In these articles, I explore the wide realm of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and delve into how our thoughts shape our inner worlds, external behaviors, and moods.

We all form an ego as we grow. Let’s reflect briefly on our ego “map” or template and how it results in the type of life we experience.

First, the ego is basically our sense of self, the (mostly) conscious part of us. And as we grow through childhood into adulthood, a series of milage markers are passed on this road of development. Markers such as learning to trust people, learning to be a part of society and be industrious, learning how to form and keep relationships. We all form an ego, and as it forms, we have a basic sense of who we are, a template.

The formation of the ego template tends in one or another direction. It can tend, for example, toward love or hate. Keep it simple: think of training a puppy. Good pet owners encourage some traits and behaviors and discourage others through a system of positive and negative rewards with the best interest of the pet in mind (and the pet-within-the-family). Such animals are a joy to be around as they are playful, cute, and unpredictable in a good way. This ego template trends toward love and balance, or order.

Poor pet owners, on the other hand, may do the same with harsh methods, such as kicking the dog. These animals are unpredictable in a bad way, temperamental, suspicious, and even violent. This ego template trends toward hate and imbalance, or chaos.

Our ego templates develop similarly (with appropriate differences recognized, e.g. humans are much more complex than puppies).

Here is part of the rub. We tend to live out self-fulfilling prophecies based on what matches the template. Do we basically trust others? Or is everyone doing us wrong? We will find what we look for. Sometimes, of course, our templates are the result of traumatic experience. Sometimes, the trauma is not available to our conscious mind as a remembered story. The ego template was formed by an experience that has gone underground, so to speak. The effects of the experience, however, are etched in the nervous system. It echos into our ego and affects our lives.

This is why a woman can marry three alcoholics in a row as if she has WiFi for abusive men, or why a man can self-sabotage at a series of jobs and wonder why the entire world seems out to get him. The ego template is preset to engage the world in a repeated acting out of its original formation.

The thing to do is modify the ego template. This is accomplished by (1) recognition we must modify it and (2) a series of important milage markers must be traveled again. We must work on secure attachments in relationship, find or build solid social supports, engage in spiritual disciplines, and strive toward virtue. A good therapist can help someone along this path. Of course, family and parents are ideal for such ego repairs. If that is not possible or likely, other helpers should be considered, such as a coach, an invested and loving mentor, a wise priest, or a spiritual father or mother.

If any of this rhymes with your experiences, reach out today and seek help.