Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ring Psychology #1 "Id, Ego, Super-ego"

I don't know how many of these I'll actually be doing, but this is going to be my way of justifying a love of professional wrestling, even as a person who takes storytelling very seriously.  It can be done.  You may have to humor me a bit...

We'll start this improbable journey with a discussion on ego.  Ego as most people understand it is basically the same as pride, what we assume for ourselves based on what we know about ourselves, our personal achievements and relative worth in society.  For instance, Kanye West has a massive ego.  You know exactly what I mean.  It's generally considered to be a negative term.

But ego can be broken into three parts.  The first is the most formative of them, and is basically what dogs and cats (and a comic strip wizard) have in this regard: the id.  This form of ego is what we start with, our reactive response to the world, the one we have no real control over, what we're born with and the basic toolbox we use as we first begin to experience life.

The second is the ego, which is what we use to internalize course-corrections as our id begins to have cumulative experiences with the world, or in other words it's not a matter of offense but defense.  It's the football players trying to keep the other team from scoring, rather than the team trying to reach the brightly-painted endzone.

The third is the super-ego!  No, this is not a superhero.  This is not Tony Stark, Iron Man.  No (but close).  Instead, this is the social form of the ego, the one that's shaped by others, be it parents or acquaintances we develop.  It's also a kind of defense!  It's the ego of conformity!

And so you might say that the ego most people think about is the id.  But the funny thing is, it's probably far less important than you think it is.

I'll give you some examples.  My four-year-old nephew got some really awesome Lego presents for Christmas.  I was playing with him, and stuck a plastic hot dog into a shark's mouth, because y'know sharks love hot dogs.  That's what I tried to tell him anyway.  You hear all the time that kids are so impressionable.  His natural response should have been to run with the concept.  Which is what he did.  In his own way.  He stuck a little plastic tool in the shark's mouth repeatedly after that, even after I kept trying to sell the hot dog concept.  His id would have re-enforced exactly what he'd been doing all along, which was sticking to the preformed concepts Lego had developed for each part.  His super-ego would have told him to take my advice.  His ego led him to do whatever it was he'd developed on his own.

At work, egos are always a huge matter.  The best way to get someone to like you is to give them a compliment.  When you demonstrate that you not only respect someone but in a specific way you're acknowledging their ego, not super-ego or id, but what they've been developing for themselves based on their own experiences.  This is not to say they're overly proud of whatever they think of themselves.  Although certainly plenty of people are.  But that in order to feel comfortable, people like to be shown a little respect in whatever way they've earned it, whatever is most important to them.  (So when you're getting to know someone, that's probably where you should start.)

What does all of this have to do with professional wrestling?  What's sometimes derided as a "male soap opera"?  It has everything to do with the ego, as outlined here.  Not the "my muscles are bigger than your muscles" kind of way, which is what a very superficial interpretation of professional wrestling would suggest, but a delicate tightrope of highly trained professional athletes being able to project whatever their personality is and how it compares to someone else's.

And, so I'll argue, a great way to understand character.  But we'll get to that.

8 comments:

  1. You do realize that "professional wrestling" is fake, right?

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    1. It's as fake as it needs to be, and real as it needs to be.

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  2. You've thought a lot about the wrestling connection.
    I've heard it said that the best way to make a good impression isn't by acting important but letting the other person know you think he's important. Complimenting someone is a great way to do that.

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    1. I compliment your ability to be a blogging god!

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  3. I haven't followed Wrestling in a long time. My son has a big Undertaker action figure, and a collection of Stop N' Go cups with classic "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Ric Flair and "Macho Man" Randy Savage on them. He found them at a Comic Con and had to have them. Who am I to deny him?

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    Replies
    1. You also don't deny Roddy Piper. He will embarrass you you verbally if you do. He will also do it if you don't.

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  4. Great points Tony, since wrestling characters are always larger than life and depict characters that tap into the hopes and fears of the public. Like Iron Sheik and Sgt. Slaughter.

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