We’ve got the toad in stir. That nosy chaperone, that overzealous coach who inflicts his bad judgment on us—I’m calling him the ego. Am I on solid ground in doing so?

We talk about people’s egos all the time. We say so-and-so has an inflated ego, and so he behaves badly. Someone else is lacking in the ego department. We may even have a dim sense that Freud said something
on the topic. What is this mysterious part of the human being called the ego? And how does our romantic success depend on it? Sigmund Freud, the black-bearded Viennese man who invented psychoanalysis, thought of the human psyche as a sort of unruly conversation among three characters: the ego, the superego, and the id. His id was a gargoyle churning with primitive impulses; his super-ego a stern moralist planted by our parents. That left the ego, which he saw as the everyday self that tries to survive in the face of constant
harassment by the other two inmates.

But out here in the world of non-psychiatrists, the word ego followed its own current to a different place. It ended up meaning something akin to pride or conceit, something toxic. That’s how I’m using it—only more so. I’m sticking that label on the saboteur that Heather identified in her life: a stowaway, an interloper, a scheming toad who whispers insidious advice to the unwary self. (It’s also possible to use the word “ego” in a positive way, as in “I wish I had a strong ego like you”. But I will call that positive quality “self-worth”, and for clarity, will confine the “ego” label to the negative part of the psyche that I have pinpointed.)
We want to understand how the ego interferes with romantic relationships, so we can free ourselves from its influence. In order to do that, we need a more general picture of how it operates.
So with the toad safely in jail, I sent a team of investigators to follow his tracks backwards to a stagnant pond near the railroad tracks. There they found an old storage shed, littered with broken hearts and
failed dreams. In a dark corner they discovered a driftwood plaque.

A flashlight revealed its title: The Sacred Wisdom of the Ego. They read on:
1. I am the best—it’s a foregone conclusion.
2. The worst thing is being mocked or demeaned by others.
3. The second-worst thing is not to get enough credit, not to be recognized and praised when you achieve great things.
4. It’s more important what other people think of you than what’s true.
5. Don’t take risks, because failure hurts too much.
6. It’s better not to find out about any areas you are weak in. To be tested, or helped, is to be insulted.
7. It’s not how you play the game, it’s whether you win or lose.
8. Make war, not love (provided you have the advantage).
9. Humility is for sissies.
10. It’s all about me.

From this document a lot was learned about the ego’s basic motivations. Its agenda is to inflate and protect its owner’s status/ranking at all costs. Unfortunately this tends to interfere with the very things that could actually earn the status that the ego craves. And that’s how the victim is cheated.

Unfortunately her ego, which till then had stayed out of the way, now stalked onto center stage. And like a good ego it was obsessed with protecting this fabulous new feeling of being exalted. This meant getting rid of anyone who still saw her as a mortal who might need advice or guidance. Soon the people who had steered her to success were gone, replaced by sycophants.

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