Lack of ego, whats that all about?
October 28, 2007 6:56 AM   Subscribe

A woman i met off a dating site once told me I didnt have much ego. Looking on the internet I found something called "lack of ego mastery" in relation to "understanding psychological assessment"

sc3 lack of ego mastery (cognitive)
feels something is wrong with their mind; cognitive slippage may be evident along with disturbances in memory, concentration and comprehension

sc4 lack of ego mastery (conative)
feels unmotivated and may retreat into fantasy because one cannot motivate their energy

sc5 lack of ego mastery (defective inhibition)
episodes of impulsivity and restlessness


Most of which is alarmingly true, (im not sure what comprehension,cognitive slippage or conative refers to).

spookily I was writing another question before that started off "i think there's something wrong with me. I mean in my head" but i decided it was getting too complicated and abandoned it for something simpler.

I've always had dodgy memory. there's holes all over the place. I hardly remember any of my childhood, it was quite stressful but hardly terrible by other people's experiences.
My memory of pretty much everything in the past is like a blurry photograph. no detail.

when im focused I can concentrate but getting to that state is extremely difficult. my thoughts are generally all over the place. this is the 3rd question im attempting to write, the others got abandoned. Makes it difficult to ask things as Im always going off on tangents in my own head.

the 1st one was about how I never seem to have any motivation. self motivation. My sense of right and wrong and other people's needs can motivate me. its like leverage against my own mind. I cant seem to leverage myself.

restlessness is like lack of focus. I start and stop things and go back to them and dont finish them at the drop of a hat.

I accomplish things better on impulse, if i think about them too much they start being a lot less likely to happen. I met my other half on impulse off a dating site after only speaking for 3 days. I was kind of annoyed at someone else I been spending time with and getting nowhere with. I frequently do or dont do things on impulse,

Im sure I should have therapy but I find myself in a kind of equilibrium im disinclined to disturb. All those years spent coming to terms with myself and convincing myself to be happy with what I have/am instead of depressed with what Im not or havent got.

Anyway back to ego, lack thereof, Im interested to know your thoughts on the matter.
posted by browolf to Science & Nature (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
As a female, my take on a female telling a male about a lack of ego would not be any of the clinical diagnoses you listed above, but rather a man who isn't a pretentious airbag talking about his car and boring the crap out of me, expecting me to be impressed with whatever material possession he happens to be bragging about. In short, a woman telling a man that he has a lack of ego would generally be a good thing in the context of a dating situation, at least in my view. In a different context it might mean something else. Context is everything, baby!
posted by 45moore45 at 7:12 AM on October 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Oh, FYI-- speaking of context...it is better to ask the person saying something you aren't clear about at the time they said it what exactly they meant. Going home and typing in a phrase someone said to you won't really yield you anything meaningful and seems a wee bit obsessive, eh?
posted by 45moore45 at 7:27 AM on October 28, 2007


well, she may not know what the hell she's talking about. if you are happy with who you are, then she's probably wrong, eh?
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:29 AM on October 28, 2007


Well that is the point-- in the context of a conversation it is not being "wrong", it is what-does-this-mean-in-this-context and what does she mean by saying it. Could be a regional slang phrase, midwesterners call it pop, east coasters call it soda, that sort of thing. Whether or not "she knows what she is talking about", there is no point in obsessing about something someone says to you in a casual setting. It is best to clarify it at the time if it is unclear.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:34 AM on October 28, 2007


Context is everything, baby!

In that context it it is good.

If you want more context. this was a woman who had more than the usual amount of understanding of men in general and herself. She had recognised that she tended to fall in love with unsuitable men. Thus being on a dating site was about her fulfilling her need for sex by manipulating men with egos.
Ie she knew how to do it verbally and not by flaunting her sexuality. This came out during our date

I think with me she initially saw confidence and assumed ego. so expression of lack of ego was more to do with that she couldnt manipulate me. I wasnt attracted to her so nothing happened in that sense.

Im extending this to lack of ego is connected to other things
posted by browolf at 7:40 AM on October 28, 2007


well, only you can decide how much her judgment means to you, but what's your question, exactly? are you asking whether or not she's right?
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:06 AM on October 28, 2007


forget about the woman and the context and her precise meaning. that not important. I started off with that as

this thing happened to me once

and now I sometimes ponder whether lack of ego is connected to other aspects of my life.

there's plenty on the net about too much ego (narcissism) but hardly anything on the opposite. Surely if you can have too much of something, you can have not enough of it?

i suppose my real question is what does hardly any ego mean in a clinical psychology sense.
posted by browolf at 8:25 AM on October 28, 2007


In short, a woman telling a man that he has a lack of ego would generally be a good thing in the context of a dating situation, at least in my view.

That's one possibility. Another general possibility is she's equating lack of ego with lack of strong personality, or general wishy-washiness.

Your follow up post, however, indicates that that's likely not the case. I don't think that this issue is lack of ego, it's just that you are not susceptible to being manipulated. Which probably means you probably have a healthy ego, and few insecurities. The more insecure a person is, the more easily manipulated he is. That has nothing at all to do with ego.

In your case, I think this is all to the good.
posted by psmealey at 8:28 AM on October 28, 2007


Can I point something out? Maybe you have your ego wrapped up in the image of having a lack of ego. I don't know if someone truly having "hardly any ego" would care about clinical definitions. Are you closet preening over your lack of ego which would be proof of ego? Does that make sense? I'm not slamming you--I am an artist and I find ego buried in the most unlikely of places sometimes, it is a constant amusement to catch myself. Everyone has ego, everyone has some tender bit that needs to be fed and watered regularly. Perhaps your way isn't in a traditional way, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. The fact you remembered what was probably a throwaway line from a blind date tells me you have taken that phrase to heart and you are owning it, implying some part of your own ego/self identity is attached to it. Just a point to ponder from another Sunday armchair analyst...take it for whatever it's worth or don't take it at all...
posted by 45moore45 at 8:38 AM on October 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


Sorry, looks like I completely misunderstood your question.
posted by psmealey at 8:40 AM on October 28, 2007


I think browolf has accidentally derailed his own question by starting with, "So this woman I met online says..."

Browolf, I can't speak to your exact mental problems (loss of focus, lack of motivation, impulsiveness, etc.) but I do feel that these are generally common problems which a lot of us deal with daily.

Although your friend's observation may have sparked this self-exploration, I wouldn't get too caught up in any sort of Freudian analysis (or other psychobabble) for anything other than giggles. As the variety of responses above show, much of this is very subjective and open to multiple interpretations.

That said, if you are realizing that your day to day life is negatively impacted by some of the symptoms you describe then you should seek professional advice. Start with your family doctor and seek a referral to a shrink. Medication is one option, counseling is another. Medication and counseling together have tremendous success is solving these very common problems which most of us deal with to varying degrees.

Good luck!
posted by wfrgms at 8:42 AM on October 28, 2007


Can I point something out?

feel free. interesting point.
you're suggesting Something like being bothered enough to ask means I must have some? I think people ought to spend time finding out about themselves but it shouldnt be an all consuming process. today im interested tomorrow i wont be. In fact when i go and make my dinner im going back to my normal life of not being bothered.

I think browolf has accidentally derailed his own question by starting with, "So this woman I met online says..."

The trouble with asking questions is its really easy to imply undue importance. I find conciseness to be pretty difficult.
I ask questions in the middle of my thought processes and they come across all mixed up. Perhaps im even wondering about things which are generally common problems which a lot of us deal with daily.

But saying that I like reading all these different ideas. External input helps me find answers where before I couldnt

i found Egolessness
"of having no distinct being apart from the world around oneself."

and "The described feeling of oneness (of being inextricably woven to the fabric of one's surroundings or environment) is thought to be akin to egolessness. " Im not sure how I relate to this atm.

I think now the woman's interpretation of me was based on more than one thing. not having an inflated sense of my own self, not being manipulable. A general lack of anxiety of things which other people would find it difficult to consider being happy about.

My greatest enigma is being confident about being shy.

Perhaps your way isn't in a traditional way, but that doesn't mean it isn't there

I think you are most likely correct. :-)
posted by browolf at 9:39 AM on October 28, 2007


There's no way to diagnose you over the internet, whether you're trying to diagnose yourself or other people are trying to diagnose you.

Clinically, that is in terms of psychological theory, having "a lack of ego mastery" is a bit more complex a situation then I'm sure she meant it. It is not reducible to a low self-worth or self-esteem, just as having those things in spades is not enough to be considered narcisisstic. You are confusing clinical and popular terms. The ego is the part of one's psyche that interacts with the outside world, and even with one's internal world, and lacking ego strength (mastery) means that one might have a difficult time negotiating those aspects of daily life. That could manifest itself in any of hundreds of ways: poor ability to assert oneself, poor ability to reality test, poor ability to follow-through are all possibilities, a tendency to act out rather than discuss problems. Having those particular traits, however, doesn't necessarily mean that one has low ego strength.

Egolessness is, again, a clinical term ass you've quoted it, and I feel reasonably confident that if you aren't having hallucinations or psychotic depressions that you do not suffer from it. You'd almost certainly have a hard time asking the questions you're asking if that were your problem.

I agree wholeheartedly with wfrgms: if you're in distress then go to a therapist and talk about what's bothering you. Therapy is effective and works quickly for most people. If you aren't in distress, don't worry about it. In either case, the information you're finding on the internet is unlikely to help you except insofar as it sparks thought. For all other purposes, for diagnosis, say, it's effectively useless, either because it's incomplete, your likely to misunderstand it, or you're likely to view it through hypochondriacal eyes (which happens to almost everyone who spends time learning about all the various things that can be wrong with you).
posted by OmieWise at 11:28 AM on October 28, 2007


Um before you get all hung up on this being an "ego" problem, to me this sounds like a classic version of extreme ADD. I imagine you are one of those who don't exhibit hyperactivity, so as a result that probably wouldn't have occurred to you as a possible source of your problems.

But all of the symptoms you gave reminded me of times in my life when ADD had the strongest "hold" on me. I was untreated for most of my childhood and much of it is a blur. I remember most of what happened to me after my teens but it's probably not as vivid as other peoples. I have the same problems with tangents, concentration, etc.

Let me know if this phrase rings a bell:
You mean I'm not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?

It's the title of a book for sufferers of ADD.

I imagine a prescription of Ritalin will sort your "ego problem" nicely.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:52 PM on October 28, 2007


I realize that I am not answering the question you posed. But if you were ever interested in not living in a blur like you are now (and as I once was and still occasionally do), I'd strongly recommend you find someone who can test whether you have ADD.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:57 PM on October 28, 2007


Sounds like ADD to me as well.

In Buddhism, egolessness occurs when you are no longer attached to all those things with which most people define themselves: "I am a musician, I am American, I like to cook, I drive a Volkswagen, I'm a mountain biker," etc. You experience a true self (or no-self) by stripping away all the superficial things you use to distance yourself from the world. It's like peeling an onion - you take off layers and layers of skin and the question becomes, what are you left with? Lack of ego in Buddhism = directly experiencing the world.
posted by desjardins at 7:51 PM on October 28, 2007


I never liked going to doctors, Im acutely aware that you either say not enough or too much. I dont really see how I can go and say either "i think there's something wrong with me" and coherently explain what I've written down here (ie it'll end up a mess) or "I think I have...." Whatever I have I've learnt to live with and adapted myself accordingly. Im not trying to diagnose myself as an excuse or a need to be fixed. I just find myself interesting.

its interesting the title of that book. It brings to mind my father who always despaired at my "bone idleness" I dont think it helped that my 3 siblings are the complete opposite.
I eventually became aware enough to realise whilst ive inherited the intelligence I am missing the bit that makes me do stuff.

Im always thought ADD was about hyperactivity. You're right I'm not hyperactive.

Im kind of used to living in a blur. Actually I kind of like it, some aspects of it. Life seems simpler when I dont have the burden of lots of past memories. I always described it as living in the here and now. I can get over traumatic events reasonably quick as after a while I can't remember how I felt at the time. Its kind of unfortunate I cant remember some good things. Its pluses and minuses.

I could define my buddhist egolessness as feeling little attachment to my past. In some respects it has been stripped away or lost somehow. is it there really or is it not. I have no idea.
Im left with a simplicity of life. the things I do I largely rely on instinct or subconscious direction. is this not a form of directly experiencing the world?


I have extreme mental block when it comes to tablets of any kind. I bought myself some vitamin tabs a while ago. I figured it would be good to take them. I put them on the bathroom windowsill like next to my toothpaste. I think I managed about 3 before I stopped seeing the bottle.

The only time I remember is if im in some discomfort over something. Its a constant reminder.
posted by browolf at 12:06 PM on October 29, 2007


it interests me to hear similar experiences of things I describe and possibly my expression of mine may help other people.
posted by browolf at 12:26 PM on October 29, 2007


Print this out and take it to a doctor if you don't think you can adequately explain how you feel. Or keep a blog/journal for a few weeks and let the doctor read that.
posted by desjardins at 2:06 PM on October 29, 2007


I never liked going to doctors, Im acutely aware that you either say not enough or too much. I dont really see how I can go and say either "i think there's something wrong with me" and coherently explain what I've written down here (ie it'll end up a mess) or "I think I have...." Whatever I have I've learnt to live with and adapted myself accordingly. Im not trying to diagnose myself as an excuse or a need to be fixed. I just find myself interesting.

Um, okay. Let me really not answer your question. What you find "interesting" about your life is the thing that's standing in your way of living it fully. When I was finally dealing with my ADD in a positive way, it was like a cloud was lifted. Suddenly my life started to make sense. I understand you've gotten used to your coping mechanism, and you want to see it as egolessness or something. Sorry, I'm here to tell you it probably isn't. ADD is not a victimless crime, by the way. If you ever want to get into long term relationships with other people, you will probably end up upsetting them if you don't deal with your ADD, because having ADD means having friends and love ones that are very angry with you and your behavior.

its interesting the title of that book. It brings to mind my father who always despaired at my "bone idleness" I dont think it helped that my 3 siblings are the complete opposite.
I eventually became aware enough to realise whilst ive inherited the intelligence I am missing the bit that makes me do stuff.


Yeah, that's called ADD.

Im always thought ADD was about hyperactivity. You're right I'm not hyperactive.

Yeah, that's probably what pisses me off the most about the whole "OMG ADD totally doesn't exist/is overblown" argument. They're looking at the hyperactivity thing, which yes is frikken annoying to teachers and parents but in the long run means nothing. What's really damaging is actual ADD, which stands in the way of getting things done in your life, processing the world around you, and having meaningful and effective connections with other people.

it interests me to hear similar experiences of things I describe and possibly my expression of mine may help other people.

Maybe you could help yourself.

Try this: look up a therapist/shrink in your town that specializes in ADD. If you can't find one, you can call your family doctor and say:

"I think I might have ADD. Who can I talk to to deal with this?"

Then meet with that person and say:

"I think I might have ADD"

They will then ask you questions, which you can then answer honestly. They will then tell you that yes, you have ADD in spades.

Then they will help you out with meds and therapy. Suddenly the world will deblur, you will be able to get things done in your life, and you will have such a lovely time living that you won't have to block out past traumatic experiences because they will stop happening.

I can't guarantee this is what will happen with you but it's what happened with me, more or less (although thankfully it was my parents who helped figure out what was wrong and found me people to talk to and meds to take).

Oh and, seriously, if all you really want to talk about is how interesting not having an ego is, I'm flagging this as chatfilter.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:09 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh and the nice thing about having ADD and then taking meds is that often, you experience results *right away*. So your whole "forgetting to take tablets" issue will go right away (or at least won't be so bad). And once you embrace that you have ADD and tell your friends about it, they will notice when you have and haven't been taking them, and will offer gentle reminders.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:14 PM on October 29, 2007


Thank You for all your answers. They've been very helpful. I have much to think on and I suppose come to some terms with. Thx
posted by browolf at 5:10 PM on October 30, 2007


Please make sure to followup if you do something about it. I encourage you to look into ADD. You'll be amazed how easy your life will become once you're treating it (with medicine and therapy).
posted by Deathalicious at 4:19 AM on November 1, 2007


This thread has been enormously valuable as well to me personally, particularly due to deathalicious's incredibly insightful comments. Thanks again AskMe!
posted by psmealey at 5:27 AM on November 1, 2007


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