Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Protecting our Egosystem

I heard a speaker at the conference I'm attending (Society for New Communications Research in San Francisco, talking about protecting our "egosystem." By the time I figured out I had misheard him, that he really said "ecosystem," my mind had already taken off on the idea of egosystems and how we operate within them.

Is there a better word for the complex environment of people and personalities we live in? My egosystem is made up of everyone - including me - in my network. In the most liberal interpretation, that includes the entire world. On a more immediate level, it's all the people in my personal network, on my web. And the balance in my egosystem is just as delicate and important to maintain as the ecosystem of the physical world.

With the exception of a few enlightened souls, we all go through the world with our egos raw and exposed. Even for those of us who work hard to recognize and minimize the destructive power of letting our ego always be in control, it's still there getting bruised and knocked about on a daily basis. Too much knocking and bruising and we start to get defensive, protective, retreating into behavior designed to protect from pain.

That makes sense...except the tools we use and the degree to which we employ them are usually way off base. If something frightens us, for example, instead of investigating the source of our fear, we run and hide behind ignorance (the deliberate kind) or, worse yet, apply liberal doses of anger. When we feel vulnerable, we attack, not to mitigate the threat but to anhilate it. We we feel angry, we gunny sack our feelings and whip out the passive-aggressive survival kit, mucking up the whole mess even further. The list is endless. And since it affects everyone on our web, in our egosystem, we end up with human environmental issues... damaged relationships, poor interpersonal encounters, loneliness, heartache.

So how do we protect our fragile egosystem? Start by recognizing it exists. Think about all the people in your world - your very complex, busy, populated world of family, friends, coworkers, strangers. How you treat them matters. How you react to them matters. And though you don't have any control over their actions, your own will certainly have an impact. Are your actions going to bring about the most desired responses? What if they don't? Do you minimize the damage or do you increase the fallout by reacting badly? Do you seek to engage healthily with your human environment, mitigating and controlling pestlike emotions and behaviors, or do you apply the emotional equivalent of DDT?  Just as in our physical environment, anytime you attempt to completely wipe out a component, even  those that annoy you, you create imbalances that skew the web. You don't want to let anger run amok in your life; you don't want to try to eliminate it altogether, either. It's a valid human emotion that, when recognized and used wisely, is valuable.

Thinking on a broader scale, how do our attempts to control group social behavior affect the fragile egosystem of our communities?  If we restrict freedom in favor of safety, what is the effect? What if we don't? How far is far enough and how far is too far?  Whose rights "weigh more?" 

Fear, anger, vulnerability, love, jealousy...they all have their place, even if it's merely to point us toward something that needs fixing.  Working responsibly within our egosystems means that we pay attention to the ego's messages and look to the sources, read the messages there, respond healthily and in ways that foster growth, peace, harmony, and self-respect for ourselves and others. WE look for ways to balance the needs of society with the needs and rights of individuals.

It's our world, this egosystem. We need to spend as much time working to protect our human emotional environment as we do our physical environment. Living "green" starts at home. So does living human, and in human terms, home is you and me.  Balancing and protecting our egosystems starts with us.


1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:03 PM

    So true it's not even funny. There's a lot you can do with that metaphor. Interested to see you explore it a bit more.


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