healthy ego development

the development of an individuated ego requires the five As:

  • Attention

    "Attention to you means engaged focus on you... Attentiveness means noticing and hearing words, feelings, and experience. In a moment of authentic attention, we feel that we are deeply and truly understood in what we say or do and who we are, with nothing left out"

  • Acceptance

    "Acceptance means we are received respectfully with all our feelings, choices, and personal traits and supported through them. This makes us feel safe about knowing and giving ourselves to others. Our ability to be intimate grows in accordance with how safe we feel, and that safety is based primarily on how authentically we were accepted in early life. But even after we grow up, moments and months of acceptance by other adults can fill in some of what we may have missed as children."

  • Appreciation

    "Appreciation gives depth to acceptance: 'I admire you; I delight in you; I prize you; I respect you; I acknowledge you and all your potential. I appreciate you as unique.' Is the following description of mindful appreciation familiar to you? Someone acknowledged and cherished your unconditional worth without envy or possisiveness, expressing these feelings verbally and non-verbally."

  • Affection

    "To give an receive love is our primary need. ... The way we were loved in early life is the way we want to be loved all our lives. Most of us know just what it takes for us to feel loved. What we have to learn is how to ask for it. A partner is not a mind-reader so it is up to each of us to tell our partner what our brand of love is. ... if affection is only a strategy for sex, it is not intimate but manipulative. Affection includes nearness or loving presence. We receive real affection when someone is committed to being beside us often. This does not mean constant cohabitation but reliable availability. It is the opposite of abandoning and distancing."

  • Allowing

    "In a good-enough holding environment in early life, I learn that it is safe to be myself, knowing and showing my deepest needs and wishes. This happens in a family with an embrace wide enough to include all of me. Given such a welcome in the world, I gain a sense of stability and coherence, and I develop a reliable source of self-support, a nuturant inner parent who knows how to tolerate my feelings, no matter how contradictory or painful they may be. I reach out for health relationships, that is, those that give me all five A's."

    "But not everyone has the benefit of such a childhood. Some parents set rigid structures on eating, sleeping, clothing, and grooming, all to suit their own needs or standards, rationalizing that such strictures are crucial to a child's health. In our childhood home it may have felt unsafe to be ourselves. We may have noticed that to be real meant losing the love of those from whom we needed it most. We may then have become whatever others neede us to be as the price of being loved. The false sense of self that resulted must eventually give way to a truer version if intimacy is ever to work for us. If it was never safe to be ourselves - if we had to conceal what we were - we may not really believe in our talents and virtues now, feeling like impostors and frauds. Trying to live in accord with the needs and wishes of others is like being a cygnet and trying to become a duck just because you find yourself living in a duck pond."

from "How to be an Adult in Relationships / The Five Keys to Mindful Loving" -- David Richo