Questing and the Ego

FOR WEEKS it has been my intention to pull together all my Carl Jung notes on the ego into a semi-erudite article, to follow on from my earlier attempts on the Shadow and the Heros’s Journey. However, my overthinking quota is up for this week, so I’ll stick instead to my own observations.

The ego refers to that part of the conscious psyche that deals with survival and how we fit into the world. As we grow from childhood into adulthood, it generally becomes corrupted by the banishment of undesirable traits into the unconscious (the Shadow – I deal with this elsewhere). I suppose this is why the word ‘ego’ has such a bad press – it has come to be associated with unhealthy egos (dickheads).

In eastern philosphy, the ego is regarded as something that must be transcended in order for us to become enlightened. We are but specks and life is but a meandering river of infinite possibilities. Not everything is knowable.

Western philosophers, on the other hand, gave us the idea of the questing hero. Now it’s all about pursuing – and winning. Life is there for the taking, if you’ve got the self-belief to do it. The wealth of infinite possibilties resides within you and anything that is not knowable does not exist.

Both schools of thought are unrealistic because they cherry-pick (they are also not comparing like with like). Transcending the ego is nigh on impossible for most folks and overemphasis on control and self-determination takes no account of the fact that our lives are mostly dictated by the random and unexpected. Neither will equip us for the road ahead.

There is a time and a place for both ways of being. Even the I-ching recognises that there are moments in time when it is appropriate to act and others where you must sit back in the knowledge you have done all you can. It’s about knowing when to ride the waves and when to let oneself be carried by them. The problem with today’s culture is that the ‘answer’ often lies in putting the sea in a more convenient place.

It still amazes me how religiously some philosophers stick to one camp or the other. From personal experience, I would agree with Jung that in the transition to psychic wholeness, the ego becomes integrated with other parts of the psyche rather than killed off (which only creates more shadow anyway, so what’s the point?).

A healthy middle ground is achievable.

Being a self-professed Quester, I am keenly aware of the pitfalls of taking a ‘hero’s journey’ approach to life, such as taking it or myself too seriously or using it to set myself apart. If an element of ego were not present at all, then literally I would not be able to achieve the level of propulsion required to do something that goes against the grain (how much worse would my procrastination be without it!). As long as I am able to hold my hands up and admit to my mistakes, then at least for now I regard my own ego as being in a healthy balance with the rest of my psyche (there’s plenty room for improvement, believe me). This also involves knowing when it’s time to take a break, slow down and acknowledge when it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Dealing with the unknown and making things up as you go along is a lot of fun when you learn to let go of controlling the outcome.

It is only when operating from a position of protectionism and fear that the ego becomes unhealthy. For me a healthy ego is able to stand in its own power, while acknowledging and respecting the ability of others to do the same, on the understandng that all are equal in the service of the Whole. For want of a better word, this is Love.

Reality check October 2020

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I KNOW, I know, to all appearances I’ve well and truly lost the plot.

Maybe so, but I sleep at night …

While on paper my prospects are looking increasingly bleak (whose aren’t these days?), I am more at peace with myself than I have ever been in my entire life. That’s because, for better or worse, I stand in my own truth, noone else’s. And I’m past caring who knows what about me.

This time last year I was on three different sleep medications. Since March (touch wood), I have slept like a baby. That’s even with the continuation of my dystonia symptoms, which started two and a half years ago and are still affecting my speech.

This time last year, I overcame what little fear of death I had. This year, I have overcome the fear of what might happen to me if I do this or do that, say this or say that. I have stopped apologising for being what people expect me to be. I am proud to be a misfit.

Among other things, I have learned to be more accepting of things as they are. I still plan ahead lke a maniac but I take things one week, not months, at a time.

It goes without saying that the course I have charted for myself is a stressful one. But it would be a damn sight worse for my mental health were I continuing to do it covertly. I have spent half a lifetime hiding and I’m done with it. Now the only reason I have to keep my cards close to my chest is for want of not giving away spoilers.

I must point out that fulfillng my life purpose does not hang on what Mr Butler does next. Now that I have got that first hurdle out of the way, that is daring to speak his name, there’s a lot I can get on with in the short term while waiting for some kind of response (without holding my breath), bearing in mind that I won’t be at liberty to discuss it in real time (or possibly ever), if or when that occurs.

I don’t need any one particular outcome to succeed. There’s any number of ways this could pan out and these are only the ones I’ve thought of. I am slowly but surely finding myself and that is what it’s all about. The journey IS the destination.

Anyway, on a therapeutic level, I must be doing something right. There’s a lot to be said for being true to yourself. To anybody still harbouring any notion that you cannot be who you were born to be AND a paid up member of society, financial constraints to one side, you really should try it some time.

Open letter to Gerry Butler II

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Dear Gerry

Twenty-five years almost to the day since your mythic departure from Scotland. Twenty-five years since we parted company and my life was turned on its head in ways even you could not possibly imagine. You helped make me the person I am today, so for that you have my heartfelt gratitude.

Thing is, I really need your help. Over the past seven years, I have written a memoir that is nearly ready to publish. It’s one of those stories that has to be told and you are the inciting incident. As with any inspirational memoir, others will benefit from it, only I don’t have the resources to iron out some of the legal issues.

I am so sorry to go public with this but my circumstances dictate that I have to. In the spirit of self-healing, please will you at least read it? I have just published the first two chapters on my website at mkmacinnes.com. For what it”s worth, there’s also a trailer.

Yours in good faith
Morgan

Chocolat

CHOCOLATE is made up of over 200 individual chemical compounds. Some of them are pleasant-tasting, while some of them literally taste like shit. Combined, they make chocolate, well, taste lke chocolate. Needless to say, by the time it becomes a finished product, the compostion changes and a few other things are added or removed, but let’s forget about that part, or my analogy will fall down!

If you were to fiddle with the recipe of your favorite chocolate product on the basis that individually some of the compounds were real nasty, there’s every chance you would think it wasn’t chocolate any more.

Yet submitting the human personality to this cherry-picking exercise from birth is considered normal, indeed necessary for the functioning of society, with the result that we are no longer as unique or whole as we potentially were when we came into the world. We all have some experience of how this sad state of affairs pans out. For many, it creates a feeling of worthlessness, as they spend a lifetime measuring themselves against everybody else.

Psychosynthesis, or individuation, is a process whereby we can reclaim those aspects of ourselves that have been suppressed or lost. Each path is unique, there is no one size fits all. The journey is long and arduous but rewarding.

You may already be undertaking such a journey. Or maybe not. Either way, next time you turn to a rich, sticky, yummy chocolate dessert to make yourself feel better, with every bite you take, repeat the words “I AM the chocolate!” ( though maybe not with your mouth full 😆).

Open letter to Gerry Butler

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Dear Gerry

Twenty-five years almost to the day since your mythic departure from Scotland. Twenty-five years since we parted company and my life was turned on its head in ways even you could not possibly imagine. You helped make me the person I am today, so for that you have my heartfelt gratitude.

Thing is, I really need your help. Over the past seven years, I have written a memoir that is nearly ready to publish. It’s one of those stories that has to be told and you are the inciting incident. As with any inspirational memoir, others will benefit from it, only I don’t have the resources to iron out some of the legal issues.

I am so sorry to go public with this but my circumstances dictate that I have to. In the spirit of self-healing, please will you at least read it? I have just published the first two chapters on my website here. For what it”s worth, there’s also a trailer here.

Yours in good faith
Morgan

THE LOST SECRET (first two chapters)

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For reasons that I won’t go into here, I have decided to scrap any attempt to sell my ‘mini-book’ on Amazon. Why it’s only two chapters and only on Kindle needs too much explanation. Instead, it is available here via the link below. This may be temporary, it may be permanent, I don’t know. We’ll see where this goes.

You can read the first two chapters here.

Although this offering is free, donations are gratefully accepted.