The ego is a friend. Well….if it can be trusted. A healthy ego provides balance. It protects us from acting on basic urges and sets moral standards. Ego’s can wreak havoc, resembling more of an enemy than a trusted counterpart, and unfortunately, successfully dominates the life of most individuals.
A primitive ego seeks power, control, and regulation. Think of this as the first layer of an onion, defending against the more fragile layers hidden underneath, such as vulnerability, fear, shame, and insecurity.
An ego rooted in fear constantly wages wars in the mind, behaves destructively, and often regrets poor decisions. Our emotions are hijacked during distressing events. To ease discomfort, our bodies create defenses to protect us.
A protective self manifests when struggling to regulate emotions or carrying unresolved issues and unhealed wounds. The protective self is false. It’s oblivious to the hidden layers of the onion.
When I was betrayed by someone I loved, the protective self masked my feelings of rejection and inadequacy with anger, distracting away emotions I didn’t want to feel. This resulted in destructive, spiteful behavior, making matters worse. Inevitably I was led right back to those avoided emotions, except they had intensified.
A weak ego sticks to what’s comfortable, whereas a strong ego understands embracing discomfort is healing and necessary. The ego isn’t intentional. It believes it’s doing the right thing, which is why we must check that shit.
Three effective ways to check our egos:
- Do not assume or judge without first considering all perspectives. In other words, be open to the possibility that your perception may be biased or inaccurate. Listen to others before reaching conclusions.
- Ask yourself what the ego is seeking. In personal relationships, pride, control, and anger are consuming emotions and tend to make terrible decisions for us. Connect and listen to your body and mind before engaging impulsively. Remember to never make decisions in the heat of an intense emotion. Wait until the ego calms the fuck down and only then should you reevaluate.
- Make a list of fears, flaws, and insecurities and examine how your ego acts in defense to those things. The ego masks the aspects of our identity we perceive as bad. Practicing self-love and compassion is important. The “bad” aspects of ourselves are typically irrational and stem from a place of pain. Reflection, self-love, and feeling the bad things allow you to heal and grow with them, rather than against.
-Jessica Bruno LMHC