Our psyches can be split into the ego, the superego, and the id. The word superego is an unfortunate translation from German. A more accurate translation would be “over ego” or “overlord.”
Some texts on spiritual growth suggest the ego is the enemy of our superegos. In a way, I agree. The ego, according to Freud, is like a powerful stallion that you as the rider can only hope to control. The ego glorifies the self and cares only about the self. That’s why it’s so difficult to stay on a diet. Our superegos say it’s a good idea but “ego” tricks us into lapses.
How can that be?
What’s the ego’s game?
Well, I look at it like this. The ego doesn’t trust your elevated consciousness to do the right thing. The ego is narcissistic. The ego lives for self. And well, the ego thinks, this superego might think it’s a good idea to throw ourselves onto a hand grenade in battle in order to save our fellow soldiers. Screw that! says ego. And seeing as though we all would agree that a survival instinct is necessary for survival, the ego takes it too far.
The thing may people may not understand is just how devious the ego can be when it comes to self-deception. In one sense, we all understand the way we rationalize having just one piece of candy …, or whatever. The point is, we all do things that are not in our best interest.
I’m currently reading Transcending the Levels of Consciousness by David R. Hawkins. I like the book and will review it later, but for now let me quote Mr. Hawkins on the subject of ego, remembering the ego houses our animal instincts: “The animal instincts are totally directed to personal gain and continue to follow that path in conflict with the energy of spiritual power, truth, and especially love. Te ego’s deception is clever in that it deludes its victim and prisoner into believing that the perpetrators are ‘out there’, whereas they are actually innate and ‘in here’.
But it explains self-delusion. I know people who believe anything that comes out of their mouths. What’s up with that? Well, it’s confirmation that the ego is at work, denying self-reflection. It’s like when four and five year olds say, it wasn’t me, when asked who made the mess. And in their minds, they didn’t. Well, if you press them, they’ll admit they did it, but it was justified. That’s what happens in adults, too, only the ego is more devious and mature (and understands the main competitor – superego).
Still, isn’t my ego part of me? Aren’t I supposed to be at peace and in harmony with myself? How can I do that if my ego is my enemy? And so, perhaps the better tack is to buddy up with ego, toss it a few bones here and there, and … well, outsmart it. Perhaps this strategy is a bit paradoxical. That may be. However, what is there in life that is white and black (in practice, not in theory–many things in theory are black and white, but then we had to go ahead and discover quantum mechanics and discovered that the universe is inherently unknowable, probabilistic, and entirely viewpoint-dependent.)