What are Ego States?
Ego states are sub personalities within a single person with their own physical and emotional boundaries including thoughts, memories, emotions and actions that may be completely different from the rest of the personality.
What they are not!
They’re not a disorder They’re not multiple personalities or a symptom of schizophrenia, although these can exist in combination with ego states. Ego states may represent an over- or underdeveloped sense of self that is adaptive, rather than problematic. They aren’t scary, just unwelcome.
Characteristics of Ego States
The ego state has a sense of ‘I’-ness or identity: it feels like ‘me’. It has its own thoughts, memories and emotions that may be completely different from the rest of the personality. The person is usually only aware of their own ego-state and not those of other personality parts. When other ego-states are activated, the person is usually unaware or only partly aware of their actions. Ego states may be positive and adaptive as well as negative and maladaptive; for example, one might have a sense of self that feels confident and capable, another might feel helpless or victimized. Their qualities can vary depending on the individual and their life experience. Over time, an ego-state can change through suppression or expression into another one. A person may have more than one ego-state that are aware of each other but unaware of themselves as a separate personality entity to the rest of the person’s consciousness (an observer). Ego states can be experienced as people, animals or even objects, but the common factor is that a person feels they are not in complete control of their own actions. An ego-state may have its own sense of time and will experience events like birth and death as future or past events. Ego states can change into other people, animals or objects; this is called transmigration. There are also a lot of people who have other altered ego-states, but most commonly people experience having an alter as similar to themselves.
How many types are there? Many! Some common Ego-States:
The troubled child. This is the most common ego state that everyone has. It’s your inner child who was hurt and seeks to find a safe place in the world. Usually this child is between 2-8 years old (but it can be younger or older). It’s usually a mixture of your real age and the age you were when things started to go wrong. When something startles, upsets or frightens us, we may feel like a child because we want to be protected. When a person’s down in the dumps, they may feel like their inner child is crying out for attention. This is the part of us that feels lost and needs to belong, this is the place where we find our sense of self.
The Emotional Child / The Inner Child. These are the same thing. Remember how a child feels emotions more intensely than an adult? Well, that’s how the emotional child feels emotions compared to the rest of your personality. In childhood, we are taught to express our emotions in certain ways; if you learned not to cry or show fear when you were young but now, as an adult, something reminds you of that experience, your emotional child may break through. The same thing happens when someone’s learned to keep their feelings and emotions bottled up for a long time – they may have an emotional child who pours out their bottled up emotions, crying and screaming. Many people express themselves in an angry manner when they’re sad inside; this is because of the emotional child. This is why it’s important to keep ourselves emotionally healthy when we are children so that as adults, our emotional child doesn’t get hurt easily and can handle the way the rest of our personality expresses its emotions.
The Helper or Rescuer. This ego state is there to help the other ego-states. It can be helpful in that it motivates you to protect your children, take care of your sick parent, get a job and go to school, keep trying even when things are tough, etc. etc. The problem is that this ego-state can become codependent. What it does is keep the person less self-sufficient and more reliant on others to get through life, even when they are fully capable people who can handle themselves well in society as a whole.
The Protector. This ego state is used to protect you from harm and danger. Sometimes it might think that the danger is other people rather than natural disasters or hazards; for example, you may feel that everyone’s out to get you – this is because your protector ego-state thinks they are! The experience can be anything from hearing imaginary voices to feeling like you’re not in control of yourself. This underdeveloped ego-state will keep you from trying new things and learning because it thinks it’s too dangerous.
The Invalid. This ego state feels like it’s invalid. It may actually be an invalid and feel that a lifetime of being ill or disabled is normal, but maybe this person is just having a bad day – they could have done something really well that day or just gotten an award for something. This ego-state makes you feel guilty and bad about yourself, like you’re not good enough for anything or that you’ll never get anywhere in life.
The Critical Parent. This is the part of us that criticizes others. It’s our inner mother or father who tells us we’re not good enough.
So what ego-states could us prevent from making necessary changes?
The Rescuer. This will try to help you change, it might tell you do things one at a time, or to take a safe route; but often what this means is that the person doesn’t think they’re capable of doing it themselves, so they want someone else to do it, and it makes them feel like someone else is taking care of them. The problem with this is that people can become dependent on others to help them do things, so they don’t learn new skills or change for themselves.
The Protector. If you’re always in a dangerous situation and your protector ego-state feels it has to protect you from everything all the time, then there are going to be a lot of things that you’re going to have a hard time doing because it’s too dangerous for your overprotective ego-state. You will feel restricted from having the life you want; the problem does not lie in other people but rather in your own belief about how safe or dangerous situations are and whether or not they can protect you.
The Invalid. Feeling invalid is a feeling of not being good enough and feeling bad about yourself or guilty for what you’ve done in the past, putting down your parents, hating someone else, etc. Guilt may keep you from moving forward because you’re afraid that if you do something wrong again then it will make you feel even.
How can we collaborate with our criticizing Ego-State?
Stop feeding it. There’s nothing worse than a critical parent, except maybe the person who is listening to that criticism all the time!! The only way to deal with this one is not to listen to its advice or do what it says, and (importantly) not complain about how upset you are.
Attempt to understand the Ego-States to make them collaborate which each other