Personal tales contain a living record of where we’ve been and who we wish to become. There are so many opportunities for us to reassess who we are, in relations to how we wish others to see us. And here lies the challenge. An “Ego in Conflict: Seeking Direction Out of Chaos” is the title of this foray into a variety of thoughts from two men from two different tracks along a similar journey. That journey is hard to detail in a manner that would make sense to most who are not traveling in similar circles. Yet, through the crafting of our inner thoughts beyond scripted innuendos, we seek to offer an inner glimpse into our own challenges and roads hopefully leading to inner triumphs. And in doing so, we hope that others find within our messages levels of alignment with their own paths. As you, the reader, does this important work with us, our desire is that you too will be able to move beyond the chaos in which miscommunication and misunderstandings often bind us to falsehoods that imprison our steps towards enlightenment.
Walking the unbeaten path
Understanding how much of who we are is the result of living in a society that predicates itself on pitting likeminded people against one another as well as creating collision courses for emotional despair is a daunting task. What do we do when our inner selves appear to be under duress from the many lessons that life seeks to teach us? We have to carefully balance our delicate egos, which can be fragile to the touch—depending on the technique. Why does any of this matter? It’s quite simple. When we are unique in our own places and in our walks in life, we can find that those paths are points of exile. So where does it leave a person who both needs to explore their inner self while engaging in communal endeavors? It is more like an oxymoron that has no need to be in the first place.
Yet, when we add the complexity of identity that includes gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social class, intelligence, and physical appearance, to just focus on a few; we have a complex equation that demands more of those we encounter than often they wish to offer. The reality is that many are not willing to take on a challenge that requires additional effort and care. In the words of my colleagues, they don’t want to “lose any skin.” It may sound foreign to many to think that we as individuals are self-centered in not only our actions, but also the thoughts that lead us to them. In each case, we find that our egos are the driving mechanisms for traversing varied terrains with each containing its own sets of obstacles—another form internal chaos.
Coming to terms with a contradictory self
When thinking about human behavior from many perspectives, the challenge is to hear and see things beyond our frames of reference. This process is one of the more challenging aspects of growth. Why would one want to subject themselves to moments of discomfort? Let’s be honest, how many of us seek to take the road that is less traveled? In many of my conversations and experiences, a common theme has been that people gravitate to what is familiar and what has been constructed as their norms. In recognizing this, we also place ourselves in very constricting spaces if we ever truly decided to be critical of not only our beliefs, but of those who we have been taught by; thereby illuminating an external chaos. Yes, this means parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, community leaders, and a host of others, in which all have significantly influenced each of our processes of self-actualization.
Some may use a person as a role model who they wish to emulate as easily as they might use another for whom to not replicate. Both are equally important to our development along this journey. The ego remains a constant in this process in a similar fashion to what the North Star has been noted to offer. Yet, the conflict of becoming and being are at play. How does one resist all that she/he has come to accept and/or know as true when there are so many signs that limitations are found within this perspective? This question serves as a clear example of the chaos that we can existentially find ourselves situated in.
The intellectualized ego: An ostracizing mechanism for a normative masculinity
The embracing of ones intelligence should, on the surface, seem to be a point of praise among the community and other social spaces. And for many that may well be the case, but what I have found to be quite interesting is the manner in which a further acceptance of ones intellect as a person of African descent has created interesting tangents. When or if we revisit history, we can see how education, and I would cautiously link this to intellect, has played pivotal roles in the advancement of people of color. Within this exploration of history, we can find an array of figures both women and men (due to patriarchy and other factors, it is a lot harder to see the true roles of women) during various social movements. But along the way something quite disturbing appears to have happened, being both gifted and “Black,” “African American,” and/or “of African descent” have been under even more attack.
The bombardment is now found in a linkage in the minds of some with intellect and sexual orientation. In a conversation with a graduate student about this topic recently, she acknowledged her shock to hear a number of her male students of African descent correlating intelligence with being gay. I would have found such a statement preposterous had I not experienced my own moments in which my sexuality was under assault and/or questioned. I must admit that had I attempted to engage in a conversation in which I would discuss this topic in connection with my own identity when I was younger; what I would have said then would be quite different from what I would say now. But after much growth and development, I find that the topic is something that I have to partake in because it has become a part of a master narrative that others have found a need to project onto me.
What a strange situation to find yourself in where the scrutiny that you undergo has significantly impacted what and how others interact with you based on what they assume without including you in the conversation. Yet, I recognize that for me, the more I have embraced my desire to cultivate my intellect, the more I have experienced people questioning my sexuality. Of course, some of my thinking is due to having a heightened awareness of how what I do and how I do it may not fit within how others have come to know masculinity to be enacted. In doing so, I have introduced external chaos into my reality. That of course places someone who actively seeks to have egalitarian committed relationships in more challenging situations, creating further chaos.
When masculinity is constrained to actions that often promote and maintain male privilege, persons who attempt to operate to disrupt it seem to become more marginalized or out of place as a result. If normative culture continues to prevail, how else should/could a man who seeks to promote gender justice be seen? Isn’t this type of character a flaw by all traditional cultural and social expressions? How else is a man who has been largely raised by strong women of African descent supposed to conduct himself?
Yet, this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. When other stereotyped components of self-identity that included how one grooms themselves and nonverbal communication techniques are added, the water gets even murkier. Ironically, as all of this transpires, there is of lucidness that is gained when one recognizes their situatedness within an existential chaos. A collection of disjointed realities from a series of glazed lenses that society continues to surveil all of us.
What is even more perplexing is to have to, in a sense, provide some form of address to the concerns or assumptions of others; while attempting to not present homosexuality or bisexuality as deviant expressions of self-identity as what the questioner is often implying from the start—further chaos. At this juncture of my life and development, what others think should not matter to me in any significant degree unless they have a direct connection to my success. Yet, as an educator and public figure this is not the case. The perceptions of others are the harsh realities of those who provide a public good as their occupation. For me, the following phrase clearly captures my experiences of being in a “catch 22” situation.
Unfortunately, the only thing that is accurately caught is a failed understanding of who I am therefore making my desire to reject what others seek to construct for me to convey an empowerment of their ignorance. Yet, not addressing this project allows for me to become complicit in the social nomenclature of limited perspectives. What makes a man a man is more than what dogmatic practices allow in the form of a regressed application of masculinity. If masculinity is to remain situated in the greater discourse, a more holistic approach to recognizing and embracing a wider spectrum of what masculinity means and how it is enacted is required. This is something that I feel is especially needed within our communities and has to be placed on the table for both deconstruction and reconstruction.
The Ego Deconstructed: Jay Noetic
What is the ego? And why has it received such a bad reputation? The only good reference that I have ever come across was in Beyonce’s song “ego” in which she was telling the story of how her man had such a big one and was bragging about it. Now, it’s up for debate whether or not she was speaking of the ego located above the shoulders or beneath the waist but that’s neither here nor there because things are rarely what they appear to be anyway, especially when it comes to our ego’s being in conflict, but we’ll take the good reference where we can get it.
When people think about the ego, the first thought that comes to mind is “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance” This is the box that society has placed the ego in and rightfully so, because that’s the definition that the majority of people get conflicted in with regards to their very own ego. When our feelings get hurt, our ego is often bruised. When we get angry, it is often because of our ego feeling attacked or disrespected. We often react based on these emotions that are being generated by our ego. Still, we can’t and shouldn’t dismiss these thoughts and/or feeling but our ego often affects self esteem and self importance unconsciously.
However, we are more than just our ego’s (at least we should be) and we should never assume when someone else’s ego is getting in the way of the situation or even try to define what someone’s ego is or is not. It’s not our responsibility to bring someone’s ego out of the conflict if it appears to be conflicted, but it is our responsibility to be aware when our own actions or words have made someone else question their own self esteem or self importance.
A truly conscious person will always be aware when our egos are in conflict with our authentic selves. Is there anything wrong with having an ego? That’s debatable. After all, our ego is what allows us to be aware of self in ways such as self-importance, self-worth, self- image to name a few. These are important characteristics in our lives but it’s even more important to know when we are trying to transfer our egotistical traits on to others. Too often people allow their own low self esteem and their own low review of self to cloud their judgment of what actually is the truth.
I always try to be aware of when my ego is leading my actions. While there is nothing wrong with having an ego that motivates you to be better and to do better, it rarely should be the captain driving the ship. With all my relationships, both intimate and non-intimate, my steps are never ordered by my ego because to do so means that I would be operating from a perspective of I. For you to do so, would mean the exact same thing and intermingling our lives with others from a self-centered perspective is a formula for disaster.
Instead I try to use the PSYCHOANALYSIS definition of Ego which is “the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious “. The goal for all intellectual beings (that’s you) should be to operate in the conscious and to be aware when the things we speak or do are operating in the unconscious. To operate in the unconscious means to be doing things that are of habit; thing’s that we don’t even think about saying or doing but it still happens anyway.
So when people associate intelligence with being gay, it is a clear sign to me that they are not only operating from a self centered position but also a low self esteem position and an unconscious position. The LGBT community should be rather proud of themselves if what my good friend De Walt stated above is true about intelligence being associated with being gay in the black community. If I’m going to be stereotyped, I’d much rather be stereotyped as intelligent instead of a thug or ignorant.
Furthermore, if a black man, being highly intelligent, symbolizes homosexuality in the black community, then yes, I’ll let the few feminine qualities that I have qualify me as being a woman trapped in a man’s body who loves women. I guess that makes me gay and I guess my intelligence has given me a slight ego but I’m in control of it, instead of it of me. How many people can say the same? And yes I did just boost my own ego.
Do you want to know who really is enjoying life right now? It’s the individuals who are living with no ego. They are living in pure humility. These people get it. They understand that when they live a life free of ego domination that they are closer to having “Christ Consciousness “ more than any other individual. In Buddhism they call the Ego “ignorance” “hatred” and “greed”. In Christianity they use the word “humility” or “humble” because it’s the opposite meaning of “ego”. When James says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” in James 4:10; he is saying remove your ego in front of the lord and he will lift (raise) you up.
All of us should remove our egos from all situations in order to better understand the situations that we find ourselves to be in. I learned a very valuable life lesson in “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. He teaches that when examining the self in the present moment, one should figure out if it’s the ego that is hurt or if it’s your true self that is hurt. It was a simple question, “Why do I feel the way that I feel in this present moment?”
When we deconstruct the ego and examine it in its parts, we realize that the ego really does not exist. It’s a figment of our imagination that we have allowed to materialize into a “self induced false reality”. If we as a people can learn to remove our ego from the conversations that we engage in and remove our ego from the relationships we partake in; we then allow ourselves to start having open, honest and meaningful conversations with each other.
When we finally do this, we will then start to have progression in not only the black community but all communities that are trying to build together instead of separately. In closing, we are only two men who have decided to sit around a figurative table to discuss the ego in its proper context in hope that humankind’s path will one day be aligned properly. We are but two men pushing the envelope not only within ourselves, but also for the individuals who dare to be better than the norm.
We represent only two voices that see the world through complimentary yet different lenses. When in tandem they become clearer than when used independently. Our hope is that there are others who are willing and able to offer their respective lenses in this endeavor of deconstructing our egos in pursuit of raising ourselves up higher, thereby uplifting our communities. This is an existential exercise that beckons us to burrow deep within our inner selves in pursuit of what we may have, in the past, considered unsalvageable—our true essence. If at any point we have ever considered ourselves broken, this journey is one that we wish you to consider taking with us. Come take a chance and live in the discomfort. There are better ways to see, there are better ways to think, and there are better ways to do; yet none better than the one that aids you in becoming the best you that you can be. We can walk the path already trodden upon or we can walk the unbeaten one; but there is only one that helps you come to terms with the contradictory self, which do you think it is?