Category Archives: Ego-threat

By ego-threat I am referring to the idea that certain things people experience can appear to ‘threaten’ their false, separate sense of self or ‘ego’

Why do we feel vulnerable? How did vulnerability evolve? Questioning beyond Brené Brown’s TED talk

Brené Browns talk on vulnerability now has over 3.5 million hits, making it one of the most frequently viewed talks on TED.

One of my passions for years has been trying to understand what it is that is actually open to being ‘hurt’ when we are emotionally ‘vulnerable’. Its clearly not our physical bodies we are talking about – so WHAT is it?

Many psychologists say its our ‘self-image’ that is hurt in these situations. But think about that a second. How can you HURT an ‘abstract’ concept like a ‘self-image’?

“People are so accustomed to reacting to threats to their self-image that they rarely stop to consider how odd it is to regard their mental image of themselves as something that can be damaged by another person’s inconsiderate behavior or disparaging remark.” (Mark Leary – The Analogue-I and the Analogue-me, 2009)

It seems that somehow during evolution or during our childhood years we learned to experience emotional ‘hurt’ to our self-image, almost as if it were physical hurt to our body. How might this have happened? (Some speculations here.)

When this realisation is made – that our ‘selves’ are NOT a solid body but rather a very much ‘unsolid’ abstract thing – then perhaps we can experience emotional ‘hurt’ in a different type of way e.g.:

“Someone says something to you that is rude or designed to hurt. Instead of going into unconscious reaction and negativity, such as attack, defense, or withdrawal, you let it pass right through you. Offer no resistance. It is as if there is nobody there to get hurt anymore. That is forgiveness. In this way you become invulnerable” (Eckhart Tolle – The Power of Now, 1997).

Synopsis of TED Talk by Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability

TEDxKC talk synopsis: In our anxious world, we often protect ourselves by closing off parts of our lives that leave us feeling most vulnerable. Yet invulnerability has a price. When we knowingly or unknowingly numb ourselves to what we sense threatens us, we sacrifice an essential tool for navigating uncertain times — joy. This talk will explore how and why fear and collective scarcity has profoundly dangerous consequences on how we live, love, parent, work and engage in relationships — and how simple acts can restore our sense of purpose and meaning.


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A belief – defensively held – is the first act of war*

This short animation illustrates this reality. It could equally apply to having strong beliefs of ANY type e.g. atheistic beliefs, beliefs that there is only one ‘right’ way of doing things …

* More concisely, this attitude could be described as “Belief as offense” [Thanks for this Ben]

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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Aphorism, Ego-threat


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Empathy and egotism 1

Empathy is the capacity to recognize/share feelings with another.

But could/should you empathise with someone who says:

“I just saw this deformed man on the street. He made me feel horrible. Those people should just stay at home!”

Perhaps our capacity to empathise with another human being depends on whether we share a similar level of egotism?

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Posted by on June 6, 2011 in Ego, Ego-threat


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Its mostly people close to you – family, lovers (and friends to a certain extent) – that push your buttons. What would it be like to have no buttons to push? Would you still be you?


‘Being Clever’ as a description vs. an ‘identity’. Fight Club scene

If you invest your ‘identity’ in ‘being clever’ (or stake your self-esteem on ‘being clever’), you feel good when you appear clever, but bad when you fail to appear clever. On the other hand, if you don’t identify with ‘being clever’ – it doesn’t matter so much what happens.

(about 50 seconds in)

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Posted by on June 6, 2011 in Ego, Ego-threat, Self, Self-esteem


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If you are ‘defensive’, there must be some ‘thing’ you are defending – some thing that’s ‘worth’ all that effort to defend. That’s a reasonable inference. Isn’t it?

Comments by Peter Fonagy, Steven Hayes etc. on the ‘ego’ in the movie ‘Revolver’

Slightly longer version:



Study: Conservatives have larger ‘fear center’ in brain

But are conservatives more frightened by threats to their actual survival or to their conceptual ‘identity’? Or both?


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