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Superego

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Superego

Disengaging from the Superego

It is relatively easy to see that much of our opaqueness, much of our lack of openness, much of our stuckness, is due to the attacks of the superego—ours and other people’s. These are the criticisms, the put-downs, the comparisons, the judgments, the devaluations, the blaming, the shaming, the rejection, and the hatred that the superego levels at you in all kinds of situations. Here the Red latifa can specifically be used in the service of inquiry, by giving us the strength to defend against the superego. Initially, we need to defend ourselves against these attacks by directly confronting them. This can happen through challenging the superego’s authority—by telling it to back off. Such an internal confrontation requires great strength and intelligence. Later, when the Red Essence is more readily available, it becomes possible to disengage from self-judgment simply by clearly discriminating it for what it is and not going along with it. Disengaging from the superego is, in essence, a separation from your parents—the parents you long ago internalized and have lived with in your mind ever since. This disengagement allows you to see more clearly what is there in your experience, because if you’re entangled with these attacks, you won’t even know what you’re experiencing or what has caused the attack in the first place.

In Order to Work Through Your Superego, You Must go all the way Down to that Pre-Verbal, Chaotic, Hellish, Negative Merged State

Besides forming the basis of projections—such as the superego projections we’ve just discussed—the merged state in the infant’s symbiotic phase has another important aspect that we call “negative merging.” When the child has negative experiences with the mother, the whole world is felt as negative. There’s no separation between the infant and the mother, so in that merged state the whole world is anger, or the whole world is frustration, or the whole world is fear. The negative experiences with the mother gradually coalesce and become one big thing that is isolated from the positive part of experience. This forms the basis of the negative judgments of the superego. You project your superego outside because in the beginning, the outside and the inside were one thing. Now when you experience the negative merged state, you cannot separate what is real inside from what is real outside, and your preference is to believe it’s outside. So you can see that in order to work through your superego, you must go all the way down to that pre-verbal, chaotic, hellish, negative merged state. And when you get down to that, you feel lost, you don’t know what is going on, there’s no firm place to stand. There are swamps wherever you turn—up, down, left, right—all swamps. That’s how you experience it; everything is negative. As you experience this fully, without defending against it, certain essential states arise to move you through this negativity and hell.  

Projecting One's Superego

A good arena within which to recognize, understand, and deal with the superego is in our relationships with others. This is primarily because one frequently projects one’s superego onto certain individuals, and relates to them as one does to one's own superego. Of course, this defense mechanism of projection helps to keep the superego unconscious, just as any defense mechanism does.

Recognizing and Defending Against the Superego

The first way works well during the stage one of the journey when our awareness is not strong, our presence is not developed, and our inquiry is not yet skillful. That’s when we need to directly defend ourselves, to own up to our aggression and to use its strength and energy to throw the superego out, to create space to be where we are. In this way, we defend ourselves consciously—by using our strength instead of erecting walls, defenses, and resistance to protect us from dangers of the superego. In the early years of our practice of being where we are, we need to constantly recognize the superego and its ploys and learn how to defend against them. Basically, we need to tell the superego where to go: “Who cares what you think? Go to hell.” Okay, so you feel deficient, and the superego keeps insisting that you’ll never amount to anything. You can tell it, “Good—if I’m never going to amount to anything, why are you bothering me? Go find somebody else.” This is a way of disengaging, but with strength, with energy, with awareness. 

Recognizing and Dissolving the Superego

The second stage of working with the superego begins after we have learned to defend against it with strength, boldness, and aggressiveness. These are energies that we have taken back and owned and therefore can use. Our awareness is now strong and clear, and our inquiry skills are sufficiently developed to prevent a superego attack from confusing us or putting us into a tailspin. At this point, using aggression to defend ourselves is less important; simply recognizing and understanding an attack can counter it. We can often dissolve an attack simply by knowing that the superego is attacking us and understanding why.

Superego Attacks Incompleteness

The superego does not usually attack you because Brilliancy is missing. Your superego doesn't know about Brilliancy, so it attacks you about whatever sense of deficiency it finds in your experience. Under normal circumstances, there is a misinterpretation of the hole, or lack of Brilliancy; it is not seen as the absence of a certain manifestation of your Being. Instead, your superego attacks you, saying you’re too short, your nose is crooked, you're dumb, you say things wrong, you never know which foot to put first—that kind of thing. That is the way your superego picks on you: It finds those little incompletenesses and attacks you for them. But when you understand that incompleteness has nothing to do with these things, you will have a deeper handle on your superego. Completeness happens by confronting and completely tolerating the incompleteness. So your superego, by attacking you for feeling incomplete, is really preventing you from getting closer and relaxing into your own true nature, which is complete.

Brilliancy, pg. 74

Superego Keeps the Unconscious Unconscious

The superego, as we have seen, is the first coercive agency that we encounter in working on ourselves, which we find to be invested in keeping the unconscious unconscious and which accomplishes this by disapproving of the unconscious material. So, our approach is to help the ego consciously defend itself against the attacks of the superego, and hence to eliminate this important part of the need for unconscious ego defense mechanisms. If this is done, some awareness of feelings and sensations will bring up the part of the unconscious disapproved of by the superego, now that the ego is not guarding against it.

Superego Once Protected Life

So the superego which was erected to preserve and protect life, becomes a coercive agency that leads to death, not only in the mental, emotional, and spiritual sense; but sometimes also in the physical sense, as in the case of psychosomatic illness and self-destructive behavior.

Superego Resists Changes to the Status Quo

The superego is that part of the person that maintains repression and fights any changes to the status quo. It is one of the main reasons why the ego defenses are needed (defending against painful ego states and maintaining ego structures being the others); and hence it is responsible for the presence of prejudices, overt and covert.

Systems Have a Superego

Whenever a person works within a certain system, the values and prejudices of that system are automatically incorporated into his superego, and in time become coercive agencies. Or, to put it more graphically, the individual develops the particular system's superego.

The Apex of the Psychic Structure

The superego is a structure that forms the apex of the psychic structure and includes the ideals of the personality and the principles of judgment. It is the seat of what is customarily called the conscience.

The Inner Coercive Agency

From our perspective, the superego is the inner coercive agency that stands against the expansion of awareness and inner development, regardless of how mild or reasonable it becomes. It is a substitute, and a cruel one, for direct perception and knowledge. Inner development requires that, in time, there be no internal coercive agencies. There will be, instead, inner regulation based on objective perception, understanding, and love.

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