SUPER-CHARGE YOUR EGO-STRENGTH
~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD and Shawn Dwyer, ACMC ~
What we call ego-strength is the strength that a person has in his or her sense of self to look reality in the face without blinking. It is the strength that enables a person to face a challenge in life or an upsetting circumstance and not cave in. With ego-strength you are able to stand up to the negative circumstances, stand up against what you might be tempted to do (give up, quit, etc.), and demonstrates an inner strength of determination, patience, persistence, and resilience. That’s what we mean by the term ego-strength. It has nothing to do with pride, arrogance, selfishness, etc.
If that’s ego-strength, do you have that kind of internal strength? How much of it do you have today? How much of it would you like to have?
Without ego-strength people react. They may passive shrink away or they may aggressively over-react with unthinking actions. Both the fight and flight responses, however, are the opposite of ego-strength. Now all of this becomes critical when it comes to knowing if your client is truly a coaching client or someone who needs therapy. Therapy is designed to heal traumas and hurts and enable one to build up a new and strong sense of self.
Coaching requires ego-strength from the start- ego-strength to be able to handle the challenges that are inherent in coaching.
Clarity about “Ego”
We are all born without any ego-strength because we are all born without a sense of ego or self. There is no “I” at first, there is enmeshment. Baby does not distinguish self from mother. For the infant, it is all one and the same. The word “ego” is Greek for “I” or “me.” Open up a version of the Greek New Testament and every time someone says, “I am…” it is the Greek word ego. Sigmund Freud designated ego as the sense of self, the “I” that deals with and relates to reality.
Normally our ego-strength grows and develops as we grow and develop as persons. It’s part of our psycho-cognitive-social development. We develop more and more of a sense of self as we face reality. As that “I” develops the ability to see and accept reality for whatever it is, without the magical thinking of wishing and confusing our wishing with reality, we have more strength to cope and master the facts and constraints before us.
Weak ego-strength means a senses of self that does not easily face, take in, or cope with life’s challenges. A weak sense fo self fights reality, hates it, and wishes it to be otherwise. Expectations are unrealistic and based on inadequate understanding. Reality seems too big, too frightening, too overwhelming … and so we avoid the encounter. Weak ego-strength means that the person doesn’t feel up to the task and so unresourceful, weak, fragile, unable to cope, etc.
Strong ego-strength describes the person who first accepts whatever is as existing, then it looks at it and explores it with a view of dealing with it, coping and mastering it. With strong ego-strength you do not personalize the things out there in the world or what others say or do. You notice and you access the necessary resources to deal with it. The strong your ego-strength grows, the more of a sense of self we develop, a sense of your skills and resources, of your ability to handle whatever comes.
Ego on the line
This use of “ego” differs from how we sometimes use the word, as when we say, “He has his ego involved” in this or that. Then we are speaking about his self-definition, his pride, and his reputation. Typically this indicates a weak ego strength and the need to boaster it up by fighting and defending and being defensive. The stronger our ego, the less our “ego” is
involved, or on the line. Strengthening our ego-strength enables us to sit our “ego” aside and to engage the world in a straightforward way.
Strengthening Our Ego-Strength
Suppose you want to strengthening your ego, what do you do? What patterns enables you to do that? What frames, beliefs, values, expectations, etc. would support you doing that? Start with the following four.
First, meta-stating yourself with acceptance. Access the state of acceptance and apply that feeling to your “self.” Think of something small and simple that you just accept. You could get yourself worked up about it, even furious and frustrated, but you have learned to just go along and accept it. The rain, the traffic, changing the baby’s diaper, taking out the garbage, etc. What is that like? Feel that and reflexively turn that feeling back onto yourself- your sense of self, life, the cards that life has dealt you, when and where you were born, your aptitudes and lack of aptitudes, etc. Acceptance is not necessarily a positive feeling. It’s not resignation or condoning, it is welcoming something into your world without any negative fanfare.
Second, look at your self-expectancies and expectancies of others, the world, work, etc. and adjust them so that you have a fairly accurate map about what is, how things work, and what you can legitimately expect. What have you mapped about yourself, people, relationships, fairness, life, etc.?
Every unrealistic expectation sets us up for a cognitive and semantic jar. If it is unrealistic, then you are trying to navigate and work in a world that is an illusion and that will knock you down. This is where and why learning and developing greater understandings about things increases your ego-strength. Knowing what is, how things work, the rules and principles of people, relationships, careers, etc. gives you the ability to adjust your thinking-and-emoting which increases ego-strength. It takes the surprise and shock out of being caught up short.
Stepping into Your Power Zone
Weak and strong ego-strength is related to your sense of personal power or the lack thereof. You increase it when you accept your personal responses of thinking, emoting, speaking, and behaving, meta-state them with a frame of ownership and then by welcoming and practicing the use of your powers, step more and more into your power zone. This increase self-efficacy, activity, proactivity, etc.
A fourth process for strengthening ego-strength is replace rigidity and closeness of mind with flexibility, willingness to accept change, and an openness to the flux and flow of life. The sense of insecurity predominates when you have a weak ego-strength. It is then that you don’t want things to change and we want things to stay the same. As you develop more personal security, you are more open to change and to adapting and to using your resources.
If you would like help with developing your inner strength, give me, Shawn a call on 0439194323