Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

So far in my reflections, “I have met with no sure signs of an ego, superego, or libido such as Freud made the cornerstones of his self-analysis” (CONSCIOUSNESS: The BOOK, p. 172f.). What I do find is consciousness as a process in the form of an on-rushing loop of engagement that conducts my stream of consciousness from moment to moment as driven by my subjective feelings, values, and memories.

Feelings come in two polarities: positive and negative, pro and con, attractive and repellant. Positive feelings drive the loop forward, negative feelings hold it back. Our engagements are steered by the polarity of our feelings toward what we love, like, or yearn for, and away from what we hate, dislike, or find unappealing. Insofar as our engagements are expressions of the biological values underlying our motivated behavior, they aid our survival in the various situations we get ourselves into. Situations in which we receive sensory stimulation and with which we interact as appropriately as we can.

Positive engagements reflect  the many layers of our identity, including feelings, values, habits, autobiographical memories, decisions, judgments, and choices we make in acting as we do. They are how we make ourselves happen in the world and become who we are. Negative engagements tell who we are not in reflecting the dark or hidden side of our depths—the self we wish to avoid. Our loops of engagement are more all-encompassing than our little self (Latin ego, meaning I).

Our looping engagements are fast-moving and full of adventure, while old ego is staid as an assumed property of our minds. I believe ego is an outdated concept, that it is time to acknowledge the dynamics of our personality, and that in different situations we behave differently and become different people. In fact we are as much a product of our engagements as we are their directors. Each day is given to us so we can discover who we are in the situations that arise on that particular day. The self of yesterday is not necessarily the self of today. We can change, we can adapt, we can try new behaviors. We can grow into new selves in light of our daily adventures. Self-reference stays the same day to day, but the self referred to can grow as our experience grows larger and larger.

I would say that if we stay the same from day-to-day, we aren’t really living up to our potential. We are meant to grow larger as our experience accrues, to transcend who we were yesterday in order to become the larger self we are today. Our loops of engagement are active and kinetic, not staid and ever the same. As experience accrues, understanding accrues, wisdom accrues. We grow into larger selves as we progress through our days hour-by-hour, day-by-day, year-by-year. If we don’t give ourselves to our coursing experience, we actually grow smaller as life passes us by. We are stuck in the past, diminished, pretending to be alive, depending on the good old days to tell us who we are. Not keeping up with our streaming experience, we slip into existence as our version of the walking dead.

Superego, too, seems an outdated concept. Our cultures—not just our parents—influence everything we do, including who we are. And every day we wake to a new culture because the people around us are doing new things. If we don’t keep abreast of what’s going on, our frame of reference slips back, back, and back, leaving us living as who we once were, not the larger selves we might have become.

Yes, libido, the sensuous or affective self, still applies to our looping engagements as the range of bivalent feelings that steers us from one sexual or aesthetic or habitual encounter to the next, engagement after engagement. If passion is not involved in what we do, we are missing the point of life as an expression of who we are as individual specimens of vibrant human possibility. But our engagements are far more diverse than Freud’s emphasis on sexual liaisons would imply. Not all passions are implicitly or explicitly sexual. Our experience is nuanced in every case, with soft shadings, subtle hues, and quiet gradations merging from one to the next, carrying us through the full range of sensory possibilities. To be truly alive is to be alive to the whole palette of human experience, to the bold and the delicate alike.

In my mind, ego, superego, and libido are supplanted by the dynamic flow of my successive, felt engagements with the myriad situations that make up my life’s experience. Experiences centered on food grade into those centered on sex, on drink, on scents, visual impressions, aural sensations, tactile encounters, intellectual appreciations, scientific realizations, and so on and on. The only certainty is that this instant of awareness will merge with the next, and the one after that. Until, that is, my loop is done and I leave the world to those who accompany and come after me.

Gotta move on to the next episode. Catch up with you later. Y’r friend, –Steve