Ego Is Only a Supervisor in the Psyche

The source of personal wisdom and effective guidance in the psyche is the self, which comprises the emotionally important ideas that form our authentic character and worldview. However, human beings are a social species and must work together in various kinds of complex groups in order to survive. This means we need consciousness and the communication tool we call language. In turn, this means ego, the source of consciousness and language, must supervise the psyche. However, like a construction-site supervisor, the ego is not responsible for deciding what to build; it is not in charge of overall governing and course setting. Those more general functions are the purview of the self. Ego’s proper role is to be aware of the self and the genuine will that emerges from there. The old aphorism, “know thyself” is very apropos.

Odysseus and the Sirens

Odysseus resisting the song of the sirens symbolizes ego’s struggle with unconscious contents. (Image Wikimedia)

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The Virtuous Intellectual

A Mosaic Depicting Plato’ and His Academy

There are three important intellectual virtues, but you can still be an intellectual without them. (Image: public domain)

French philosopher and spiritual writer Antonin Sertillanges has described three virtues essential for the serious intellectual. I try to live by these virtues myself, or at least, by a slightly modified version, and have expanded Sertillanges’ brief definitions to make the merits more clear.


Nothing is more useful for an intellectual than the quality of being unchanging or unwavering in purpose. This does not mean you cannot sidle off on a diversion when you stumble on something intriguing. Nor does it mean you must carve your goal in stone. It does mean you must maintain some overarching goal that has enough flexibility to allow for adjustments as the work progresses. Without such a goal, you are unlikely to accomplish much and run the risk of getting lost among the tempting possibilities encountered along the way. A goalless intellectual fritters away the concentrated effort needed to put together a complete work or viable set of new ideas.

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Repressed Wishes Can Sink You

For all the blocked writers and troubled individuals out there, here is something useful from Susan Quinn’s biography of psychologist Karen Horney. The book is titled, A Mind of Her Own. Quinn writes, “Only guilt feelings toward repressed wishes have an inimical influence on life, restrictive, making for illness.” In other words, all other psychological (as opposed to medical) scenarios are not severe enough to generate mental illness. Anyone who enters psychoanalysis is feeling guilty about repressed wishes. Many people not in analysis have the same problem.

Traveller with a staff leaning into a stiff headwind.

Trying to press on when you want to do something else can feel like battling a stiff headwind. You are waging war on yourself.

Once someone has entered analysis there are four key aspects to the procedure:

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