Rescue Journal

i remembered something from my teenage years

Alison  ·  Oct. 30, 2006

i was having a discussion with someone and ego came up. ego always comes up in rescue discussions, it is the most effective way to knock someone down when you can't find anything else to pick on them about. does ego come into rescue? always, lets face it ego is a huge part of being human and to pretend it isn't is to put the blinders on. the truth is i am proud of what we have accomplished here at saints. it was really hard work, and from my perspective, it has been really well done. there is no point in denying this. i am proud of the fact that most of the animals are happy and do well here and i am willing to bet that if someone from the outside of all of that hard work and sacrifice who hasn't walked in our shoes, started taking pot shots, they would quickly would end up on my not so favorite person list.

my mother told me when i was a teenager that if i wasn't part of the solution, i was part of the problem. i remember that and now everyone says this. she also told me about ego (my mother was a perpetual life long student while she worked fulltime and raised her family. by the time she died in her early sixties, she had her masters degree) what she told me about ego was...ego only becomes a problem if you don't know it is there. when you invest a large portion of yourself into something and give it your all, there is alot of yourself and your ego wrapped up in whatever it is you are doing. ego drives you forward, ego makes you give your absolute best and ego is not a bad thing. ego becomes a problem when it is denied. once it is denied, you lose sight of the original goal and it becomes a self perpetuating prophesy of secretly feeding the ego hidden from view. i don't know if anyone has ever read ann rand (my mother made me read her). i read her way back when, so maybe my memory is a little flaweed here, but what i remember about her books was an underlying philosophy that being selfish and self centered and ego driven was not such a bad thing. it accomplished alot of good things.

i have been thinking since last night about ego, and where it comes into play here...i do know it is here simply because i got pretty upset (after the fact) when told a couple of visitors with outdated knowledge judged us in a negative way . bottom line if i am being honest, is, they were judging us in a way i (or my ego) did not like. so now i know my ego is alive and well at saints. i don't like feeling judged, it ticks me off. is the crunch in what i think determines if ego is healthy or not. we as a group or as an individual, know and see when an animal is not doing well here and needs something else. we know and see a great many things here that we can (and will) do better when we have more volunteers and funding. i personally have unwritten rules in place to protect my ego and everyone elses here...anyone who willingly invests blood, sweat and tears into saints has a say in how we progress and how we improve but if they are not willing to make that investment then while questions and suggestions and new ideas are always welcome, quick little superficial judgements without solutions are not. that is my ego doing it's work to protect us from negative thinkers whose own egos might very well be hungry and need some food.

when we think of altruistic acts, we think of acts given freely without agendas or payments, that is how, deep down inside me, i really want to be. but i am not. i am a human being who likes to feel good about the things i work hard to accomplish, my ego wants to feel good too. is that such a very bad thing?



Heavy stuff for a Monday morning....."ego is only a problem if you don't know it's there" - how true! Never thought of it that way. Ego is a problem if a person is SO focused on their own wants, needs and desires that they are unable to listen to, understand, or help to meet (when necessary) another's needs. So there's a sense of ethics and morals in ego - to me, a person who WILL NOT put aside their own wants and desires to pitch in during another's time of crisis is unethical and immoral. (That said, I left out "needs" - I think we have to take care of our own critical needs first in order for us to be able to give to others).
Where was I going with this? Oh yes: another concept which links into your discussion of ego is "cognitive dissonance" - when the actions we take don't measure up to what we think we are like or what we think we "should" be like. It creates discomfort which causes us to either change our actions or change our beliefs so the two are in sync. A person who doesn't know ego is there probably doesn't experience cognitive dissonance because they would be likely to only act in ways that fit their own preconceived little world, and therefore don't end up with those "oh sheesh I should have" or "I shouldn't have" types of moments. A little cognitive dissonance is a good thing, because it causes us to think about our values and our actions, and determine if the two are in harmony.
Protecting our ego, when we strive to be moral and ethical people, also means protecting ourselves from too much cognitive dissonence and the anxiety/discomfort it creates - if there is too much difference between how we believe we should live our lives and how others tell us we should live it (even if their position is misinformed or outdated), and if we accept their evaluation of our faults and start changing our behaviours or our thoughts because someone tells us to, then our self confidence is underminded and we are unable to continue to meet the goals we have set for ourself. One needs a strong ego, but a reflexive one, to be a good person. And one also needs to be able to put part of one's ego aside in order to hear and evaluate criticism, to help others in need at inconvenient times, and to grow as a person.
Although I am not a fan of Freud, his concept of id, ego, superego is an interesting one. I think of it like the old Archie comics where Archie's head has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. His head is his ego - the socialized self. The devil is the ID - the selfish, "I want it NOW" self. The angel is the superego - the "you should do this" voice, or the conscience. Some people have a whole lot of ID (your mom's idea of ego when people don't know they have ego?), and some people have too much superego (too many voices telling them what they "should" be doing and how they are not living up to that golden standard). In reality, ego needs to be empowered - to have a confidence that we are meeting our own needs, solving our own problems, and mobilizing necessary resources to take control of our own lives in a way which is informed and realistic and does no harm to others.


so very true on all of that. i am very proud of what saints does and that i am given the gift of being part of that. i didn't realize how 'possessive' and protective i was of saints until this week. it actually made me laugh a little (after the redness left my face). i'm treating it as a great learning experience in both interpersonal skills and animal rescue.