Occasionally, A wrong idea will become popular. This article is mainly about asking you to reconsider the Freudian concept of ego.
There surely has been a time in your life when you defended rationality with some energy. Let me remind you of such a time.
When an author wishes to introduce a new term into the lexicon, there are four features that must be built into the definition of such a term:
1. A definition must name the term being defined and provide a description of that term.
2. The term being defined must not appear in the description of that term. Using the term being defined in the description of that term is circular.
3. Other than the term being defined, the meaning of each term used in a definition must be known to the audience before that definition is stated.
4. The term being defined and the description of that term must be interchangeable. It must be clear that the term and its description have exactly the same meaning.
Here is an example: A hydrocarbon is a compound consisting only of carbon and hydrogen.
"A hydrocarbon"is the term being defined, and "a compound consisting only of carbon and hydrogen" is the description. Other sentence structures are possible, but both the term being defined and its description must be somewhere in the statement.
The term "hydrocarbon" does not appear in the description.
The meaning of each of the terms in the description are known before the definition is written.
The term being defined and the description of that term are interchangeable. They mean the same thing.
Sigmund Freud lived from 1856 to 1939.
Refusing a prize for literature, Sigmund Freud claimed that he was a scientist, even though he repeatedly insisted that his theory of the unconscious should not be held to the standards and methods of empirical science.
I am saddened by the fact that the public has been led to believe that one can never purge the presumed workings of the ego as explained by Freud, even though, as Freud himself has said, people are not born with an ego.
In the nineteen fifties and sixties, heads of American college departments of psychology were typically proponents of Freud's theories, but there are no such people heading up those departments today. This is because his theories are not testable, and departments of psychology must obtain their wisdom from scientific evidence. Much of the public, who by and large have not studied Freud, are impressed by the profitable practice of psychoanalysis brought about by Freud; and of course, the practitioners have no motive to reexamine Freud's reasoning.
Fortunately, psychotherapy is being gradually replaced. According to a ptsd guideline website linked below, "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychological treatment that has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of problems including depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness. Numerous research studies suggest that CBT leads to significant improvement in functioning and quality of life. In many studies, CBT has been demonstrated to be as effective as, or more effective than, other forms of psychological therapy or psychiatric medications."
When one is accused of having an ego, it could mean any of various failings are in the character of the accused. These characteristics include being vain, being selfish, being self-possessed, seeking glory, feeling that it is all about one's self, feeling that it's ME before everyone else, seeking the limelight, taking all the credit, or being in some way better than others.
If one or more of these faults exist in you, each one can be eliminated from your behavior and feelings without believing that the ego manages these characteristics, and this can be done without believing the unproven theory of the ego's permanence. According to many interpreters of Freud's theories, the ego can only be restrained and never cured. Belief in the ego as the permanent organizer of such a collection of tendencies is damaging and wrong.
Before the time of Freud, the word ego was thought of only as a Latin synonym for the word self. Immanuel Kant used it as a philosophical term for the mind's ability to unify all of its perceptions. Then, Freud started in on his three or so attempts to describe the ego.
Rather than say that a person has an ego, it would be kinder, more accurate, and less offensive to tell that person that he or she is too self aggrandizing, or tries to take all the credit, or whatever the particular failing may actually be. Why? It is because the word carries with it a lot of hopeless baggage that impedes self love and diminishes hope of a cure.
Out of My System: Psychoanalysis, Ideology, and Critical Method by Frederick Crews
Seductive Mirage: An Exploration of the Work of Sigmund Freud by Allen Esterson
Maelzel's Chess Player: Sigmund Freud and the Rhetoric of Deceit by Robert Wilcocks
The Memory Wars: Freud's Legacy in Dispute by Frederick Crews
Freud's Wishful Dream Book by Alexander Welsh
Freud: The Making of an Illusion by Frederick Crews
The Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique by Adolf Grünbaum