Examining what my ego needs, my tendency is to reflect back on very specific instances in which some kind of emotional interaction occurred. This is usually negative in valence — hence the need — but not necessarily so. Sometimes the praise, the attaboys, on occasion the reverence, can equally create need. What’s that Shakespeare quote from Anthony & Cleopatra? “She makes hungry where most she satisfies” (thanks google old pal).
Like most ego stuff, the examination doesn’t always yield a clear answer. It tends to centre around a need to prove the people who rejected me wrong, and feeds the drive to achieve some kind of status that casts their decision to do so in a reflexive light that makes them go ‘oh damn, I guess I shouldn’t have discounted Matt, look how cool he is now!’ (My formative years were the scene for the vast majority of these encounters, and many of the actors who took part in such scenes aren’t even the kinds of people who I have any particular desire to associate with anymore. Some, I can’t even remember their names. But the ego never forgets, even when the temporal lobes do. And I do apologise for pairing a psychological construct with a physiological one, but it’s my analogy I’ll do what I want!)
Is it kind to want to make somebody feel that way?
I would say not. I would say, if I were to make somebody feel that way, the guilt would overpower the triumph. It feels very Machiavellian to want evoke such a reaction in somebody else.
So it seems like me ego is a bit of a prick. But I get where the pain is coming from. I don’t feel like it would be helpful to hold these drives, which are essentially just knee-jerk reactions to psychological pain, against it.
What I can do, is strive to develop my awareness of these cries of anguish, and acknowledge them, not suppress them. I’m actually far more likely to prevent myself from acting on these drives by taking this approach, as a lot of the dumb shit we do and say in life tends to stem from being unable to properly articulate what it is we actually want.
This isn’t always to everybody’s liking. Deciding to just change how you want to manifest in the world, what you want to value, what change you want to make, feels like cheating. You don’t get to just decide these things; they must be the product of deeply entrenched ideas and experiences.
This was the first thing on my mind when I woke up this morning, and for once I was able to push myself to put pen to paper (well, thumb to phone) and capture one of my half-waked revelations.
We don’t like feeling like we can just force ourselves to adopt values. For me to want to be compassionate, to want to manifest in a particular way, a way that is kind and free of judgement or bitterness, is not what feeds the ego. This meta-consciousness, this volitional thinking, doesn’t feel right. These are cognitive ideals: they’re logical. I want these things because I want to want them. They don’t feel anchored in reality because they are the products of pure choice. Ego ideals — emotional, subconscious ideals — tend to form through reaction to external events (a rejection, a cruel joke, a triumph in the face of insecurity), and because of this, they tend to be a lot more readily acceptable as being true. They’re responses to empirical evidence. They’re affective flashbulbs, or they’re hard-won.
The fact that our feelings aren’t ever necessarily true (that doesn’t make them not real) should be something we stay mindful of when the ego is setting the thermostat of our personality. While it’s fair to say that building a character that is built from pieces of experiences is one that is true to the environment that tempered it, it doesn’t mean we have to confine ourselves to it.
We can be different. We can discard our compass and find a new one. Where does this one lead me? Does it lead me to want to challenge and usurp, or does it force me to ask ‘what is the kindest thing I can do here?’ ‘How can I improve things for the people who I’m in this situation with?’
Ego food is junk food. What feeds it might taste good in the short-term, but over time, if that’s all that sustains us, it’ll rot us from the inside. There’s other things on the menu. Maybe we’re just in the wrong restaurant.
Have a bloody lovely day.
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About the curator - Matt Jenko
Hi my name is Matt, but my friends call me Matt. I’m on the wrong side of 29 (damn I hate it every time I have to update that number), definitely feeling my age, but never felt happier and more content than I do at this point in my life. I’ve been through some rocky patches (who hasn’t) and lived to tell the tale, and boy do I gots some stories.
When I’m not giving opinions absolutely nobody asked for, I’m doing a worldbuilding with my passion project, vivaellipsis. If you like offbeat nonsense delivered through immersive escapism, then go and get involved. Or don’t, I’m not telling you what to do. I’m not yer boss.
I’m a simple man with simple interests. I like Yorkshire tea, the sound of rain on the window, and a bloody good story.