Me, Myself, and My Ego

I’ve been pondering Eddie Stern’s deftly ironical response to the New York Times article (you know the one). Eddie’s link to “ego” caught my attention. It’s a link directly to a PDF of Anna Freud’s The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (1937). In a bit of a drive-by move, Eddie points out that,

The temptation to argue Broad’s article paragraph by paragraph is hard to resist. For example, yoga teacher Glenn Black’s repeated, incorrect use of the word ‘ego‘, (as if it is something that needs to be gotten rid of, which is not at all a yogic concept).

I’m saying this is a bit of drive-by move, because it leaves me hanging. Since I pointed out in my own response that it’s my ego that does the wrecking, Eddie’s made me rethink that.

The word “ego” as we have it from Freud is one head of a three-part beast (the ego, the superego, and the id, which make up who we are). It’s come down to us yogis as a pejorative term, but as Anna Freud points out,

The ego wards off unpleasure and anxiety, and exercises control over impulsive behavior, affects, and instinctive urges.

That sounds like a good thing, right? Both Beck and I use it incorrectly. When I say, it was my ego that tore my meniscus, it should have been my ego that stopped me from tearing my meniscus.

Sigmund and Anna Freud. Neither of them tore my meniscus.

So what do we mean? It struck me that using ego that way is a simple cop out. Freud (Sigmund now, not daughter Anna) got the term from Latin. In Latin, “ego” is just the first person pronoun. So, what I really mean by, “It wasn’t yoga that tore my meniscus. It was my ego,” is “It wasn’t yoga that tore my meniscus. I tore my meniscus.” 

Thanks, Eddie. You’re so punk rock.

Posted by Bobbie

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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