Thursday, December 22, 2011

Superego: Wrong Image

Superego, of course, is a concept of Freud’s. It is often made synonymous with “conscience”. The superego is basically an image you have of Who You Are Supposed To Be. This image can be inculcated into you by your parents, your teachers, your religious leaders, and/or can even be constructed by yourself. Wherever it has come from, your heart has accepted it as your ideal.

The trouble is, that’s not who you really are, nor can be. You can’t live up to this ideal. And whenever you don’t, you feel pangs of remorse; you feel guilty and like kicking yourself, because you think you are supposed to be this other thing and you find you aren’t. It’s this phenomenon that gives rise to the “terrors of conscience”, the conviction that in all justice, you ought to be punished.

It happens all the time. I once knew a pious Catholic man who went off to a monastery to become a monk and came back six months later saying, “They wanted me to be someone I’m just not and I couldn’t do it.” He couldn’t be someone’s concept of the Ideal Monk. For him, perhaps that meant defeat, or perhaps it meant liberation, as it should for us. Because – take heart! – in reality, this is a mistake our hearts have made in accepting something not me as “Who I am Supposed To Be”.

Yes, it’s all a mistake. The superego is an artificial construct. Your true conscience is the Image of God within you that protests every time it is violated. Its reaction is sorrow, not guilt.

And you are not meant to be what you cannot be, nor to live up to any ideal. You are not meant to be anybody other than who you are.

And who is that? That’s YOU! You are a unique someone created in the Image of God. You are someone in whom that Image has become tarnished and battered. You are someone in whom God means to refurbish His image and make it brighter than ever.

That Image is the Image of His Son. And it’s not just another form of superego, either, because you aren’t supposed to be Jesus Christ, now or ever; you’re just supposed to try to keep faith with Him as He does His work in you, transfiguring you into your best self, your true self, which is to say, into a glorious but still unique member of Himself, living the life of the Holy Trinity. You are the raw material He takes and deifies.

And unlike the superego, this Image, not merely existing in your head, but as a facet of your own being, is non-threatening. This is the Image of the Creator of all the Galaxies, yes, but Who graciously condescends to be born as a helpless babe in a stable. This is the One Whom all the heavens could not contain, consenting to be wrapped in a human womb for nine months. This is the Timeless One, entering into time, the Immortal One, willing to be killed, the Judge of us all, which sounds so threatening, yet so meek is this Judge that He allows us to judge Him!

It’s the judgment we make of Him that ultimately will reveal most profoundly who we really are. Do you really, really, deep down, want Him or not? His dread Judgment will be:
to reveal this to you
and then to give you what you want
and to let you be who you want to be.

The hopes and fears
Of all the years
Are met in Him tonight.

May you have a very merry and blessed Christmas!


GretchenJoanna said...

This is a worthy meditation. Thank you.