( b ) we can be unpretentious. Humility is based on an accurate perception of ourselves. A well defined ego is comfortable and fulfilling.
( c ) we can be relatively consistent, stable and trustworthy in our behaviour. We are not exactly moved by people who try to persuade us with their opinion.
( d ) we are not overcome by external and internal influences.
( e ) we can create effective personas, because we have a clear sense of who we are and our persona can be definitive and genuine.
( f ) Even our appearance is improved with a relaxed grace , eyes alert and a smiling face.
( g ) we can seek psychological or spiritual fulfilment.
( 5 ).To create a healthy ego, we have to enhance the following qualities.
( 1 ) Independence : we find a balance between independence and interdependence.
( 2 ) self – esteem. We believe that we have innate value.
( 3 ) Personal Boundaries : we create a private , secure inner world, free to think , to imagine , to love and to feel.
( 4 ) Assertiveness : We practice means of expressing ourselves and to share what is ours to be shared.
(5 ) values : we discover what is important to us , and we work to achieve goals that are aligned to these values.
( 6 ) conviction of opinion and sharing other people’s opinion.
( 7 ) Freedom from overwhelming complexes.
( 8 ) Individuality : we have relationships with people and with humanity in general,but we do not lose our sense of distinction . We have a sense of “We” in relationships, but we also have strong sense of ” I”. We claim our adulthood by assuming the responsibilities that once belonged to our parents – the responsibilities for our protection, health , financial well being etc.
Is there any means to develop the healthy ego ? Certainly, yes. Out of many processes or ways , yogic concept seems to be ideal one to have sustainable healthy ego in the vibrant society.
( 6 ) .Yogic concept for Balanced ego and to improve healthy ego: – Basically there are three forces which are active in our body and they are prana working in (a ) “Pingala path ( b ) Akasha ( lower mind ) working in “ida” path and (c ) “psychic prana ” ( higher mind ) working in susumna path. When ever ” ida”and “pingala” path are unbalanced the characteristic of ego will be unhealthy and the same is termed as ego having a ” spectator ” character. When the forces ” ida and pingala ” path are balanced the characteristics of ego nature is healthy and is participant nature. Similarly when the susumna path is opened up then the characteristics of ego become as an observer and the same resembles with ” Soul “. This leads us to remain in present . Otherwise spectator and participant type of ego will make us to dwell in present,past and future. Where as observer type of ego makes us to remain in present whenever we are mingling with people, objects, places and situations. Yogic method can be developed with the help of simple Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara processes for the development of participant type of ego from spectator type of ego. The participant ego is also useful for correcting the illogical and non conducive aspects of social rules by reformation. This can be developed easily by balancing our breath from both the nostrils equally with the help of pranayama. However, the development of observer ego requires higher stages of Astanga yoga and they are Concentration ( Dharana ), meditation ( Dhyana ) and dissolution at primordial point ( Samadhi ). This ( observer type ) needs meditational approach to have success in all walks of life.
( 7 ) .We can transcend the ego:- When we expand our sense of identity to the ” Soul ” , while maintaining the integrity of the ego, we rightly ” transcend ” the ego.Transcendence is not only for people who have attained the spiritual development , to a degree , we transcend the ego whenever we express love or we act altruistically, or we extend our identity into an association with our family or nation . The ego remains necessary to perform its psychological functions ( listed previously) . We know the ego is one type of self — – legitimate and important within its own field — but we can identify ourselves with other types of self, to benefit from their perspectives i. e ” yes , I am a person ( an ego ) ; I am also a Soul “.
In the Upanishads the lower ego is mentioned as Jiva which identifies with body and mind and with their actions. The higher ego remains ” detached witness” to all the actions of lower ego . In the Upanishads the example is given of two birds sitting on a tree. One bird – the jivatma or living entity – is enjoying fruits of that tree , and the other bird – Soul is simply witnessing.
I conclude this subject on ego with Swami Vivekananda’s quote ” we become forgetful of ego when we think of the body as dedicated to the service of others – the body with which most complacently we identity the ego “.