What are Ego States and Why are they Important?

I like to say that within us there are many different parts. And when we are feeling good, confident, and strong, those parts work together like a well-oiled machine. When we are feeling vulnerable; however, some of those parts begin to work independently of each other, or can come into conflict within ourselves.

The psychological definition we use for describing these parts are ego states. Everybody has them and we all experience them. We tend to shift into an ego state when triggered by something that typically comes from our past. Some examples include:

  • an automatic reaction to someone else’s anger; including the 0 to 60 response, immediately apologizing, feeling responsible regardless of the situation.
  • automatic care taking behaviours.
  • reacting out of fear of ‘getting into trouble.’
  • overly passive or overly aggressive reactions.
  • moving to fix.
  • automatically taking ownership.

One of the ways we can become aware of being in an ego state includes asking ourselves this question: “Am I feeling small right now?” When we can recognize that we feel small, we are most likely in a Child Ego state and will move to feel and sometimes react as we did when we were children. If, however, we are feeling ‘big’ in the moment, we know that we have moved to a Parent Ego State; where we are seeking power over other with ‘rules’ or reactions that tend to feel rigid and inflexible.

Being able to recognize when we have been triggered into an ego state is the first step in creating a healthier reaction to situations that mimic childhood experiences. Tomorrow’s post will expand on our overall goal with ego states to live in Adult Ego State.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@viazavier


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