6 Needs of the Ego.
Your ego lives in fear. Fear is a necessary component of your survivability on this planet. It is the job of your ego, to keep you alive, by any means necessary.
The ego is referred to as a sense of self, self-esteem, self-respect and self-importance. The term ego was popularized by Freud in referencing the conscious awareness of one’s own identity and we all know someone who we often refer to as “having a big ego” or an overly large sense of self-importance.
The term ego has shifted over time. It is the conscious awareness of self and what needs to happen in order for the self (Identity) to survive.
Long ago, on the plain of the savannah, we developed a section of the brain that allowed us to become “aware” animals. This added another layer to the survival instinct. We became aware of our own extrapolated sense of survival.
In order for us to survive, we had the base instinct of fear. The ego is born out of fear, as fear is born out of survival. The ego is responsible for the survival of our sense of identity, our sense of self.
In order for us to maintain our ego sense of self, the ego has certain needs. Those needs are based on the fear/survival needs from the savannah and they are alive and kicking in today’s twenty-first-century human animal. If we have learnt anything from the recent paleo movement, it is that we are still biologically the same as we were thousands of year ago.
Those needs are:
- The need to Know.
- The need to Judge
- The need to Justify
- The need to be Right
- The need to Look Good
- The need to get Even.
Let’s have a closer look at these as they relate to the world we live in today.
The need to know.
We need to know what is happening around us so that we can assess for ourselves the real level of threat to our survivability. It is the curiosity that takes us outside in a storm to see for ourselves, to listen to the gossip, to watch the drama unfolding in front of us. We need to know so that we can understand how it will affect us, and our sense of identity/self. It is also our curiosity that drives to know and understand the world around us. To take the unknown and make it known.
The Need to Judge.
We all judge. Yep. I called it! I do, you do. we all do. By judgement, I mean the process by which we categorise and arrive at a conclusion about something, someone or an event. Back on the savannah, we had to judge. We had to arrive at a conclusion in order for us to survive. We had to make judgement calls. In today’s world, it is no different. Who is a threat, a friend or what is a dangerous situation?
The need to Justify.
We need to hear the justification from other people, so that we can know and judge. We need to justify to other people, so that it secures our place within the tribe and maintains our sense of identity. If we have good reasons, then the actions are good and adds to our survivability. After all, poor decision-making skills could have actually killed us back on the savannah. We can justify anything. A handbag, shoes, nail polish…a new car…The reasons align with our sense of self, and that adds to our sense of identity.
The need to be Right.
The ego needed to be right, because if you were wrong on the savannah, you were eaten! Being right improves your survivability. We base being right on all the previous needs. I am sure that we all know someone who is always right. Just like when we know we are right, we will “right fight” to the death. People would rather be right, than happy. Right means you survive, happy doesn’t. The need to be right is very important to secure the continuing sense of the identity.
The need to look good.
We all know that the law of survival of the fittest means the animals that are fit and healthy, have a lesser chance of being targeted by the hungry pride of lions. The ego needs us to look good, because when we don’t, our sense of self is called into question as is our survivability within the tribe. We have a biological program that makes us want to look good. In the modern world, this translates into not only our physical being, but our sense of self. When we make a mistake in public, we no longer “look good” and feel disconnected from the tribe, which makes us feel very uncomfortable.
The need to get even/ the need for competition.
Oh! This is a juicy one. It is the reestablishment of your sense of identity that is based upon your perceived role within the tribe. If you are lower in the social ranking, on the savannah you received less food, less security, less survivability. In today’s society, this plays out by the ego needing to continually advance in the social order and to maintain their own equilibrium of identity. If a persona has a belief that they are a “winner” they will engage in various behaviours that reinforce that belief and maintain that positive sense of identity, even if it is to the detriment of others around them.
Within each of us, as humans, there are positive, neutral and negative behaviours that fulfil these ego needs. Do not mistake me here. We all need this fulfilled. They are not wants, or desires, They are identifiable needs. They are programs that run whether you want them to or not. The key to living a happy and fulfilled life, is to fulfil these needs in a positive manner.
You can use your need to know, as a coach, teacher, nurse, doctor and help people. You can use your need to be right as a scientist researching and finding a cure for cancer. You can use the need to judge, to keep yourself safe. You can use your need to get even and for competition to be a better person than you were yesterday or strive fro new personal bests in sports. You can use the power of the ego to improve your life and your survivability within the tribe. The needs of the ego gave us explorers, adventurers, Freud, Sir Edmund Hillary, Einstein, Mother Thersa, Nelson Mandela, Marie Curie and the desire to reach for the stars, as well as Hitler and Osama Bin Laden.
The ego is a powerful force. The choice is yours.