Ideal Ego and Ego’s Ideal

The discussion of disciplinary practices and the practices of discipling bring us to the das ding of formation. It may be that the candidates in formation become images of the jouissance/ enjoyments of the agents of formation. There is always a gap between the ideal ego and ego’s ideal. The real issue is the ideal ego that becomes present as an absence or lack that has to be embodied by the candidates. It is absent and one has to embody it and it may not always coincide with the ego’s ideal. This is why the disciplining practices may not be translated as discipling practices. This is so because the self may see pursuits of an ideal ego as a form of depersonalization or castration. Hence, what is important is to let the candidate be made ready to discuss ego’s ideal that actually hides or masks behind the ideal ego that is often reinforced by practices of disciplining employed by the processes and systems of formation. There is a presence that is punctured by an absence. The presence that is active is the ego’s ideal that is actually active behind the veil of ideal ego. In this context, the agents of formations perhaps may be best described by the 1924 love poem of Pabula Naruda when it says: ‘I like it when you are still and quiet. It is as if you were absent’. Thus, disciplining practices does have a silencing dimension which puts on a demand of pursuing an ideal ego which may be viewed as a form of castration and as a result candidates may resist it through Oedipalization. Such an oedipalization hides the ego’s ideal while one is rendered passive. It is as if one is sitting still and is almost absent. This is why we need to consider a humanistic rather than authoritarian approach to priestly and religious formation. 

The ideal ego is an ideal of perfection that the ego tries to emulate. For Lacan, it belongs to the imaginary order. He thinks that it sets up the logic of fantasy. While we may think that ego’s ideal belongs to the symbolic order, we find that it cannot satisfy the drive to emulate ideal ego and therefore, the candidate chooses to stay within its limits of pursuing one’s enjoyment or jouissance. This means the self experiences a disruption and is unable to live to the demands of the ideal ego and changes tracks to stay content and satisfied with ego’s ideal. Jacques Lacan contrasts the ideal ego with ego-ideal. An ego-ideal is not the same as an ego’s ideal. Ego’s ideal is what I have tried to propose while we deal with the scenario of formation. There are scholars who interpret ego-ideal as the model that a person is trying to emulate. The notion of ego- ideal is more complex in Lacan and hence to suit the spaces of formation, I have tried to simplify it by conceptualizing it as ego’s ideal. This notion does help us to understand how the agencies, programs, processes of formation nurture an ideal ego while self is often nursing ego’s ideal that may not be congruent with ideal ego. 

Lacanian scholars think of ego-ideal as an heir of primary narcissism. We can also trace a form of narcissism at play when the self gravitates to ego’s ideal repelling away from ideal ego that enjoys the reinforcement of agents of formation. In fact the presentation of the ideal ego to the candidates becomes ego’s ideal for those who run formation. Unfortunately, these complexities affect the programs and processes of formation as the formators often unknowingly feed their narcissistic hunger by pushing ideal ego down the throat of the candidates of formation. This is why we have to pay heed to Luce Irigaray who teaches that mimesis is a mode of resistance. This means the candidates while seemingly mimicking the ideal ego are actually nurturing their ego’s ideal. Here we may have to take the notion of hybridization of Homi Bhaba seriously. This means the candidates while mimicking ideal ego actually hybridize it as they hide their ego’s ideal within it. Thus, the unbridgeable gap between ideal ego and ego’s ideal dismantle our programs and processes of formation while the agents and authorities that run these programs and processes do not really have any clue about what is really going on. Therefore, we have to come to terms with the malady of the ideal.  

The pathology of the ideal-ego actually triggers narcissistic thirst in the candidates. Thus, when one reaches the end of the formation and takes up ministry, one might hanker to be treated as ideal-ego by those that one ministers to. Thus, serving authority gets displaced by lording authority. This often produces a spiral of fake or make appearance behavior of people who seem to adore the ideal ego in the minister but in fact are actually pursuing their own ego’s ideal. Hence, we have to positively and critically understand the distance between the ideal ego and ego’s ideal. The fact that this distance remains unbridged while the personnel in formation stay with an illusion that all is well when what really goes on are the narcissistic stirrings of ego’s ideal that is hiding behind the veil of ideal ego. Perhaps, the solution to this issue is in the banishing of the culture of passivity in the spaces of formation. This would require that the agents of formation give up the model of a potter that follows the ‘model of making grow’ and embrace the ‘model of letting grow’ of a farmer. Therefore, maybe we have to reformulate the question of Gayatri Spivak that asks, ‘can the subaltern speak ?’ as ‘can the candidate of formation speak?’ Thus it means that we have to let the candidate become the first agent of formation. This will happen only when we infuse trust in the systems, processes and programs of formation. A profound trust deficit seems to be ailing of our formation space and communities as a result ego’s ideal runs the roost in the name of ideal ego.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao