Friday, August 15, 2008


In psychoanalysis - Freudian - the instinctual or subconscious constitutes the "id"; the organised part of the psyche that reacts to the outside world is the "ego," and the critical and moralizing part - the thought police - is the "super-ego."

In the dictionary, ego also means: the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought. It also refers to egotism or conceit The ego is connected to our self-esteem and self-image, our feelings. In philosophy, the ego is the part of ourselves that is -a posteriori - aware of and knowledgeable about experiences.

When someone tells us something truthful we don't want to hear, most often our egos are getting bruised. It is up to us to determine how we handle truth. And to learn how to distinguish truth-telling from manipulation.

And then there is the ego that is based on a false sense of self-importance, on conceit, self-centeredness and selfishness. This particular kind of egotism, or ego, is so deeply entrenched in so many parts and pieces of our society and social structures, and yet I always find that I'm surprised by its appearance.

In my adult life, I've learned some key things about power, authority and ego.

1) Ego, and egotistical behavior, is often a result of self-doubt, self-loathing, insecurity and a history of trauma.
2) When people operate out of a place of ego, they're not able to see anything outside of themselves, and therefore are unavailable for constructive change, collaboration, etc.
3) True power is about how we walk day-to-day and treat the people around us. Kindness and love are two of our greatest personal powers.
4) People who are self-confident and self-loving, as well as clear about their desire to succeed and to walk with other successful people, generally work without egotistical behavior and are able and willing to listen to others, to take responsibility for their actions, to compromise on decisions without comprising their integrity and to learn from their mistakes.
5) English has many powerful words. But I think there are two specific phrases that can change the course of things in seconds: "I don't know." and "I'm sorry."
6) Egotistical behavior often leads to abuses of power in positions of authority.
7) The most visionary and radical uses of authority are often in the service of love for other people motivated by a deep belief in humanity and in self-love.

On the last point in particular, I am always inspired when I see this in the world around me. My favorite artists all work with the specificity of self-love, a deep humanity and love for a beautiful world. Yeah. That's what I'm talking about.

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