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This month we are excited to have a guest speaker. Rik Isensee, LCSW is a licensed therapist whose practice focuses on Gay Men. He is the author of several books, including "Love Between Men" and "Are You Ready? The Gay Man's Guide to Thriving at Midlife". You can find out more about Rik at the following link- http://gaytherapist.com

Rik will briefly introduce our topic and then we will break up into our usual small groups for discussion.

There are many different aspects to Ego. The dictionary defines Ego as "the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought." A secondary definition of Ego is "self-esteem or self-image".

Freudian analysis states that the Ego is one part of the three parts of the psychic apparatus, the other two being the Super-Ego and the Id. The Ego mediates between the desires of the Super-Ego and the Id.

The Buddhist approach to Ego is very different and teaches that there are illusory aspects to Ego and that Ego is the source of suffering.

In this salon, we will examine the various elements of Ego and discuss what role Ego plays in our lives for better and for worse.

Sample Discussion questions

How motivated are you by your ego? How much has it shaped your career choices, how much money you make, how you conduct yourself in your relationships and generally how you live your life? Is this a good thing for you or not?

Oftentimes, people who are very motivated by their egos are excessively concerned with appearances and what other people and society think of them. This may lead a person to make choices that may be good for their ego initially but ultimately makes them unhappy because it is adverse to who they ultimately are. For example, you became a doctor because that's what society expected of you and you are now miserable because your real dream is to be something else. Do you relate to this? Or not?

How much does your Ego drive your desire to make money?

In the realm of personal relationships, an over-emphasis on ego can lead to pain and conflict. For example, many people have the desire to be "right" which is probably an expression of Ego. This oftentimes leads to escalation of conflict. What are other ways does Ego affect your personal relationships?

Some people have huge or excessive egos. We call them "egotists" or "narcissists". Do you know any of these people in your life? Are there certain professions or jobs that attract narcissistic people, e.g. politics, business or the entertainment field?

Are there particular concerns gay men have about their egos? In the book "Velvet Rage", author Alan Downs posits the idea that gay men, having experienced feelings of shame around being gay at an early age, try to overcome these feelings by trying to be successful and perfect. This leads some gay men to obsess over their bodies, become materialistic and overly emphasize their careers or education. As a gay person, how much do you relate to this analysis?

Do some gay people feel confused about who they are in our culture and hence either under- or over-develop their ego centering on self?

Do we sometimes pursue sex (e.g., who is attracted to us, the “trophy”boyfriend, how many we have “had”) for ego enhancement?

On the other hand, isn't good to have some sense of ego? We might associate having a strong ego with self-confidence and self-esteem. Is one necessary for the other? Without an ego, is it possible to accomplish anything?

In general, how should we relate to our egos? What role should Ego play in our lives? If overcoming Ego is a goal, how do we do that?

What are alternatives to being centered on self?

To the extent that fear of rejection is comes from self-protection or protection of the ego and fear of rejection stops many of us from taking risks, how might a less ego-centered approach allow us to get over the fear of rejection and lead us to take risks and hence be more dynamic and successful in our careers, love life, etc?

How do some people, perhaps as they mature, let go of the ego? Is such letting go beneficial — or not?