Remember the time when you were in nursery class. Your parents left you to study and what you did was roaming around in your class shouting and screaming. What you wanted was to play all day long in the playground without anybody to ask you to get back to class and study. There used to be a teacher whose only task in life was to scold you to sit on your seats. You obviously didn’t like that overpowering and preaching nature of your teacher no matter how affectionate she seemed (or maybe really was). While you used to follow your heart, your teacher asked you to be silent and be seated on your respective seats. But you wanted to talk. To run. To play. To do anything but to stay silent and seated. You were running on ID. Your teacher was planting seeds for your SUPEREGO to grow in coming years.
Sigmund Freud, the world-renowned Austrian psychotherapist and dream interpreter, he coined three terms. ID, EGO and SUPEREGO. These three terms dictate and reveal how we as human beings act and behave in an environment with or without stimuli.
People who run on id, they follow their basic primal urges and instincts. They eat, sleep, run, copulate and repeat the whole thing over and over and over. So basically whatever you did as a five-year old kid in nursery class, it was not you who was doing that. It was id making you do that. Id operates to give us pleasure and makes us do what we enjoy without taking into account the after-effects or repercussions of such acts.
People who are rule abiding and chase perfection in every act they indulge in, they are stuck in the “phallic phase” of childhood psychosexual development. Without going deeper into the psychoanalysing aspect of simple things in life, that teacher of yours was guided by superego. What makes one too much rule abiding and overly focussed on small things is superego. Superego is all about moral conscience and is that voice in our head that we have internalised from our parents, teachers and society.
Whatever you’ll read hereafter, it has got nothing to do with id. Or even with superego. It is actually about ego. Say ego and bells begin to ring in the heads of unaware people around us. Ego is not that widely presumed bad thing makes you a selfish uncaring bastard. A stable human being who is not on the extremes of ego or superego, that person is guided by ego. Ego makes one aware of their desires and how to act on them with utmost awareness while at the same time not being a caveman or a perfectionist self-moraliser. That’s what ego is all about. It makes you self-aware and guides you in making healthy decisions. Decisions made from a stable state of being do not come from place of impulsivity or forcing rules and regulations on oneself. They are facilitated by the ego. The trouble begins when we take ourselves too seriously (or too casually) and begin to move towards the extremes of id or superego.
She was sitting in front of me on the other side of table. Though she was at the distance of an arm’s length, she was way too far to understand in that moment. All what I could do was to grasp what she told that time. So that later I could then understand what she really meant. “Kill the ego”, she said. That beautiful woman in pink coloured tank top and off-white pajamas, she told me to kill the ego. But by ego what she meant was an obsession with self. Ego is not self-obsession. The former is healthy while the latter is destructive. So then that thing about killing the ego came up, I wondered how could this be possibly begun?
Paraphrasing the words of that lady, “When I am talking to you, I am not thinking about myself. I am listening to you and thinking about you, not myself. When you talk to somebody, don’t think about yourself”. Only if my mind could recall exact words and facts than wisdom laden messages, it would have been great to write what she had really said that night.
The idea was very clear. Killing the ego is getting out of your head and stepping into the moment. Let the words of people around you envelop you in their loveliness. Hear people’s experiences with an open heart. Move through the world with a curious mind and have a head that is an empty slate. After all, if it were about you, you could have simply played video games or slept. It makes sense to shut your mouth and care about what smart and accomplished people around you have to say.
In this age of instant gratification and social media, being too much devoted to self is a big deal to worry about. Thinking about oneself comes naturally for we are humans and we inherently care about ourselves at least to some extent. Taking care of self is good but not at the cost of presence that the person sitting in front of us deserves. Just waiting for your turn to speak or brag is not what healthy ego in stable people does. Nursery class is over and you no longer are that five-year-old reckless messy kid who wants to make noise in the classroom. You don’t have to beat yourself up for not being too perfect. What we have to do is to kill this obsession with self. Think about yourself whenever you do but not when somebody has something to say. Id and superego are not beneficial, ego is what matters. And ego doesn’t mean an obsession with self though the lady in pink tank top told me to kill the ego. She meant killing the obsession with self. Ego makes you aware and conscientious while self-centeredness makes you a closed-minded uncurious human being. The road I am taking, there’s no self-obsession there. Will you walk along with me?