The issue is building out the ego without building it up.
This image is another of those parables, because the human ego has no physical dimensions. However, we are aware of people whose ego has become monumentally large. To some degree it will always be fragile when it’s too narrowly focused and tall, because it’s not designed for that. There’s a constant risk of toppling. But most of us are aware of an ego that has included a lot more territory, because it makes someone more stable and open. You feel safe coming closer to such people because they aren’t fragile, but seem full of richness. They can afford to flex more than most people.
It’s not hard to find fault with Freudian theories, but his breakdown of the self into ego, superego and ID has entered the cultural lingo. Sometimes it’s roughly equivalent to what we can teach. So the ego is the conscious traffic manager for all the activity inside your head. You’ll get some demands from the ID but it’s more accurate to call that the fleshly nature, often found in the New Testament as “the flesh.” The superego is an overly active conscience connected to the wrong source.
In other words, Freud’s psychoanalytic model is wrong because it’s both incomplete and was frankly based on evaluating only crazy people to come up with his norms. Freud did no research with well adjusted adults to get a control group against which to compare his clients. But there are no clinical studies by anyone anywhere that take seriously the assumptions in the Bible, so far as I have read. The closest anyone has come so far is the Rose Meade School of Psychology, and even that one is flawed with being deeply devoted to Western norms, not the Hebrew mystical norms in the Bible.
We need an ego that doesn’t take itself too seriously, an ego that knows it is permanently broken by the Fall. We need for the ego to settle the unfinished business of childhood sufficiently to move forward into embracing reality as God made it. This is a process that must be pursued consciously.
As was famously explained by Dr. Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled, most egos struggle with cathexis as an involuntary exercise. Instead of moving the ego boundaries out deliberately, something seizes the emotional insecurities of unfinished childhood and causes those boundaries to collapse. It’s a temporary infatuation — typically “falling in love” — and everything is beautiful. Our personality changes and everyone notices, but eventually those boundaries snap back into place. We are left with a sour taste as this false infatuation crumbles into reality. That sort of romance stinks, but it breeds an endless cycle of bad romances that hit us rather like drugs to which our body quickly becomes accommodated so that we need a new drug to get us high again. This is how people become for us like bad drugs, because we have no idea how to build relationships.
But we can be just as broken with anything, not just people. An improper cultural expectation about anything in this world can cause this same roller-coaster ride that always ends in a crash. It’s not that people and things are bad, but we approaching it all wrong. Even if we conclude that we are bad, it’s the false understanding of “bad” that makes us continue on the wrong path.
We are bad, but the real problem is that we have walked away from the revelation of God. The essence of the Fall was rejecting revelation in favor of human reason. We are convinced that our minds can handle all the important questions in life, and that arrogance covers up a serious weakness — we are actually not at all capable. Indeed, the moment we reach for logic, we are deceived into thinking it’s actually possible to use it for anything that matters. Even for things that don’t matter, logic is a broken tool in our hands. Without revelation, logic itself is deeply flawed. The choice to trust logic closes us off from so much of what God gave us, and creates this massive lump of subconsciousness that was previously wide open.
The ego has descended into the brain and is no longer able to comprehend the traffic that runs through its focus. It cannot discern pure selfish emotions from the truth of God. Instead, it concludes that the self is God.
Talk about your monumental egos…