Recently, a celebrity RJ has started providing relationship advices to people that I listen to with marked interest; because, in all likelihood the advisor has not actually experienced any of the relationships he is advising upon. As he seems to be extremely fond of a Freudian word “ego”, I am tempted to explore the theme using what Freud had imagined human relationships to be.
If there is a Nobel Prize for misunderstood scientific concepts, I will not only nominate ego alongside relativity, uncertainty, evolution and chaos, but declare it an undisputed winner; because ego has the greatest misfortune of being turned completely upside down by users like our celebrity RJ.
To understand ego, we need to return to plains of Africa. Let us imagine a small female ape and large male ape interacting over a tempting food item discovered by the female (I am forced to introduce food to make it palatable in the era of feminism that Freud didn’t have to accommodate for). The interaction would be simple. Male would display an angry grimace and snatch the food and eat it.
Now, let us do evolutionary fast forward on the same couple and place them in on a marriage buffet counter with one last cookie. Now the interaction would have male giving a smile (which scientists think has evolved from the same grimace) and encourage female to take the cookie.
If you want to understand what Freud meant by ego, you have to grasp what happened to human brain during this incredible behaviour transformation.
In simple terms, Freud proposed that, even today, our brain has two persons living alongside; one is the food-snatching animal-self of “id” and other is the cookie-giving social self of “super ego”. While the sight of food and imbalance of physical strength induces brain to run the id protocol, it is overpowered and prevented from getting expressed because brain has evolved a mediator who has the most thankless task of managing these conflicting selves that are constantly at war.
Ego is this poor hardworking manager who prevents us from turning animals as far as possible and not the megalomaniacal self that we have blamed it to be.
Based on the above theory, ego is one of the nicest thing that happened to us; but, my personal theory is that there is a problem with this mechanism that needs to be explored as we need a new handle to human behaviour.
Like any good manager, ego takes care of the conflict by explaining to both warring sides the benefits of the behavioural output it proposes be fabricating a story, and it is this creative imagination of ego that has potential to turn into the greatest threat for the neocortical ape.
Imagination of ego is useful in explaining benefits of cookie sharing, and it gets wee bit more dangerous when a celebrity RJ uses it to “solve” relationship problems he has not experienced, but the real threat is when this talents is put to completely new use of dealing with reality.
Evolution has honed human intelligence as it is an amplifier of all human abilities. Today, armed with a large neocortex, the power of imagination borne of ego’s tool of mitigating conflicts through stories has amplified to a point where we may be reducing entire reality, especially in human sphere, into a story that we make up to suit us.
We sit a point in evolution where we may stop responding to reality and waste our energies only towards living inside a concocted reality build by our ego.
The only solution that I can see at this point is to become aware about of this strange phenomenon as, if only we are armed with cognizance of this problem we may find a way to survive it at some point in future.