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A Healthy Ego...yes, there is such a thing!

Freud described the ego as the part that is in contact with the external world*

In common usage, the ego is seen as a hinderance to humility and even the driver of power-over others. In working with a needs-based approach to therapy, I've noticed a theme which stands in the way of recovery, hence this myth-busting article.

Most of us were raised to believe our needs don't matter, or that speaking our needs is egotistical or selfish. This is especially the case for those who have experienced childhood or sexual abuse, but applies to us all due to enculturation of survival (Dr Rachel Hannam explains).

A healthy ego is necessary to identify "what is okay and what is not okay with me" (Brene Brown's definition of boundaries). The key words here are "with me". What's not okay with me is experienced at the level of interception (inward bodily experiencing). It is based on the multitude of factors known only to you, including your history, likes and dislikes, and the experiences leading up to that moment.

"What's not okay with me" is also influenced by structural factors such as the family I was born to, the country I was born to, and the social setting in which I live, but the identification of it remains the same... it's an interoceptive recognition.

Where do you experience "what's not okay with me?" Many answer "in my gut". In some cases, it is described as nausea, "sick to my stomach", churning, panic or upward-ness. Some will experience it "in their loins" (anatomically, the hip flexors / iliopsoas). This contraction is nature's way of protecting our soft underbelly, the most vulnerable part of the human body.

An aspect of "not okay with me" also registers in the head. Often a sense of confusion or trickiness. A challenge to make it make sense. You may find yourself running over it mentally, trying to "put your finger on" what's "not sitting well".

These are all extremely helpful clues that something it not okay with you. Please listen to it.

In many cases, the social complexity may take a while to tease out. This is where a journalling exercise will help hold the thought long enough to work it out.

Here's an example of the formula I use. It's a conversation between my inner child (Lexi) and my inner parent / adult (Alexis) using the framework provided by Dr Marshall Rosenberg's Non-Violent Communication. See if you can pick it:

Lexi: Hey Mum, something feels weird and creepy about what happened back there.

Alexis: You're right. Let's listen to it.

Lexi: Can you explain what happened please so I can get it clear in my head?

Alexis: Great idea. Let's start with the facts.

  1. He said "xxx"

  2. We said "yyy"

  3. He did XXX

  4. And we did YYY

Lexi: Yup. That's what happened.

Alexis: How did you feel when that happened?

Lexi: I felt awkward and itchy and uncomfortable.

Alexis: What did you need?

Lexi: I needed safety, respect, acknowledgement and mutuality.

Alexis: Great job. As you parent, it's my job to protect your needs.

Lexi: I'd really like that.

Alexis: I'll let him know how we felt, what we needed and ask him next time to ZZZ.

This process helps identify the health ego. The healthy ego recognises what's okay and what's not okay with me. I cannot emphasise this enough.

The healthy ego is indeed the inner parent / inner adult. The healthy ego is that part that provides necessary protection. Protection is necessary because we are all vulnerable to harm. I hear stories of real harm in my clinic every day.

"It is not what happens that determines our lives. It's what we do about it."

The healthy ego can transform a victim-perspective into a hero-perspective. Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins are living examples of this.

You can use this conversation between your inner child and inner parent / adult to transform any experience which "was not okay with you".

I invite you to test it on an easy one...something that has been on your mind today.

And then try it on a really hard one...something that has been sitting inside you for decades.

You may be surprised at how "held", "safe" and "contained" you feel by your inner adult / inner parent. Even those with less-than-good-enough-parents draw from teachers, neighbours, therapists or other family members to provide secure inner parenting.

Of course, please call on a trusted friend or therapist to help in the case of panic, overwhelm, fear or dissociation.

In today's mentally-aware society, none of us need suffer alone.

You can book in with me for any of my trauma-informed services, including naturopathy, remedial massage and yoga therapy using the BOOK NOW button on my home page.

*For those interested in the natal chart, the ego takes the 'flavour' of the constellation which sits on the left hand horizon ie the rising sign / ascendent. Please speak with me directly if you are interested to explore this further.


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