[Note: This Article is based on the Discourses given by Sri Sathya Sai Baba on various occasions. This is not a direct excerpt from any Discourse, but an essay based on His Message on Management and Leadership.]
Personality is individual’s unique and relatively stable patterns of behaviour, thoughts and feelings. Personality is a stable set of characteristics and tendencies that determine those commonalities and differences in the psychological behaviour (thoughts, feelings, and actions) of people that have continuity in time and that may not be easily understood as the sole result of the social and biological pressures of the moment. What does one mean by personality? One’s physical appearance alone is not one’s personality. Because of the inherent Divinity in man/woman, one has personality. Today, a student should cultivate moral values if he/she wishes to possess a good personality. Both heredity (biological factors) and environment (economic status, parents’ social and educational background) determine the personality of an individual. The foregoing aphorism can be analysed by means of the personality structure in order to comprehend its interface with mind-control.
Structure of Personality
We all know the story of Dr. Jekyll, the good, kind doctor, and Mr. Hyde, his evil side. Familiarity with this story presupposes that we all have the basic idea of the key structures of personality. Psychoanalytic model constructed a model of personality with three parts: the ID (unconscious), the ego (conscious) and the super-ego (conscience), which all correspond, roughly, to desire, reason, and conscience.[i]
Instinctive Drive (ID) can be thought of as a sort of storehouse of biologically based motives and instinctual reactions for satisfying motives. It consists of all our various bodily needs, physical desires, and aggressive impulses. It is totally unconscious and operates in accordance with the ‘pleasure principle’. In short, ID is the Mr. Hyde of our personality and is equivalent of the Devil in the aphorism. Left to it, the ID would satisfy fundamental wants as they arose, without regard to the realities of life and devoid of morals of any kind. Baba says, “The mind of an individual especially at youth is similar to the cumulative mind of a hundred monkeys”. The ID, however, is usually bridled and managed by the ego.
Ego: The world allows fewer opportunities for instant gratification. Moreover, if one attempts to gratify many of one’s inner urges, it would land him/her in serious trouble. It is in response to these facts that the second structure of personality, the Ego develops. The Ego consists of elaborate ways of behaving and thinking which constitute the executive function of the person. It keeps a person working for a living, getting along with people, and generally adjusting to the realities of life. Ego mediates between ID impulses and super-ego injunctions. Thus, the ego operates in accordance with the reality principle. It takes into account external conditions and consequences of various actions and directs behaviour towards optimisation. The ego is partly conscious but not entirely so. Thus, some of its actions such as its external struggle with ID, are outside one’s conscious knowledge or understanding. Being engaged in good, interesting and wholesome works, interests, hobbies and pursuits could strengthen one’s ego.
It is the responsibility of educational institutions during the learning stage, and work organisations during the earning stage, to create such organisational / work climate, to keep people busy in absorbing, healthy and meaningful work. There should not be too much of free time in the work-lives of people particularly at the stage of youth, as such free time would create a needless scope for wild-mind expeditions.
Super-ego: The super-ego corresponds closely with what is commonly called conscience (equivalent of master in the aphorism) but which is mostly pre-conscious. It consists mainly of dos and don’ts learned from parents and parent-substitutes such as teachers, neighbours, the electronic media, films and religion. The super-ego may condemn as wrong certain things, which the ego would otherwise do to satisfy the ID. It also keeps a person striving toward the ideals called the ‘ego ideals’, which are usually acquired in childhood. The super-ego is thus concerned with morality and it permits one to gratify such impulses only when it is morally correct to do so – not simply when it is safe or feasible, as required by the ego. The super-ego in nutshell is akin to Dr. Jekyll, which requires an individual to be good all the time, and represents our internalisation of the moral teachings and norms of our society. Values, thus, predominantly lie in the super-ego dimension.
[i] Baba very frequently referred to the aphorism “Follow the master, face the devil, fight till the end, and finish the game”, which metaphorically refers to the intra-personal conflict that goes on in each person. The intra-personal conflict is nothing but the struggle of each individual to manage his/her mind. In modern organisations, it is accepted by everybody that mind-control is very critical for the success of not only executives but also other non-managerial employees. However, the words used in the aphorism have equivalents in modern psychology, which by adopting the grounding theoretical approach could be found similar to the components of psychoanalytic theoretical framework. The purpose of drawing a parallel to an existing theoretical framework available in western psychology is only to provide a basis of reference to the western readers and others who may not be familiar with these concepts. It is self-evident that the framework provided by Baba is of universal application and significance, and definitely belongs to a higher plane than the mundane scientific models. Baba says, “Spirituality is beyond the mind, while Science is below mind”. However, the theoretical framework provided by Baba will be of immense use to all those who are interested in Personality Development.