Capable Capable
Capable Capable

A well-balanced ego-function

A year ago in my post titled, Achieving our country, I addressed America’s civilized vision of liberty, equality and justice to be reached by means of each citizen’s individual sovereignty. I also acknowledged how a nation unified by responsible autonomy practiced by all does not come easily. 

And it never has come easily. We were probably as fractious in 1788 as we are now. Perhaps we wore our quarrelsomeness as a badge of honor then, too. Indeed, it is a point of pride for many of us today that we defer to no one and nothing. For example, think about the cruelty that characterizes much public discourse or social media. 

However, don’t even the most ardent antagonists and naysayers defer to and hold dear some things? Don’t we defer to the fears, timidity and passions that live in our sub-rational determinism and to our own ego-sanctioned self-righteous prejudices? Don’t we defer to exclusionary privileges we deem earned by education, accrued power and influence, bloodline, virtue, wealth, regionalism, social standing, etc.? And don’t we hold dear our personal safety and the pleasures of a comfortable life? Don’t we wish the world to be a less frightening place for those who depend on us?

But it is a fact that many of us are not really intent upon achieving America’s historical civilized vision. Our irrational responsiveness makes sense to us and we see no reason to reset our hereditary, conditioned and patterned determinism though we suffer for it.

On the other hand, we who study Autonomy and Life do so because of a particular philosophic (and decidedly patriotic and loyal) light. Though well aware of the hard-wired determinism on which we are biologically situated, we are intent upon knowingly creating our perception and response, that is, on taking enlightened possession of ourselves. 

We accept that we are obligated as sovereign individuals to qualify our response to the demands of life, as well as to the automaticity and fractiousness of our immediacy. At the same time, we are committed to act on our responsibility for making what we can of the opportunity to create a life of our own design.

Said another way, the purpose of our discipline is twofold. It is to be found in the philosophic light it sheds on the autonomously managed life of our sovereign individuality. And it is to be found in the light it sheds on the ego-function’s influence on creating our perception of and response to what is present to our subjective consciousness. 

A well-balanced ego-function helps us to manage our behavior—our thoughts, feelings and motivations, our memories and beliefs as well as our judgments, decisions and actions. It helps us to consider arguments and opinions fairly and equally. However, a fragile ego, as I said in my aptly titled post, Egoistic pugilistics, is easily wounded and primed for a fight. 

In our contentious world and whipsawed between nature’s brute survival-at-any-cost programming and our nation’s vision of a free, equal and just life for everyone, each of us must work to balance our sovereign authority with the acceptance and cooperation required of citizen-subjects. As you know, I admire the presence of mind by which you are learning to do this.


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Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and the leader of its Retreat Workshops and Advanced Classes.