“The ego is the seat of consciousness and if consciousness creates the world, the ego is doing God’s creative work in its effort to realize itself through the way of individuation” Edward Edinger.
The quality of our life is largely dependent on the health of our ego. If our ego is healthy, we will be flexible, strong, compassionate, aware and constructive. Having a healthy ego takes effort; we need to choose to do the work to grow up and mature.
My ego has two basic powers. The first power of the ego is observation, and the second power is choice. These are the two main functions of our minds: to monitor and modify.
What is an ego? When I look out from my eyes and see the world, I am aware of myself and the world. In some ways, it feels no different from when I was 7 years of age. I have a continuity of my sense of identity as an individual. I call this part of myself “I” or “me,” and I am referring to my ego. My ego is the part of me that is aware or conscious.
There are factors which help strengthen the ego: balancing one’s brain, regulating one’s feelings, reclaiming one’s projections, and engaging in self-care. These skills helps one see the world more clearly and make life giving choices. When my brain is balanced, I am able to use both sides of my brain. My left brain is about logic, facts, and time. My right brain is involved with relationships, emotions, and spatial relationships. When the sides of my brain are balanced and connected, I have access to both brain hemispheres when observing the world and making choices.
When I am able to calm myself down, I am able to see more objectively. When I calm myself down, I am not overwhelmed with emotions. As I am able to remain more neutral, my choices are more reflective of the facts of the situation.
A projection is something that interferes with my ability to see clearly. My projections are when I see parts of myself in others. A teenager is having a projection, when he idealizes an athlete or rock star. He is seeing his potential strength and creativity in another person. When he is able to see these projections and reclaim them, he is empowered. He does this by doing the work to develop his skills in music and sports. As he gains mastery in himself, he has more objectivity and confidence. He feels empowered, because he sees himself as he is. He can see his internal power.
When I take care of my needs for sleep, healthful food, exercise, and time with emotionally supportive family and friends, I feel calmer and see more objectively.
When I have a working ego, I am willing to do the work of an adult. I take the steps to keep my ego strong and healthy as an adult. I get 8-10 hours of sleep, eat healthful foods, take time to exercise my body, and talk with empathic friends and family. I also play and have fun. A working ego also implies a willingness to make difficult choices that support the vitality of my life and the lives of others.
An unhealthy ego is an ego that is weak. When an ego is not strong, it attempts to be the only center of the person. When our ego is weak, our energy alternates between thinking we are greater than we are (inflation) and thinking we are less than we are (deflation). It is like a balloon being too full or flat. We are most effective when we see ourselves and the world as we are – no more, no less.
It is possible to wield great power as a president of a company, the leader of a country, or a religious leader, and to still remain quite unconscious. Sadly, this is more often true than not. It is possible to be a leader who manages things and people with great authority and precision and still not be awake. If one does not have the interest or take the time to think introspectively – to examine oneself – then it is impossible to be conscious.
Our ego is formed when we are young. As young baby, our ego begins by being uninformed. We are totally dependent on our parents for survival. We are unable to see ourselves as separate from our mother. Over time, we begin to see that we are separate from our mother and by crying or smiling our mother responds by feeding us, changing us, holding us, or smiling at us. As we gain strength, we become more aware of how we can influence our own life. Our powers of awareness and choice are born in this way.
As we mature in healthy ways, we are able to see that we are not the center of the world. We are aware of the impact of our choices on our family and friends. We are able to consider others and the world as a whole when we make decisions. Some of us consider our Soul and God in our decision making. Possessing a healthy developing ego, we are able to be flexible with others socially. We can choose to love.
Please watch this video by Judith Peterson on the value of a working ego: