What is ego? Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines ego as “the self” and as “one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that serves as the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality.”
If you fully comprehend that definition you need to buy a nice couch and hang up a shingle advertising your services as a psychiatrist. For those of us still trying to understand that definition we will simply define an ego as “what you think of yourself”. Even a Texan like me can understand that.
Ego as an asset
Ego is a powerful tool for someone who needs to lead others, accomplish huge daily tasks or make heavy decisions. Would you want a surgeon who did not have a good ego? What about following a platoon leader into battle when the leader does not have a good ego? I saw Johnny Carson years ago interviewing a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist said all recent presidents had tremendous egos. He said that a person could not attain the presidency and make the necessary decisions without a tremendous ego. It is obvious that an ego can be an asset in many circumstances.
Good egos are not just for people with major responsibilities. Parents must have a good ego or self-confidence to raise children. When you see children who are parented by people who do not have good egos, the parent’s problems with the children can many times be associated with the parent’s perception of himself or herself. Someone I know who worked with under-privileged kids once told me that the problem with most of these families he sees is that the parents just do not care about themselves or their children (that is not exactly the words he used but I am cleaning up his words a little because it made him so mad). The presence of an ego can be a big asset just as the lack of ego can be a big deficit in someone’s life.
Ego as a liability
Ever work with someone who has complete self-confidence on any subject regardless of his or her knowledge base? They can tell anybody how to do anything even when they have never tried to do it themselves and do not have any understanding of the complexities involved? Ever been with someone who constantly talks about self and rarely mentions anyone else because they use the word “I” so much of the time? These are cases when egos are a major negative. The problems are obvious depending on who the person is and the responsibilities that the person has.
Ego as a problem for others
If the person has major responsibilities in the family, government or business, the negative effect can be a major problem for many people and worse than being just a little embarrassing to associates. If the person is powerful and controls the lives of many people like many judges would, the effect can be disastrous.
How to deal with super egos
I am certainly no psychiatrist but this situation obviously requires patience. When you are interacting with a super ego, you must focus on the person with the ego. Ask questions about their activities, feelings or thinking. With some super egos, you only need to ask the first question and they will take the conversation from there. Any good salesman can assure you that this technique works with all types of egos in a social setting. If you have been assigned at work to persuade a super ego, there are a few techniques that might work. The technique that I found that works best is to convince the person that this is a situation made for them, that it is the kind of activity they do best and any other comment that appeals to their ego. If you can accomplish it, make them think it was one of their great ideas. In short, appeal to their ego. If you go against their ego and tell them they must change or act differently, you will most likely fail. Their ego will not allow them to hear the criticism. Just think of someone you know with a super ego and ask yourself how he or she would handle a criticism.
Can an ego be inflated by circumstances?
The answer is simple. Pick any dictator of any small and impoverished country (i.e., Venezuela) and you probably have a leader with an ego inflated by the circumstances.
A good, balanced ego is best for every individual
A good ego is what can help drive us to success. A poor ego can help result in failures in life. Remember the Webster’s definition of ego that we started with – ego is “the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality”. A person who thinks that they are superior to everyone else is not dealing with reality. People who have never painted a house but try to tell a professional house painter how to do his job are not “mediating between the person and reality”. Understanding the super ego’s situation is the first step in dealing with and coping with the situation. The house painter will most likely understand the super ego’s situation by increasing the price of the job every time the super ego tells him how to perform his work.