“Inflated egos and destruction”- 15 April 2018

A visiting delegate to a conference commented ‘It seems to be a very homogenous group (meaning the organising team)’. The other person said, ‘yes, because they are all tribal’. ‘Is that why they are appear homogenous’! ‘I think so!’ the other retorted.

The Greeks classified rightly people into three categories- the idiot who thought only for himself; the tribal who limited himself to the community or closed group and the citizen who was concerned with the entire state, nation and the world with a larger purpose in life. The impressive speech by the Nagaland Chief Minister on the above three categories has been doing the rounds in social media. His appeal to his folks to be a good ‘citizen’ as opposed to a tribal or an idiot is a like a breath of fresh air in the polluted environment.

As a practising psychologist for three decades, I realise how difficult it is for people to rise above their small egos and think with a broad vision. Most people would think of vested interests first and the need to stay in power by hook or by crook. Most people as heads of organisations will focus on their narrow agenda to push ahead and keep a majority of people out of it. They run on the principle of ‘exclusion’ and not ‘inclusion’. They work on the principle of ‘uniformity and homogeneity’ and not ‘diversity’. Diversity is one bull word floating around to indulge in ‘tokenism’ with an idea to fool their selves. Such leaders with inflated egos would dominate, dictate, break all rules and bend them in their favour, use illogical logic to justify and gang up to bully the ones who don’t toe the line. The sense of fairness and justice, the sense of ‘common good’ is absent as the inflated egos feel threatened by others equally powerful and competent. The threat perception of people with inflated egos is very high indeed for any strong sane voice will make them anxious and squirm thereby feeling the need to suppress them with an ‘iron hand’. They ultimately destroy good relationships and organisations.

To rise above selfish vested interests requires a mind that is evolved in nature and not parochial. A mind that can think and conduct itself beyond boundaries and narrow walls as Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore stated in his classic poem. A mind -that does not need an inflated sense of ego to survive and feel empowered. For actually the need for an inflated ego comes from a weak mind that does not feel good about itself unless it fills itself up with air!

I have seen many organisations closely and have realised that they wither away due to the ego problems of the leadership. Most of them are ruled predominantly by men even today because women still constitute a miniscule percentage of the work force and hence women just follow the men around and vote for their brethren. They are like little lambs that follow behind submissively which is exactly how men like it. There are stories from the past history about great men who agreed to disagree with their women folk who had their own independent voices and still collaborated in the struggle. In today’s world evolved quality of men and mind is sorely missing for various reasons sociologists will tell us. Or the percentage of the evolved mind is always a miniscule in each century and is hence a no brainer.

The weak inflated egos leave a trail of destruction behind and rejoice in it ironically. They wage wars on the disadvantaged groups without sense and purpose only to give their egos a boost. They celebrate small victories as big ones and blow it out of proportion. They indulge in chest thumping and congratulate each other for morale boosting. History is replete with examples of wars having been waged primarily for boosting the sagging morale of men and their work force and for no other sensible reason. Mass genocide of Hitler, political wars with weaker countries, wars within social organisations are all similar to gang wars on the streets by ruffians. There does not seem to be much difference.

What’s with the male ego? A psychologist put it very well by saying, ‘we see men with exaggerated judgement of their capabilities and importance everywhere- at home, work or in a social situation. Most people think male ego is an issue of superiority. But it can stem from a complex that alternates between superiority and inferiority, resulting in desire to impress others’.

What we need are healthy egos which is a sign of good self esteem that construct and create and not inflated ones that destroy. This happens when two principles of life are met with honesty. The first principle is when the person is a self actualised person- an achiever on its own merit, talent and hard work and enjoys happiness and success but continues to achieve and expand themselves. The second principle is of self realisation –when the person is honest and true with self, can introspect and be aware of their evil side of self and work towards goodness. That is only the first step of self realisation. It progresses into a process of breaking barriers created by prejudices of various kinds that are inbuilt in the psychic system by parents, family, and community. The deep rooted biases against caste, class, gender, race, rich and poor act as a great divide leading to disrespect and hate for the other groups. Self realisation begins to drop the barriers and embrace all of humanity with respect and concern. Self realisation provides a deeper meaning and purpose to life that is larger than narrow walls of your home and community.

After all, we forget that each one is mortal and has to die. Someone said beautifully ‘instead of resting in peace after death why don’t we live in peace’! From the Greeks to the Vedanta they all speak the same ultimate truth of mortals. We need to evolve the mind from being an idiot to a tribal to being a true citizen. The journey is a long and arduous one and the transition a painful one. Just the way a caterpillar metamorphoses into a beautiful butterfly after a long drawn struggle within the self!

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