Looking Again at Our Dysfunctional Ego

We set out to master the primacy of being who we are when we remove from the processing of our thinking the impress of a dysfunctional ego.

Arnold Siegel Current Digital, Health & Wellness


Ironically, our ego that centers our way of being, when dysfunctional, is the very thing that inhibits our ability to bring meaning and the elusive quality of love to what appears to be a world indifferent to our fate. Additionally, much of what is unworkable in relationship or at work is precipitated by the tension and resentment reflexively present in this dysfunctional ego. When we free ourselves from its unwarranted influence, much of what was problematic disappears. Let me tell you what I mean.

Despite our knowledge of the world, we’re unlikely to perceive the natural, historical and linguistic forces by which we are held in place—forces that determine our choices and the outcome of our lives. Mainly transparent, our mindsets are culturally fixed, a product of defining factors that makes us timid, even passive, in the face of what it is to be present to the world in which we find ourselves.

The dysfunctional ego is one of those forces. We are culturally pressed to adopt this mode of being. However, our ego’s reflexive confirmation bias, buttressed by its internal monologue, challenges our capacity to think for ourselves. Further, our ego, fearful of information and experience that would challenge its unexamined premises, ultimately inhibits our personal authority.

Think about it. Think about how much time our dysfunctional ego spends indulging its “story,” its anger and its anxiety. But, in truth, a dysfunctional ego neither instills confidence nor provides authenticity. Indeed, it makes us awkwardly self-conscious and separates us from the spontaneity and grace that characterize a natural way of being in the world.

Our discipline is concerned with what lies beyond the dysfunctional ego so prevalent in our culture. We who study autonomy and life are intent upon bringing about a sea change in the way we employ and discharge our authority over ourselves. We seek a more productive and at the same time satisfying understanding of these matters, a vision of life lived without a dysfunctional ego as its foundation.

That said, we set out to master the primacy of being who we are when we remove from the processing of our thinking the impress of a dysfunctional ego. In short, our independence is a variable of our ability to disrupt the ego-burdened mindset of our cognition and yes, cognitive independence is hard-won. Yet, the moment we give up the illusion-filled, unexamined ego-driven story we've told ourselves, we can turn our minds to the mobility and originality available in our thinking. And the possibilities are endless.

Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and the leader of its Retreat Workshops and Advanced Classes. Visit autonomyandlife.com for more information.