The superego is your internalized judge. It’s the part of the psyche that provides structure, laying down orders against instinctual drives that the superego fears may lead to destruction.
You don’t need to be a Freudian to see the value in this model. This is a dynamic we all witness firsthand. Each day, your superego negotiates with passing emotions and appetites by managing them according to a set of standards.
The superego is content if it keeps you in sync with the expectations of those around you, if you avoid dying or getting seriously ill, or do not violate the structures intended to maintain order.
Of course, regulation of behavior often serves you — leading to your lack of criminal record or series of thriving friendships.
However, to maintain the highest degree of attentiveness to each moment, you’ve got to recognize the programs of the superego. You want to be able to consciously choose when to follow its demands. Sometimes it’s in your best interest to override them with perspectives that lift you higher. You don’t want to stumble around thinking you’re doing what’s right, feeling trapped while doing it, and later realize you were led by a mistaken judge.
“The world is going to hell and the only way it might not is if we refrain from doing something to try to stop it.” — Alan Watts
Here’s a pattern to disrupt: your superego encourages you to maximize productivity at all costs. While this brings you a secure retirement, without discernment you’re prone to committing to projects that exhaust or annoy you, ultimately robbing energy from the pursuits that truly energize.
You might display subtle signs of rebellion, postponing projects until 48 hours before their deadlines, maximizing the pain it takes to complete them. Sure, you still “get things done” but you do it by means of force, not so unlike the super egoic perspectives that invited these circumstances.
Similarly, if your superego urges you to reflexively please other people, you’ll agree to doing activities out of obligation, activities that cause internal contradiction. A sneakier side of you rebels even as you’re lighting the candles of your best friend’s 34th birthday cake.
The rebellion is be subtle. Your misalignment will manifest in the form of a sharp and cutting tonality and the body language of disrespect as you cut you cut the cake or wash the dishes, the kind of gestures that irk your best friend and become the reason why your communication over the following weeks is filled with misunderstandings, passive aggression, and superficiality.
The truth is this: When you ignore the messaging between the conscious mind and superego, you adopt a non-nuanced behavioral pattern that causes more problems than it solves. If you say yes to contradiction, don’t expect the contradiction to just evaporate. Instead it just hides or changes shape.
“Everything is communicated in a distorted form.” — Unknown
So what can you do? Listen to all the conversations occurring in your mind. Respect them. Honor and converse with each one. The voices that seem more bent on a particular outcome, the ones that feel harshest and most contracted, are especially deserving of your loving attention.
When you attempt to ignore your darker attributes, the work that goes into avoidance robs the life force from your lighter attributes, ultimately weakening you. If you don’t recognize the tendencies of the superego; namely, the urgency it has around overriding the thoughts and feelings that contradict its painstaking drive toward perfection, you’ll get into all sorts of dynamics that perpetuate contradiction.
Still, embracing all the voices and complexes within your psyche doesn’t mean you blindly invest in them. Instead, you respect yourself enough to honor your opportunity to reflect, knowing that misalignment causes more trouble than respectfully disregarding the superego ever could.