Dorien Grey's Blog - Posts Tagged "ego"

We all take pleasure in praise: the need for it is an inherent human trait, and it is a common form of affirmation of one’s worth. But there is a considerable difference between being flattered by and appreciative of praise, and needing it to the point of actively seeking it out. For those who don’t think very highly of themselves, praise can become a powerful form of narcotic and can, in fact, be addictive. We’ve all known “needy” people, and the term is not a compliment.

Rather than acknowledge that there is strong evidence of my being one them, I prefer to think of myself as having a healthy appetite for praise and approval. It is yet another example of indulgent self-delusion for one who has never risen, emotionally, much above the five-year-old level.

Greed and gluttony are two of the seven deadly sins, and while “gluttony” technically refers to eating, the excessive need for praise is very much a form of comfort food for the soul. There is a considerable difference between accepting freely-offered praise and blatantly asking for it. The greater an individual’s insecurities or feelings of inferiority, the greater the hunger for praise.

But praise, like fire, makes a good servant but a bad master. Praise offers reassurance that we may not be quite as bad as we think we are. But it is intended as an after dinner mint, not a full meal.

I once dated a nice guy in Los Angeles whose major flaw was, when we were getting ready to go anywhere, asking “How do I look?” (“You look great.”) “Pretty nice, huh?” (“Yeah, really nice.”) “I look okay?” (“You look fine.”) “Pretty hot, huh?” (“Yep. Really hot.”) etc. After several months of that (plus the fact he was seeing a couple other guys at the same time) the relationship sort of ground to a halt.

Unlike my former L.A. friend, I do try to cover over my own constant need for reassurance at least a bit....like throwing a sheet over the elephant in the living room and hoping no one will notice it. I seldom directly ask for praise, though as you may have noticed, I haul out my drums, bugles, flags, and bullhorns on almost every occasion when someone says something nice about me or my work. I’m sure I am not the only writer in the world who looks upon every word he or she writes as a subtle bid for praise. And when someone is kind enough to comment positively on something I’ve done, I’m just like that five year old watching his mother tape his latest art masterpiece on the refrigerator door.

As with so many things in my life, melodrama plays a large part in my self deprecation. I know I'm not nearly as bad as I too often claim I am. So despite all my monumentally poor self image, I do realize that I’ve truly been blessed in my life: parents and family who love and accept me without question, and good, loyal friends, many of whom people I have met only through the internet, but whom I sincerely consider to be friends nonetheless. Many of these internet-originated friendships began with an unsolicited note telling me they enjoyed something I’ve written. The feeling I get from these notes often borders on euphoria, and I am deeply grateful for them, and to whoever takes the time and effort to send them.

Okay, that’ll do it for now. It turned out to be a pretty good blog, didn’t it? Did you like it? Really?

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1).
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Published on June 22, 2012 06:00 • 28 views • Tags: ego, insecurity, need, praise, validation
Ego
forget who it was who said about someone’s ego: “He wants to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.” I fear they were talking about me. I long to be the center of attention at every gathering, or the favorable subject of every conversation. Yet such is the perversity of my nature that while I desperately crave attention, I am generally and genuinely embarrassed on those rare occasions when I receive it.

Ego is an essential component of one’s personality. It can be a healthy and useful tool in dealing with the world. It helps to flesh out the personality, to give it shading and color. It comes in many forms and a vast array of sizes. We all know people whose egos are like an avalanche, so large and all-encompassing that they sweep everything before them and totally bury any other aspects of personality. Those who possess this degree of ego can also known as boors, the kind of people brighten a room by leaving it.

Conversely, there are those whose egos, for whatever reason, are so weak, undeveloped, or repressed that they drain the person of character. They are, sadly, the wallpaper people. They enter a room and instantly blend in with the wallpaper, becoming all but invisible. I've always considered myself one of them.

And there are those who use their ego as a shield. I identify with them, too. It’s a form of bravado not dissimilar to those animals who puff up or put on various displays to forestall attack. One problem with hiding behind an ego, though, is that it’s rather like being Sisyphus, forever pushing the rock of ego up the hill.

I suppose many other people use ego to hide behind, and I doubt that anyone standing at the top of the hill looking down would see anything but the rock, and have no idea that Sisyphus was struggling behind it.

For many ego is a construct begun in childhood. The less worthy one feels as a child, the more likely one is to create a false ego for self-protection. Again, I can identify. If others won’t give me the adulation I so sorely crave, I will. But it is largely a case of the emperor's new clothes, and I know it.

For some perverse reason, perhaps as a too-strong antidote for the poison of ego, I have a tendency to not only never forget incidents in my life of which I am ashamed or embarrassed, but seem to take a perverse delight in using them to flagellate myself for not being as good as I think I am. One example which springs too eagerly and frequently to mind is of going to a birthday party for one of my younger cousins while I was probably about 12. I was the oldest kid there, and when the time came to play games, I deliberately went out of my way to win every one of them…hardly a major accomplishment given my age advantage. Finally, one of the mothers had to come over and ask me to please let some of the other children win. I’ve never forgotten that, try as I might.

These same tendencies followed me, in hopefully lesser form, into adulthood. I moderate a Yahoo group for discussing and recommending gay-themed books and the writers who write them. I admit I formed the group partly as a way to promote myself and my books and, by extension, to seek approval and reassurance. When anyone posts a note listing their favorite authors or books and I and mine are not on it, my ego takes a hit.

Yet when I can objectively view the ego I have so carefully constructed for myself, I sometimes think I may overdo it a bit and, going back to my clothes analogy, I can hear Fanny Brice singing “Sam, you made the pants too long.”

*****
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1).
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Published on October 26, 2012 04:41 • 23 views • Tags: ego, protection, self-delusion
I got my hair cut (long overdue) the other day, and decided that one reason why I wait so long between cuts is to avoid the ordeal of having to stare at the attic portrait of Dorian Gray in the mirror. My Dorien, bless his ever-protective heart, assured me, as he always does, that it is not a mirror, but a window into the next room, where my barber’s identical twin was working, with synchronized movements, on a much, much older and terribly unattractive customer.

Each of us has our own way of coping with the world, and Dorien is, to a large extent, mine. I’m truly grateful to him for helping me bail out the leaky little boat of my life.

Those whose boats ride high in the water, not constantly preoccupied with the endless swells of annoyance and frustration that eternally threaten to swamp those with gunwales almost at the water line, may have little need for a Dorien to help with the bailing.

I deeply admire those who simply live their lives and go about their business without the continual distraction of wondering why something is the way it is, or who can simply ignore the ignorance and stupidity of the world. Each of us possesses a degree of egocentrism to be used when occasionally wondering about our role in life, and help serve as ballast in stormy emotional seas. But some were given an excessive amount, so large as to be disruptive to normal functioning in the world. I am one of those. And for those like me, I strongly recommend a Dorien.

Everything, of course, is in the mind, and to create a Dorien requires a bit of practice. It’s very much like one of those optical illusions one sees from time to time, like the classic black-and-white silhouette in which one sees either a vase (the white) or two faces facing each other (the black). One element is “Dorien”, the other is “you”…and it really doesn’t matter which is which.

Dorien not only helps me cope with things, but is rather fun to have around. You can give to your Dorien whatever parts of “you” you wish. Roger, again, is the corporeal part of the team, Dorien is that part of me not restrained by physics or time. Roger pays the bills and moves about and goes grocery shopping and mans the oars of our little boat. Dorien is therefore totally free to do whatever strikes his fancy. He sits in the back of the boat and writes blogs and books.

This division of responsibilities has proven very effective…for me. While I was dealing with my bout with cancer, it was Roger who underwent the radiation and the chemo while Dorien told him stories and kept assuring him that everything was going to be all right. And it was. I’m sure the outcome would have been the same had Dorien not been there, but I am glad he was. And then, as now, Dorien’s greatest contribution to my life is in never allowing me to take myself too seriously.

The need for a Dorien is not so great for those who have another, separate human with whom they can share their life, but for those of us who do not, a Dorien can help to create a sense of balance. In my own case, whenever I do or say something totally stupid, something I immediately regret and curse myself for—which happens far too frequently—it’s Roger’s fault, and Dorien can look at it with a degree of objectivity Roger cannot. In such cases, when Roger is consumed with fury or frustration, Dorien is the voice of reason. And difficult as it may be for someone without a Dorien, it really works.

If you don’t have a Dorien but need one, just open your mind. He’s there.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1).
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Published on February 13, 2013 06:43 • 15 views • Tags: coping, dual-personalities, ego
After reading one of my more lugubrious (love that word) posts, a friend said “Do you honestly think you’re the only person in the world who has ever felt this way?” To which I replied: “Yep.”

The fact is that I was fudging just a bit. It is partly because I realize that I am NOT the only person to suffer from bouts—some more justifiable than others—of doubt and self-pity, or to have done incredibly stupid things, or to be too-frequently frustrated to the point of tears or sometimes frightening rage by something that does not go the way I want or expect it to go. Which is, in turn, the basic reason I am a writer rather than a plumber or watch repairman.

Because each of us is born into a species in which we are only one of seven or nine billion (it's hard to keep up) and are therefore so vastly outnumbered, we tend to assume, erroneously, that everyone else is part of a vast private club to which we do not belong. It's a little like not being able to see the forest for the trees, and it simply never occurs to us that we are ourselves, in fact, a tree in that forest. And we're not only a tree in the forest, we're also round pegs in a square hole, and any of two thousand other metaphors indicating our sense of being separate and separated from everyone else. In a world of an infinite range of color, the social rules by which we live are largely written only in black or white, with very rare occasional shadings of grey. Our society sets up immutable rules which no single individual within that society could possibly follow fully.

Yet we are led to believe there is some sort of gigantic yardstick against which we are convinced we must measure ourselves. And since there is in fact no such yardstick, inevitably we fail. And the problem is not that there is none, but that we insist upon assuming there is. “This is the way you must behave,” we are told, and the fact that almost nobody really does or could behave in that exact way has nothing to do with it. “This is how you must think,” we are told. A box is drawn around us, and those few who ever even think to step beyond its imaginary boundaries do so act at their own peril.

Our popular culture insists upon establishing arbitrary and ultimately self-destructive rules which benefit few and do harm to many. Two of the most unbendable of these rules is that to have worth as a human being, to be adored, to be worshipped, one must be young and beautiful—fostered in large part by our consumer-based culture which features only young, beautiful people in commercials and other visual advertising. That only a relatively small percentage of humanity is both young and beautiful or, in fact, either, is immaterial. The further you are from either of the standards our society sets for you, the less value you have as a human being. Susan Boyle's initial appearance on Britain's Got Talent was a quintessential example of this theory. Here is this....this mousy little person....no one would look at twice on the street. You could see the scorn on the faces of the audience when she first walked out on stage. She was obviously a nobody. A nothing. Not worth paying attention to. Until she opened her mouth.

And how many people learned a lesson of tolerance and understanding from Ms. Boyle's stunning contradiction of what everyone automatically assumed by just looking at her? Sadly, I'd imagine very few.

We treasure our prejudices, even if we ourselves are victims of them.

I am not very good at either pontification or pondering of deep issues, but I do enjoy playing at doing both from time to time, just to prove to myself that I am capable of thinking at all. Descartes hit it on the head back in 1641 when he said, "Cogito, ergo sum"—I think, therefore I am.

Far too many people seem to spend all their lives concentrating on the sum and never bothering with the cogito.

We each are the center of our own universe, so "cogita," people, "cogita!"

*****
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1).
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Published on April 25, 2013 04:39 • 35 views • Tags: commonality, ego, universality