Coping with Ego

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—Confronting the prime mover

Introduction[edit]

Humility is the realization that although we are each very special, we are nobody special.

Who is the center of awareness?[1] Where is the source of intent? Who is observing, perceiving, reflecting, recalling, contemplating, anticipating, thinking, contented, hoping, judging, worrying, feeling, deciding, hurting, and concentrating? Who am I? I am the self.

Objectives[edit]

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The objectives of this course are to help you to:

  • Better understand the construct we call the self;
  • Become aware of inherent biases;
  • Reduce needless worry;
  • Increase our self-control;
  • Detach from our ego;
  • Extend our circle of compassion.[2]

This course is part of the Emotional Competency curriculum. This material has been adapted from the EmotionalCompetency.com page on the self, with permission of the author.

If you wish to contact the instructor, please click here to send me an email or leave a comment or question on the discussion page.

Manifestations of the Self[edit]

We may conceive of the self in any of these various forms:

  1. The Observer; the seat of perception,
  2. The Thinker; the seat of consciousness,
  3. The Judge; the seat of evaluation,
  4. The Prime Mover; the seat of intent,
  5. A construct or illusion,
  6. The stories we tell about ourselves,
  7. Your physical and mental being with all its human and unique characteristics.

The words: being, individual, soul, and ego have meanings similar to “self”.

Self Spiral[edit]

The world changes us and we change the world.

Everything we do and every perception we have of the world around us accumulates over time and contributes to the ever-changing entity we refer to as our “self”. The first time we smile as an infant we have changed the world by stimulating others to smile back at us. Seeing their smile—and eventually perceiving the acceptance it represents—begins to change us; it is the beginning of our self-concept, self-image, self-confidence, self-doubt, and the autonomy, competence, and relatedness that form the basis of our motivations. How we engage the world changes how the world responds to us. This cycle of: do, see, perceive, assess, learn, and do again continues at a rapid pace countless times throughout our lifetimes and forms an ongoing spiral that begins to converge on the stable and consistent pattern of goals, beliefs, wishes, intent, habits, talents, and behavior we call our “self”.[3]

Events that happen to you, the choices you make, and the influential people you meet throughout your life all contribute to what you learn and believe about the world. These factors, and the meaning you assign to them, merge and blend with your human nature and personality to create your ever evolving self. The moment you first tried to roll over, or crawl, or walk, or talk was either successful and satisfying or it was frustrating for you. Your parents, or anyone who may have been watching might have encouraged your exploration or they may have been critical and discouraging. The childhood games you played, the first time you were left alone, the first day of school, the first time you were betrayed, or lied to, punched in the nose, or abandoned are all important events that you have perceived, interpreted, learned from, and have contributed to revising your self-concept. Perhaps you begin to think of the world as a friendly and accepting place where hard work is rewarded, or you may think of it as angry and hostile. You begin to understand the consequences of actions; the connection between an incident and a result. Your attitude toward the world begins to take shape as that attitude influences how you behave in the world. As you grow older you may have participated in sports, or music, or dancing. Perhaps you were talented, perhaps you were not.

Your competence in each of these activities was assessed by yourself and no-doubt by others. As a result your self-concept expands to include such beliefs as: “I am good at sports, not very good at music and dancing, OK in spelling, and not so good in math.” These ideas are refined as you score your first goal, win your first game, flunk another test, win your first trophy, get badly injured, and get cut from your first team. Believing you are good at sports may cause you to play for more teams, which of course increases your skill in the sport. As a teen you suffer the wrath of your peers; perhaps you are popular and attractive, or alone and plain. You go on your first date, have your first kiss, and agonize over sex. This may go smoothly, but more likely it does not. Learning continues throughout your life as your beliefs are challenged, refined, and revised. Your experiences and beliefs are constantly reinforced, interpreted, evaluated, and inevitably distorted by your self-talk—your ever-present inner dialogue. You may believe the world is a warm and wonderful place, or it may be full of harsh and cruel obstacles. You may be quietly confident, or you may be anxious, afraid, and ashamed.

Although events happen to you, the choices you make are your own responsibility. What education you complete, choices you make about drinking, driving, smoking, and drugs, the friends you keep, what you talk about, where you hang out, choosing to be the conformist or the rebel, deciding whether or not to go to college, career choice, and marriage choices are all shaped by your self-concept as they contribute to your self-concept. You may make these choices confidently and autonomously, based on your own well-considered beliefs, or you may be greatly influenced by peer pressure, parents, or the desire to please others. Critical choice-points will reveal your own self and continue to shape your life and your self. Some choices will strengthen your authentic self, and others will contribute to your fictional self.

Certain people will strongly influence you and contribute to your self-concept. These include parents, siblings, peers, teachers, coaches, bullies, heroes, role models, teammates, tormentors, competitors, and your nemesis. You admire some, loath some, and you simply tolerate or ignore others. You learn from them all and they all contribute to who you are today. This self-spiral continues to change you as you change the world.

As your self-spiral grows you will accumulate intrinsic regulations—rules that you have carefully evaluated and decided are congruent with your values and beliefs. These contribute to your authentic self. But you are also likely to accumulate introjected regulations. These are behaviors performed to avoid guilt, humiliation, fear, or anxiety, or to attain a false pride by enhancing your image but not your stature. These move you away from your authentic self and toward your fictional self.

Assignment[edit]

  1. Recall the most influential events that helped to shape the person you are today.
  2. Recall the most influential people that helped to shape the person you are today.
  3. Recall the most influential memories that helped to shape the person you are today.
  4. Recall the most influential choices you made that helped to shape the person you are today.
  5. Which of these had a positive influence?
  6. Which had a negative influence?
  7. Are there steps you can take now to overcome any lingering negative influences? Take those steps.

Knowing Yourself[edit]

To understand yourself, begin by understanding: human nature, what you can change and what you cannot, your own personality traits, learned behaviors, and your values, beliefs, sense of justice, needs, goals, and motives. Integrate these to form your personal model for human interaction. Understand what guides you throughout your life. Discover your signature strengths, and the basis of your true stature. Examine your self-spiral, purge the introjected regulations, integrate your values, beliefs, and actions, and work to become your authentic self.

Assignment[edit]

Complete the Wikiversity course Unmasking the True Self.

Self-Symbol[edit]

Your mind is organized with many thousands of symbols for many objects and concepts including: cars, chairs, the future, your hopes, goodness, your dog, your friends, and even yourself. Your mental symbol that represents yourself is your “self-symbol”. Words we use as symbols for ourselves (and others) are often chosen from our list of trait nouns, and trait adjectives. Some of these labels are accurate and some are not accurate representations of our self.

Assignment[edit]

  1. What words do you use to describe yourself?
  2. Are these words accurate?
  3. Are these words limiting, inspiring, encouraging, obsolete, or humiliating?
  4. Is it useful to change any of these descriptive labels?

Self-Aware[edit]

Humans have the remarkable, and perhaps unique ability to think about our own thoughts. This strange loop allows us to become aware of our self, to plan for the future, reflect and ruminate about the past, think about our selves as separate from others, imagine the thoughts of others, project our experiences into the minds of others, and judge our own actions. Self-awareness provides us the unique ability to control ourselves intentionally by imagining ourselves in the future and talk to ourselves about options for our future.

Self-awareness allows us to imagine the world from a variety of perspectives. Not only can we contemplate what we are perceiving now, but we can reflect on the past and imagine a variety of futures. We can also imagine what others are thinking now, or were thinking in the past, or will be thinking in the future. Self-awareness allows us to travel through time and read minds. But our awareness is less accurate than it may seem.

This photo allowed humans to see the whole earth.

Humans were earthbound for millions of years. Their only experience of earth was the limited view each of us could gain from our village on the earth's surface. Mountaintop vantage points gave a somewhat broader perspective, but even the most expansive view was of only a small portion of the earth. World-wide travel eventually allowed us to experience other regions on earth. Then in December 1968 the Apollo 8 spacecraft broke free from the earth and gave us stunning images of the whole earth, small and alone in the vast blackness of space. For many these images transformed the way they think about our planet. We can achieve a similar perspective when we can detach our consciousness from originating among our thoughts and move our awareness above, or outside of our own thoughts. Just as Apollo 8 peered down on the entire earth, we can adopt an awareness that examines our own thinking and contemplates it as a whole. People sometimes describe this viewpoint transformation as an awakening. This viewpoint can help us detach our egos.

Self-awareness, introspection, and self-consciousness open us up to the emotions of pride, envy, jealousy, guilt, shame, and hope. Our ability to imagine the world from another's perspective allows us to feel empathy, compassion, pity, envy, and jealousy. Self-awareness allows self-appraisal, which is discussed in more detail below.

Introspection[edit]

Our conciseness and attention are often split between what we are doing, sensing, and perceiving in the world around us, and the thoughts we may be having about the past or the future. We constantly live in two worlds, one outside our heads and visible to others and one inside our heads known only to us. Because we have only a limited capacity for attention, our self-talk distracts us from the outside world and the outside world distracts us from our self-talk. Our attention does not always strike a useful balance here. It can be dangerous to be distracted by rumination or planning while driving. Self-consciousness can cause us to choke under pressure when we are called on to perform, as we meet others, in conversations, presentations, sports contests, or on stage. Self-talk can prolong insomnia as we worry about not falling asleep.

Self-awareness is often excessive. Ruminating, reliving, and repeatedly blaming yourself for a simple mistake in the past does more harm than good when it becomes prolonged, frustrating, distracting, and induces and prolongs shame. Worrying about events you cannot change produces unhelpful anxiety. When you have heard enough, it may be helpful to quiet this self talk. Meditation, undertaken as either a spiritual or secular activity, can be effective in quieting the self and breaking the cycle of rumination, allowing you to relax, and return your attention to the world present outside your head.

Our self-awareness disappears when we are sufficiently absorbed in an engaging activity and we experience the state of flow.

Assignment[edit]

Part 1:

  1. Think about a tree. Describe your thoughts.
  2. Now think about you thinking about a tree. Describe your thoughts.

Part 2:

Pause from time to time throughout the day to examine your thoughts.

  1. Are you thinking about something that is happening now, that happened in the past, or that you speculate may happen in the future?
  2. Are you thinking about an object, an event, a person, a decision, a plan, or a memory?
  3. Are you regretting some past decision, action, or missed opportunity? Are you plotting to avoid regretting some future decision, action or missed opportunity?
  4. Are you thinking about yourself, your thoughts, or something else?
  5. Are you solving a problem, planning an action, envisioning a creation, fantasizing, reminiscing, or ruminating?
  6. Are you worrying about something that might happen in the future, or regretting something that has already occurred?
  7. Are your thoughts optimistic, realistic, or pessimistic?
  8. Are the thoughts you are having now helpful or only painful?

Bias[edit]

Since it is our self that has our attention during self-talk, we are constantly listening to an inherently biased and one-sided point of view. This first-person viewpoint, described in more detail below, is responsible for many distortions in perception, assessment, attribution, and reasoning. We are inherently biased. We invariably overestimate our positive qualities; nearly everyone considers themselves above average in characteristics important to their self-image. We claim more than our share of credit when things go well, and we avoid blame when thing go bad. We judge people we identify with more leniently and favorably than we judge people we don't like. We offer advice to others more easily than we accept advice from others. We judge others based on behavior and we judge ourselves based on intent. We each tend to believe that our point of view is the correct one.

Perhaps this unrealistic view of the world helps us compensate for the bias toward safety that triggers fear, the bias toward just action that triggers anger, and the bias toward quickly identifying foe that triggers hate. Thinking well of ourselves provides a respite from anxiety and other negative emotions.

We can begin to counteract our inherent bias by developing a healthy skepticism toward our own ego-directed point of view. We can more accurately assess the world when we learn to compensate for the bias we use to perceive it. Consider a variety of viewpoints and dialogue with people who hold differing views before making important decisions.

Assignment[edit]

  1. Scan this list of biases.
  2. Identify those that are most likely to influence you.
  3. List those you believe you are immune to? Why?
  4. Cite examples when one of these biases caused you to make a premature judgment or an unwise decision.

Worry[edit]

We worry about the future we imagine, we ruminate about the past we recall, and we worry about what others did, thought, or might do. Anxiety results directly from our self-awareness and self-talk; it really is all in our head. We monitor the world with a bias toward identifying actual and potential dangers. Although worry is beneficial when it alerts us to problems and urges us to avoid them, it is not helpful when there is nothing further we can do to avoid danger or ensure success.

We also worry about threats to our own thoughts and ideas. We protect the ideas we have of our self-concept, ideas we have about others, and our goals—our ideas about the future. Fear, anger, jealousy, and humiliation can be evoked as easily by threats to our ego, significant others, or goals as they can by physical threats. Many emotions are generated or sustained by how we talk to ourselves.

Assignment[edit]

  1. What, if anything, are you worried about now?
  2. Identify one specific condition you are worried about.
  3. Complete the Wikiversity course on What you can change and what you cannot.
  4. If you are worried about something you can change, take action to make that change.
  5. If you are worried about something you cannot change, accept that worrying is ineffective and stop worrying.

Conflicting Images[edit]

We imagine ourselves as similar to people in some groups and different from others. We invariably demonstrate favoritism toward people in the in-group. This affiliation with the in-group and dissociation from the out-group can be triggered even when only trivial characteristics or differences define the groups. Abstract concepts select the symbols we attach to the “good guys” and the “bad guys”. There is almost always some way for the people in the in-group to construe themselves better than the people in the out-group. This has been dramatically demonstrated by sports fans, social clubs, cliques, the Robbers Cave experiment, and in other research. The often-misunderstood fact is that you are probably less similar to the members of your group than you assume and you are more similar to members of rival groups that you assume. We all share human nature.

The bias of egotism allows us to interpret events in self-serving ways. We take more credit than we deserve and accept less blame than is our due. We attribute kind motives to ourselves and evil motives to others. We feel we are unfairly recognized and rewarded for our efforts. We feel we suffer more pain than others understand or appreciate. Although we are egotists ourselves, we dislike others who we see as conceited, vain, arrogant, stuck-up, pompous, snobbish, and boastful.

When our ego is threatened, we feel insulted and suffer humiliation. For some, the greatest fear is to be seen as a wimp.

Assignment[edit]

  1. Identify various groups you consider yourself to be a part of. This may include people of a similar age, income level, ethnicity, gender, education level, profession, fitness level, political beliefs, religious beliefs, life-style choices, life stage, educational institution, clubs, hobbies, pastimes, or favorite sports teams.
  2. Identify one or two people in the in-group you identified above. Consider the feelings, assumptions, or appraisals of affiliation or alienation you have for these people.
  3. Identify one or two people outside of your various in-groups. Consider the feelings, assumptions, or appraisals of affiliation or alienation you have for these people.
  4. What is the basis, if any, for those feelings, assumptions, or appraisals?

Self-Control[edit]

Our self-awareness provides us the powerful ability to intentionally control our self. This requires us to be aware and monitor what we are doing, establish and pursue goals for the future, control our impulses and delay gratification to pursue our long-term goals, and act on the strength of our own decisions.

Assignment[edit]

  1. Identify some urge that temps you. This may be an urge to eat another dessert, insult someone, make an impulse purchase, scream, avoid some duty or responsibility, or drink too much.
  2. Notice how you resisted that urge.
  3. How did it happen that you did the right thing?

Detaching our Ego[edit]

If we are a two-year old caught up in our own tantrum, it is all consuming. If we are a parent and our two-year old child is having a tantrum, it is disconcerting. If we are walking through the park and see another child having a tantrum, we can simply notice that here is a child who has yet to grow up and gain control of his immature impulses.

We can attain this same detachment, judgment, objectivity, and self-control over our own destructive egos. We can observe our ego wanting more, clamoring for attention, proving themselves right or better or blameless, distorting facts in frantic attempts at self-justification, seduced by our first-person viewpoint, overcome with arrogance and we can choose to stop it. We can stare back our own thoughts and jump into the space, created by our awareness, between our ego and our values. We can choose to act consistently with our values rather than submit once again to an impulse. We can choose humility over arrogance, stillness over aggression and destruction, cooperation over competition, inclusion over exclusion, needs over wants, generosity over greed, peer over power, candor over deceit, stature over status, dignity over disrespect, compassion over belligerence, and authentic over bogus.

The perception that our ego—our self—is somehow superior is only an illusion. What would be the basis for such superiority? The ego has no substance, it is not real, it is only an illusion. Learn to see beyond that illusion.

We do not tolerate tantrums from two-year olds. Don't tolerate tantrums from your ego, or anyone else's. Quell ego rants.

Assignment[edit]

  1. Notice if you are about to begin an ego rant.
  2. Stare back the thoughts that are leading you into the rant.
  3. Exercise the self-control needed to avoid that ego rant.

Self as our Prototype for Others[edit]

We use our own image as the starting point for creating symbols to represent others we identify with

To create the mental symbol we use to represent each person we consider to be very similar to ourselves, we begin with our self-symbol and then modify it to create a unique symbol for each of our close friends. For each acquaintance that is more distant from our own self image, we modify the symbol we have for them more from our self-symbol. This is illustrated on the right where our self is in the center, our closest friends each have individual symbols very much like our own, and our more distant acquaintances have similar, but increasingly different symbols. This is represented here by the differences in the color of the more distant symbols. For strangers, or people we do not want to be associated with, we may not begin with our self-symbol, but instead use the symbol for someone else we also distance ourselves from. The result is that the symbols for close friends are very similar to our own, and the symbols for people we do not identify with are quite different.

Intimacy[edit]

The word “intimacy” has several meanings. Here we consider the meaning of “a close association leading to detailed knowledge and understanding of another person”. An intimate friend is someone we trust enough to expose our own vulnerabilities and secrets during many reciprocal and authentic dialogues.

Intimacy is a a close association leading to detailed knowledge and understanding of another person

As we get to know more about an acquaintance we develop an increasingly complete and complex mental symbol for that person. However, there is a limit to how well we ever know the other person. There are limits to how much time we will spend together and there are various boundaries limiting what we will ask, what we will tell, and what we are willing to learn about each other. Because these boundaries limit the information exchange, the information we gather is incomplete and the symbol we can create for the acquaintance is necessarily incomplete. Because the symbol is incomplete it remains significantly different from your self-symbol. This is illustrated here by the noticeable distance between the self and the symbol for the acquaintance.

We know more about our close friends than we do about acquaintances. The amount of time we spend together, the number and nature of interactions and common experiences we share, the interest we have in learning more about each other, and our willingness to share more information all help us create a more complete symbol for our close friends. The similarity in our self-symbol and the symbol we create for our close friends is illustrated here by the special proximity of the two symbols.

Intimacy takes this information sharing to the next level. During an intimate relationship we feel safe enough to expose and discuss our vulnerabilities and secrets. This additional information allows us to create a more complete symbol for an intimate partner. Also, because of the completeness of the symbol and because the people we choose to become intimate with typically share many of our characteristics, the symbol we create becomes very similar to our self-symbol. This illustrated in the figure by the significant overlap of the two symbols. We feel empathy for people we become intimate with.

The Extent of Compassion[edit]

It is easiest to empathize with these people who are most like yourself.

You naturally feel closer to people who seem most like yourself. The symbols you create for the people who are most like yourself will be most similar to your own self-symbol. It is easiest to empathize with these people who are most like yourself. You can still feel compassion, if not full empathy, for people who are different, but still something like yourself. But even if you are a caring person, you may feel indifferent toward people who you hardly know, or who are not like yourself. The symbols you have for these people may be very incomplete, or they may include features unlike yourself. In any case their symbols are unlike your self-symbol. Finally, there are people who are not like you. In fact, they are unlike you. If you consider them so distant and foreign that you allow yourself to consider them as not quite human, hate can creep in. They are dislike you and you may choose to dislike them. This general scheme is illustrated here in a schematic diagram derived from the figure on the right. The people most like yourself are shown close to the self-symbol. Those least like you are farther away. The most compassionate people will have large regions of empathy and compassion with small or non-existent regions of indifference and hate. Less tolerant people will have smaller areas of empathy and compassion and allow the region of hate to close in around themselves as they become a prisoner of hate.

Empathy is other-awareness, symmetrical with self-awareness.

First-Person Viewpoint[edit]

Seeing things from your own point of view is always easier, and first-hand experiences seem more real than understanding another's point of view can ever be. Your eyes, nose, taste buds, tactile sensors, and ears connect directly only to your brain. Only you experience first-hand the direct sensory input of the world; you, your self, is the observer. This raw sensory input is interpreted and gains meaning through your unique perceptions and past experiences. Furthermore, contemplation, desire, intent, pain, introspection, consciousness, and reflection are all private and solitary. This unique first-person experience creates a fundamental asymmetry that contributes to many of the other asymmetries that govern social interactions. It also contributes to the asymmetric character of egotism, narcissism, selfishness, greed, and the magnitude gap.[4] We judge others based on behavior and we judge ourselves based on intent. Your own point of view, the way you see things, is unique. The golden rule and our empathy struggle to overcome this fundamental imbalance.

An objective assessor will value one viewpoint as equal to another.

We influence others by changing their point of view.

For the reasons just described, each of us tends to consider our own point of view as more complete, valid, and important than anyone else's point of view. However, each of us differs in the weight we give to our viewpoint when compared to other viewpoints. A particularly humble, considerate person may understand, appreciate, and evaluate other points of view and grant them an importance similar to their own. They weigh other points of view as heavily as they weigh their own, as in the diagram on the right.

It is typical to value our own viewpoint more than others.

It is more typical, however, to weigh your own viewpoint more heavily than others. We all have a great need for self-justification. If one person disagrees with you, perhaps you will discount that contrary viewpoint, but if two or three people express differing views, you will consider and adopt their viewpoints. This is illustrated in the second diagram on the right where several other viewpoints balance the first-person viewpoint.

Egotists value their viewpoint more than all others combined.

Egotists, and others with high self-appraisals dismiss all but overwhelming evidence contrary to their point of view. It may take tens, hundreds, or in extreme cases thousands of dissenting voices before any other point of view is considered. This extreme imbalance is shown in the third diagram on the right, where the “eye” and the “I” are just too big. Where do you strike the balance?

This phenomenon can create a problem when it comes to choosing leaders. Great leaders make decisions, create a compelling vision, hold tenaciously to that vision, and inspire people to overcome obstacles and move forward toward the leader's expressed vision. This vision is often an expression of the leader's first-person viewpoint. A problem can occur, however, if that viewpoint becomes destructive, the leader rejects alternative viewpoints, and the direction cannot be changed. This can be the making of a tyrant.

Assignment[edit]

  1. Do you consider yourself to be special?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. Study the Wikiversity module on humility. Complete the assignments.

Self-Appraisals[edit]

Many types of self-appraisal, both accurate and distorted, are important to understand. Self-esteem is an overall evaluation of your self by your self. This assessment can be favorable, neutral, or unfavorable. High self-esteem is a favorable self assessment. An unfavorable self assessment is low-self-esteem. Appropriate high self-esteem is (authentic) “pride”, but excessive or unjustified high self-esteem is called: “egotism”, “arrogance”, “hubris”, “conceitedness”, “narcissism”, or a “sense of superiority”. Low self-esteem is “shame”. “Ego” is a synonym for self or self-image.

Self-esteem includes two largely independent appraisals. One is a sense of confidence and competence, called self-efficacy. This includes confidence in your ability to think, understand, learn, choose, and make decisions. The other is a sense of intrinsic worth, called self-respect. This is your right to appropriately assert your own thoughts, values, needs, and wants.

Narcissism is self-love combined with an artificially inflated ego (self-image). It includes “grandiosity” and dominance, and is correlated with an often-hostile disregard for others

A major cause of violence is high self-esteem combined with an ego threat. Violence is most likely to occur when someone who thinks well of themselves receives feedback that contradicts their own favorable view of themselves, and they then decide to “fight the feedback” (quite literally “kill the messenger”) rather than assimilate the new information and revise their self-appraisal. This is more likely to occur with someone who holds an unwarranted, exaggerated, or unfounded positive self-image. This can be called “fragile high-self-esteem” or “wounded pride”. People who are highly sensitive to a loss of self-esteem, e.g. “touchy”, may react to seemingly minor ego threats with considerable hostility. They are easily insulted and quick to anger. They may be boastful and arrogant and always trying to prove they are good enough. The terms: wounded pride, disrespect, verbal abuse, insults, anger manipulations, and status inconsistency all describe ego threats. People with high but stable self-esteem tend not to be angry or hostile.

A reliable indicator of low self-esteem is the need to see other groups as inferior. This is the essence of disrespect and a dangerous first step toward hate and violence.

People with (secure) high self-esteem generously appreciate the achievements of others.

Egotism can directly cause violence because the egotist allows their first-person viewpoint to prevail over other relevant, important, but differing points of view. This lack of consideration reduces the typical inhibitions to violence.

Assignment[edit]

Complete the Wikiversity course on Unmasking the True Self.

Transcending Your Self[edit]

Our self is an essential but often pesky companion. Learn to tame it. When you hear your self talking, recognize it is only one voice among the crowd. Shape your self-symbol. Deliberately quiet your self when it is not being helpful. Enjoy the resulting calm and contentment. Be skeptical of what your self is telling you. The self is merely an illusion, it has no substance, do not become attached to it, focus on what is real. Seek out alternative viewpoints. Let go of your ego defense mechanisms, and control your self.

Strive to unmask your true self.

Self-Words[edit]

We use many words to refer to self-related concepts, including:

  • Ego—a synonym for self or self-image.
  • Self-absorbed—Focused on your own affairs and concerns.
  • Self-admiration—Admiring yourself; pride.
  • Self-aggrandizement—Exaggerating your own importance or significance.
  • Self-appraisal—Assessing the value of your self.
  • Self-awareness—Thinking about our own thoughts
  • Self-centered—Yielding to the first-person viewpoint.
  • Self-concept—What you believe about who you are.
  • Self-confidence—self-assurance in one's personal judgment, ability, power, etc.
  • Self-conscious—a heightened sense of self-awareness.
  • Self-control—Exercising willful intent and awareness to choose our actions.
  • Self-criticism—a negative personality trait in which a person has a disrupted self-identity.
  • Self-efficacy—Confidence in your own abilities. Recognizing your own power.
  • Self-esteem—An overall evaluation of your self by your self.
  • Self-image—the mental picture that depicts items that have been learned by that person about themself, either from personal experiences or by internalizing the judgments.
  • Self-justification—Describing events in a way that preserves your pride and reduces cognitive dissonance.
  • Selfish—Disregarding other's viewpoints and needs
  • Self-loathing—A severe lack of self-respect. Shame.
  • Self-reflection—the capacity of humans to exercise introspection and the willingness to learn more about their fundamental nature, purpose and essence.
  • Self-respect—Recognizing your own intrinsic worth. Your right to appropriately assert your own thoughts, values, needs, and wants.
  • Self-sufficient—needing little or no help from, or interaction with, others

Becoming familiar with these words may help you better understand the self and cope with egos—yours and others.

Further Reading[edit]

Students wishing to learn more about coping with ego may be interested in reading the following books:

  • Hofstadter, Douglas R. (July 8, 2008). I Am a Strange Loop. Basic Books. p. 436. ISBN 978-0465030798.
  • McGraw, Phillip C. (May 6, 2003). Self Matters: Creating Your Life from the Inside Out. p. 336. ISBN 978-1615522637.
  • Beck, Aaron T. (August 22, 2000). Prisoners of Hate: The Cognitive Basis of Anger, Hostility, and Violence. Harper Perennial. p. 370. ISBN 978-0060932008.
  • Branden, Nathaniel (May 1, 1995). The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. Bantam. p. 368. ISBN 978-0553374391.
  • Ricard, Matthieu (January 5, 2007). Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill. Little, Brown and Company. p. 304. ISBN 978-0316167253.
  • Leary, Mark R. (January 4, 2007). The Curse of the Self: Self-Awareness, Egotism, and the Quality of Human Life. Oxford University Press. p. 236. ISBN 978-0195325447.
  • Relation of Threatened Egotism to Violence and Aggression: The Dark Side of High Self-Esteem, Psychology Review, 1996, Vol. 103, No. 1, 5-33, by Roy F. Baumeister, Laura Smart, Joseph M. Boden
  • The Morality of Selfism, The Gospel of Saint You, January 3, 2019, The New York Times, David Brooks,

Notes[edit]

  1. This material is adapted from the EmotionalCompetency.com website with permission from the author.
  2. Albert Einstein said: "A human being is a part of the whole, called by us 'Universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security."
  3. Hofstadter, Douglas R. (July 8, 2008). I Am a Strange Loop. Basic Books. p. 436. ISBN 978-0465030798.
  4. The "magnitude gap" refers to the consistent differences in recall between victims and perpetrators. Victims recall a series of provocations leading up to an incident as well as the consequences afterwards, whereas perpetrators recall an incident as bracketed in time, omitting previous provocations and later consequences. See, for example: Kraft, R.N.. (2009). The magnitude gap: Revealing differences in recall between victims and perpetrators. Applied Memory. 147-166.