In the world view proposed by Jung, a worldview that makes sense to me, the Ego is the part of our consciousness that holds our sense of self and when it is strong, helps us hold our own and make our way with the bumps and bruises of life. If our ego is weak, we are likely to put our needs aside, not fulfill our desires and live unfulfilled and dissatisfied.
In eastern philosophies and traditions the release of the ego is what is desired ; without an ego there is no attachment, with no attachment there is no suffering. but ONLY after the ego has done it's work to get us to where we need to be. Here's a piece to read if you are interested.
i have been thinking about the way we are when we don't have a strong ego, (not the bully boy or the dominating boss bitch that's not strong ego behaviour either) but the fractured self who is easily bruised, finds resilience hard or is so defended that they become dogmatic.
Without a strong ego we struggle to endure change. We find testing times and uncertainty difficult to bear, we defend against challenge in ways that are likely to reduce the likelihood of growth.
Without a strong ego we are unlikely to be able to see our own mistakes and failings clearly, or to look at the problematic aspects of others, relationships, groupings etc.
Without a strong ego we are unable to hold the tension between good and bad, right and wrong and we avoid the destabilising presence of uncertainty as much as we can. We are likely because of this to polarise, to see something that disagrees with us as all wrong.
This means we lack capacity and ability to tolerate challenge and change and an inability to face our own shadow and unconscious patterning.
We take the psychological shortcuts of splitting and deflecting and end up engaged in projection and introjection in order to manage the psychological discomfort of navigating the hard shit that life sends our way.
Enter the pandemic.
What happens when faced with something that changes our lives overnight, that threatens wellbeing, that requires us to soul-search about what's right, perhaps change our identities, certainly change our connections, our work, our dreams?
If we have a strong ego we are likely to find it difficult. We have to find ways of adjusting, of making sense of change, of trying to keep safe, of missing and staying in touch with those we love, of facing the changes to what we value and what is possible. That's a lot.
If we have a weakened ego things get even harder. With our difficulties with tolerating, our lack of capacity to look at our shadows and perhaps our needs, with our likelihood of deflecting and splitting and projecting etc we are likely to look for a scapegoat, someone to blame. The unseen hooks in our unconscious that we have lacked capacity to meet and the likely rigidity we have around our identity lock us into behaviour that we may not even notice while it's happening.
When we feel like this we want to find ways to get past the yuk, that hard stuff where we look at our shadow, where we navigate our failings and mistakes. Often that leads us into wellness culture; where we find that if we buy enough/eat "clean"/fast enough/etc etc we will find ourselves better. We are told that we can positive think or manifest ourselves into a better place. We learn that enlightenment is just a formula that we can use to get out of our suffering and into the goodness.
Often the things we are using in this formula are well meant but taken out of context from traditional healing and spiritual practices. Things we are unlikely to have a lineage in or a capacity to understand in its right frame. We try so hard to feel better. so. hard. It's one of the reasons the western world has misinterpreted the situation with ego for so long and we find so many people seeking enlightenment and causing themselves spiritual and psychological harm.
And enter the pandemic.
We are likely, if we are embedded in wellness culture, be alarmed that all our work and energy is being threatened by this virus. We can't see it. The things we are asked to do are against all we stand for. We can't tolerate the tension of looking at this new situation, this new threat.
We likely feel distressed, scared, worried, threatened, alarmed, angry, ripped off. I hope so, that's a healthy response to a pandemic!
If our ego is unhealthy or weak we are likely to leap into whatever makes us feel like our disquiet is matched by something out there we can blame. When we have an ego that is unable to hold the hard stuff of our human frailty and need to split and project we are likely to blame something big, big enough to hold our fear, our anger, our hurt, our confusion. We look for people to bolster our perceptions and find community in that.
If our community has been the wellness community we look to our leaders, leaders who have the same splitting and projection.
We see people who don't think like us as blind, sheep, weak. We see measures that the government introduce as tyrannical. We even believe that the threat doesn't even exist and there are deeper more dangerous things afoot and that we are the ones who know the truth and stand for righteousness....
We want our freedom and get angry as hell at anyone who disagrees with us. We disparage, yell at or cut out of our lives those who don't agree.
And when we demand our Freedom, our lack of capacity to tolerate the discomfort of looking outward, we absolve ourselves of feeling the conflicting needs of others. We can slip into the eugenics of saying "they had preexisting conditions, they're old..." as if those people don't matter.
A weak ego allows us to make harmful decisions, it opens up our unconscious to hooks that are being set around us, leading us to places where we are able to say "it's my freedom not yours that counts."
A weak ego is harmful. It's past time we tended to this.