The Role of the Ego (in Healing and in General)

Ok, first a warning (including a strong trigger warning): If I sounded as if I was extrapolating my own experiences to account for those of others, I don’t mean to. Not in a proselytizing manner, anyway, god no! But if some of my musings I’m about to share resonate with you – all the better!

Here’s the thing: Alice Miller wrote a number of books on childhood trauma, with “The Drama of the Gifted Child” probably being her best known one. At the time I read it, it totally resonated with me – unfortunately to the point of where I was being suicidal again after completing the read. But to me, she’s totally nailed it: Whatever Freud or schools of psychoanalysis following his ideas maintain, a child is a person first – maybe one in the making, but a person – not a thing, not an accumulation of – “narcissistic” – needs or any of the crap Freudian scholars attribute to children. Hence, it comes as no suprise to me that Alice Miller found herself in opposition to Freudian scholars and their school of thinking where it pertains to the child.

The other core thing that resonated – and stuck – with me was her idea of validation of a child’s suffering and the empathic – or enlightened – witness the role of which a therapist is to assume in assisting a patient’s recovery from child abuse. If I understand Miller correctly and by putting her ideas in a nutshell, healing starts with the crucial step of having one’s past validated by such an enlightened witness (can be a family member at the time abuse happened, a friend – or the therapist later on in life).

I feel as if I have never had that validation, but in retrospect, that’s not true. I was lucky to have one therapist friend acknowledge my pain as a baby boy, an infant, a toddler. I did hypnosis sessions with him and boy, oh boy – did those sessions bring up memories and pictures from the very early past! Now – were those authentic? Or were those fabricated by my subconscious in order to have a leverage to work with? According to most modern schools of trauma therapy, time has zero meaning in overcoming residual trauma symptoms and outcomes. In regards to “authentic or not” I read this as: Who cares?! (Your subconscious certainly doesn’t!) As a matter of fact, whatever “feels right” equals “is right” when it comes to trauma outcomes. The body will respond and whenever it does, it means that something that happens now is apparently still linked to something that happened in the past. Different approaches might take different ways of “taking it from there” in terms of overcoming – or at least managing and handling – those symptoms in such a way that a traumatized person can at least function and be in the present instead of being locked up in the past.

But “ego”, what about that? Well, I seem to find that it’s all about ego in relation to the above. In other words: Next to potential physical harm, our sense of self – and the ego is all about that – was injured beyond compare. In my case, I can say with authority that what upbringing I was exposed to was tailored to extinguishing my ego along with any signs of a personality. I was to be made a co-dependent, somewhat perverted accomplice of (emotional, verbal, mild physical) abuse instead of a real person. So again: The ego has a very strong – albeit unfortunate – part in all this.

For the past 8+ years I had tried to convince myself that I had moved past the ramifications my past has had on my ego. Far from it! If I indeed had succeeded in this, I wouldn’t still feel these hard-to-manage bouts of rage that I keep repressing (usually by resorting to self-harming behaviour, unfortunately). I think I’d be well advised in finding healthy outlets for all this anger, so it won’t keep consuming me and keeping me from accessing my true potential.

And to esoteric circles downplaying the role of the ego or even coloring it as a sign of lack of spirituality: Go fuck yourselves! (we’ll talk “ego-less” when you’ve had trauma happen to yourself and not one split-second sooner…!)

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2 thoughts on “The Role of the Ego (in Healing and in General)

  1. I have engaged in self destructive behaviors because of programming and trauma during my childhood. I end up bashing myself for fucking up, and then I am reminded that its the trauma conditioning. As you described, the ego needs to be healed and whole before it can be let go. In my situation, I feel the same way. I wasn’t shown behavior that fosters a healthy sense of self or ego, and so it is something I have had to learn. Sometimes I have to remind myself I’m not being selfish by taking care of myself even though it feels foreign. Thusly, I have to remind myself that doing something self destructive is something I WAS taught, and isn’t my nature. Its the fucking trauma. Take care.

    • “I wasn’t shown behavior that fosters a healthy sense of self or ego”. Spot on here as well! Not only was there a lack of healthy sense of self, it was actively discouraged and every attempt made to annihilate it! (I even once heard the phrase “I was trying to break your will”. Wow…). Like you say: We have to give ourselves permission to take care of ourselves and NOT feel bad about feeling good! (if that made any sense…)

      Thx again! You take care as well, please!

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