Where is your ego getting in the way of your progress?
To start looking at this piece of the puzzle of making the unconscious conscious, we kind of need to attempt to define what ego actually is first.
So there are a few ways to look at this so i’ll start with some dictionary definitions.
Then i’m going to chat a little about Freud’s theory because we can’t really talk about ego without Freud, offer up some other perspectives and then bring in some other bits and examples to help you start to identify where your ego might be taking charge in your own life and business.
According to the Oxford dictionary, the three ways ego is defined are
As “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.”
From PSYCHOANALYSIS “the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.”
From PHILOSOPHY (in metaphysics) “a conscious thinking subject.”
Interestingly according to the Cambridge dictionary it defines it as “your idea or opinion of yourself, especially your feeling of your own importance and ability” So this can be for the positive or the negative. He’s got a big ego, or you could need a boost to your ego.
When it comes to psychoanalysis the Cambridge dictionary defines the ego as “the part of a person’s mind that tries to match the hidden desires(= wishes) of the id (= part of the unconscious mind) with the demands of the real world”
It houses your self-esteem.It’s in essence, your identity.
Ego is the mediator between instant gratification of your needs (id) and your highest morals (super ego).
So let’s start with the id.
The easiest way to think of the id is like a tantruming child trying to get it’s needs met. When we’re babies we can do nothing but obey our primal, instinctive needs. If we’re hungry, we cry, if we’re uncomfortable we cry. We do what it takes to make sure our needs are met. The id is driven by pleasure.
Then, we’ve also got to look at the super ego (this is all based in Freud’s personality theory, 1923 please view this as a starting point for understanding, I personally think there is SO much nuance to this and describing the mind as 3 separate parts is slightly over simplistic based on advances in psychology, spirituality, trauma and so much more…there are many pieces to the puzzle, but this is a great starting point for breaking it down)
Your super ego is where your conscience lies. Your ideal self is there too. This is created from your values (that you’ve learned) Society, It’s your sense of morality, what you learned was acceptable or pleasing behaviour from your primary care givers. Your sense of right and wrong. This is where a lot of your ‘shoulds’ come from.
So for example, If you feel guilt for a behaviour…that’s usually a little punishment to your ego from your super ego.
Where the ego comes in, is the middle man between the two. It’s reality based. It’s external world based. It decides how to behave and is all about avoiding pain. Looking to reduce tension. It doesn’t have a concept of good or bad. Its primary function is that no harm comes to it, or you.
Sometimes the id will win and you’ll behave in a way that will give you instant gratification, led by a primal need. This could be something like, doing something to pinch someone else’s client. Or copying someone else’s work and passing it off as your own.
Sometimes the superego will win, this could look like beating yourself up all the time because your ‘ideal self’ is set at a ridiculously high standard based on what you learned growing up around values and morality. What you were taught was desirable. It might punish you with feelings of guilt, or reward you with feelings of pride for example.
You can think of them like the angel and the devil on your shoulder…and your ego is the one in the middle!
Fundamentally the ego decides how to behave to avoid pain. So you can see why i’m always talking about secondary gains and why it’s SO important to be aware of them! If you have a positive payback for a negative behaviour, it’s going to be difficult to change it and there will be an internal battle.
Towards pleasure and away from pain. So when ‘pain’ is often doing something ‘new’ and uncertain and ‘pleasure’ might be comfort eating, or instagram scrolling…you can see why this could be a problem for your ego and you might stay stuck.
BUT, the ego can be reasoned with! Which is something we can use to our advantage. Knowing it’s trying to protect you, and I appreciate this is going to sound strange but stick with me, you can talk back to it.
I always recommend naming it. Mines ‘Nigel’…I kid you not. It was the first name that popped into my head and I trust what comes up first ha!
So if I feel my ego getting in the way of a behaviour (bear in mind there are lots more pieces to the puzzle such as behaviours learned through trauma and experiences you’ve had that may also need to be looked at) I can have a little chat with Nigel! Let him know that it’s safe for me to take action. That I appreciate his input but it’s not needed right now.
This will only sound weird until you try it I promise!
So you can see. If you have a healthy balance between all three, the id, the ego and the superego, that could lead to being a calm, well rounded individual who can make good choices and decisions and get stuff done.
You can also see if there’s an imbalance, if the moralistic superego or the primitive needs based id are too much in control, it will affect the behaviours and actions you take.
So, a dominant id could lead to impulsive behaviour, being out of integrity.
A dominant superego could lead to being judgemental of others or anxiety or a drive for perfection.
Then we get further into defence mechanisms.
Essentially defence mechanisms are there to protect your self esteem in some way. The ego protects itself, thinking it’s protecting you.
Here’s a few you may recognise; Avoidance, denial, isolation, suppression, projecting, rationalisation, self serving bias, dissociation, comparison, numbing.
You might be having a bad day and take your frustrations out on the significant other, a friend or the kids for example of displacement. You’re angry at someone but feel you can’t express it to them. It’s easier to aim it elsewhere.
Rationalisation may cause you to make excuses as to why you have or haven’t done something or achieved something.
Self serving bias could cause you to push blame onto someone else and not take responsibility while trying to protect yourself from being criticised.
They are unconscious.
The more you uncover these, the more you can observe them, challenge them, the more control you have over your ego, and therefore your own behaviours.
The ego is rational, and you get to show it more healthy ways of coping with the anxiety the ego is trying to avoid.
We form our ego as we learn through our own experiences what is positive and negative. Often formed in childhood through interactions with our primary caregivers.
So as another example, if you were always told to be quiet, to be in the background. You learn that this is how you please your primary caregivers. So you could see when that’s wired in why you might struggle with visibility in your business.
Or if you grew up believing your big emotions were ‘inconvenient’ or led to people not being pleased with you, or even annoyed. You learn to suppress and disconnect from your emotions and this can lead to not trusting your own decisions.
If you’re always rewarded (and you’ll see here how societal norms start to come in to shape our experience here) with good grades and achievement then it could lead to always seeking out more awards, qualifications and achievements because you learn that’s how you get validated that’s how you get love.
On the flip side to that one if you’re punished for NOT getting good grades then it can lead to a feeling of not being good enough.
So you can see how all this starts to play out into adulthood because when you’re a child you don’t have the benefit of being able to rationalise these things in the same way.
Your ego is ALWAYS telling you stories. About you, and other people.
It’s what you’ve learned, not who you are.
When you blindly listen without curiosity, without being able to take a step back to observe your thoughts and behaviours, without being able to challenge and invite a dialogue consciously then it will rule you.
You can start to become aware of this by noticing what triggers you, and what it makes you want to do.
Does it lead to you wanting to hide? Does it lead to you wanting to be overbearing? Does it lead to you wanting to make it abundantly clear that you ‘already know that’?
This is where you get to challenge the behaviour. Figure out what you’re making up in that moment. Rationalise whether it’s true.
This is not something you look at with blame, shame or judgement of yourself.
This is where you understand it’s something you’ve learned. It’s where you understand what’s really going on. It’s understanding it’s not YOU, not who you are. Understanding it’s a protection mechanism and it needs to know you’re safe.
Safety is in familiar because sticking with the familiar, you know the outcomes. It’s more certainty. So it feels hard when we’re stepping outside the familiar.
So the next time you want to make a mean comment or say ‘I already know that’ or gossip or use a pushy sales tactic (which I know none of you would of course!), or procrastinate, compare yourself to someone else or some other behaviour that’s going to get in the way of your progress…just catch yourself and see where you’re operating from in that moment. What is your behaviour being driven by? How do you WANT to show up?
And remember it’s not YOU.
Fran Excell, Subconscious Success Mentor – Helping Business Owners Overcome Self Sabotage & Get More Done In Less Time at www.franexcell.com
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