Effect of Self-Awareness on Ego Functioning: A Perspective on Personality Development
Effect of Self-Awareness on Ego Functioning: A Perspective on Personality Development By Hena Jawaid, MD
~ 4 min read
An interesting phenomenon for psychological exploration among human beings is the combination of potential factors that motivate people to keep others in their surroundings perpetually happy and complacent.
Basic psychological theories, in one way or another, reveal that we possess a passionate love for ourselves1. We tend to see our reflections in others’ eyes. In doing so, we try to adhere with relations, where we see positive aspects of ourselves. We are tempted to make relations, which give us self-strength, boost our self-esteem and give us positive feedback 2. Positive relationships are just like ladders, which promote you and fill in personal deficits. We make an effort to climb this ladder seeing ourselves inflated with happiness and serenity 3. We improve through our positive relationships.
Foundation of Self-Structure and Related Associations
Every person has bi-directional terms with this world. One we hold with others and another connection which we have with ourself 4. It is a very paradoxical term to understand. The quality of the relationship with self is a direct measure of our relationships with the outer world. It is a measure of our tranquility and harmony within, which determines our behaviors towards others. The constant state of whining, complaining and apprehension is a direct reflection of our “intra-self relationship”.
In childhood, we often shape our personality structures by taking in personas of our parental figures to form the superego (which guides us towards right and wrong) 5. On the other hand, we are also bestowed with the “id” by nature. Between environment and innate opportunities we have to devise our own ways, called the ego 6. Ego is a state, which decides between two major powers that are super-ego (derivative of parental ideals and principles) and id (innate animalistic priorities) 7.
Measure of Ego Strength
When we have strong ego boundaries, it means that we know where we stand in context of different relationships 8. It denotes our clear understanding regarding self-strengths and weaknesses. It acts as a determinant to know the fundamentals of one’s personality and it manifests as “enhanced self-awareness” 9. However, a deprived childhood, parental discord or an early loss or death of any parental figure can lead to many problems in personality architecture.
One of the basic deformities would be a formation of impaired personal identity 10. The vague awareness regarding self can produce an urge to know more about the self. Here we come to the point, in these cases relationships provide us an enriched experience, so that we can see ourselves, we can know our identities, and we can validate our existence through others 11.
These relationships build us. The frequency of positive experiences or relationships gives us reassurance and reinforces positive healthy capabilities. Contrary to this, negative experiences and relationships thwart our growth as a person, it hinders our capacity to flourish, shine or progress 12.
Social Impact of Poor Self-Awareness
Throughout our life spans, we try to fill in frustrating gaps in order to keep pace with the impaired intersection of the harsh super-ego, poor ego functions and id. It is a universal phenomenon of human passion that we tend to repair the injured self-images and self-esteem. And this goes on for life.
- We seek positive regard in relations by avoiding conflicts, in order to obtain positive and compliant experiences from others (which earlier figures were not able to provide).
- We compromise on difficult situations.
- We frequently move out from our comfort zones to follow difficult pursuits in order to gain affectionate compliments.
An individual utilizes all these measures to fill up deficits of impaired self-structures.
Avoiding argumentative situations can be possible for a temporary period, but in the long run it is a pretty difficult job to do. In that case, relentless anxiety ensues whenever a person gets into conflicting situations. The eruption of minor or major conflicts is usually followed by a bout of impatience and frustration. The looming cognitive style renders one to believe in personal deficiency or insufficiency. The readiness to believe personal shortcomings is a variant of this pathology. Poor self-awareness reveals itself in different behaviors.
- Inability to keep others annoyed
- Inability to take negative remarks
- Inability to stand differences and feelings of incapacitation
Are We Standing in the Right Place?
The following questions can be considered here:
- Can we really repair deformed self-structures (ego, self esteem, confidence, awareness, ideals, identity and purpose)?
- Can urges of positive self-experience increase by expressing submissiveness/ adherence?
- Do we make strongholds of personality by avoiding judgment, arguments, conflicts or challenges?
- Does mindfulness of these needs offer any help?
We all realize that self-efficacy depends mostly upon identification of one’s own self. One can only cater to a true sense of self-sufficiency with differentiation and distinction.
Most of the learning experiences in life carry pain, endurance and sacrifice. Detachments from acceptance and social ties can cause distance, isolation; but it also questions existence, purpose of life and self 13.
Impaired self-structures seek social acceptance by maintaining adherence and compliance. Unfortunately, this (un-) conscious strategy further hampers self-vision and understanding of persona. It facilitates a vicious cycle of thirst and search for self.
Parenting behaviors and a nurturing environment are most significant and primary social milestones. Their quality determines the self-efficacy, self-sufficiency and social attitudes in later life. Deficits of self-image (which are produced as a result of inadequate primary attachments) can cause impaired self-awareness. It gives rise to the need to understand purpose of existence. The indeterminate ego boundaries can cause inadequate adherence within social strata. Certain unconscious behaviors are generated in response to others, including excessive submissiveness and admiration by avoiding argumentative roles. It further impairs self-understanding, as excessive self-cohesion with others deprives a person from holding independency and self-reflection.
- Campbell WK, Foster CA, Finkel EJ. Does self-love lead to love for others?: A story of narcissistic game playing. Journal of personality and social psychology. 2002;83(2):340.
- Brown RP, Bosson JK. Narcissus meets Sisyphus: Self-love, self-loathing, and the never-ending pursuit of self-worth. Psychological Inquiry. 2001:210-3.
- Heine SJ, Lehman DR, Markus HR, Kitayama S. Is there a universal need for positive self-regard? Psychological review. 1999;106(4):766.
- Turner JC, Oakes PJ, Haslam SA, McGarty C. Self and collective: Cognition and social context. Personality and social psychology bulletin. 1994;20:454-.
- Erskine, Richard G. “Ego structure, intrapsychic function, and defense mechanisms: A commentary on Eric Berne’s original theoretical concepts.”Transactional Analysis Journal 18.1 (1988): 15-19.
- Hartmann, Heinz, and David Trans Rapaport. “Ego psychology and the problem of adaptation.” (1958).
- Freud, Sigmund, and Princess Marie Bonaparte. The origins of psychoanalysis. Imago, 1954.
- Whitfield, Charles L. Boundaries and relationships: Knowing, protecting and enjoying the self. Health Communications, Inc., 1993.
- Chein, Isidor. “The awareness of self and the structure of the ego.”Psychological review 51.5 (1944): 304.
- Ellemers, Naomi, Russell Spears, and Bertjan Doosje. “Self and social identity*.” Annual review of psychology 53.1 (2002): 161-186.
- Bolger, Kerry E., Charlotte J. Patterson, and Janis B. Kupersmidt. “Peer relationships and self-esteem among children who have been maltreated.” Child development (1998): 1171-1197.
- Thompson, Ross A. “The development of the person: Social understanding, relationships, conscience, self.” Handbook of child psychology (2006).
- Lee, Richard M., and Steven B. Robbins. “Measuring belongingness: The Social Connectedness and the Social Assurance scales.” Journal of Counseling Psychology 42.2 (1995): 232.
Search terms: poor ego functioning,