By Milda Urban, Summersalt Yoga founder
Do you ever feel like you’re being pulled in two different directions? Or that you’re listening to two different voices in your head? One voice is very loud and it likes to call himself “the voice of reason”. The other one is silent, let’s himself be heard just sometimes, but it speaks our deepest wishes and desires. These gentlemen are The Ego and The Self.
Defined by the Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist (and father of analytical psychology) C.G.Jung Ego and Self are our consciousness and unconsciousness – defining our psyche as a union, as a whole.
To describe it briefly – Ego is the center of consciousness and the Self is a complete personality that includes consciousness, the unconscious, and the ego. The Self is both the whole and the center. You can see it in the picture below that the ego is a self-contained little center of the circle and the Self is the greater circle
Ego and Self
In our daily life, we can simplify this and call Ego our “reasonable side”, which works to keep and assemble our personality, it keeps us motivated, working, it helps us to deal with the daily grind, struggles, measurable tasks and goals in life. It protects us from the problems that the world presents and helps us create a personality that’s able and capable to deal with these challenges.
The bigger picture is our Self – someone who we really are, not just a mask, not an Ego-created personality whose task’s to deal with the threats, fears, and challenges of our lives, but a deeper, authentic and individual person.
Self can be also called our “calling” – it defines our true “purpose” and desires in life, a higher mission if you will and all of these are often not in line with what the Ego wants.
Results versus process
Our Ego wants to do, act, have, protect. It is motivating and fueled by fear – fear of not having enough, of not doing enough, of losing some kind of created identity of ours. It pushes us to work and achieve more – it says we must, have, should. The ego is motivated by anxiety. The ego identifies a “problem” and finds a “solution” no matter what it is. The ego needs results. Ego preserves itself. The ego needs external validation.
The Self wants to create, express, and fulfill itself. It wants to be. It does not need to tick of a list of achievements, to have a “diploma” to show or accomplishments to brag with. It strives in silence when the noise around is gone and everything is still. Self does not want to achieve in our daily sense, it wants to express itself, to do good for the world, the universe. Self concentrates on others. Writer Frederick Buechner describes the calling as “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” Self needs process.
Ego sometimes finds these silent words of Self disturbing, annoying, and something that needs to be eliminated in order to “achieve” or “fix a problem”.
And yes, as Ego, its anxiety and fear are a part of our Self it does affect The Self, it silences it, it dominates it and The Self is pushed away. Pushed away even deeper into our subconscious. The Self now has a chance to show up and manifest itself in our dreams or when we’re under the influence of alcohol or some substances. During these times The Ego is the one silenced and our true calling and desires come out. Just think about it – why is it that just after a couple of glasses of wine we finally find the courage to talk about “that book I’ve always wanted to write” or “the business idea that’s been in my head for years”. It’s the true Self-talking when The Ego is silenced. Please do not take this as an encouragement to drink or take drugs – these are the desperate measures and not an actual tool or treatment!!
Finally, the peak of The Ego is a burnout – total crash. The peak of Self is the fulfillment and reaching our deepest and most real desires. It’s the fulfillment and not burn out because it is your true calling and not a fake and manufactured version of it.
Please do not simplify this though. Ego is necessary for all of us to be able to function in our world and eliminating it would cause delusions, fantasies, and instabilities. However, The Self is the one that creates a deeper, more meaningful, and soulful way to be in the world. Let The Self come out and be heard.