When watched closely, examined dis-passionately, it would appear that there are multiple factors, not one, in this thing I call I. Or do I call it myself? Or me? Perhaps these are all subtly different, as things are? Can we dis-entangle this?

Image by John Hain from Pixabay 

I – what I can point to. I – a claim. Are these the same?

Me. Can I point to me? Is me the same as I? Or does it have a subtly different flavour, a distinct essence? ‘I’ sometimes stands up rather, perhaps? ‘Me’ is, again perhaps, more intimate? More delicate, less defended? Less defensive? Me is what I am? Does that make any sense?

‘I’ can be many things. One of these things is nominative – I want this, I am this, I seek enlightenment. Or sex, or position, or apparent power, or money.

‘Me’ does not do any of those things – does it?

And then there’s myself. Or my selves, because it would appear that when ‘I’ criticise myself, there are two selves. One self is dishing out the criticism and the other self is taking, or rejecting, or resenting it. So perhaps we should say not ‘myself’ but my ‘self’. Or ‘the self’. Or ‘the selves’.

I lurve Myself, Me, I

And what about ‘ego’? Or egotism? Egoism? ‘I’ go here, ‘E’ go there?

The ‘Ego’, used in this way, is just a translation into Latin of the German ‘das Ich’, ‘the I’, and came about when Freud’s books were translated into English. ‘Medicalised’ would be a more accurate description.

The medicalisation of language had used to require translation into Latin, so as to maintain a ‘professional distance’. ‘Amygdala’ sounds more medical than ‘bit that looks like an almond’, ‘hippocampus’ more technical than ‘bit that looks like a seahorse’, ‘fornix’ more impressive than ‘arch-shaped bit’. All part of society’s efforts to pull the lana (wool) over our eyes.

But back to ego. It means ‘the I’. The I is now nominalised, ‘the I’. ‘I is’, or to avoid straining the language, ‘I am’ is – an action. I am. Point again at I…

Look again at where the pointing goes to.

I am.

I am now.

‘I am’ is a verb – an act, or action, of being.

‘The I’ is nominalised, reified, turned from an action into a thing. Is that true? Is the I a thing? Well, if the indication is to point to what we mean when we say ‘the ego’ then the answer would appear to be ‘yes’, the ego is a self-oriented thing. ‘Thing’, a word which once meant ‘assembly’, a legal concept. The self might be the same sort of thing as ‘the I’. But not the me.

Disassembly line

So where has our separation got to? Our dissection? I (remember, that’s the I reading these words) might have found the following (or not):

  • I – that which I know when I point at it and that’s reading this
  • Me which I can’t really point to but it is all that I am; it registers this
  • ‘The I’, or perhaps the ego, which might be to some degree the same thing as the self and which probably does not like this
  • The self which is not singular but plural – there must be many selves as they set themselves up to monitor and criticise and sometimes praise each other, and some self is possibly – probably? – saying that ‘this is a load of rubbish’ and ‘why don’t I stop reading it and do something more useful?’
Credits: Pixabay

Ah. It might appear the self in its various guises does not like to be pointed at, or otherwise identified.

Is all this splitting hairs? Or is it a result of the terrible imprecision of language? Does the I reading these words recognise any of this?

Am I really such an assembly of disparate parts? Am I an assembly at all? What is real in me, myself, I?

Let’s see if we can find out.