Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Whose Ego Is It Anyway?

Ever wondered why our parents would say- “Don’t talk to strangers” or “Always eat food with your mouth closed”? Ever wondered why at times you would skip the traffic signal when it’s red, knowing it’s not a good practice? Ever wondered why you would refuse to a deal, when it’s not feasible?

The human brain functions differently in different situations. The reaction to these different situations is governed by our State of Mind, our Ego. In early 1950s, renowned psychologist Eric Berne defined ego as “a consistent pattern of feeling and experience directly related to a corresponding consistent pattern of behavior”. In simple words, it’s simply our state of self or, how we react in different situations. 



Berne classified Ego into three states - the Parent Ego, the Adult Ego and the Child Ego.

The Parent Ego State

This state is driven by the feelings, thinking and behavior we have absorbed from our previous generations or parents and significant others. As we grow up, we instill these aspects from our parents and caretakers. We may notice that sometimes we are saying and doing things just as our parents/grand parents may have done; even though consciously we may not necessarily want to. For example, many superstitions we follow have been passed on to us by our parents or elders; they may not have any supporting logic.

The Adult ego state

This state is driven out of logical thinking – where we can differentiate the good from the bad, the right from the wrong. The Adult Ego state is free from any preconceived notions and lets us see people as they are rather than what they are projected as. We can ask for information rather than make assumptions. For example, if you don’t know how to swim, you would not get into a swimming pool, no matter how much your friends would insist.



The Child ego state

Imagine that your boss calls you into his or her office; you immediately get a churning in your stomach and wonder what might have gone wrong. And then there are situations when we would speed our cars exceeding the permissible speed limits, or do something which we know is not allowed or permitted. The Child ego state is governed by such ‘I don’t care’ attitude.
Taking the best from the past and using it appropriately in the present is an assimilation of the positive aspects of both our Parent and Child ego states. This is usually called the Integrating Adult. This means we are constantly updating ourselves through our everyday experiences and using this to keep ourselves aware.

Whatever type of ego you might have, don’t let it get the better of you as Rusty Eric rightly said “When you allow your ego to control your thoughts, everything you believe becomes an illusion.”


- Sumit Chakravarty, 
  Faculty, INLEAD 

Images Courtesy- Google Images 

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