SUPEREGO & CONSCIENCE
JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group
September 7, 2023
I recently wrote a post about Freud’s concept of the superego and how it kept showing up in my life. Since I wrote that post, the question has lingered in my mind: What does the superego really mean? Why do we develop one? Why couldn’t mine be nicer to me? Why am I like this? I think most of us have that voice in our head as it helps us to experience the pendulation of life. Because right next to those superego thoughts, I also have a positive thought process that reminds me of my worth and my purpose on this planet. The pendulum swings back and forth. It swings from right to wrong, peace to chaos, as well as good to evil.
The pendulation keeps us honest. It keeps us present. And it makes sure we are never too complacent. Life doesn’t happen in a bubble of peace and harmony. For if we didn’t have chaos, we wouldn’t value peace. Without evil, we wouldn’t recognize good.
What is Evil?
I’ve recently concluded my reading of Martha Stout’s, The Sociopath Next Door, and she states, “I am sure that if the devil existed, he would want us to feel very sorry for him.” Evil is not an easily identifiable character trait. Evil does not wear a t-shirt that declares, “I am evil.” True evil does not want to be identified. It wants to remain undetectable. And what better way to hide in the background than vying for our sympathy? After all, if we feel bad enough for people, we will defend them.
What is Good?
As Albert Einstein said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
When the pendulum swings from evil to good, there is action. Good does not seek pity. Good does not beg for sympathy. Good acts. When good uncovers evil, it stands firm and strong. As Elena Ferrante wrote in, My Brilliant Friend, “If you don’t try, nothing ever changes.”
Our superego is there to keep us in check. If we only had positive thoughts floating around in our minds, we’d never have the pendulation. We’d never have checks and balances. We must question our motives and our reasoning to determine what to do next. Without that, we’d likely stand by and do nothing.
If we want to make the world a better place, we must try to identify and stamp out evil in any place we can. And use our superegos as our guide.