Be yourself. Do what we consider correct, regardless of what others say. These two phrases can seem practically synonymous, and often go hand in hand so that thanks to their combination we can live the life we want to live, a life full and coherent with itself.
And yet, for many people at some time or aspect of their lives both elements may come to contradict: it is possible that a part of our being and our beliefs come into conflict. These elements or parts are considered egodistónicos, a term that we will talk about throughout this article.
Egodistonic: definition of this term
The concept of egodistonía, of which the egodistónico adjective leaves, makes reference to the existence of some characteristic or element which generates discomfort or discomfort to the or people who own them due to the fact of contrary or it is incongruent with the values, way of be or think or the beliefs of such people.
As implied by the prefix ego, this element contrary to one’s beliefs is part or product of one’s own being: it is a denial of the self. It refers generally to the existence of acts, attitudes, thoughts or even physical aspects performed or held by a person and that are contrary to what their value system or belief admits. It creates a cognitive dissonance, a malaise or suffering derived from the capture of the incongruity between one and another thought, and that can lead to the acts or thoughts held are deeply criticized internally.
This can lead to a frustrating situation that is repeated frequently or if the disagreement can not be expressed or resolved, will lead to the experience of stress and may even lead to some psychopathology. Thus, something egodistónico is going to be problematic whenever something is not done to make it stop being it.
The opposite concept: egosyntonic
Understanding the concept of egodisty is much simpler if we also value its opposite: egosynthony. Any thought, attribute or action possessed or performed by a person that is congruent with the scale of values and beliefs that it maintains is defined as egosyntonic.
Thus, the ego-syntonic is what results from following one’s convictions: what each one of us considers to be correct. The fact that our thoughts, attributes, ways of being or doing and concrete acts are egosyntonic can make the existing emotional well-being suppose (although it can lead to negative reactions or repercussions from the environment), especially in the case of something that involves an effort. However, since it is what we consider “should be”, it is also very common that we often do not pay attention to them (since there is no inconsistency) and even that they generate indifference.
Although obviously the egodistonic causes us suffering, the truth is that it has something positive: it indicates that there is a dissociation between belief and situation / thought / action, in such a way that it allows us to assess the element in question and / or the beliefs behind the conflict and to be able to reevaluate them and work to achieve well-being. In the event that there was no such discomfort, trying to change something would be the least difficult because there is no motivation to do so.
What can generate that something be / become egodistonic?
The causes of the existence of egodistonic elements can be very variable. They can be behind the fear of living or performing the actions or thoughts despite not wanting to do them, or the fear of being judged or the repercussions of doing something we do want and is in line with our being.
Other possible reasons are the belief of the fusion or equation between thought and action (considering that it is the same to think something than doing it), the overvaluation of a concrete act or thought in relation to a scale of values or the existence of a high self-demand. Personality is another factor to consider.
Likewise, in all or almost all of the cases, there is also an influence of culturally realized values and learning. Another element that can greatly affect the parenting and parenting models, as well as the learning of behavior models where self-criticism prevails.
Obedience to authority or the effect of perceived social pressure (whether real or not) also has a great influence on whether something can be or become egodistonic.
Situations in which it may appear
Although the term egodistónico is not often used, the truth is that what it implies happens constantly and in a great way.
A variety of situations and conditions. Here are four examples of this.
1. Socio-cultural conditioning linked to sex or sexuality
Education and the sociocultural vision of the things that have been transmitted to us throughout our lives can also contribute to the emergence of egodistonic elements, something especially relevant when the problem is found in elements that are part of our being.
This is the case of sexual orientation: those people with a sexual orientation different from the heterosexual one have seen that traditionally their sexual preferences have been attacked and persecuted, considered sinful or unhealthy. The same happens with those with a gender or sexual identity other than the cisgender (as in the case of transsexual people), persecuted until not so long ago because they have a different identity from what was considered proper due to their sex of birth.
That is why some homosexual, bisexual or transgender people among others can get to experience their sexual orientation or gender identity in an aversive and egodistonic way, as something negative and / or shameful. This supposes that they hide and deny a very relevant part of their being, something that can lead to the emergence of isolation and not to live a free and full life, besides being able to lead to suffering problems such as depression, anxiety or other psychological alterations.
2. Eating behavior disorders
A case of mental disorder in which the existence of egodisty can easily be observed is in eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia. These two disorders involve the existence of severe perceptual distortions with regard to the body itself, as well as fear of fattening and reduction or alteration of intake.
Thus, for those (and those, although less frequent) affected by this type of disorders their own weight or body shape would be egodistonic, since it is contrary to what they would like to have.
3. Obsessive-compulsive disorder
OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder is one of the mental disorders in which egodistonic elements appear. Specifically, the obsessive thoughts that people who suffer from this alteration, which are defined as of constant appearance in the psyche and that are lived as intrusive and contrary to their will, are usually totally contrary to their beliefs and values, something that makes such thoughts are unacceptable and unacceptable to the patient.
In fact, it is precisely the fact that they are egodistonic, which causes them to awaken in them a great anxiety, something that in most cases leads to compulsions to avoid them.
4. Personality disorders
Our own personality can also sometimes be egodistonic. For example, we can have a pattern of behavior and thought in which we are highly submissive, very inhibited, very rigid or have an excessive tendency to risk. This may not be annoying for the person, but in some cases the subject may find great unhappiness and suffering in maintaining these traits.
It may be the case of a person who is always submissive because of fear, or who needs and depends on the approval of others, but who in reality would like to be more independent or not need others to feel good. In these cases we would also be faced with an egodistonic characteristic. This is common, for example, in a large part of personality disorders, such as, for example, in the avoidance of personality disorder, the personality disorder by dependence, the obsessive, the limit or the histrionic.
What to change?
We have said previously that the egodistónico supposes a problem for the person unless something is done so that it stops being it. In this sense, there are two main options: either the scale of values is changed in such a way that we make it congruent with the lived reality, so that what caused us discomfort no longer does so because it is now permissible in the new form of see things, or modify the action or thought in such a way that it is congruent with the current scale of values.
Which option to take can be complex to decide, and in that they can affect a large number of variables. However, we must bear in mind that we are talking about a part of our own being, with what the most adaptive strategy is usually to seek to make a change in the system of beliefs and values in such a way that we can accept ourselves fully and make that part stop being egodistonic.
Thus, in the examples given, the person with egodistonic sexuality should not hide his sexuality or fight against it, but change the beliefs that make it impossible to live it in freedom. In the case of anorexia or OCD, although they require treatment it should be noted that part of the solution would happen in the first case by accepting the body figure itselfl (something that would prevent the pursuit of weight loss) or in the second having had aversive thoughts without coming to consider them unacceptable and without the self-discrimination and guilt that it generates making it an obsession.