Rio Chama Publications

The Rio Chama Blog

The blog page offers holistic information regarding all facets of healing—be it emotional, spiritual, mental, or physical. We welcome your participation: email us your questions and comments regarding posted information or add a comment to the blog.

Is Your Ego Too Big? Should It Be Gotten Rid Of?

The answer to both questions is no.  Behavioral research now shows that the ego not only is real but is also responsible for two very important jobs. It keeps us alive and gives us a sense of self. Just as we physically grow up, our egos have to grow up as well. When the growing doesn’t happen, the ego unable to cope with life’s contingencies, resorts to detrimental behaviors and emotional mayhem. On the other hand, scientific data solidly indicates that as the ego emotionally matures, spirituality emerges as its natural companion.

Nonetheless, the mythical ego is often viewed as a spiritual culprit. Early on in my clinical practice I was surprised by the number of clients who came to my office confused about feeling depressed after months and even years devoted to one spiritual practice or another. I had naively figured that those who pursued such paths had built in constitutions suited to the task. Even more distressing were those who came after the downfall of a guru. Burned by the aftermath of a leader gone wrong, too often the client’s focus turned to “getting rid of ego.” Reactions of feeling bummed out, disappointed, or angry were considered ego bound and did not pave the way to enlightenment.

This is not to argue with the way in which Eastern philosophies speak about the ego or refer to its demise. This is about what psychological theory and research from the Western perspective have to say about this important facet of our psyche that shows itself from the moment of our births. And the purpose of this blog is to show how solid investment in ego growth can change your life for the better including having loving relationships that support your individuality. Being spiritual is not equivalent to a monk-like sacrificial existence.

Recent Comments
Super User
It has been a lifelong habit to believe that when things get tough, such as distress in relationships, people’s egos can take over... Read More
Tuesday, 16 October 2012 14:24
Super User
What can parents do to help children develop a healthy sense of self?
Tuesday, 16 October 2012 14:26
Super User
Excellent question! #1 The more you learn about growing up your ego and apply what you know to yourself, the more you will advance... Read More
Tuesday, 16 October 2012 14:26
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The How To

Each of us has our own story as to the amount of nurturing we received very early in life…from parental separation and/or abuse to consistent loving emotional interactions. The fledging ego, like a plant in the seedling stage that is the fortunate recipient of the right nutrients grows into healthy expression. But when the seedling is either denied what is needed for its growth or is actually assaulted in its vulnerable plight, the internalization of nurturing experiences does not occur and the child does not know the repair of shame. Such a child feels separate and disconnected. However, given the right conditions, the ego can and will grow. Here are four behaviors parents can employ in promoting secure bonding with their infants.

Touch and Holding

b2ap3_thumbnail_17317890_s.jpgDecades ago psychologists advised parents not to touch and hold infants more than necessary. In fact they told parents to not rock infants; to not pick them up when they cry; to feed them by the clock; and not to spoil them with too much handling. Quite to the contrary, behavioral research now shows that to foster secure bonding infants need to be held, touched, rocked, and cradled to the heart’s content of anyone within their reach.

Mirroring

When we look down at an infant in her crib with the understanding that she uses our facial expressions as a way of learning about herself, we are involved in what researchers refer to as mirroring. When an infant sees Mom smile, mirror neurons in specific brain regions tell her to imitate and smile back. By the same token when Mom is irritable or sad, the infant takes on a worried look and tenses her body. Imagine Mom looking into the infant’s eyes, her gaze communicating the wonder she feels for this little being of hers. This infant takes this in, and in grown-up language the printout reads, “I belong. I have a place. I am irreplaceable.” Similarly, the cooing, singing, and soft words spoken by caretakers cushion her world, adding to the experience of her sense of belonging and being valued for exactly who she is.

Attunement

As the infant learns to sit and crawl mirroring expands into attunement. This powerful dynamic is present when the exchanges between the infant and Mom and Dad become increasingly emotionally interactive and contingent. A contingent response occurs when the quality, intensity, and timing of the infant’s signal or communication are reflected back to her. In other words, her parents align their emotional states with hers. What parental behaviors actually occur when the infant “feels felt by the other?” Eye contact, tone of voice, facial expression, body gestures, posture, timing and intensity become a gestalt as moment-to-moment feelings and sensations are echoed back to her. The infant clasps the rattle, gives it a shake, and grins.  Dad pretends he has a rattle in his hand, gives it a shake, and grins.  A smile is met with a smile, a frown with a look of concern, a funny face with a funny face and tears with soothing sound. The effect on the infant? “Mom and Dad are getting it. They understand what I feel. We’re connected.” Through the juice of parental contingency, the infant comes to know her emotions are part of human experience, that feelings are natural, and that she lives in a world of feeling shared by others. The richness of these emotion-filled-resonant moments not only fire connections of new neural cells within the infant’s developing brain, they bring balance to her body, emotions, and mind states as well as coherence to her sense of self.

Self-Soothing

The infant thus internalizes her relationship with her caretakers which then establishes an inner base of consistent nurturing. What this means is that her maturing brain organizes her experience of being soothed and held so they live inside her. More and more as her mental powers expand, she begins to draw on the memory of those experiences, turning to them when Mom and Dad are not immediately present to comfort her. This experience of self-soothing, with whatever sensory components and imagery overtones it carries, anchors the ego with an essential touchstone for the rest of life.

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