We all have heard the word ego and many of us use it in conversation but what is the ego and how can it hurt or even destroy our relationships?
What is the ego?
Well simply speaking the ego is a part of the mind that is concerned with “me”, “I” or “mine”. I have thoughts, emotions, behaviours, and reactions, and they belong to me or they are mine. The ego is where things become personal. Opinions are stated from my own perspective and my own framework. The ego uses many “should” or “shouldn’t” statements and judgments about ourselves and other people, and these are mostly stated as if they are facts.
Some examples include:
“I am still upset that Michael didn’t call me. He is so irresponsible!”
“Pia should never have spoken to Arki like that.”
“Oh no, I can’t wear this on my date. She is going to think I am fat.”
What is the role of the ego?
The role of the ego is to alert us to any situation where it feels insecure, wobbly, or unsafe. Our egos are constantly trying to alert us of threats or even just perceived threats. Think of the ego as you’re an early warning detector when we are moved out of our comfort zone. Our egos want to keep us safely in boxes, so we “don’t fail”, “don’t expose ourselves”, “don’t be vulnerable”, or “don’t end the relationship in case you are alone forever”.
When we feel ourselves wobble or even feel unsafe, our ego is looking for a way to bolster itself. We don’t like to feel insecure, and we want a quick fix to feel better again. We do this by creating ego-based stories. For example, if we feel someone has slighted us, we may create a story in our own minds that judges them as somehow inferior to us or that we are superior to them in a particular area. We may even tell ourselves a story that degrades them and calls them a name, such as “stupid” to make ourselves feel better. Sometimes we create angry or anxious stories, where we put others down. In these stories we can also play the victim, we can make stories where someone is frightening and dangerous for us to be around. Our egos can also create stories where we complain, blame, and accuse others when we feel disrespected or hurt. These stories can be directed toward our partner in a couple relationship.
The ego hurts and even destroys relationships.
In a couple relationship, partners say and do things that make each other wobble. We don’t always mean to do this. Our egos can wobble over big and small things. Often these are due to partners having different perspectives of the world and also different models for how to be in a relationship. When our partner behaves or says something that is really different from how we think ego can feel rattled. We may tell them that they have not behaved or said something appropriate, and often we do not always say this very nicely. This often comes out as a complaint or a criticism of how our partner was wrong, inappropriate, embarrassing, juvenile, or not good enough at something, and this can often cause couple conflict.
Being on the receiving end of this is hard. There is only so much ego-based blame, judgment, complaining, name-calling or comparing of us to someone else that we can tolerate. In fact, it really hurts us, and we often give them a serve from our own wobbling ego. We fight. Tragically, if the fights go on for too many years, one partner may even call an end to the relationship.
The problem is that even though our egos want to feel safe, they don’t know how to truly solve the problem to feel properly safe. These cheap ego tricks only inflame the situation. We need to understand that the wobble is coming from inside of ourselves, as well as learning strategies to calm ourselves down so that the ego does not keep damaging our precious relationships.