Why is it important to know the distinction between the ego and the self? From an academic perspective it really is a mute point. I mean there is so much literature on the borderline personality that began to come forth in full bloom just after Sigmund Freud’s death before WWII that to continue to write about this distinction is about as useful as practicing the alphabet as an exercise in graduate school.
And then there is all the literature and the practice that comes from eastern philosophy. What we have been able to garner from meditation and the many manners of the “ZEN” experience. Meditation, Yoga, transcendental practices as well as new age methods in the art of healing have seen a proliferation in the last half of the 20th century.
Finally, or perhaps I should say and originally there is the language and the literature of the mystics, in hebrew/christian and sufi and african traditions that have been passed down in oral traditions as well as having been recorded in writings. With the computers, google, wiki and the other aspects of the explosion in informational data it is possible to key in a few choice words in the search engine and you can you tube or encyclopedia, or web-site or blog to almost any reference you might need.
So, it is not more knowledge that we need. Rather it is a way of accessing that knowledge in a way that allows us to understand and digest just what it is like to experience being in a world that has been colored by a multi-fold of experiences unique to us in some case and almost archetypical in other cases. The post-modern concept in psychoanalysis might be referred to as wisdom. The Forefathers of our profession, having passed down classical traditions would perhaps be impressed to see the variety of psychoanalytic schools that have spun off from the original drive theory that Freud and the early founders brought to us.
I have always had such tremendous respect for the writings of Freud and Jung and many more of the original men and women who devoted much creative energy to searching internally and witnessing externally the proceedings of the human mind. My major professor and mentor Dr. Phyllis Meadow often made the point that each psychoanalysis is a new psychoanalysis and to that end her final book was published with the tittle: A New Psychoanalysis.
Now, for Dr. Meadow, that had the specific meaning that each time we sit with a new patient we are entering a brand new dynamic that has never been entered before. Each pair or dyad — analyst and analysand, are a new venture into the world of the subjective. So for me the very act of a psychoanalysis is a creative endeavor. Indeed it was proudly my first venture into the world of an artist. Because as much as psychoanalysis has tried and inched it’s way toward becoming a pure science, the actual act of an analysis required that it be referred to as the art and science of psychoanalysis. This is the same way that all of medicine os referred to. There is no question that medicine is a science, yet it the seasoned hands of a clinical practitioner we feel the heart and art of the discipline.
My response to my own narcissism and to the narcissism of many, many patients through out the years has always been to continue to dig deeper for answers. But in each case, I have always “known” that we were searching for a way to be connected with the essential self, that self that knows it is the center of an existence that is conscious of itself. It has seemed to me that psychoanalysis and the scientific investigation was as close a way as we had to getting to our own core’s. The difficulty with getting to our own core’s of existence is that when we get there there is no thing of particular excitement, no aspect of drama that follow us. When we meet ourselves in the darkness of our own being, it is a cool and stagnant stillness that we enter. And frequently the search ends with an egoic decision that it might be just as much fun to drink, or to gamble or to sex myself out with my life by grabbing as much gusto as I possible can. After all, the center is really an experience of void and if that is where I am headed, my ego has much more exciting and eventful ideas to bring me away from the knowledge of the universal void.
There are times that I have searched for the something by wanting a bigger house, or a better lover, or an object like a car or a radio or a place to live, or even an education, a wife, or a lover. These most often materialized or to use the language of the Laws of Attraction, I have manifested them. At other times in my life i have searched for the more intangible things, like serenity, love, peace, authenticity or even grandiosity and success. Most often I have walked away a winner because I have stayed connected to life by remaining connected with my desires. As long as there was some element of attunement with who I was and what I wanted the object usually manifested itself in very little time. This is a libidinal power, of sorts.
On balance the Universe began to give me more and more of what I needed and wanted, and as I began to put away childish notions of selfishness or the young catholic views of a punishing god, life became a series of getting my desires met. The problem with that formula is that the desires were only randomly connected and as a result, I became sort of addicted to wanting more and more and the sense of accomplishment or success rarely followed the obtaining of the desired object or person. I was aware that my egoic needs were being met, but i was also vaguely aware that a process of transformation was needed at a more profound level of attention that my ego was willing of able to get to. I was aware of having my need met without those needs ever satisfying the more central core of me.
This coincided with a time in my life when the ten commandments, rules and petty ordinances of other people’s authority were beginning to fade in value. I experienced a type of epiphany in which I was able to come into my own power which led me to a more organic sense of what my needs really were, or another way of saying it is that it led me to a more central set of desires than the more narcissistic ones had been earlier. I was not controlled by the established rules or the crusaders of eons ago or even of the good christian soldiers. Popes and presidents ceased to mean anything to me. Their power had nothing to do with my power and if was able to rid myself of dogma and doctrine, then perhaps I would have a chance of setting myself up as a kind of organic authority. Crusaders and good christian soldiers can only bring a man to conflict. The conflict that we become up against once we have exhausted the great ideas of other people is the conflict within. The one between my deeper, truer, more empathic self and the self that had been known through the ego that had been my constant companion since early toilet training–and before.
In order for me to write comfortably about my primary interest, “the exit from narcissism,” my psychoanalytic/scientific training places a demand on me that I want to honor. If I am going to use any kind of subjective detail to argue any point, it is imperative that i find some way of verifying the material to another. You, readers, are to be that “Other.”
My witnessing, or recognizing my experience of my narcissistic ego came a long while before I had a name or a concept for it. Furthermore my witnessing this egoic narcissism began well before I had any idea that I could or needed to escape from the grips of my narcissistic egoic self. The actual process of exiting from the narcissistic ego and gliding smoothly into a state of well-being (grace, if you will) is a new process and one that seems to not have been covered in years of psychoanalytic training and research. I do not say this in any disparaging manner. I shall be eternally grateful to my analysts and consultants and supervisors who put up with the multitude of question. i am sure that I was a doubting Thomas from the beginning and what was frequently stated as a fact, needed in my estimation to be more experientially proven.
To their credit they stuck with me and treated my questioning and reserve with tremendous reverence.
I have always wished to contribute to the body of knowledge know as “Psychoanalysis.” And with my recent studies and research into what i call the exit from narcissism, I may have stumbled against a concept that might with further exploration be a useful aspect of a psychoanalysis.
To that end, I am formulating what I call the exit from narcissism. Most of the previous experiences with narcissism were treated as if the condition were a disease and to the extent that regression and the return of the repressed is a condition to be dealt with cautiously, I guess that ‘die-ease’ is as convenient a word for the condition. However, to the extent that narcissism remains as a location in the psychic apparatus, I hardly think that considering it a dis-ease is the best formulation. Instead, I want to emphasize that in drive theory, narcissism is a developmental phase of infant growth. It may well be seen as the condition in which the ego grows to become the persona that we think we are.