Okay, folks – hang on to your hats! At long last I offer you the first post about selfishness. Please bear with me and, hopefully, join with me in conversing about it in the comments.
In order to consider selflessness and, in turn, selfishness, we must first evaluate and understand what the self is. In psychology, both popular and otherwise, the defining term of the self has been the ego. That the ego has now come to mean something quite different in our culture thanks to people like Eckhart Tolle compels me to frame the definition by using the one that everyone should consider, Freud’s.
According to Freud, the ego is part of personality that mediates the demands of the id, the superego and reality. The ego prevents us from acting on our basic urges (created by the id), but also works to achieve a balance with our moral and idealistic standards (created by the superego). While the ego operates in both the preconscious and conscious, it’s strong ties to the id means that it also operates in the unconscious.
The ego operates based on the reality principle, which works to satisfy the id’s desires in a manner that is realistic and socially appropriate. For example, if a person cuts you off in traffic, the ego prevents you from chasing down the car and physically attacking the offending driver. The ego allows us to see that this response would be socially unacceptable, but it also allows us to know that there are other more appropriate means of venting our frustration.
So, the ego is the balance point of our personalities. It’s supposed to be that part of us that considers OUR wants and desires as well as what may/may not be appropriate within society. There is morality and ideology that is encompassed within this little sub categorization of psyche which indicates rational thought and, at least in part, conscious acknowledgment and consideration of such things. It stands to reason then, that in order to be healthy, the ego has to evolve from consciousness lest we be wholly subject to our id and its subconscious demands.
If all egos are treated as optional or, at the very least, without respect and understanding for what they’re supposed to be, then people are not encouraged to think for and of themselves. Note I did not say ONLY themselves, but simply that each person’s life needs to be of value to them. How can one ascertain the value of that life if it’s only based upon what they’re supposed to do for others? Meaning: What value does my life have to me if I’m taught to live in a way that honors other people and NOT myself? The honor and respect being taught there isn’t for one’s self, but for those other people. As a matter of fact what I literally would learn in such a situation is that what I do only matters so long as it’s good for someone else. I am not to be considered – even though it’s my life. That doesn’t sound quite appropriate though, does it? After all, you only have one life so why would it be spent in unquestioning servitude to someone else when you have a choice about it?
The implications of servitude, of denial of the self I cover in my next post. Don’t worry, it won’t be on Monday, but on Wednesday. Who the heck can handle these convos on a Monday? Not I.
Thoughts so far? Go ahead- give ’em a whirl!