The term Ego-Reference is central and unique to this Theory. I created it in order to name something I discovered, in my years of introspecting, was operating in my psyche but below my conscious mind. It is a complex concept. It refers to part of the Substitute-Sense–of-Self-oriented System which arises in children whose primary caretaker doesn’t treat them as independent human beings, but as pawns in their own emotional games and needs. That prevents the child from developing a Natural Sense of Self, and creates a void which Nature programs them to fill with a Substitute Sense of Self based on achieving approval.
An Ego-Reference is a personal characteristic or behavior which the person subconsciously perceives will lead them to a state of ‘feel-good-about-Self’ based on real or internalized parental approval, a state of emotional ‘high’ which serves them as a Substitute Sense of Self. Because the person so desperately needs this high and this substitute the Ego-References are continuously ‘within his or her scope’ with the aim of being improved upon constantly or successfully completed every time, to win approval. For some examples please go to the page ‘Some examples of Ego-References’.
These characteristics and behaviors which end up being the person’s Ego-References get chosen based on a child’s ‘Early Childhood Survival Strategy’ and were initially based on observations made by the person during the critical period for ‘Sense of your Self‘ development in infancy. That’s the time during which the foundation for the development of a natural and healthy Sense of Self is supposed to be laid by getting the appropriate, healthy kind of regard and feedback from the primary caretaker.
The appropriate feedback and regard include: getting attention and acknowledgment as being an independently existing ‘real Being’, and getting true unconditional love and appreciation for being exactly who they are. Those are the psycho-emotional nutrients needed by humans as building blocks for a healthy Natural Sense of Self.
Humans require a Sense of Self in order to function in the world. Thus, Nature programs infants to notice, to monitor and observe whether the proper nutrients are being received. The infant subconsciously notices connections between its behavior and how it gets treated by the primary caretaker. Some children, unfortunately, have to conclude ‘I have to be different or do differently from what is natural to me, what my inborn essence prompts me to be and do, in order to get my need met for being regarded positively.’ Without actually wording it they – subconsciously – conclude: “The way I am and the way I naturally do things is obviously not good-enough because I am being blamed or ignored”.
Ego-References are, over time, put into place by the innate survival programming of an infant whose living circumstances don’t allow him to generate a natural healthy Sense of Self. Instead, he is living in a sort of ‘Enmeshment’ with a narcissistic parent. These compensation strategies start out as pretty normal adaptations to an unhealthy situation but later develop into unhealthy compulsive activities.
They are being called Ego-References because for the person herself, in a crooked way, these behaviors, these conditions which she has concluded need to be met and requirements which she believes need to be fulfilled, refer to her own identity, to ‘myself’. Ego-References are a way a person recognizes her ‘self’, even if in a negative way: ‘Oh yeah, that is me, I am always late’. So an Ego-Reference refers to one’s Ego, because the Ego is a sort of ‘Self.’
If the child could put it into words, she might say: ‘My ‘self’ exists only in reference to these conditions and requirements and my activities in trying to meet them and my successes in doing that’. Or, said another way, ‘I only know my ‘self’ by referring to these conditions, activities, and successes’. (Success means getting approval for meeting the condition or fulfilling the requirement.)
Early in life the strategy of changing behavior or doing certain things differently to please a parent may have led to positive response, providing some attention for the child or even something that looks like love, which keeps a person prison in wanting to improve on them endlessly. ‘Them’ here, is Ego-References.
‘Always trying harder’ seems to be an aspect of human nature that prevails even against one’s own nature (the root of addiction) and because the issue (not getting needs met) never resolves. At some point the person starts to identify more and more with those ‘characteristics or qualities-of-behavior-or-being to-be-improved.’ they thus turn into Ego-References, identity-definers.
In the earlier phase of development, they used to be the one and only way to get the needs met of being acknowledged as a valuable person by ‘being seen and heard, taken in to account’. This is experienced in a specific way as ‘being allowed to exist’. (In a Natural Sense of Self, feeling allowed to exist is unconditional, unquestionable. In a Substitute Sense of Self, it is highly conditional and transitory.) What allows me to exist is a referent for my Ego.
This structure of Ego-References within the psyche’s Substitute Sense of Self oriented System stays alive even when the parent has long passed away . The parent’s criteria/conditions/requirements for dispensing approval have by then been internalized by the person. He or she now uses them (subconsciously again!) to judge himself or herself. The (what I call ‘virtual’) approval of the long-gone parent on what used to be the characteristics or behaviors singled out to be improved upon or successfully attained/achieved by the young child stays in the child’s system as the criteria that allow the person to ‘feel-good-about-Self’ which gives them their Substitute Sense of Self.
A person’s Ego-References therefore need to be (they believe) continuously worked on for improvement or greater success, as they are crucial for a sort of Sense of Self. However it is an unhealthy, ultimately unsuccessful, unsatisfying, addictive, and problem-producing Substitute for the actual Sensing of the Self. It has nothing to do with the person’s own being. It is called Ego-Reference because it is what the person uses to refer to him or herself.