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In the daily lives of individuals, we are faced with a multitude of both conscious and unconscious influences which alter our decisions. The most tremendous of which is ego: a person’s sense of self-esteem or importance. Ego is that of a parasite; taking control of an individual as a puppeteer does his creations. The ego requires the dismissal of behaviors which would pose it a threat because of the psychological drive for self-preservation— the need too maintain a mental haven.
Our lives are characterized by a never-ending search to quench and retain one’s ego. This poses the question: how exactly do we obtain the substance needed to fuel egos? This prompts the largest of quests found in human nature, other than the meaning of life itself. One could describe the hunt for ego complex as the decoding of enigma, yet as beneficial as a full-night’s sleep. Each day we subconsciously embark upon this quest to, “excel without ever even trying” such as Jack Skellington had with whatever crossed his path. By unintentionally attempting to be the greatest, we begin to follow our self-fulfilling prophecy of finding just where are egos lay and how we must fuel them.
Upon defining areas where we are able to become triumphant, we are quick to have the rest of the world to view us. Just as Gabriel from The Dead, we act “gallantly,” drawing in the attention of all those around. When we realize we cannot fail at something, we have an impulse to scream of it from the rooftops. The human nature compels boasting to occur— demanding validation for whichever success is accomplished. It can be argued that we humans create to receive praise. After all, what’s art without a viewer lost in the waves of its brushstrokes? Can art even exist without someone present to deem it art? Questions like these require the presence of a gatekeeper for each activity we engage in.
These gatekeepers can range in number, depending on the physical, electronic or mental presence of individuals when the one craving validation is nearby. These gatekeepers make observations to determine who it is that shall be memorialized, as well as whether their holy grail of subconsciously desired praises shall be awarded to them or not. As the ego is filled, the soul feels an increasing warmth; making the need to be desirable to gatekeepers a priority for anyone seeking an egotistical refill. This is because the gatekeepers determine if, in the words of Oedipus, “The world knows my fire.” Our fire— the perceived image of us, can only be distributed across populations by the mouths of others. This is where the gatekeepers come into play: sparking the first flame of our fire, so by the time it has spread we have successfully discovered a new fuel for our flaming egos. In our day-to-day search for a way to maintain a homeostatic level of self-worth, the gatekeepers are our primary source.
Once obtaining an appropriate dosage through the gatekeepers, we advance from seeking validation through that of the general public to one of intimacy. In this stage of acquiring fuel for our egos, we no longer fixate on broad horizons such as a pool of strangers. Instead, the self requires intimacy; close connections and attachments to permit for emotional growth. Intimate connections can be composed of a group of many or a singular one. Unlike the gatekeepers, this individual is someone we hope to impress, being as they elicit stronger emotions from us due to our closeness with them. Upon interacting with others, we are incited to submerge ourselves within behavioral changes. Such changes hold major purpose when applied to obtain validation for starving egos, and then to maintain it.
In many cases, we dive into the second chapter of the search for ego by extending ourselves to our communities. Communities vary for each individual: a kingdom for Oedipus, a town for Jack Skellington, a household for Gabriel, a lunch table for a student. We naturally seek to climb the social ladder, typically with the goal of having “everybody hail” to us as the townspeople in Halloween Town do Jack Skellington. Typically, we alter how we act in these communal areas as is required of us. We avoid topics of conversations which would prove controversial to the majority of a population. The average individual instead acquire a middle ground, where whatever they say is perceived as something positive with the intention of benefitting those around them. This compels those in a group to feel attached to our sweet words as if they were the song of a siren.
Still, our psychological drive requires us to dive deeper into intimate scenarios with others. As we grow closer to certain people, we grow immensely dependent on them. Resulting from this is the discovery of an immense need for them to feed the parasite we deem ego. This calls for behavioral changes on our part, which we employ to ensure that we can, with the same confidence of Oedipus, claim that “I’ll never see myself disgraced.” The way we act with one person will vary as needed based upon past interactions with said person, as to evade conflict. For instance, in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington is relentlessly boastful around his fellow townspeople no matter the circumstance. Meanwhile, Jack suddenly turns into a reserved, humble character who better matches the timid Sally when in her presence. This altering of Jack’s behavior allows him to meet the expectations of whatever the individual he’s speaking to has set for him. Thus, this promotes his obtaining of validation to increase tenfold as he adapts to all those around him.
This scenario of societal behavioral change can be further elaborated on when observing the interactions between a student and his teacher in comparison to said student and his friends. A student is likely to behave in a dignified manner when around his teachers; displaying a high work ethic and strong moral compass. On the other hand, a student is likely to drop these ideals when around his friends in favor of an appearance which his friends would find entertaining instead. The unspoken hierarchy of society requires that the student be respectful to his teachers, lest he want to be plagued with memories of an “unpleasant incident” as Gabriel had when forgetting to keep this rule in mind. Rules such as this have created a system within the minds of students and teachers alike, which informs teachers of the types of student deserving their validation. Validation which has been codified in students to be seen as the ultimate achievement, always to be worshipped and treasured.
Our behavioral changes do not seize with our mere intimacy obsession us humans are hardwired to maintain. We act in different manners to maintain the social and/or political status our egos forced us to initially obtain. Socially, we find ourselves in some form of power; whether we mean to or not. There is always popular of kids, the favorite nephew, the savior of civilians. People like this exist, thriving off their egos which work so intently to avoid bruising. A mere slip-up or tangled tongue can destroy the ladder upon which these people stand. When a behavior is not altered to cater to an audience, these individuals— these high-standing people do as Gabriel who “colored, as if he had made a mistake” did when caught by a pest which threatened his social status. Immediate embarrassment like this continues the charm of behavioral altering, as if it is a trial and error process which determines who may learn enough to reach the top of the social ladder.
Even more diversified is how we change ourselves to maintain the golden crowns our political positions grant us. Figureheads like Oedipus and Jack who have been endorsed with total power are likely to separate themselves from negative connotations as to not upset the public to whom they are employed. In order to gain congressional approval, politicians will do as they do and skew facts while also making promises they have no intention on keeping. We see this in our daily lives, particularly as each American president promises to decrease our national debt while their term is remembered by having accomplished the exact opposite. When falsities are more appealing, politicians employ them vigorously to obtain higher approval ratings. Even when the lies bury the truth so much that “they [the citizens] don’t understand” (Jack Skellington, The Nightmare Before Christmas) what the politicians’ true meanings had been, the politicians merely utilize this as a way to gain votes. After all, more votes create a guarantee for an elected official to remain in office, which then fills the egos obsessive need to better their status.
The concept of generating one’s self from an ego born of politics poses a fascinating concept: what are the costs involved? An ego linked to political status will create a person whose very existence seems attached to the political status they had. For many, this would create a situation where one sees themselves as little to nothing without the power they have acquired. To the same extent, this could cause for politicians to see themselves as bigger than life when they are favored by the public. Their egos could be injected with their successes, which would cause for politicians to view their power as something commanding respect and power. As shown by Oedipus’ statement of: “You pray to the Gods? Let me answer your prayers,” politicians who have a self born entirely of their political status lack the morals born into souls of humility. Being born into this self crafted by the fires of government desire emphasizes the toxicity of ego; and how it is a parasite that prays on the very thing keeping it alive.
The desire to find and maintain one’s ego connects into ideals of the psyche. Fulfilling the needs of ego is an act we have trained ourselves to follow due to our subconscious desires. It can be argued that desire is the root of all human behavior, which is something we emphasize and tend to agree with after careful observation of the lengths we go on the basis of desire. The desire to stand out in a crowd, to gain people’s attention, is as compelling as a magnet. Our search for ego does not end with our need for desire, but instead continues on with the psychological need for self-preservation.
Human brains are hardwired with enough conscious to stop us from participating in acts which could be harmful physically or mentally. Taking this into account, it is the mental health of a population which ego truly has an effect on. Our being will not encourage us to engage in actions such as humiliating ourselves in a crowd or acting as a public speaker when we fear crowds. To protect our mental healths by keeping a watch on our fragile egos, the brain instills fear within us to keep us safe. Without fear, we would lack better judgment needed to avoid poor decisions, causing ego to plummet and mental health to fall alongside it.
Self-preservation is prevalent in our daily lives, prohibiting the various impacts we experience. It provides us with rationale— so irrational with fear that it makes sense. We change who we are, what we stand for, and how we behave to coincide with this self-preservation. It allows us to obtain approval from gatekeepers while also finding intimacy with another and keeping ourselves safe and keeping the self safe and secure. The brain is a complex niche, with a complex structure based upon the need for ego to fuel our self-preservation. Through years of development via evolution, the brain has found a near-perfect system— one which controls nearly all our movements and motions. It implies that self-preservation is what makes us who we are today, and whether it is a positive path to have followed or a blemish on humanity is still yet to be determined.