In my college psychology classes there was always a lot of debate about ego. The maligned ego was to be feared, avoided, and generally beaten into submission. It’s the cause of war, pestilence and feelings of sadness. It eats at your true self and annihilates all that is good and true. Despite teachings on Id and Superego, it seemed to be Ego that we fixated on, merging all the elements into one amazingly flawed human being. At least, that was what I heard in my classes.
Though martial arts, I’ve learned there’s no problem with who we are. I enjoy having a sense of self. It keeps me from cutting myself when chopping vegetables and encourages me to do good works in the world. The problem seems to be when I focus on a sense of ME rather than the changing boundaries of self.
If I’m trying not to cut myself, the boundary of the self is my skin. If I’m doing good things so I can feel good, the sense of self is in my heart body. If I’m doing good to help someone else, my sense of self is over there with them. It moves, slides, and morphs like an amoeba. It becomes what it needs and goes where it’s necessary.
I’m sure somewhere there is a psychologist who could explain how my flawed view of the ego led to my confusion. That’s true. I couldn’t learn this from a book. A multiple choice test on the definition of ego didn’t lend me to insight. I had to experience it.
By practicing martial arts, I get to play with the boundaries of self, of right and wrong, of good and bad. I get to really know how conflict manifests and how to lessen its impact in the world. I get to practice self defense and that has made all the difference.
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