Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender with Hypnosis




Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 3-66

 2000 Heart-Centered Therapies Association


The Ego in Heart-Centered Therapies

Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


Diane Zimberoff, M.A. and David Hartman, MSW*

Abstract: This paper charts and expands on the life scenario proposed by Jung

whereby the first half of life is devoted to ego development and the second half is devoted to transcending and surrendering it. We assess both processes (ego development and ego surrender) in the context of existential identity, and analyze a number of precursors to the final stage of development (the ongoing surrender of the ego). Transformation in the second phase of life is the re-enactment, or recapitulation, of earlier prototypes: (1) the process of conception, leaving the spirit world to enter a body; (2) the process of birth, leaving the mother’s womb to enter the world; (3) rapprochement in the third developmental stage, from 18 months to 3 years, finding balance between dependence and engulfment, between intimacy and alienation; and (4) the conflicted needs for belonging and independence of the adolescent developmental stage. Finally, we look at the process of transformation undergone by the surrendering ego as a rapprochement re-enactment on the transpersonal level, self-concept,” letting go of the narrow possessiveness of identity. “Surrendering the ego” is viewed as an active (autonomous) ego making a passive behavioral choice. Here the ego is active in the sense of refraining from being reactive, i.e., operating with a high degree of internal locus of control. The behavioral choice is passive in the sense of allowing something to unfold without attempting to change, control, coerce or manipulate it.

Obstacles to ego surrender are fixations at incomplete developmental stages, and the transpersonal defenses: fear of letting go and trusting. We focus on the use of hypnotherapy to guide and facilitate an individual’s healing journey of completing unresolved developmental stages.

Organization of the Article

1. Psychosocial development of the ego from psychoanalytic, ego-

state and Jungian perspectives

2. The differentiation / dissociation continuum of ego states (the

“executive,” introjects, shadow parts, complexes, alter

personalities from traumatic splits), ego boundaries, and “non-

egotized” aspects of the personality

3. The lifelong progression of re-enactments of rapprochement

4. The therapeutic process of “strengthening the ego”

5. Ego function or dysfunction

6. The psycho-spiritual healing process of “surrendering the ego”

7. Applications in Heart-Centered Therapies

8. Ego, existential and transpersonal (karmic) identity

9. Transformation through completion of developmental stages


*The Wellness Institute, 3716 274th Avenue SE, Issaquah, WA 98029 USA

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


Development of the Ego

We have mapped transpersonal development beyond what was formerly considered the ceiling of human possibility and have found preliminary evidence of common psychological and spiritual developmental sequences across traditions (Walsh, 1993).

A long tradition in many cultures has evolved of dividing life into two

parts: in the first phase, from childhood to middle adulthood, we are

becoming individuals, learning the ways of the world and asserting

ourselves in the demands of family, work, and society. In the second phase,

which begins according to Jung with the midlife crisis, we begin turning

inward, reconnecting with the center of our being. In the first phase we

build and develop our ego and in the second phase we transcend and

surrender it (Metzner, 1998). This final developmental stage is focused on

creating meaning in one’s life beyond what we can do and based instead on

who we are. “It is generally accepted among analytical psychologists that

the task of the first half of life involves ego development with progressive

separation between ego and Self; whereas the second half of life requires a

surrender or at least a relativization of the ego as it experiences and relates

to the Self” (Edinger, 1972, p. 5).

In our discussion of the development of the ego, we will utilize the

Jungian perspective that focuses on the relationship between two centers of

psychic being: the ego and the Self. The ego is the seat of the conscious

personality, of subjective identity, the sense of “I”. It is partial,

impermanent and changeable, but believes itself to be whole, permanent

and absolute. The ego is the conscious part of the total personality, the

Self. The Self is the central archetype of wholeness, the unifying center of

the total psyche, and includes both conscious and unconscious elements.

The conceptualization of “the ego” is far more complex than that of a

unified collection of perceptions, cognitions and affects, but rather as

organized clusters or patterns of these called ego states (Federn, 1952).

Psychosocial Developmental Stages

Developmental stages for the human have been studied and

documented extremely well. We know that children follow a predictable

path of sequential steps in their emotional and social growth. Erik Erikson

(1950) postulated eight stages of psychosocial growth in the normal

human. When a child is frustrated in completion of one or more of these

essential tasks, he/she becomes fixated on it, and thus unable to move

through to the next vital steps. This pattern of growth is also intricately

related to the stages of ego development and to spiritual growth. The

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


developmental stages will be viewed as the changing relationship between

the ego and Self, the two fundamental aspects of an individual.

The following discussion of developmental stages will briefly address

the pre-conception experience (Zukav, 1989), the intra-uterine experience

(Grof, 1985; Janov, 1996; Verny, 1981), the birth experience (Grof, 1985),

the psychosocial developmental stages (Erikson, 1950; Mahler et al, 1975),

and the death experience (Kubler-Ross, 1975).

The Pre-conception Experience

The pre-conception experience is, of course, unknown to science.

Various theories are found in the traditions of different cultures, spiritual

practices and religions around the world and throughout time. Our purpose

for including this unknowable predecessor to earthly life is that many

people in experiential therapies have transpersonal experiences in this

realm, such as past-lives or the experience of “selecting” the parents to

whom they are about to be conceived. Here we present a model for

clinically processing these people’s experience: we are a soul in the

grandeur of the cosmos before we make the choice to incarnate on earth.

That choice is based on what lessons we want or need to learn, what parts

of our soul-self we want to expand, what experiences we are accountable

to create for ourselves due to choices we made in previous incarnations

(karma). There may also be various past life “decisions” or

“commitments” we might have made that constrict the current choices. The

ego does not exist at this stage, only the Soul.

The Intra-uterine Experience

Once the Soul has entered an earthly body, an irreversible chain of

events is set in motion. One aspect of these events is the creation of

personality and ego. Initially, the fledgling ego is not separate from the

Soul, just as it is undifferentiated from its environment (mother and her

environment). The fetus is highly suggestible, and thus the intra-uterine

experience impacts the life to follow immensely. Whatever she

experiences, the developing fetus experiences. If the mother entertains a

thought that, “You are the wrong gender” or “We can’t afford you” or

“You are causing me pain,” that environmental message is communicated

to, and profoundly absorbed by the fetus. The womb is a very infectious

place. Many fears are passed on as well as experiences of joy and serenity.

The fetus is not adept at tolerating traumatic pain and automatically

responds by dissociating from and repressing those feelings of hurt, fear,

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


and shame. The production of stress hormones and painkilling serotonin by

the fetus for the purpose of dissociation is well documented (Janov, 1996).

The child in its most formative stage of growth, womb-life, then makes

“life decisions” based on these messages, and will re-enact (recapitulation,

or repetition compulsion) these early decisions until death or until it

becomes clearly “someone else’s truth, but not necessarily mine.” A child

grows accepting the parental or cultural belief that it is the wrong gender

and constantly trying to overcome that “flaw,” never fully accepting its

masculinity or femininity. Another child grows accepting the parental

projection that it is the cause of her (mother’s) pain and thus the infant

shrinks from meeting its own needs throughout life in the effort to spare

others the pain. Or due to intense trauma to the mother and/or fetus during

the womb-life, a child may grow dissociating from life and repressing any

natural expression of emotion out of the need just to survive.

One conceptualization of this process is that of imprinting, taken from

the work of Konrad Lorenz (1935) on short-term learning in animals that

does not fade with the passage of time. It applies as well to human

responses that become fixated by the emotional or physiological stress with

which they first appeared.

Fortunately, we can free ourselves of these false messages through

discovering them and creating an emotional, behavioral, perceptual, or

cognitive ‘corrective experience’ to replace them (Watkins & Watkins,

1993). Through expressive therapies, we can teach people to overcome the

tendency to repress or dissociate and to change previous self-defeating

decisions. People can spontaneously access this stage of growth in

breathwork, hypnotic age-regression, and various forms of ‘energetic’ and

transpersonal healing.

The Birth Experience

With the birth experience comes a sudden, startling realization to the

fetus ego/Soul: I am subject to forces beyond my control (therefore, the

realization that there are forces other than me). The birth experience, those

hours of labor and delivery and the immediate reception, create an

imprinted template for one’s life. The mother’s emotional state, the father’s

and other family members’ acceptance of the new baby, the obstetrical

interventions, the degree of stress involved, the extent to which the baby is

allowed to follow its innate reflexive behavior all can impact the child’s

entire life. The baby delivered by forceps or Caesarian may learn in that

dramatic one-trial learning to expect others to do for him/her. Research is

now enlightening us about the effects of every twist and turn in the birth

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


process. This prototype experience for the child creates birth issues, which

are templates for its most fundamental life decisions. Each type of birth

creates its own unique ramifications, a set of limiting life decisions, a

unique “internal program.”

Psychosocial developmental stage 1: Bonding

The first developmental stage, from conception to 6 months, is focused

on bonding, basic trust vs. mistrust, and healthy codependence.

Developmental tasks are to express needs, to accept nurturing, to bond

emotionally and to learn to trust adults. In addition to all these fundamental

tasks, the most important survival task in this developmental stage is to

choose life. The child is born experiencing itself to be literally the center of

the universe; that is, the ego continues to be totally identified with the Self.

Healthy parenting eagerly meets every need, thus reinforcing the child’s

basic sense of worthiness and trust. Jung called this ego inflation and this is

necessary for continued development, although later in development ego

inflation is actually grandiosity.

Soon enough, however, the world (and the parents) begin selectively

meeting childhood demands and rejecting others. A child whose ego

inflation continues unchecked by boundaries, healthy feedback and limits

becomes “spoiled,” and grows into an adult who exhibits ego inflation

through grandiosity, demands for control, and self-centeredness. When this

child grows into an adult, he/she will continue to exhibit negative ego

inflation, profound unworthiness, guilt, ambiguity about one’s existence,

and the need to be a martyr. This occurs during the first developmental

stage when the child experiences abusive parental rejection, which is

rejection stemming from the projection of the parent’s shadow onto the

child, and the child identifying with it.

Psychosocial developmental stage 2: Exploration

The second developmental stage, from 6 to 18 months, is focused on

oppositional bonding, i.e., I need to trust you to discover me as separate

from you, and healthy counter-dependence. Developmental tasks are to

explore and experience the environment, to develop sensory awareness, to

express needs and trust that others will respond to them. In this stage an

important quality which children develop is initiative. They develop this

all-important quality by being taught problem solving skills and how to see

a wide variety of options in each situation. Too often parents are too rigid

and insist that there is only one way to solve a problem. This attitude does

not facilitate development of healthy initiative for the young child.

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


In this developmental stage, the child has not yet begun to separate

from the primary caregiver, not even to recognize its dependence on

her/him. The ego continues to be fully self-involved, taking totally for

granted the care, protection, ever-presence and omnipotence of its

caregiver. The period from eight to fifteen months of age is a “practicing”

subphase (i.e., practicing rapprochement). During this time the toddler

explores its environment with reckless abandon. Since the child’s

experience is that the primary caregiver is always present and therefore the

child is always safe, the “practicing” toddler knows no fear.

Psychosocial developmental stage 3: Separation

A seminal turning point in the development of the ego is the

separation-individuation process (the third developmental stage, from 18

months to 3 years), especially its rapprochement subphase. At this point,

beginning around the middle of the second year, the child develops an

intense ambivalence toward the primary caregiver based on a growing

awareness of its dependence on the caregiver and simultaneously

experiencing a powerful drive for distance, independence and power.

In consequence, the child’s desires for intimacy and distance here begin to clash in a serious

way, each one undermining the other: the desire for intimacy making distance seem like

alienation and the desire for distance making intimacy seem like engulfment. (Washburn,

1995, p. 37)

The third developmental stage is focused on creating a separate

identity, thinking and problem-solving, autonomy vs. shame and doubt,

and healthy independence. Developmental tasks are to establish the ability

to think for oneself, to test reality by pushing against boundaries and

people, to learn to solve problems with cause and effect thinking, to

express anger and other feelings, to separate from parents and be

welcomed back with love (rapprochement), and to begin to give up

thoughts of being the center of the universe. In this developmental stage,

the child needs to be able to “leave” the mother and then “return” with full

love and acceptance. The child replays this leaving and returning drama

hundreds of times. If the mother herself feels abandoned when the child

“leaves” and is thus angry when he/she tries to “return”, the child will not

develop proper independence, personal power and trust in relationships.

Thus punished for attempting to become independent, the child will block

his freedom, trust and passion in relationships through immersion in

shame, fear and guilt. Thus the “victim” identity is seeded and begins to

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


develop out of a lack of internal personal power and trust of authority


The “practicing” toddler’s previous assumption of safety, which

permits reckless abandon, collapses sometime around the middle of the

child’s second year (the rapprochement subphase) with the realization that

the caregiver’s presence, or competence, cannot be guaranteed. The natural

reaction, around fifteen months of age, is to feel insecure, to cling to the

primary caregiver and to be even more demanding of her/his attention.

Intrapsychically, a child’s experience that it is not the center of the

universe leads to an estrangement between the ego and Self. The ego is

chastened and humbled. Initially, this is experienced, again, as alienation,

but a loving environment keeps the ego from being damaged in the

process. That is, the ego disidentifies from the Self while maintaining

connection, which is desirable for healthy continued development. If,

however, the child does not experience a loving environment (due to a

primary caregiver who is alienating or engulfing), the ego’s connection to

Self is severed and serious damage results. The ego is disconnected from

its origin, its inner resources. The person is not whole and integrated.

Healing that wound requires restoring connection with the natural inner

resources of strength and acceptance (Self), without returning to the

narcissism of identification with it (inflated ego).

The classic breeding ground for Borderline Personality is a mother or

other primary caregiver who rewards the rapprochement toddler’s

regression to clinging dependence by being physically and emotionally

available, but withdraws with every attempt to separate and individuate

(Masterson & Rinsley, 1975). The mother’s own fear of abandonment or

rejection is triggered each time the toddler reaches out for independence.

As a result of the mother being unable to rejoice in the child’s budding

independence, the child grows up with severe abandonment fears which

consistently result in actually creating abandonment. Thus the fears are

validated and lifelong patterns of fear of intimacy, fear of commitment and

relationship addiction often develop.

Psychosocial developmental stage 4: Socialization

The fourth developmental stage, from 3 to 7 years, is focused on

socialization, identity and external power, initiative vs. guilt, and

belonging. The overriding preoccupation of this stage, and in many ways

for the remainder of life, is struggling to find balance between the desires

for intimacy and independence, to achieve intimacy without engulfment

and independence without alienation. Developmental tasks are to assert an

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


identity separate from others while creating social inclusion; to acquire

knowledge about the world, oneself, one’s body, one’s gender role; to learn

that behaviors have consequences; to learn to exert power to affect

relationships; to practice socially appropriate behavior; to separate fantasy

from reality; to learn what one does and does not have power over. In this

developmental stage, getting approval is very important to the young child.

If people don’t get the approval they need in order to develop a healthy

ego, they become starved for approval. They give their power away by

needing outside approval and becoming adaptive as a strategy to get it.

Another strategy for dealing with the feelings of powerlessness is to try to

overpower others in abusive ways.

It is in this developmental stage that powerlessness, which is the

foundation of the victim triangle, emerges. The need for approval leads the

adaptive child to “rescue” others in an attempt to feel powerful. The other

adaptation is the persecutor who is also reacting to the underlying feeling

of powerlessness. The victim personality gets attention and approval by

being overtly helpless.

Psychosocial developmental stage 5: Latency

As the child grows, the ego strengthens. In the fifth developmental

stage, from 7 to 12 years, the ego fortifies itself with a vengeance, but

without self-awareness. The latency child, due to the limitations of

concrete operational cognition, is still identified with its body and cannot

until adolescence become aware of itself as a self-reflecting mental ego.

This stage is focused on industry vs. inferiority, concrete knowing and

learning, healthy interdependence and co-operation. Developmental tasks

are to learn skills and learn from mistakes; to accept one’s adequacy; to

learn to listen and collect information; to practice thinking and doing; to

learn the appropriateness of having wants and needs; to learn the structure

of the family and the culture; to learn the consequences of breaking rules;

to have one’s own opinions, to disagree, and still be accepted and loved; to

develop internal controls; to learn about taking responsibility and who is

responsible for what; to develop the capacity to co-operate; to identify with

same sex role models and peers; to compete and test abilities against


Psychosocial developmental stage 6: Adolescence

The next quantum leap for the developing ego is adolescence. The

sixth developmental stage, from 12 to 18 years, is an awakening of self

into self-awareness and to a vastly greater complexity than ever before.

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


Thus “the adolescent, unlike the latency child, is given to introspection.

Newly emerging feelings and fantasies draw the adolescent into the world

of inner experience, which the adolescent explores with a fascination equal

to the curiosity with which the latency child explores the outer world”

(Washburn, 1995, p. 99). Adolescence is focused on identity vs. role

confusion, sexuality, and healthy independence from the family.

Developmental tasks are to achieve independence, a clear separation from

the group and the family; to gradually emerge as a separate person with

one’s own goals and values; to be responsible for one’s own needs,

feelings and behaviors and to integrate sexuality into one’s identity.

The adolescent experiences rapprochement, the conflicting desires for

intimacy and independence, on a whole new and even more intense level

than during the toddler stage. Adolescence has been described as a “second

individuation” phase (Blos, 1968). The prospect of an identity created

wholly by the ego is at once intoxicatingly seductive and terrifying;

seductive because it offers the long-sought independence, and terrifying

because it highlights the anxiety of separation, alienation, and nothingness.

Adolescents, after all, need an audience to their experiments with identity

to validate them as independent. They are acutely conscious of how they

present themselves to others, usually seeking the recognition and approval

for their newly styled selves from peers. As Sartre said, “I am seen;

therefore I am.”

The adolescent may even be observed to follow the same four-

subphase sequence as the toddler in this effort at detachment and

individuation. The fledgling adolescent, like the junior toddler, moves into

a “practicing” period of unrestrained exuberance for newfound freedom

(Esman, 1980). Uncertainty provokes turning back to parents or other

authorities for security, regression to more primitive and dependent

behavior. Tension grows because that return only evokes fears of

engulfment and loss of freedom, leading to renewed assertions of

autonomy – rapprochement. Troubled teens often regressively revisit and

“act out” the unresolved rapprochement crisis of year two (Quintana &

Lapsley, 1990; Schachter, 1986).

Psychosocial developmental stage 7: Early Adulthood

The seventh developmental stage, following adolescence, is focused on

intimacy vs. isolation, creating an ego strong enough to withstand the fear

of loss inherent in true intimacy, and creating personal ethics strong

enough to abide by commitments. The young adult is attracted to starting a

family, establishing a career, making a home or ‘nest’ of his/her own. The

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


successful building of relationship with a mate completes the process of









separation/individuation stage – rapprochement. The effort to create and

maintain an identity becomes less the (negative) adolescent flight from the

anxiety of alienation, and more a (positive) quest to find a fulfilling role in

the world. Actually, the negative motivations of identity-creation, the

rapprochement crises, tend to return at midlife.

Psychosocial developmental stage 8: Adulthood

In the eighth developmental stage of adulthood, the ego has its best

hope of succeeding at creating identity. The ego makes its migration

toward the corner office, or the company vice-presidency, or tenure, or a

houseful of grateful and obedient children. This stage is focused on

generativity vs. stagnation, creating meaning in one’s life through

relationships, contribution to the community, self-actualization, and

spirituality. We must develop spiritually and emotionally in balance to

experience true transformation. If we develop spiritually but not

emotionally, we become psychics blinded by personal projection, or

ministers filled with rage rather than compassion, or meditators who take

refuge in the safety of meditation at the expense of social obligations. If we

develop emotionally but not spiritually, we become therapists who avoid

our clients’ spiritual experience, or become stuck in “meeting our needs”

and isolated from the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Marital interactions, or avoidance of them, are ripe with potential for

continuing to work through the separation-individuation process. Indeed,

some authors have suggested that marriage itself be defined as a

developmental stage (Benedek, 1959; Dicks, 1967). Calogeras (1985)

suggests that “marriage represents a developmental phase during which, in

order to be successful, the unresolved developmental tasks of prior stages

must be worked through” (p. 32), namely, “the crossroads of development

– the rapprochement crisis” (p. 45). Freud (1918) first made reference to

the tendency for repetition compulsion in marriage of early unresolved

parental relationships. For many adults (“child/adults”), their primary

intimate relationships are regressions to earlier ego states in an attempt to

relive significant unresolved tasks in hope of finally mastering them.

Psychological maturation can continue far beyond our arbitrary

definitions of normality. Normality is actually a form of arrested

development, stopping the developmental process prematurely at a level of

incompleteness (Walsh & Vaughan, 1993, p. 47 and p. 110.). One of the

fathers of humanistic psychology, Abraham Maslow said, “What we call

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


normality in psychology is really a psychopathology of the average, so

undramatic and so widely spread that we don’t even notice it” (1968, pp.


The Transformation Stage

This last psychosocial developmental stage is a process we call

transformation, or transpersonal development. It begins with becoming

aware of the limitations of normality and recognizing the possibilities of

further growth. When the questions of “Who am I?” and “Who do I want

to be?” begin to surface in our consciousness, answers begin to surface as

well. Through moments of transcendence, we get “glimpses” of the vast

possibilities beyond normal everyday consciousness. We experience

ourselves through an egoless lens. This can be a peak experience induced

by religious ritual, meditation, near-death experience, or many other

means. We begin to discover, perhaps through psychotherapy or

meditation, that there is a lot more to us than we ever suspected.

Ultimately, we must all face death. Those who have lived fully,

fulfilling their dreams and accepting themselves in totality have achieved

wisdom, ego integrity, and self-actualization (a type of “surrendered

lifestyle” identified by Aspy & Aspy, 1984). They are prepared to meet

death with dignity and readiness. Those who have lived afraid to dream,

afraid to excel, afraid to accept themselves in totality, live in fear of death.

In the words of Erik Erikson, “it seems possible to further paraphrase the

relation of adult integrity and infantile trust by saying that healthy children

will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough not to fear death”

(1950, p. 269).

The death experience is the culmination to this lifetime, and becomes a

powerful template for the choices that lie ahead. We can experience the

moment in fear or in love. If we prepare properly, we experience the

moment of death as a welcome returning home to the soul. If we have lived

our life as a victim, we will most likely die with the feeling of helplessness.

If we have lived from a place of internal personal power and spiritual

connection, we will experience death as our next choice. The great lesson

learned by anyone coming close to death is the immensity of the realm that

awaits us. Near-death experiences almost universally establish new

priorities for the individual to prepare for that great moment, not recoiling

in fear but embracing with excitement.

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


The Process of Becoming Aware

The process of individuation begins with recognition of the shadow

aspects of the personal unconscious, unconscious elements that previously

had to be neglected and repressed. “Thus the ego must sacrifice its goals

and values if it is to submit to the orientation of the Self. This sacrifice is

brought about by the recognition of the shadow” (Humbert, 1988, p. 64).

Then come transcendent experiences, i.e., those based in the collective

unconscious, in which the ego discovers its subordinate place to a greater

reality, a transpersonal center of which it is only a small part. The Self,

then, is the totality of conscious, individual unconscious and collective

unconscious reality. The mature, individuated ego is capable of surrender,

at least to the next experience that challenges its autonomy. “Individuation

is a process, not a realized goal. Each new level of integration must submit

to further transformation if development is to proceed” (Edinger, 1972, p.

96). The ego that has surrendered its predominance lives consciously by

the code “not my will but thine be done.” Edinger calls this stage of

development the Self-oriented ego, that is “the individuated ego which is

conscious of being directed by the Self” (1972, p. 146).

It is important to note here the distinction between “dissolution of the

ego” and “surrender of the ego.” If an individual’s ego functioning is too

weak to absorb and integrate unconscious archetypal material and primary

transpersonal experiences, he/she is overpowered by them and may

become psychotic. Here the ego has dissolved and been rendered non-

operational. Alternatively, the ego can fracture into competing parts and

also be rendered non-operational, or psychotic. Here the personality

disintegrates into a plurality of autonomous complexes or subpersonalities

which take the place of the ego. Jung (1966) discusses the similarity of the

world vision of the psychotic with that of a mystic (the brilliant

philosopher Schopenhauer), and the difference between how each adapts to

it. The mystic (Schopenhauer) has the ability to transmute the primitive

vision into useful abstraction, based on his strength of ego, while the

psychotic’s ego crumbles. The mystic surrendered identification with the

ego, the insistence on the supremacy of the conscious sense of “I”. This

surrender of the ego is really giving up the exaggeration of its importance,

of the misapprehension of it being absolute, independent, and permanent.

The psychotic identified with the Self (megalomania) and lost ego

function; Schopenhauer loosened his identification with the ego and gained

access to the forces of the unconscious.

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


How do we discriminate between transpersonal states outside the

boundaries of the ego activated by the developmental stages beyond

“normal” adult ego on one hand, and psychosis activated by insufficient

ego strength on the other?

Transpersonal theory proposes that there are developmental stages beyond the adult ego,

which involve experiences of connectedness with phenomena considered outside the

boundaries of the ego. In healthy individuals, these developmental stages can engender the

highest human qualities, including altruism, creativity, and intuitive wisdom. For persons

lacking healthy ego development, however, such experiences can lead to psychosis.

Superficially, transpersonal states look similar to psychosis. However, transpersonal theory

can assist clinicians in discriminating between these two conditions, thereby optimizing

treatment. The authors discuss various therapeutic methods, including transpersonal

psychopharmacology and the therapeutic use of altered states of consciousness. (Kasprow &

Scotton, 1999, p. 12)

Jung envisioned “the transformation of personality through the

blending and fusion of the noble with the base … of the conscious with the

unconscious” (1966, p. 220). Before transformation can occur, the ego

must be a unified, complete conscious state. That is accomplished through

incorporation of repressed unconscious material, through successful

completion of the developmental stages, and through the unification of all

the fragmented parts of a person’s psyche.

Needless to say, this transformation occurs only rarely and

incompletely in human beings. For most people it is, at best, an ideal to

strive for and, at worst, an unknown potential. For the ego to willingly

submit to a higher authority (the Self) requires surrender, and the surrender

of ego is rare.

The possibility of movement into transegoic realms, of transcending

the ego, was a basic tenet of Jung’s departure from the classical Freudian

viewpoint. Psychoanalytic theory sets the final level of personal growth as

a more and more individuated ego. Jung observed a tendency at midlife or

later for the ego to undergo a reversal of the “I-Thou” dualistic ego (an

enantiodromia). He believed that this reversal is a natural part of the

movement of life, “the first half of which is devoted to ego development

and the second half of which is devoted to a return of the ego to its

underlying source in the collective unconscious or objective psyche”

(Washburn, 1995, p. 21). Jung asserted that the natural consequence of the

ego’s descent into the collective unconscious, where it is engulfed and

annihilated, is a triumphant return, born anew, regenerated, transfigured

(the hero’s odyssey).

That movement back to the source is also a reversal of the original

rapprochement process of the two-year-old. That is, the adult at the outset

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


of this developmental stage develops an intense ambivalence toward its

own potentiality as a Self-oriented ego. The conflict is based on a growing

awareness of its dependence on that aspect of its identity for meaning,

purpose and immortality, and simultaneously experiencing its long-

standing drive for autonomy and independence. The personality’s desires

for transcendence and autonomy here clash in a serious way, each one

undermining the other: the desire for transcendence making autonomy

seem like alienation (loss of connection) and the desire for autonomy

making transcendence seem like annihilation (loss of self).

Psychosynthesis was first formulated in 1910 by the Italian

psychiatrist, Assagioli, a pioneer of the psychoanalytic movement in Italy,

and a contemporary of both Freud and Jung. Early in his work he observed

that repression of higher, superconscious impulses (altruistic love and will,

humanitarian action, artistic and scientific inspiration, philosophic and

spiritual insight, and the drive toward purpose and meaning in life) could

be just as damaging to the psyche as repression of material from the lower

unconscious. Psychosynthesis is concerned with integrating material from

the lower unconscious and with realizing and actualizing the content of the


The Differentiation / Dissociation Continuum of Ego States

The Fleeting Nature of the Ego Identity Created

Most people do not understand that we are a loose confederation of

fragments of identity rather than a single permanent and unchangeable ‘I’.

Every thought, every mood, every desire and sensation, says ‘I’. There are

hundreds and thousands of small ‘I’s, usually unknown to each other, and

often incompatible. Each moment that we think of saying ‘I’, the identity

of that ‘I’ is different. We become lost into that identity when it dominates

our thoughts, then into the next when it takes over. Just now it was a

thought, now it is a desire, now a sensation, now another thought, and so

on, endlessly (Ouspensky, 1949, p. 59; Ram Dass, 1980, p. 138). Anyone

who has meditated knows how resurgent the chattering mind can be.

Where did all these momentary ‘I’s come from?

Absorption in an Identity

Another way of describing this phenomenon is that one becomes

absorbed in a particular state, for example watching a movie or reading a

story, arguing with one’s spouse or lecturing one’s children, focusing on

one’s weight or on the satisfaction of a compulsive desire. Absorption, or

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


confining one’s attention to narrow segments of reality, is a state of trance,

the “trance of ordinary life” (Deikman, 1982). If one becomes chronically

absorbed in the identity of “dumb blonde” or “adaptive child” or

“rageaholic,” then one is locked into a highly limited repertoire of

behaviors, and of identities or roles or subpersonalities. John Bradshaw

refers to a family trance, a hypnotic state of constricted identification or

role forced on children by the culture of their family of origin (Bradshaw,

1988). The child learns to accept and internalize the prescribed world view

and role, repressing into unconsciousness important aspects of his/her own

experience. The family or cultural trance is ultimately a demand for

compliance and conformity rather than authenticity, a demand to which no

vulnerable child has the ability to say, “No” (Firman and Gila, 1997, p.

170). The individual is dissociated from his/her own experience,

unconsciously living out the posthypnotic suggestions implanted during

childhood, at birth, in the womb, or before this life even began.

Higher and Lower Unconscious

Another way of describing this phenomenon of fragmented identity is

in terms of a higher unconscious and a lower unconscious (Assagioli,

1971). The individual’s lower unconscious consists of all the

psychologically damaging experiences of every developmental age, called

primal wounds (Firman and Gila, 1997). The lower unconscious also

includes the collective lower unconscious, the transpersonal shadow

(Vaughan, 1986). The higher unconscious consists of the transpersonal

qualities, or peak experiences (Maslow, 1968, 1971). A repression barrier

operates to keep these identities out of awareness, protecting the self-

interests of the ego (the identity of the moment). Serving to repress the

lower unconscious are shame, fear, loneliness, unworthiness, pain,

abandonment, and spiritual isolation. Serving to repress the higher

unconscious are transpersonal defenses (Firman & Gila, 1997, p. 135),

mainly the fear of letting go and trusting (surrender). Both higher

unconscious defenses and lower unconscious defenses serve to maintain

the ego’s absorption in its identity of the moment. The undoing of the

ego’s grip on independence and control requires undoing the primal

repression and embracing that which has been repressed.

Ego States

Another way of describing this phenomenon of momentary ‘I’s is in

terms of ego states (Federn, 1952; Berne, 1961; Hartmann, 1958; Kohut,

1971; J. G. Watkins, 1978). Helen Watkins (1993) describes the

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


development of ego states, functional and dysfunctional. One of the basic

processes in human development is integration, by which a child learns to

put concepts together, such as dog and cat, thus building more complex

units called animals. The companion process in development is

differentiation, by which a child separates general concepts into more

specific categories, such as discriminating between ‘good doggies’ and

‘bad doggies.’ As the child grows in complexity, he/she organizes selected

similar behaviors and experiences with a defining common element into

groupings called ego states such as “mad at mommy” or “eager to please”

(integration). As the child develops a repertoire of these ego states, he/she

begins experiencing each one as a boundaried state of “I” (differentiation).

The separation of ego states is accomplished through dissociation.

Mild dissociation produces “self-transparent” ego states with very

permeable boundaries, with cooperative agreement between them for

taking turns at being in charge. John Watkins (1978) describes a healthy

dissociation whereby a father who, in one ego state, easily crawls on the

floor with his baby playing “peek-a-boo” and momentarily can respond to

an emergency by giving sophisticated instructions to a nurse on how to

manage a medical crisis. Watkins asserts that dissociation lies on a

continuum from this example to the opposite extreme of multiple

personality disorder (D.I.D.), and innumerable variations in between. The

degree of rigidity and permeability in boundaries between ego states

determines placement on the continuum.

At a given moment, one of these ego states is in charge, making the

choices, and experiencing itself as the “I.” It is conceptualized as the

“Executive.” At one end of the continuum, the momentary executive ego

state is leading by collaborative consensus of all existing ego states, in

harmony and resolving conflicting demands through internal dialogue and

compromise. At the other end of the continuum, the executive-of-the-

moment is oblivious to, or in conflict with, the others. At the extreme, this

would be representative of dissociative disordered individuals. Research

shows that this population has greater self-directed hostility than normal,

accompanied by lower levels of intrapsychic conflict (Alpher, 1996). In

other words, the introjected critic (internalized mother’s or father’s beliefs

and judgments) is assimilated throughout the various ego states, reducing

dissonance and conflict between them, not congregated in one or several

and absent from others.

Here we refer to the distinction between introjection and assimilation

(Perls et al, 1951). Introjection is taking in someone else’s ideas, beliefs or

feelings whole without digesting them. What is assimilated is not taken in

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


whole, but is first digested and transformed, then absorbed selectively

according to the needs of the person. “Whatever the child gets from his

loving parents he assimilates, for it is fitting and appropriate to his own

needs as he grows. It is the hateful parents who have to be introjected,

taken down whole, although they are contrary to the needs of the

organism” (p. 190).

An example of internalized, unassimilated introjection is the formation

of “secondary handicap” (Emanuel, 1997). When a baby is discovered to

be damaged at or soon after birth, the mother’s unbearable feelings of

disappointment may not be fully processed, and the infant then internalizes

a disappointed, hostile or horrified introject and feels worthy only of

rejection. The infant’s “primary handicap” may be compounded by the

development of a “secondary handicap,” emotional damage, through

projective identification with a disappointed, rejecting internal object.

An objective of therapy can be to become aware of what is not truly

yours, to consciously reject what doesn’t fit, and to selectively effect

introject dispersion (or assimilation) to reduce intrapsychic conflict

(Kutash & Wolf, 1991; Simon, 1996). The experience of age regression in

hypnotherapy very effectively assists the individual to accomplish this

three-fold process.

Sometimes fully assimilating the negative introject causes overwhelm,

and individuals “split off” the more toxic (suffocating, intrusive) aspects of

the introjected object (e.g., mother, father) in order to survive, defensively

encapsulating part of that object while allowing the rest to be assimilated

(Celentano, 1992). That split-off part is an autonomous complex, an ego

state or an alter ego.

Ego states may be overt or covert, verbal or pre-verbal, somaticized or

idealized, historical or archetypal. They may be complex enough to include

all the behaviors and experiences used in one’s occupation, or as narrow as

a specific experience with a playmate in the second grade. This

conceptualization of ego states is especially helpful in understanding and

working through resistance to changing dysfunctional behaviors, that is,

secondary gain. One ego state wants the new experience sufficiently to

discard a current dysfunctional behavior, while a competing ego state is

more motivated to keep the current dysfunctional behavior (secondary



Another way of describing this phenomenon of fragmented identity is

in terms of what Jung referred to as complexes. One of the complexes is

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


the ego-complex, the center of the field of consciousness, the adaptive,

conscious executive of the personality, the observing aspect. The personal

unconscious is related specifically to this ego-complex. Other complexes

are collections of ideas and images organized around one or more

archetypes at the core of the complex and having a certain feeling tone and

energy charge. Examples might include a father complex, mother complex,

hero complex, child complex, the anima, the animus, etc. All the

complexes together Jung called the collective unconscious, or objective

psyche. In the altered state, the normally unconscious complexes begin to

come into conscious awareness.

Here lies the incompatibility of some of those competing identities.

One may be determined to “be good” and stay away from sweets, while

another pops up and devours all the candy in the jar. Each is successively

in control, and the secondary gain of the latter defeats the intentions of the

former. Carl Jung saw most people as identified almost entirely with

certain acceptable aspects of themselves (the persona), having denied and

repressed the unacceptable aspects (the shadow). In fact, Jung refers to this

identification with the persona as an instance of possession (Jung, 1959, p.

122). One identity, which he called a complex, hijacks the whole

confederation of identities for a moment or two before another takes over.

“Everyone knows that people have complexes,” Jung wrote, but “what is

not so well known … is that complexes can have us” (Jung, 1964, p. 161).

So we find ourselves one day in a job we don’t like in order to pay the

mortgage on a home we resent. Who made the choice twenty years ago to

live this way? Which complex hijacked you?

A particularly strong complex is the victim, which fights back when

attempts are made to release it. An example is a woman who did some

personal work on taking back her power only to find herself hours later flat

on her back and helpless. It looked as if “the victim” complex was literally

threatened by her healing attempts and proceeded to let her know who was

in charge. She definitely appeared to be possessed by the victim.

Another example of this predicament is a couple who fall in love with

each other at first sight, feeling an almost eerie sense of familiarity, and

then gradually realize that they actually hate each other. The familiarity

may come from marrying one’s unhealthy parent, re-creating a nuclear

family just like the original family of origin. Or the familiarity may come

from marrying someone who personifies the repressed shadow part, who is

overtly very outgoing and sociable but underneath is actually quite self-

conscious, thus marrying that introverted part of himself. This relationship

re-creates the internal conflict that is still waiting to be resolved.

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


The way out of this possession, back to authenticity and real free will,

is through recognition of how fragmented we actually are. When we wake

up to the unconscious nature of most of our choices and experiences, when

we “snap out of” the state of absorption, we expand our consciousness of

who we are to include a wider spectrum, allowing for new possibilities.

Liberation from unconsciousness, waking up from the trance, arousing

from the dissociation comes with disidentification from the momentary ‘I’.

First we must become aware of, incorporate and even embrace our dark

side, our shadow, those parts of us that we shudder to conceive could be

within us or the parts we are afraid to grow into. Part of us may be “the

compulsive smoker”, and another part is the great mystic, and both parts

are intimidating to own up to. Experiencing our shadow is the “doorway to

the real,” ripping apart the ego’s imaginary identifications (Humbert, 1988,

p. 50) and seeing clearly into the blind spots. The ego, that succession of

momentary ‘I’s, prefers to be always ‘I’ and nothing else, to believe “in its

own supremacy” (Jung, 1959, p. 133).

This philosophical point of view is verified by today’s science. Brain

researchers now document frequent lapses of consciousness in most

people’s daily existence, unknown to the individuals themselves. Using

remote measuring devices, sleep researchers have recorded brain waves

from subjects going about their daily activities. They have discovered that

most people frequently and repeatedly enter into short microsleep periods,

which are clearly indicated by their brain waves but of which they

themselves are totally unaware. These frequent periods of unaware brain

sleep last from thirty seconds to three minutes. These findings support the

concept of lapses in awakened consciousness throughout normal existence

(Metzner, 1998, pp. 25-26).

We can fall into the same trap of identifying with one aspect of the

unconscious at the expense of all others, and struggling to disidentify. Jung

spoke about this: “That is one of the great difficulties in experiencing the

unconscious – that one identifies with it and becomes a fool. You must not

identify with the unconscious; you must keep outside, detached, and

observe objectively what happens. . . . it is exceedingly difficult to accept

such a thing, because we are so imbued with the fact that our unconscious

is our own – my unconscious, his unconscious, her unconscious – and our

prejudice is so strong that we have the greatest trouble disidentifying”

(Jung, 1996, p. 28).

The aim of transformation is not the dissolution of the ego, but the

dissolution of the false view of the ego. What is to be achieved is an

openness to all possibilities and a realization that we are infinitely more

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


than we believe we are when identified with our concrete little ego. We

have limitless potentials, once we are free from the bondage of our

egocentric world (Moacanin, 1986, p. 83). The goal of transformation is to

open ourselves up to who we really are and what our true potential is as a

human being. It is about growing, learning and discovering instead of

hiding, denying and keeping our heads in the sand.

The Extremes on the Continuum of Differentiation / Dissociation

Being a multitude of ‘I’s is not in itself problematic, and can be highly

adaptive. It allows for specialized focus on one area at a time, with the

ability to temporarily defocus on others. This is reflected in appropriate

boundaries, with one set of behaviors when alone with one’s spouse and

another with a neighbor. The rigidity of separation between ego states is

determined by the degree of dissociation; mild dissociation results in more

flexible boundaries and severe dissociation results in rigid, impermeable

boundaries. When the elements of personality are too differentiated, those

elements become the alter egos of an individual with Dissociative Identity


The source factors that determine the development of ego states are (1)

normal differentiation, (2) possession by or introjection of significant

influences, and (3) reactions to trauma (Watkins, 1993). Through

possession or introjection, the child takes on clusters of behavior and

attitude from significant others. If these are accepted and become identified

as one’s own, the resulting ego state is a clone of the other. For example,

the person’s internalized critical parent ego state can become “executive”

at a particular moment and abuse his/her own children. The nagging parent

once internalized becomes an interminable nag within. But if the

introjected ego state is not accepted and identified as one’s own, then the

new ego state is repressed, and the individual will suffer internal conflict

(such as depression or authority issues) and may direct the abuse at himself

(such as self-hatred or self-mutilation). The introjected nagging parent not

internalized manifests as an embattled personality with conflicted

perfectionism (highly demanding of self and simultaneously resistant).

The third primary source of developing ego states is early trauma,

when the child dissociates as a survival defense. If the experience is too

awful to bear, he/she simply stops experiencing it by separating part of

himself (the “weak part” or the observer or the Soul). If that separation

occurs during the narcissistic period of development, before the ego has

fully individuated, the split off parts are likely to become alter egos

(Greaves, 1980). Otherwise, separation occurring later is more likely to

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


produce personality disorders (Narcissistic, Borderline, or Antisocial

Personality Disorders). In any case, obviously the estrangement between

the ego personality and the Self, begun in the rapprochement stage, is not

resolved and they remain isolated from each other.

Somatic Ego States

Ego states, particularly those created in moments of trauma, may be

predominantly somatic. Stated another way, symptoms may be state-

specific, and physical symptoms may contain dissociated memories. For

example, the child physically shutting down to become totally still as a

means of defense against the terror of abuse creates a “somatic ego state”

of pervasive immobilization. Following the somatic bridge (body memory)

of immobilization back in regression leads to conscious access to the

memory of the source trauma which created that ego state – the incident of

terrifying abuse. The dissociated memories are “physically contained”

within the somatic symptoms (Gainer, 1993). That wounded ego state can

be dramatically healed by retrieving it for re-experience in age regression,

abreacting the experience, and allowing a means of reintegration and

transformation of the trauma experience into a physically corrected

experience of empowerment (van der Kolk & Greenberg, 1987). A

corrective experience activates psychophysiological resources in his/her

body (somatic as well as emotional resources) that had been previously

immobilized by fear and helplessness (Levine, 1991; Phillips, 1993, 1995).

The regressed person is allowed to actually experience the originally

immobilized voice yelling for help, and the originally immobilized muscles

kicking and hitting for protection. These somatic and emotional corrective

experiences reassociate the individual’s originally dissociated body and

emotion in positive ways to positive outcomes.

In the Jungian perspective, not all complexes are pathological; only

when complexes remain unconscious and operate autonomously do they

create difficulties in daily life. Complexes become autonomous when they

“dissociate” (split off), accumulating enough psychical energy and content

to usurp the executive function of the ego and work against the overall

good of the individual. Autonomous complexes are usually the result of

unconscious response to traumatic childhood experiences, or unconscious

ingrained patterns left over from interrupted and unfinished developmental

milestones (premature weaning or toilet training, for example, or the

imposition of an age-inappropriate gender stereotype). Traumatic

experiences typically cause negative fixations or blind-spots, whereas

interrupted developmental milestones cause fixation on the satisfiers of

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


unmet needs and compulsive behavior (Washburn, 1995). The hallmark of

these patterns, or autonomous complexes, is that they operate

unconsciously; that is, the person is chronically dissociated. Only when the

dissociation is broken and the complex is brought to consciousness can the

emotional charge be assimilated and the autonomous nature of the complex

be dissolved. The split-off parts, having taken some of the ego’s energy

and become shadow aspects of the ego, need to be re-assimilated.

Ego Boundaries

Whatever the experience of an individual vis-à-vis “where I end and

you begin,” it varies significantly with altered states of consciousness,

including hypnosis. Changes in ego boundary are easily accomplished in

hypnosis (Brenman, Gill & Hacker, 1947). For example, spatial and time

orientation become plastic, allowing the phenomena of believable age

regression or age progression. The “closed container” experience of self

expands to allow one to “be” the fetus that one was, or to experience

“being” both the three-year-old and the adult providing comfort

simultaneously (Blum, 1970).

Dissociation and repression are means of modifying the ego

boundaries by narrowing down the “perceived self” to eliminate any

unwanted experiences. In this way the ego puts out of sight (and only

wishfully out of mind) the unacceptable aspects of itself – the shadow


Ego boundaries can also be diffused, as distinct from expanded or

narrowed. Diffused boundaries allow internalizing introjected parental

traits without assimilating them, i.e., identifying with them. We previously

discussed the distinction between introjection and assimilation. Bernstein

(1997) used the Structural Analysis of Social Behavior (SASB) to assess

evidence of introjection and identification. Self-representations of incest

survivors at their worst (their negative introject of father-abusers) were

complementarily related to their perceptions of their fathers at their worst

with a high degree of shame.

Finally, ego boundaries can become dissolved, resulting in psychosis.

This occurs when the ego is too weak to absorb the powers of the

unconscious. Dissolved ego boundaries manifest as either expanded

beyond containment or disintegrated into a plurality of autonomous

complexes which take the place of the ego.

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


“Non-egotized” Aspects of Personality

There may be parts of the personality that are “non-egotized” which

act as observer and not participant (Watkins, 1993). One means of

accessing that part is by “de-egotizing” parts of the body and asking them

to express unconscious wishes, thoughts or desires (Fromm, 1968). An

example is automatic writing, a technique in which the client in trance is

told to allow the hand to separate away from the body and write the client’s

unconscious feelings on paper. The therapist has separated the conscious

ego (state) from the unconscious ego (state). Another example is the

Gestalt technique of observing a clenched fist, while the person has just

denied any anger, and asking the fist to speak. It will invariable say, “I’m

angry.” There is also the use of ideo-motor signals, which often respond in

a much different manner than the personality or ego. The child ego state

does not want to believe that “daddy touched me” but the unconscious ego

state knows and is able to respond independently through the finger

signals. Other “non-egotized” aspects of personality may exist and be

available as well, such as intuition or psychic insight.

The Progression of Re-enactments of Rapprochement

The advantage of becoming aware of the limitations of our normality is

that a new door then opens to us. When the ego, this never-ending

procession of momentary ‘I’s who believe in their own supremacy,

recognizes that truth, the second phase of life can begin. However, the first

phase must be completed or the second phase will not succeed. In other

words, the ego of the seeker must be so strong and healthy that it

disidentifies from the myriad of fragmented selves and surrenders itself to

a higher purpose than its own self-promotion. It must be strong, well-

tested, and secure in its abilities. A metaphor to describe this would be a

newly formed clay sculpture. At first it requires a cast or braces to hold it

in place while it is forming and solidifying. Only after being baked is it

strong enough to stand on it’s own without support, i.e. to “let go.” In the

same way, only when our ego is solid are we prepared to move beyond the

realm of “I am what I can do,” to transcend the normal, to let go of the

known and to venture into a wholly new level of self-exploration. Many

people in therapy must first undergo a process of ego-strengthening before

they are ready to expand their concept of themselves, to accept their

shadow parts, and thus to loosen or stretch, or even begin to let go of, the

ego’s limited, idealized self-concept.

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


The process has prototypes from our earlier life experiences. The first

is the transformation from life-before-life into human form at conception.

That step is a huge one, monumental, and, if done consciously, requires an

immensely trusting leap of faith. Of course, it can also be done

unconsciously, the thoughtless reflex of grabbing at the familiar just like

the couple who married their prototypical parents. If at death one is

addicted to pain, or power, or prurience, then it is overpoweringly

seductive to grab onto another life of the same.

Another prototype for the process of transformation in the second

phase of life is the process of birth. Leaving behind the security and

predictability (and the extreme limitations) of the womb again requires a

monumentally trusting leap of faith. The fetus willingly surrenders itself to

the unknown force that will carry it to a new infinitely expanded world. Of

course, again, it can also be done unconsciously, in fear or pain or rage.

The difference between these choices sets in motion influences of vast

proportions on the life to follow.

Another prototype for the process of transformation is the gradual

growth of the infant and toddler from its identification with its mother or

other caregiver into an autonomous individual. That process occurs over

years and through the psychosocial developmental stages. Throughout the

process, the underlying momentum is ego strengthening without going

overboard into narcissism.

As we have seen, adolescents often regressively revisit and “act out”

the unresolved rapprochement crisis of year two. This becomes another

prototype of transformation.

Another prototype for the process of transformation is that of marital

interaction and other adult relationships, including the mid-life

rapprochement between adult and parent.

Finally, we might look at the process of transformation undergone by

the surrendering ego as a rapprochement re-enactment on the transpersonal

level. The person establishes separation and individuation from the “false

self-concept.” The process of alternately stretching the boundary between

them and coming back to familiar security, just as the two-year-old does

with his/her mother, is the process of ego-strengthening. As the individual

discovers the ability to perform all necessary ego functions without the

limiting bond to its familiar “false self-concept,” a new level of

developmental potential is reached.

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


The Therapeutic Process of “Strengthening the Ego”

“You have to be somebody before you can be nobody” (Engler, 1984).

Developmentally for the child to grow into a mature, successful,

contented, secure, and confident adult, the ego must be strengthened by

achievement and recognition. Only then will the person be prepared to

successfully take the giant leap of faith entailed by the transformation in

life’s second phase. In therapy, we deliberately strengthen the ego to

fortify the individual to face the rigors of self-exploration. What are the

basic ingredients of ego-strengthening techniques? What, or who, is being

strengthened? How do we differentiate between a “strong ego” and


Postulating that most patients will be “unwilling to give up their

symptoms until they feel strong enough to do without them,” Hartland

(1971, p. 2) recommended preceding hypnotherapeutic techniques with

general ego-strengthening suggestions to strengthen his/her confidence and

general ego defenses. Stanton (1979) preferred the name ego-enhancement,

and equated it with increasing one’s sense of internal control. Ironically, as

shall be discussed later in this article, the process of ego surrender also

enhances one’s sense of internal control.

From the ego-state psychology perspective, the stronger ego states (not

necessarily the most positive or healthy) are those that take and hold the

executive position more often. They might be the petulant three-year-old,

the rageful neonate, or the wise and healthy adult. Thus we intend for our

ego-strengthening procedures to increase the interplay between positive,

healthy aspects of personality and to extend their influence over more

childlike, less constructive ones (McNeal & Frederick, 1993). Thus the

more positive and healthy ego states take the executive position more of

the time.

There are many techniques for ego-strengthening (Hartland, 1965).

One category includes techniques to assist clients to access a strong

resource state within themselves, to relive successful experiences. It might

be a memory of an instance of particularly high self-esteem, of success in

mastering a challenging task, or of the adulation of others. Another

category is the creation of an idealized self, not based on remembered

success but rather on projected fantasy. It might take the form of an image

of “how I could be if . . .” or it might be the idealized person we hope to

become at a specific time in the future (for example, the wise ninety-year-

old). Another category is “borrowing” the strong persona of another, either

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


someone in the client’s life, or a public figure, or a mythic or fictional

model of strength.

The process begins with recognition of the shadow, forcing the ego

(identified with the idealized persona) to sacrifice its goals and values in

submission to the whole Self (Humbert, 1988, p. 64). The person becomes

whole through fusion and acceptance of the noble with the base, of the

conscious with the unconscious. Then come transcendent experiences, in

which the ego discovers its subordinate place to a greater reality, a

transpersonal center of which it is only a small part: the Self, the totality of

conscious, individual unconscious and collective unconscious reality. The

mature healthy ego is capable of surrender. This transformational

development, called individuation by Jung, is a process and never a

realized goal. Each new level of integration must submit to further

transformation (Edinger, 1972, p. 96). The ego that has surrendered its

predominance lives consciously by the code “not my will but thine be

done,” conscious of being directed by the Self.

People work toward and achieve personal healing by overcoming the

barriers to the repressed lower unconscious (shame, fear, unworthiness,

addictions), integrating aspects of it, and developing personal power. They

are what Maslow called nontranscending self-actualizers. He described

such people as “more essentially practical, realistic, mundane, capable, and

secular people, living more in the here and now world . . . ‘doers’ rather

than meditators or contemplators, effective and pragmatic rather than

aesthetic, reality-testing and cognitive rather than emotional and

experiencing” (Maslow, 1971, p. 281). A further step in that growth

process is achieved by overcoming the barriers to the repressed higher

unconscious (fear of letting go and surrendering) and embracing it,

transcending self-actualization. This represents an increasing experience of

higher, mystical, and spiritual states of consciousness.

Healing that split, which divided us into smaller, more constricted,

more dissociated fractions of our real totality, is the process of integration,

individuation, self-actualization, transformation. One integrates the

subpersonalities into a harmonious multiplicity, retrieves and embraces the

shadow, becomes more conscious. Disidentification, or non-attachment,

with the limited ego states allows us to expand into both our lower

(shadow) and higher (transpersonal) aspects. Balance is important.

Expanding into the lower but not the higher leads one to become

psychologically healthy but not spiritually fulfilled (a nontranscending

self-actualizer), and expanding into the higher but not the lower leads one

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


to become a psychologically unhealthy spiritual seeker (the “spiritual by-


It is true, however, that “the more developed the lower unconscious,

the more developed is its opposite – the higher unconscious” (Firman &

Gila, 1997, p. 126). A wonderful illustration of this is a story told by Carl


I was once asked a philosophical question by a Hindu: “Does a man who loves God need

more or fewer incarnations to reach his final salvation than a man who hates God?” Now,

what would you answer? I gave it up, naturally. And he said, “A man who loves God will

need seven incarnations to become perfect, and a man who hates God only needs three,

because he certainly will think of him and cling to him very much more than the man who

loves God.” That, in a way, is true; hatred is a tremendous cement. . . . with us it would be

fear and not hatred (1996, pp. 5-6).

Before transformation can occur, the ego must be a unified, complete

conscious state. That is accomplished through incorporation of repressed

unconscious material, through successful completion of the developmental

stages, and through the unification of all the fragmented parts of a person’s


This is the power of personal transformation. It involves integrating the

ego fragments as well as the soul fragments. It involves going down to the

very deepest hidden corners of the individual’s psyche and facing the

deepest shadow parts. It involves expressing the most powerful depth of

pain, grief, fear, rage, loneliness and abandonment. And when this work is

done in a group, the individual can share that pain with others. When our

pain is witnessed and validated by loving friends, it can then be fully

released. This witnessing brings trust, intimacy and a deep bonding that

most people have never experienced in their lives. This process results in

personal transformation.

We begin to become aware of our many fragmented selves through the

process of experiencing multiple levels of consciousness simultaneously,

expanding our experience of ourselves, loosening our identification with

any one of those momentary ‘I’s and opening to the vastness of our true

Self. For example, in meditation we experience the “observer” watching

the “monkey mind” of constant chattering thought. In hypnotic age

regression, we experience the “observer” watching the memory come alive

in re-experiencing a traumatic moment at age three. One objective part of

us observes our “angry self” projecting our own anger onto others. You

consider the person at whom you are angry to be behaving badly, and

indeed he may well be. But he is really yourself. “You project yourself into

him, your shadow appears in him, and that makes you angry. … We are

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


perhaps identical even with our own worst enemy. In other words, our

worst enemy is perhaps within ourselves. When you have reached that

stage, you . . . begin to consider the game of the world as your game, the

people that appear outside as exponents of your psychical condition.

Whatever befalls you, whatever experience or adventure you have in the

external world, is your own experience” (Jung, 1996, pp. 49-50).

Before doing transformational work, most people have limited

awareness. Through talk therapy the awareness is expanded to a new level

of consciousness. As the individual moves into hypnotherapy and

exploring the unconscious mind, a much deeper level of consciousness

comes to our awareness. Transformation is a process of continual

movement into deeper and deeper levels of the unconscious. It is an


Ego Function or Dysfunction

What are the healthy functions of the ego? That changes, as we have

seen, from one developmental stage to the next. Jung (1976) proposed that

the ego has two constituent parts: the sense of “I” we have with regard to

our body (somatic) and the sense of “I” we have with regard to our

experience and memories (psychical). The ego is the personal sense of

consciousness, a personal sense of continuity and identity with itself, but is

not the totality of one’s self. Unconscious mental processes not related to

the ego consist of the personal unconscious (repressed material, forgotten

material, and subliminal perceptions) and the collective unconscious

(material that has never been conscious). The ego relates to the external

world through four functions, namely thinking, feeling, sensation and


By adulthood, we might expect the healthy ego to incorporate each of

these functions (based on Bellak & Goldsmith, 1984):

1. Reality Testing. The capacity to perceive and to distinguish correctly external and internal


2. Judgment. The capacity to anticipate the consequences of one’s acts, to behave

adequately, to comprehend the reactions of the environment, and to profit from previous


3. The Sense of Reality of the World and of the Self. The capacity to feel oneself part of the

real world, with a real identity and self-boundaries.

4. Impulse Control. The capacity to express and to control adequately impulses (especially

sexual and aggressive ones, including intra-aggressive-depressive ones) and to be able to

bear frustrations and delay.

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


5. Object Relations. The richness and the quality of interpersonal relations. The capacity to

comprehend the sentiments and the autonomous needs of others. The capacity to tolerate

loneliness, separation, loss.

6. Thought Processes. The capacity to utilize the memory; the ability to concentrate,

conceptualize, engage in abstract thinking, to utilize the language, to be able to


7. Adaptive Regression in the Service of the Ego (ARISE). The capacity to let go, to suspend

controls with pleasure and to permit ideas and fantasies to emerge in a regressed state thus

furthering imagination, play, humor, inventiveness, and creativity.

8. Defensive Functions. The quality and efficacy of the mechanisms of defense against

anger, fear, depression, dysphoria, compulsions, and disquieting fantasies.

9. Stimulus Barrier. Sensitivity, excitability, and tolerance for sensory stimuli, noise, light,

temperature, odors, tastes, pain, and so on.

10. Autonomous Functions. Capacity to utilize psychomotor abilities cognitively and

intellectually (coordination, walk, language, perception memory, attention, concentration,

capacity to understand, etc.).

11. Capacity to Synthesize and Integrate. Capacity to organize, to plan, and to work in a

coherent fashion, to be able to integrate a number of circumstances, concepts, points of

view, and so on, concurrent ones and contradictory ones.

12. Mastery-Competence. The capacity and the competence to master life actively on the

basis of realistic appraisals of one’s abilities and capacities.

One expression for the healthy developed ego is ego maturity. The

mature ego is self-actualized, ready to allow its own transcendence.

Psychiatrist William Vaillant (1993) has elaborated a detailed schema for

understanding the continued development of the ego into adulthood, based

on the evolution of ego defenses.

Vaillant outlines four styles of defense ranging from psychotic to mature. Psychotic

styles include delusional projection, psychotic denial, and distortion. Immature styles are

projection, fantasy, hypochondriasis, passive aggression, acting out, and dissociation

(neurotic denial). Neurotic, or intermediate, styles include displacement, isolation of affect

(intellectualization), repression, and reaction formation. Mature styles of defense include

altruism, sublimation, suppression, anticipation, and humor (Gagan, 1998, p. 165).

Vaillant, upon investigating data from three studies that tracked more than 2,200

individuals over a fifty- to seventy-year period, found the most mature ego defenses among

individuals who had attained the highest degrees of psychological adjustment. A secure

sense of self, he noted, goes hand in hand with not taking oneself too seriously; being able

to sublimate energy into creative endeavors; planning for the future; an ability to resolve

conflicts through the postponement of gratification or an appropriate downplaying or

rechanneling of impulses; and involvement in altruistic activities [cited in Psychoanalytic

Terms and Concepts, ed. by Burness E. Moore and Bernard D. Fine, New Haven, CT: The

American Psychoanalytic Association and Yale University Press, 1990, p. 32] (Gagan,

1998, p. 140).

With ego maturity, we acquire a clear sense of self. Knowing where the self ends and

the ‘other’ begins, we replace projection with empathy. When the self is contained and

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


secure in its worth, we as individuals, far from being self-invested, accord the same respect

to others as we do to ourselves. When the altruism of ‘doing for others’ is not motivated by

a desire for return or secondary gain, who knows – we may well have arrived at ego

transcendence (Gagan, 1998, p. 143-144).

A helpful perspective on ego functioning is that of ego activity and ego

passivity. Rapaport (1961) proposed an important psychoanalytic theory

which differentiated between active (autonomous) or passive behavior on

one hand and ego activity (autonomy) or passivity on the other. Hart

(1961) suggested the feeling of choicelessness as a central aspect of

passivity. The ego is active, or autonomous, when the individual can make

a choice from “free will”; the ego is passive, or lacks autonomy, when a

person is overwhelmed either by unconscious instinctual demands or by

environmental demands (Fromm, 1972). The ego lacks (instinctual)

autonomy, for example, when the individual’s behavioral choice is

compulsive, as in excessive hand-washing or drug-use, or when it is

impulsive, as in an immediate rageful or guilty response. The ego has

(environmental) autonomy to the extent that the individual copes

effectively with the demands of the outside world, such as fight / flight /

freeze reactions. Rapaport (1951, 1958, 1960) suggested that these two

types of autonomy are reciprocal: moderate degrees of each help to

guarantee the other, and excessive autonomy from either one means

enslavement to the other. The Jungian goal is unification of the opposites,

decreasing tension between the extremes. The result of integrating the

opposites of activity / passivity is not an average between them, but rather

the ability to spontaneously and freely use either pole or any combination

in the service of the entire personality (Hall, 1986).

Incidentally, the ego can be active (autonomous) when making a

passive behavioral choice (e.g., Ghandi chose passive resistance, or one

may choose to respond to the incessant demands of another by quietly

ignoring them). Here the ego remains active in the sense of refraining from

being reactive.

The question to answer in analyzing the activity or passivity of the ego

in a given situation is, to what extent is the behavior experienced as a

conscious, deliberate, non-habitual choice, i.e., to what extent is the locus

of control internal rather than external? Important to note here is that for

the ego to actively make a passive behavioral choice requires a strong ego.

Passively making a passive behavioral choice would be, for example,

succumbing to performance anxiety by “freezing up,” or becoming

immobilized in the face of another’s abuse, or the ego’s decompensation

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


into psychosis. Surrendering the ego to further psychospiritual

development is to actively make a passive behavioral choice.

Becoming that which is not the Ego

The Psycho-spiritual Healing Process of “Surrendering the Ego”

We will speak of the surrendering ego, rather than the surrendered

ego, to emphasize that it is a “moment-by-moment” process, not a “once-

done, done-forever” experience. Surrender often has connotations of

succumbing and being overwhelmed, but here it is used rather in

conjunction with trust, as an instance of Rapaport’s active (autonomous)

ego making a passive behavioral choice, i.e., allowing something to unfold

without attempting to change, control, coerce or manipulate it.

Welwood (1983) suggests that the surrendering ego “bleeds” in its

struggle to not let go, to not surrender its dominant position. Emotions are

the blood shed by ego, and when we let emotions wash through us, our

heart opens and they help to wash the controlling part of us away.

Individuation is not that you become an ego – you would then become an individualist.

You know, an individualist is a man who did not succeed in individuating; he is a

philosophically distilled egotist. Individuation is becoming that thing which is not the ego,

and that is very strange. Therefore nobody understands what the self is, because the self is

just the thing which you are not, which is not the ego. The ego discovers itself as being a

mere appendix of the self in a sort of loose connection. For the ego is always far down in

muladhara and suddenly becomes aware of something up above in the fourth story, in

anahara, and that is the self (Jung, 1996, p. 39-40).

Jung (1966) speaks of a series of forms of “transformation” that people

can undergo, one of which is “natural transformation:” individuation or

becoming that which is not the ego. Other forms of transformation are

diminution of personality (“loss of soul”), enlargement of personality

(consciousness of an enlargement that flows from inner sources), change of

internal structure (possession, or identification, of the ego-personality with

a complex), identification with a group (mass intoxication), identification

with a cult-hero (with the god or hero who is transformed in the sacred

ritual), magical procedures (rites and rituals), or technical transformation

(technical means, such as yoga, to induce transformation). We will discuss

these other forms and how they differ from ego surrender (individuation),

i.e., we’ll look at what surrendering the ego is not (Epstein, 1993).

Surrendering the ego is not the same as abandoning the Freudian ego.

That is, it is not becoming free of the observing, analyzing functions of

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


mind. Such would be really an attempted regression to simpler, less

capable stages of development, to the magic omnipotent stage of the

preschool child. For example, some actually assert that schizophrenia is a

psychic disease, an egoless state (Mates, 1993). Certainly, one healthy

function of the ego is adaptive regression, relaxing secondary thinking,

increasing awareness of previously preconscious and unconscious contents,

and increasing primary process thinking. The difference between a

maladaptive regression (“abandoning the ego”) and an adaptive regression

(“stretching the ego”) is that the latter is partial, temporary, and controlled.

An adaptive regression serves to heighten creativity and induce new

cognitive or affective configurations (Fromm, 1977; Harrison, 1984). It is,

in fact, one of the recognized ego functions defined by Bellak &


Surrendering the ego is not elimination of personality, i.e., of the

complexities of characteristics that distinguish one individual from

another. The mature ego, or individuated person, continues to display to

some extent the inherited predispositions, innate abilities and culture that

originally influenced personality. Persons who have become that which is

not the ego may have modified their undesirable propensities, but they still

are subject to them, they are not perfect. Nor are they bland, generic

versions of their former selves, devoid of unique qualities. Surrendering

the ego is not “diminution of personality,” equated by Jung with “loss of

soul,” a low psychical barometer reading recognized as listlessness,

moroseness, and depression.

Surrendering the ego is not enlargement of the personality,

experienced as a momentary expansion of personal boundaries through

revelation, the idyllic notion of forgetting the self and merging with

something greater outside the self. Such a loss of ego boundaries and sense

of union could be psychotic or ecstatic, but either way it is not a viable

alternative to ego function for maintaining life on earth. This choice seeks,

as Freud said, the “restoration of limitless narcissism” (quoted in Epstein,

1993, p. 122), that is, the infantile state prior to the development of an ego

wherein the infant at its mother’s breast makes no distinction between

itself and its mother. This is actually ego expansion, or inflation, rather

than ego surrender.

Surrendering the ego is not the interpersonal subjugation of the self to

another or to a group. This concept would idealize the loss of ego

boundaries wherein a person abandons him/herself in martyrdom to the

will of others. Some social sanctions variously advocate this “selflessness”

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


for children, for women, for soldiers, or for spiritual followers. Jung saw

this as a case of possession, or mass intoxication (1959, p. 125). Gestalt

therapists call it confluence, the state in which boundaries between figure

and ground, or you and I, flow together indistinguishably (Perls et al,

1951). For example, a man stops himself from crying through his

confluence with “the authorities” who say, “Big boys don’t cry.”

Confluence is an abdication, and makes for routine and stagnation. Another

example of subjugation of the self to another is identification with a hero.

This can be a highly effective therapeutic technique when used with

children (Tilton, 1984), giving the child someone with whom he/she can

identify as a source of ego strength and security. However, because such an

experience in adults increases ego passivity, it provides false ego strength.

Surrendering the ego is not a developmental stage beyond the ego

wherein the ego exists and then is abandoned, succeeded by egolessness.

Egolessness is not built on the ashes of the destroyed ego. Transcending

the ego occurs through letting go of identification with the selective

concept of ‘I’, and fully embracing all aspects of the self, expanding the

conception of self beyond the customary limits. In other words,

surrendering the ego is not trading in one concretely existing entity (the

ego) for another concretely existing entity (egolessness).

Surrendering the ego is not limited to the ultimate state of spiritual

perfection described by Buddhists as nirvana, the loss of ego, desire and

attachment, but is instead the gradual process known to lead to it. There are

four levels of attaining realization of nirvana, all identical in the experience

itself, but each resulting in a progressively more permanent loss of ego on

emergence from nirvana (Goleman, 1975). (1) The first is “Stream

Enterer,” having once experienced the state of nirvana. At this level of

attainment, the following strata of personality traits fall away: greed for

sense desires, and resentments strong enough to produce anxiety; greed for

one’s own gain, possessions or praise strong enough to cause inability to

share with others; failure to perceive the relative and illusive nature of

what seems pleasurable or beautiful; the misapprehension of permanence

in what is impermanent; and of self in what is devoid of self; adherence to

mere rites and rituals, and the belief that this or that is “the Truth”; doubt

or uncertainty in the utility of the spiritual path; lying, stealing, sexual

misconduct, physically harming others, or earning a livelihood at the

expense of others. Belief is that the final liberation, the total loss of ego

and end to the cycle of birth-death-rebirth will occur within seven more

lifetimes. (2) The next level of attainment is “Once-Returner,” where the

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


elements of ego abandoned with Stream Entry now include gross feelings

of desire for sense objects and strong resentment. Attraction and aversion

to any phenomena are replaced by an impartial attitude toward all stimuli.

Belief is that full liberation will come in this lifetime or the next. (3) The

third level of attainment of nirvana is “Nonreturner,” where all propensities

for greed or resentment drop away, and all aversion to worldly states such

as loss, disgrace, pain or blame ceases. Belief is that one is bound to

become totally liberated from the wheel of becoming in the present

lifetime. (4) The final and full maturity of insight is attained in the state

“Fully Realized Being,” in which one has permanently overcome the

fetters of ego, desire and attachment.

If a person is psychologically secure, they are able to shift from a personal focus to a

universal focus. This is what I believe is meant in spiritual practice when people talk about

“losing one’s ego”. I believe that if people have a level of personal maturity and ego

integration, they can make the shift from “life is happening to me” to “life is happening”. It

is a happy shift, a shift from an inside-out, “me-focused” view to a cosmic or universal

overview (Boorstein, 1994).

Surrendering ego can be termed negation of ego (Kalff, 1983), or

depotentiation of the ego (Jung, 1975). It implies limiting the exaggerated

importance attributed to ego, and correctly apprehending the ego’s relative

and dependent position to the total human being. One way to see this

perspective is as a process of letting go of possessiveness, where the

concept of possession is expanded to include nonmaterial objects such as

identity, personality, beliefs, and ideologies (Ross, 1991). Surrendering

ego, then, is letting go of the possessiveness of identity. In the Tibetan

Buddhist tradition, the pathway toward mental health is a process of

cutting through materialism to uncover a clear, egoless, awakened state of

mind. Becoming possession-free does not mean giving up all material

objects or renouncing love, intimacy, sex, relationships, pleasure, or

comfort; it involves overcoming a neurotic preoccupation with or

identification with any of these. Becoming “ego-possession free” doesn’t

mean giving up the functions of ego, but rather the identification with any

one aspect of it.

Recent research indicates that, perhaps paradoxically, an experience of

ego surrender tends to increase the individual’s internal locus of control

(Reinert, 1997), and “control is simultaneously enhanced through the

process of letting go” (Cole & Pargament, 1999, p. 179). Derived from

social learning theory, the concept of locus of control defines an

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


individual’s belief about who or what is responsible for outcomes in their

life. People with an internal locus of control believe that what happens to

them is a consequence of their own actions and is within their control.

Those with an external locus of control believe that what happens to them

is related to external events, powerful others and chance, and thus beyond

their control (Lefcourt, 1983). Research indicates that people with an

internal locus of control tend to have more adaptive behaviors, are more

proactive in their health care, experience more positive psychological

outcomes (are less depressed and anxious), and enjoy better physical health

than those with an external locus of control (Oberle, 1991).

The therapeutic corrective experience and the psychospiritual

experience of ego surrender change at a deep level the individual’s locus of

control from external to internal. Humanistic psychology points to the

ultimate expression of self-actualization as embracing this healthy internal

locus of control: “I am 100% responsible for my experience of my life.”

This is highly empowering to the individual.

Branscomb (1993) differentiates two forms of surrender in

psychotherapy. Cathartic surrender involves relinquishing the protective

defenses that “encapsulate” trauma, thus permitting release of associated

memories, feelings, and impulses. Primary surrender consists of

reclaiming a basic life position of trust and the possibility of goodness in

one self and others. Both of these are steps toward the more thorough

surrender that occurs beyond the setting of psychotherapy.

Applications in Heart-Centered Therapies

In Heart-Centered Therapies, we engage in the healing process of

psychological development envisioned by Carl Jung. Psychologist Radmila

Moacanin summarizes:

The process of individuation, or psychological development, leads progressively

further away from the ego to the Self, from the unconscious to consciousness, from the

personal to the transpersonal, the holy, the realization that the macrocosm is being mirrored

in the microcosm of the human psyche (Moacanin, 1986, p. 65).

Indeed, according to Jung, the ego, full of distortions and projections, needs to be

dissolved before the Self can emerge. The Self, however, which is the totality of the psyche,

includes the ego. In the process of individuation one does not destroy the ego, rather one

places it in subordinate relation to the Self. The ego is no longer the center of the

personality; the Self, the mandala, which unites all opposites, is its center. What is dissolved

is the inflated, concrete ego, pursuing its exclusive selfish purposes, just following its own

impulses. . . .

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


For Jung, transformation is the goal of psychotherapy, and the disappearance of

egohood is the only criterion of change. But he maintains that frequently for Westerners “a

conscious ego and a cultivated understanding must first be produced through analysis before

one can even think about abolishing egohood [Jung, 1978, p. 154]” (Moacanin, 1986, p. 83-


If “the disappearance of egohood is the only criterion of change,” how

do we recognize it when we see it? What does the disappearance of

egohood look like? Following are what we can expect when we make these

transformational changes permanent in our lives and in our relationships

(Zimberoff & Hartman, 1999).

1. Fully present in every moment, refraining from ego dissociation or


When the ego is no longer fettered by childhood wounds of abuse,

shame and abandonment, addictive behavior and dissociation are

unneeded. The individual has extinguished the deep underlying fear of

nonbeing, and feels existentially complete and chooses to remain present in

each moment. This allows the process of reclaiming the real self to unfold.

It means that the individual has permission to feel and express the deepest

emotions and thus to release the patterns of dissociation. Here we refer to

ego activity, as contrasted with ego passivity.

2. Daily choices based on intuitive knowledge, wisdom and love rather

than on ego-state fear, fabrication and rationalization.

When the person’s deepest motivation changes from fear or avoiding

anticipated pain to an intuitive inner knowing, decisions will always serve

the highest good of everyone involved.

3. Identify and manage positive energy and not “take on” negative


As the person becomes free of internal ego preoccupation, he/she

becomes aware of the impact of subtle energy and the importance of

managing it, able to identify healthy and unhealthy energy patterns in

every interaction in oneself, individuals as well as in groups.

4. Live in integrity.

Integrity is the natural result of full cooperation between congruent ego

states, with the “private self” and the “public self” transparently one in the

same: the real self. Living as an integrated person eliminates self-

consciousness, anxiety about approval, defensiveness, and secrets,

resulting in honesty, keeping commitments and being trustworthy.

5. Spiritual manifestation of what we say we want.

A measure of ego surrender is manifestation of the goals the individual

is clear about wanting. He/she has eliminated the causes of any inability to

manifest what he/she wants: deep unconscious feelings of unworthiness, or

unconscious beliefs that are contrary to what is desired (for example, the

person may be asking to manifest money, but the unconscious belief may

be that money is evil).

6. Acceptance of ourselves for who we are, acknowledging the continued

growth we desire.

The life path of transformational work replaces the ego’s tendency to

judge by performance and conditional love, instead accepting oneself as a

“work in progress.” Ego surrendering is a continuing lifelong process, not

a single event. Here we refer to internal locus of control, as contrasted with

external locus of control, and the importance of playfulness. Ego maturity

is not a static state; indeed, it is one of constant dynamic growth.

7. Healing and resolving unhealthy relationships, and attracting healthy


Healing any “victim consciousness” pattern imprints in the

unconscious mind releases the repetition compulsion to repeat those

imprinted unhealthy relationships. Every relationship in our lives reflects

the deepest belief system in our minds. The surrendering ego is full of


8. We freely express our emotions spontaneously through healthy release.

In transformational work, people learn to identify emotions through

being aware of the bodily sensations that accompany a feeling, and to

release these emotions in a way that doesn’t hurt another person or

property, free from projecting unacknowledged or repressed feelings onto

others. Here we refer to flexibility and spontaneity, as contrasted with ego


9. We are current, not unfinished, in every interaction of every


Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


Ending the repression of feelings or holding on to unexpressed feelings

eliminates projection, and thus unfinished business in relationships.

Jungian analyst Marilyn Nagy (1991, p. 57) says, “Whatever qualities we

have that are unknown to us we experience first of all in projection.”

Forgiveness is vitally important.

Being current in relationships is also important when we are speaking

of a conscious death. Unfinished business in this process will be painful. If

we are unable to forgive on the Soul level, then we may karmically attract

this person back into our next lifetime to replay the relationship again in

another version.

10. Prepared for a conscious death, no matter how unexpectedly it may


Socrates said that “true philosophers make dying their profession, and

to them of all men death is least alarming” (Plato, The Phaedo, quoted in

Edinger, 1985, pp. 169-170). A conscious death is one that is accepted with

emotional equanimity and spiritual confidence.

11. Recognize the karmic patterns being fulfilled, and stop creating new

karma (accept that “I am 100% responsible for my experience of my


A powerful way to work through karmic issues is to become aware of

your individual karmic lessons in this lifetime. This gives the very deepest

spiritual meaning to the concept of “I am 100% responsible for what I

create and experience in my life.” It is only by seeing the bigger picture of

our lives that we heal and release the old karmic patterns. Once we get the

lesson, we no longer need to repeat it. We then devote our energies to

serving the transformation of others helping them to transmute their fear,

anxiety, negativity, addictions and illness into love, power and oneness.

Ego-related Elements in Heart-Centered Therapies

In Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy it is important to begin by developing

an adult ego state. We ask the client what age the internal adult seems to

be. This is a most interesting question in terms of developmental issues. At

times the developmentally arrested client will answer that there is no adult

within. Other clients may describe the adult as age twelve or fourteen. This

should be a red flag to the therapist who will then recognize this state of

fixation and implant an adult ego state if possible. If there is only an

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


adolescent present, we may ask if this youngster could grow up, an internal

maturation process.

If it does not seem possible to implant an adult, then continued ego-

strengthening needs to be accomplished before deep inner work is

suggested. An ego needs to be in place before the process of surrendering it

can happen. Some people may not get there in this lifetime. In other words,

their task may be just to heal from the lifetime of wounds and develop a

strong ego in order to survive.

The release of shame and fear, the ‘glue’ of repression, loosens the

possessiveness of the ego-identity because the ego no longer needs to hide,

defend or promote itself. The ego thus moves further into surrender.

There are a wide variety of people who seek therapy and have a good

strong adult ego within. These clients with well-developed egos will easily

find the adult within and the age will be very close to their present age.

They may have many complexes which require treatment and which are

holding them hostage so to speak with self-defeating behavior. These

individuals are more likely to be able to release their defenses enough

eventually to surrender the ego and reach transformational healing.

Initially, the person’s competent adult ego state is deliberately

strengthened (or implanted if not available to strengthen) to create the

vehicle for safe self-exploration, using generalized supportive suggestions

to increase the client’s confidence and minimize anxiety. This adult ego

state is reinforced as a resource state with an anchor so that it is readily

accessible whenever needed (NLP techniques). This is especially important

if the client regresses to childhood trauma where no competent adult was

present. We now remind them that in this corrective experience, there is an

adult ego state present, where there wasn’t before. The strengthened adult

ego state, of course, becomes generalized in the person’s life.

Exploring and expressing feelings strengthens the ego. Gestalt

techniques are used, directing the expression of the feelings to specific

people or institutions. Individuals are never directed to a known or

hypothesized event, but encouraged to follow their own unconscious “radar

system” to relevant experiences. Further age regressions may be used,

following the same affect bridge, until the individual experiences

insightfully the pattern that underlies each incident in the sequence. Each

ego state of the person is located in its developmental stage (e.g., bonding,

or separation, or latency) and healed.

The healing occurs through corrective experiences in the regression at

the appropriate developmental stage. The corrective experience may take

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


the form of incorporating one’s own shadow side, or a deep sense of

forgiveness, or release of repressed emotion through expression (grief,

anger), or by “making new decisions” to replace neurotic, self-destructive

habits, or by “extinguishing” anxiety, fear or shame utilizing behavior

modification techniques of flooding and desensitization. These corrective

experiences are powerful because they are experienced in the unconscious

and transpersonal levels, and at the developmental stage in which the

source trauma was experienced.

The process of “making new decisions” follows the model established

by James and Goulding (1998) for redecision therapy, a combination of

transactional analysis and Gestalt therapy. “The steps in redecision are:

Enter a scene as a child, explore it, experience it, and discover a way to

redo the scene so that you are a victor rather than a victim” (p. 17).

The extinguishing, or desensitization, technique is commonly used in

behavior therapy. It is powerfully effective when combined with the

hypnotic state (Hammond, 1990). The executive adult ego state is

strengthened in the process of experiencing control over previously

compulsive behavioral choices or intrusive thoughts.

Ego-strengthening is enhanced when the body’s energy is engaged,

identifying blocks in specific areas of the body. These energy blocks are

loosened when the individual accomplishes cathartic release. Any tendency

to dissociate becomes obvious, and can be overcome through energy

movement with breath and emotional catharsis.

The client sometimes spontaneously experiences competing aspects of

him/herself, substructures of the personality that have relatively

autonomous existence and which require integration. This experience is

similar to the subpersonalities described in the psychosynthesis system

(Assagioli, 1971). In the regressed trance state, the client is easily able to

fully experience and identify with the “needy child” part of himself that is

in conflict with the “competent adult” part. The ability in the hypnotic

expanded consciousness to embrace both aspects of the psyche

simultaneously allows for integration and self-acceptance, and facilitates

the ego surrender process.

The session always ends with self-accepting identification with the

most loving part of oneself, and a reunion of forgiveness between any

estranged ego states. Thus one begins to love the inner child who has been

blamed for abuse and rejected as bad, or the adolescent who made serious

mistakes and has been blamed ever since.

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


The process of ego surrender is encouraged in several ways. The deep

levels of unconscious, transpersonal experience relating to past-life,

conception, womb, birth, and very early infancy are accessible through this

work. The same corrective experience is created to effect healing, and the

individual’s identification with the ego is loosened in the process.

Ego, Existential and Transpersonal (Karmic) Identity

Our work is clearly based on the premise that the process of therapy is

not one of treating “a disease entity” in the medical model, but rather

“reinstitutes a derailed, arrested, or distorted developmental process”

(Engler, 1993, p. 121). The underlying developmental psychology must, of

course, include the full developmental spectrum, i.e., transpersonal

experience from conception through death. One way to observe these

expanded developmental processes is to divide them into ego, existential

and transpersonal (karmic).

The ego level is organized around the self-image of “I” as separate and

unique from all that is “not I.” Work at the ego level builds boundaries,

integrates polarizations, replaces nonfunctional concepts of self and others,

and modifies character structure for more fulfillment. “Once individuals

have developed a more cohesive egoic identity, they can embark on a

process that takes them further on the journey of self-discovery, that of

unfolding their existential self, or their true inner individuality” (Wittine,

1993, p.167).

The existential level is organized around life on earth itself and the

social, cultural and spiritual ramifications of it, that is, the “human

condition.” People’s existential issues are related to their mortality and

impermanence, their experience of freedom of choice (or lack of it), and/or

their sense of separation / connection with others. Work at this level is to

loosen the rigidity of the self-image, to expand the relationship to God, to

life before and after death.

The transpersonal (karmic) level is organized around (1) the rejected

and repressed parts and (2) the unrealized potentials. The work at this level

includes identifying and healing repressed shadow parts, often easily

accessed through one’s projections, and identifying and reclaiming the

transcendent parts hitherto beyond reach (such as pastlife, preconception,

prenatal, perinatal, and death experiences).

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


Existential Issues

In order to achieve personal transformation, it is necessary to look at

the reasons why you are here on earth at this time, to understand what the

lessons are that you are supposed to be learning. The higher your

awareness of these issues, the sooner in life you can fulfill your purpose.

The discovery of who you really are is probably the most exciting aspect of

being alive. Without this insight, life seems meaningless and often boring.

There are four primary existential positions with which people go through


(1) The first one is Resistance to Life (“I don’t want to be here” or “I

don’t want to do this anymore”). It can be characterized by feelings of not

wanting to be here, an attitude that gets projected onto almost every

situation in one’s life. One may have grown up with the feeling of not

wanting to be in one’s birth family, of one’s race or gender, or in one’s

marriage. It is important to understand the concept that we all attract

exactly the experiences that are consistent with our most dominant beliefs.

If the existential belief is that you shouldn’t be or don’t want to be here on

earth, then you would continue to attract unpleasant people and situations

which would reinforce that belief and be easy to resist. Ideally, of course,

this Soul could want to be on earth at this time and enjoy the process of

getting clear about its purpose. This person could accept situations that

come along as lessons to be learned, even though they may be difficult,

rather than as obstacles. When this person suffers abuse, to what extent

does he/she move into the victim position with blame and resentment. We

are all drawn to situations where we can work through the unresolved

issues; to what extent do we see the gift in adversity? How early in life

does this Soul attract teachers who provide guidance on a spiritual path,

and how willingly does he/she go down the path of spiritual growth.

This existential position may result in an unconscious death urge, or in

death anxiety and the microsuicidal behaviors (Firestone, 1985, 1987) that

many people use to defend against that anxiety (e.g., smoking tobacco,

reckless recreation). People’s experience of near-death situations, most

likely at or around birth, left a profound impression on the organism, a

vague feeling that one’s life is in danger, an imprint that we could call

“death anxiety.” In Primal Therapy terminology, these are called “first line

traumas.” Many individuals, in therapies that allow access to very early

traumas, have relived near-death situations like suffocating at birth

(anoxia) or being strangled by the umbilical cord in the form of “body

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


memories.” Existential despair results from the trauma of leaving the

uroboric world of the uterus, which parallels the preconception journey of

leaving the spiritual world to be conceived (Emerson, 1994).

Variants of this existential position are fear of annihilation or suicidal

tendencies (“Don’t be”); despair and separation anxiety; longing for

connection; struggle with hardships; feeling stuck or claustrophobic; fear

of needs not being met; isolation or terror of abandonment; a deep, basic

lack of trust; numbness, avoidance, disconnection and dissociation; or the

nagging question of “Why am I here?”

(2) The next primary existential position is The Victim Triangle (“I am

here only to rescue [be victimized by] [persecute] others”). This soul often

was ‘pulled’ into this life because of a past-life agreement to “always take

care of someone else” or “be taken care of” or “get revenge” or a promise

that “I will never leave you. We will always be together.” Often a soul

makes last minute agreements or promises with other souls just before

death, or bargains with God. Of course, these are not consciously

remembered. Past life work is very helpful in determining what agreements

we may have previously made and may wish to change. The existential

issue here is, in fact, “I am here to complete something unresolved, or to

fulfill a contract.”

Variants of this existential position are authority issues (intimidated by

authority, rebellious against authority, competitive to gain authority);

compulsive or addictive patterns; self-destructiveness, self-sabotage, or

self-hatred; deep sense of shame or feeling judged; powerlessness;

injustice (“Life isn’t fair”).

(3) The third primary existential focus is Identity (the extent to which

identity is externally or internally defined: “You tell me who I am” or “I

know who I am”). The vitally important developmental milestone of

asserting an autonomous identity is as yet unresolved. This Soul feels

incomplete, disconnected, self-conscious. This existential position is

related to the third and fourth developmental stages (from 18 months to 7

years), focused on identity and power, initiative vs. guilt, separating

fantasy from reality, and belonging. The task at hand is to separate from

others (including God) and be welcomed back with love (rapproachment),

and to give up narcissistic beliefs in being the center of the universe.

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


Variants of this existential position are fear of abandonment and/or

engulfment; identity confusion; social exclusion (“I don’t belong”);

inhibition (“Don’t be me”).

(4) The final primary existential focus is Worthiness (the degree to which

“I accept myself and embrace life fully” or “I am not worthy to be here”).

This soul is struggling with God for justification of its existence. Am I

worthy to express my true feelings? to enjoy abundance in life? to move

through life with ease rather than struggle? to have an intimate relationship

with God? Ultimately, am I worthy to exist? Unworthiness is ego-centric,

manifested either as inferiority or as grandiosity. They are one-in-the-


Variants of this existential position are perfectionism (“I’m never good

enough”); living in the past or future, not in the present; lack of clarity

regarding one’s purpose in life; fear of intimacy; Narcissism; spiritual

struggles; authority issues with God.

Transformation through Developmental Completion

In transformational work, we regress the client to the developmental

stages where the trauma exists and/or where the developmental tasks were

derailed. By installing a loving, healthy, nurturing parent into the

unconscious, the developmental tasks can be rehearsed and replayed until

completed. As these stages are healed, the individual moves out of the ego

issues (see Figure 1) and into spiritual expression, from expression of

underdeveloped ego states to expression of a surrendering ego. The root

and sexual chakras open and the person experiences the life force energy

and passion opening up within. He/she has released the fears and shame

that block these vital energy channels.

As the individual doing transformational work releases the

codependency, powerlessness and victimization of the third chakra, he/she

begins to experience power coming from within. This is not the abusive

power that comes from overpowering, but the gentle power which comes

from a deep level of self-confidence and accountability; internal power, if

you will. As this lower chakra work is being completed, the heart chakra

opens and the love begins to pour forth. This comes from valuing the true

self and feeling a deep sense of worthiness within.

There is a strong connection between the third chakra and the fifth. As

seekers claim their power in the solar plexus, and discover the inevitable

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


unconditional love in the heart, they can then release the repression and

fully express the self through the throat chakra. They begin to speak their

truth without feeling shame, sing more clearly, and/or write the words that

flow from within. The fifth chakra opens up to allow the individual to be

transformed through creative expression.

The sixth chakra energy opens up when the transformational seeker is

willing to see clearly, when the conscious choice is made to lift the veils of

illusion and to invite the spiritual presence to be fully viewed. Often the

individual will experience a visit from Jesus, Divine Mother, Guru,

Buddha, Great Spirit, Angels and other spiritual guides and helpers. The

intuition opens up and the person begins to truly trust his inner knowing.

The seventh chakra is the crown and opens up as the individual grows

into self-actualization or God-Realization. This does not happen until the

lower chakra work is well on its way to completion. The lower chakras are

portals to the upper ones. Each door that is opened, opens the door to the

next. They don’t always open in order; they open according to urgency.

The Personal Transformation techniques of hypnotherapy, breath therapy,

psychodrama, Kundalini meditation, and interpersonal clearings all work

together to move the energy which has been blocked and open the chakras.

It is quite common that an individual is traumatized during a very

important developmental phase and becomes fixated at that stage.

Examples of this are continual attempts to satisfy unmet oral needs (e.g.,

smoking, eating), or the person using the charm of the flirtatious toddler to

draw and attract the adoring mother (e.g., the sex addict who can often be

identified by a “cute little boy look”). Development became arrested at the

point it was unresolved, and healing requires completing those

developmental tasks in the age-appropriate regressed ego state.

First developmental stage – Root Chakra

The first level, that of our connection to the earth, to community and

with our life force (developmental stage conception through birth to six

months of age), is focused on bonding, basic trust vs. mistrust, and healthy

codependence. Developmental tasks are to express needs, to accept

nurturing, to bond emotionally, to learn to trust adults, to choose to live.

One faces the ego issue of fear: fear of needs not being met, abandonment

or annihilation. As these issues are worked through, the individual is able

to access and contain the full vitality of their life force energy, free of the

entangling, ever-demanding and competing ego identities.

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


The Root Chakra is our connection to the earth. It lies at the base of the

spine and is the energetic gateway between our connection to the earth and

the mental and spiritual worlds that can be awakened through the spine. If

proper bonding does not take place between mother and child, first chakra

issues will be apparent. Feelings of lack or “not enough” are a first chakra

issue, as is the pattern of experiencing abandonment or rejection in

relationships. For example, a person who often feels that he/she doesn’t

have enough time, enough love or enough money in his/her life would

have work to do in this chakra.

The Birth Process (Grof, 1988)

Stage 1a: Nurturance and unity. This is the first stage of birth and

includes pregnancy until labor begins. In an ideal, normal pregnancy this is

a blissful stage for the developing fetus. However, the womb can be either

a toxic or safe environment, depending on issues connected with the

conception. Was the baby wanted by both parents, or was it an unplanned

or unwanted pregnancy? Is the mother considering abortion? Is the father

angry about the pregnancy and thus abusive to mother and baby? Are the

parents in fear about not having enough financial resources to raise this

baby? All these issues and more can affect the feelings of safety during this

early time.

Birth stage 1A issues relate to the existential theme of Resistance to

Life: separation anxiety, and longing for the spirit world. Birth stage 1A,

the initiation of the birth process, parallels the preconception journey of

leaving the spirit world. Emerson (1994) identifies several major themes in

birth stage 1A. Two are reflected in the preconception journey: one is

“Divine home-sickness” which is a real longing to go back and return to the

wonderful, beautiful, non-complicated world of the spirit. It is a very

blissful existence. The other theme is “spiritual exile”, where one feels

oneself to have been thrown out, leading to unworthiness and authority


Another major theme at the stage of birth is not wanting to move

forward, not wanting to be born, because the world is so horrible or the

womb is so good, or both. The trauma becomes overwhelming if they also

get stuck and can’t descend into the birth canal, leading to impotence and

inability issues.

There is often a correlation to the prenatal/birth theme of the dilemma

between feeling unwanted or suffocated in the womb, and not wanting

what lies ahead after birth, “between a rock and a hard place.”

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


Stage 1b: Change. The transition between stage 1 and stage 2 may feel

strange with the beginning of the hormonal change preceding the birth

process. Prior to the onset of labor the fetus may have a premonition that

all is about to change, a feeling of paranoia, panic, anxiety, and a lack of

safety. If the mother is very connected to the fetus, she can comfort the

baby by singing, soothing and sending love and reassurance energetically.

Otherwise the fetus feels the anxiety alone.

Stage 2: Victimization/No exit. The second stage of birth begins with

the onset of labor. The release of hormones creates sudden changes in the

prenatal environment. Strong muscular contractions begin to push the fetus

down and out, compressing the fetus with 50 – 100 pounds of force. Each

contraction constricts the flow through the placenta. The environment that

was safe and familiar rapidly disappears. The fetus does not know what

happened to its world and what might happen next. It may feel like a

helpless victim. The cervix has not dilated, there is crushing pressure and

no way out. There is a feeling of being engulfed, trapped or being

swallowed. There may be a sense of betrayal, as the once life-giving

mother now becomes a source of pain and suffocation. This is the stage

related to important life transitions or life process where the change feels

overwhelming or we feel attached to the way it was before the change

started happening. This feeling can come up repeatedly in life and may

arise in experiences that appear to have nothing to do with birth such as

going through tunnels or changing jobs.

Birth issues deriving from birth stage 2 have to do with presence,

related to the Victim Triangle existential theme. Stage 2 is a transition

between stage 1 and 3, and is like being in “no man’s land.” You’ve gone

too far to go back, but you’ve got a long way to go and there is no light at

the end of the tunnel. Because there is full dilation by this stage, the issue

of personal choice comes up. The psychology of stage 2 also has to do with

directionality, one’s either knowing or being lost regarding “where one is

in life” (“Am I going the right way?”). If the cord is wrapped around the

baby’s neck, this stage can signify the beginning of the end, bringing

anticipatory terror about losing the breath and thus losing power.

Stage 3: Struggle/Death/Rebirth. The third stage of birth comes when

the cervix dilates enough to allow the fetus to begin its journey down and

through the birth canal. Now there is, literally, light at the end of the

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


tunnel. In this stage the fetus assists in its own birth process by struggling

and moving through the birth canal. Moving past helpless and hopeless, the

fetus no longer resists the change. Sensing the possibilities, the fetus now

contributes to and participates in the process. This is the stage of agony and

ecstasy! In moving down the birth canal, the fetus encounters struggle,

suffocation, fear of death, anxiety and exhaustion, but also determination,

hope and progress. Each movement brings the fetus closer to freedom.

Birth issues related to the existential theme of Identity derive from

birth stage 3, having to do with the life/death struggle, because if you come

close to dying it is in stage 3. It has anxiety associated with it. Depression

or anxious morbidity probably result from stage 3 trauma. Also, this is

where the baby is going through the vagina of the mother. This stage can

impact one’s sexuality as well: premature ejaculation, impotence or

aorgasmia, loss of self.

Stage 4: Completion/Death/Rebirth. The fourth stage of birth begins

when the fetus finally emerges from the birth canal and the struggle is

over. At this time the umbilical cord is cut, the baby breathes air for the

first time and reconnects to the mother. During this phase of birth the baby

experiences relief, completion, independence and success while nursing

and being held safely in mother’s arms. In a natural process, the baby

learns that reconnection and reward follow effort and pain. There is a sense

of termination and resolution, survival and accomplishment. In this process

of departing we begin the pattern of completion that is carried throughout

life. If there is guilt (for wanting to get out) or anxiety (fear of loss)

connected to this first experience of leaving, then this will govern the

perception of all future completions. If there is a great deal of pain for the

mother, the infant may take responsibility for the pain and conclude, “I

hurt the one I love” or “I am bad.” The infant may also develop the pattern

of holding back in life in order to prevent future pain to him/herself and


Birth issues deriving from birth stage 4, having to do with separation

and abandonment issues, and with bonding, are primarily related to the

existential theme of Worthiness.

Problems and substitute behaviors include not recognizing physical

needs or doing anything to get them met; addictive and compulsive

behaviors, especially ingestive addictions such as food, sugar, alcohol,

pills, tobacco, or eating disorders; inability to ask directly for anything;

terror of abandonment; needing external affirmation of one’s worth; a

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


deep, basic lack of trust of others, and of having one’s needs met; frozen

feelings, numbness; not enough money, food, time, etc; inability to bond


Existential or karmic issues include fear of needs not being met; terror

of abandonment; a deep, basic mistrust or insecurity; numbness and

dissociation; feeling of “I don’t want to be here.”

Diagnostic questions

1. Do you have feelings of lack or “not enough” (enough time,

enough love or enough money or energy)?

2. Do you often experience or fear abandonment or rejection in


3. Do you have addictions?

4. Do you have suicidal tendencies, or a death urge?

5. Do you have physical problems with the rectum, colon, prostate,

adrenals or blood?

Treatment guidelines

Return to the earliest traumas of conception, prenatal life, birth and

neonatal life, and correct:

1. The bonding deficit with mother and/or father

2. The abandonment, rejection or neglect by primary caregivers

3. “Grounding” the person

Second developmental stage – Sacral Chakra

The second level, that of free exploration (developmental stage of 6 to

18 months of age), is focused on oppositional bonding, i.e., I need to trust

you to discover me as separate from you, autonomy vs. shame and doubt,

and healthy counter-dependence. Developmental tasks are to explore and

experience the environment, to develop sensory awareness, to express

needs and trust that others will respond, to begin to learn that there are

options to problem solving, and to develop initiative. One must face the

ego issues of shame, fear and the need to control people and situations. As

people work through these issues, they openly and fully experience their

passion for life, sensuality and sexuality. One lives transparently, without

pretense or defense.

The Sacral chakra is our connection to passion. It is the relationship

chakra and has to do with trust and control, and governs the sexual area.

Sexual energy is so powerful that many cultures go to extremes in their

attempt to control it. Usually those controls come in the form of shame,

guilt and fear, which become associated with sexual energy and serve to

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


repress it. This repression then blocks the second chakra. Blocked energy

in any chakra blocks one’s experience of the spiritual flow.

Problems and substitute behaviors include not knowing what one

wants; boredom; fear of trying new things or experiences; deferring to

others; fear of abandonment and/or engulfment; fear of making mistakes;

not being aware of one’s body, frequent accidents or injuries; overly

adaptive; obsessive/compulsive behavior; lack of vitality and motivational

problems; reluctant to initiate, non assertive; being hyper-active or under-


Existential or karmic issues include fear of abandonment and/or

engulfment; self-destructive, self-sabotaging, or self-hatred; deep sense of

shame; lust and greed.

Diagnostic questions

1. Do you often have feelings of mistrust in your relationships?

2. Do you often experience the need to “be in control”?

3. Is your sexual energy repressed?

4. Do you often feel ashamed or guilty?

5. Do you have physical problems with your reproductive organs,

kidneys, or bladder?

Treatment guidelines

Return to the sexually formative traumas and correct:

1. Any sense of shame

2. Any fears related to exploring one’s environment

Third developmental stage – Solar Plexus Chakra

The third level, that of power and emotion (developmental stage of 18

to 36 months), is focused on creating a separate identity, thinking and

problem-solving, and healthy independence. Developmental tasks are to

establish the ability to think for oneself, to test reality by pushing against

boundaries and people, to learn to solve problems with cause and effect

thinking, to express anger and other feelings, to separate from parents and

be welcomed back with love (rapproachment), and to begin to give up

thoughts of being the center of the universe. One must face the ego issues

of powerlessness in the victim struggle, the fear of rejection, the need for

approval, and manipulative power. Working through these issues brings

security, integrity, self-confidence, response-ability and the empowerment

of accountability.

The Solar Plexus chakra governs the area of personal power, strongly

influencing the adrenal glands, which are associated with stress. When

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


we’re overly stressed, the adrenals break down and cannot function. People

often experience the most stress when they feel the most powerless in their

lives. So reclaiming personal power in the third chakra can heal adrenal

autoimmune functioning.

Problems and substitute behaviors include difficulty with boundaries,

distinguishing one’s own needs, wants, and feelings from those of other

people; not feeling separate or independent; codependent relationships;

avoiding conflict at any expense; unable to say no directly, but using

manipulative means instead; inappropriately rebellious; using anger to

mask other feelings; negative, oppositional, controlling, rigid, critical, or

withholding relationship styles; intestinal and colon disease; demanding,

often feeling cheated; Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder;

Attachment Disorder.







Victim/Rescuer/Persecutor patterns; authority issues; “Life isn’t fair.”

Diagnostic questions

1. Do you often feel stressed or worried?

2. Do you often feel powerless in your life?

3. Has your passion for something in your life become an obsession?

4. Do you have physical problems with your lower back, abdomen,

pancreas and digestive system, stomach, liver, spleen, gallbladder,

autonomic nervous system?

Treatment guidelines

Return to the rapproachment traumas and correct:

1. Boundary issues

2. Authority issues

3. Attachment or bonding deficits

Fourth developmental stage – Heart Center

The fourth level, that of belonging and acceptance (developmental

stage of 3 to 7 years), is focused on socialization, identity and power,

initiative vs. guilt, and belonging. Developmental tasks are to assert an

identity separate from others while creating social inclusion; to acquire

knowledge about the world, oneself, one’s body, one’s gender role; to learn

that behaviors have consequences; to learn to exert power to affect

relationships; to practice socially appropriate behavior; to separate fantasy

from reality; to learn what one has power over and what one does not have

power over. One faces the ego issues of unworthiness, disconnection and

conditional love. Working through these issues brings compassion,

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


forgiveness, and disidentification from the ego states based in limitation

and unworthiness.

The Heart Center, the fourth chakra, is located in the center of the

chest and is the guiding Light of the entire energy system within us. It is

the Heart chakra that shows the Solar Plexis how to burn its raw energy in

loving ways, that shows the second chakra how to manifest its sexual

energy through the transmutation of love, and that shows the first chakra

how to merge the physical with the Divine. The Heart chakra is equidistant

between the first and the seventh chakras, between earth and heaven. It is

the center point of the primary emotional energy of the universe, which we

call love. It balances the chakras above with the chakras below, all of equal

importance. The fourth chakra strongly influences the functioning of the

thymus gland, located in the center of the chest just behind the upper

breastbone. Because this gland directly influences the functioning of our

immune system, fourth chakra balancing and energization can also have a

profound effect on our overall health and resistance to disease.

The Heart Center is the key to personal transformation. The

unconditional love of the Heart Center transforms effective psychotherapy

into transformational healing. The work in the Heart Center is to release

unworthiness. This unworthiness begins in the lower chakras where the

individual experiences being emotionally/physically abandoned by parents

and then transfers this up into the higher chakras as unworthy to receive

God’s love.

Problems and substitute behaviors include relying on guesses and

unchecked assumptions; having incorrect or missing labels for feelings,

with anger often labeled as sadness or fear experienced as anger; belief that

incongruity between one’s thoughts, feelings and actions is normal; power

struggles to control one’s own and others’ thoughts and feelings; a

grandiose sense of one’s own magical powers, e.g., if I act a certain way,

my father won’t drink or my parents won’t get divorced; clinging to the

magical hope of being rescued from challenges; manipulating others to

take responsibility for them; sexual identity problems; use of seductiveness

to get needs met; metabolic and circulation disease; taking care of others’

feelings (emotional rescuing) to avoid abandonment; needing to always be

in a position of power, or afraid of power.

Existential or karmic issues include identity confusion; social

exclusion (“I don’t belong here”); abandonment; feeling stuck; despair.

Diagnostic questions

1. Do you have feelings of unworthiness?

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


2. Is your love for family or friends conditional?

3. Do you often feel that even God can’t love you?

4. Do you have physical problems with your heart, upper back, lower

area of the lungs, thymus, metabolism, circulation, or immune


Treatment guidelines

Return to the traumas related to socialization and correct:

1. Hyper-responsibility for others

2. Unworthiness

3. Power struggles

4. Emotional distance or disconnection

5. Existential despair

Fifth developmental stage – Throat Chakra

The fifth level, that of discovering and expressing one’s true self

(latency stage of 7 to 12 years), is focused on industry vs. inferiority,

concrete knowing and learning, healthy interdependence and co-operation.

Developmental tasks are to learn skills and learn from mistakes; to accept

one’s adequacy; to learn to listen and collect information; to practice

thinking and doing; to learn the appropriateness of having wants and

needs; to learn the structure of the family and the culture; to learn the

consequences of breaking rules; to have one’s own opinions, to disagree,

and still be accepted and loved; to develop internal controls; to learn about

taking responsibility and who is responsible for what; to develop the

capacity to co-operate; to identify with same sex role models and peers; to

compete and test abilities against others. One must face the ego issues of

adapting and repressing the true self. As these issues are worked through,

the person speaks the truth, expresses feelings, discovers the creativity

within, and lives transparently.

The throat chakra is the place of expression and creativity. Children are

often shamed about expressing who they really are and what talents they

possess. They are taught to be “seen and not heard” and to repress their

feelings. Personal transformation is about learning to fully express who

you are and thus allowing your creativity to flow. This is the center of

communication and of expressing the inner depths of our feelings in words,

through art, in dance and ideas. This is where we begin to listen to

ourselves and to have full permission to express it. The thyroid gland is

associated with this chakra.

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


Problems and substitute behaviors include a belief that one should

know how to do things perfectly, without instruction; lack of information

on how to organize time for complicated tasks; procrastination; inability to

negotiate, either giving in completely or insisting on having one’s own

way; perfectionism; inflexible values; acting without thinking; discounting

one’s own feelings; ulcers, headaches, high blood pressure; living in the

past or future, not in the present; having to be part of a gang, or being a

loner; difficulty with rules and authority, rebelliousness; reluctance or

inability to be productive and successful;

Existential or karmic issues include perfectionism; living in the past

or future, not in the present.

Diagnostic questions

1. Do you avoid expressing yourself openly and honestly?

2. Do you believe that you are “not artistic or creative”?

3. Do you often ignore your own “inner knowing”?

4. Do you have physical problems with your thyroid, neck, throat and

jaw, ears, voice, bronchial tubes, upper lungs, esophagus, arms,

ulcers, headaches, high blood pressure?

5. Do you tend to be rigid?

Treatment guidelines

Return to the traumas related to defining the self and correct:

1. The decision not to have wants and needs

2. Needing external validation

3. Fear of expressing oneself

4. Rigidity

Sixth developmental stage – Third Eye Chakra

The sixth level, that of identity vs. roles (adolescent years from age 12

to 18), is focused on identity vs. role confusion, sexuality, healthy

independence from the family. Developmental tasks are to achieve

independence, a clear separation from the group and the family; to

gradually emerge as a separate person with one’s own goals and values; to

be responsible for one’s own needs, feelings and behaviors; to integrate

sexuality into one’s identity. One must face the ego issues of judgment and

the projection of our own illusion onto others. When the individual is able

to work through these issues at a deep transformational level, the person

begins to see clearly on the interpersonal and on the spiritual level, i.e.,

with empathy and compassion.

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


The sixth chakra is located in the forehead and is often referred to as

the intuitive or psychic center. This is the seat of true wisdom, where the

thinking mind comes into contact with the intuitive mind. This is where, if

one is listening during meditation, God speaks directly. One learns clarity

of vision, or one learns to project one’s own experience of fear, anxiety,

and confusion onto other people and the world. The sixth chakra influences

the pituitary gland in the brain, and thus determines the entire functioning

of the body and mind at high levels.

Problems and substitute behaviors include desperately seeking

companionship to fill the emptiness one perceives in oneself; refusal to

accept traditional standards of behavior; flaunting of differences through

extremes of dress or style, thumbing one’s nose at society; either extremely

dependent or isolated; without needs and wants; forming codependent

symbiotic relationships in which one loses a sense of separate identity;

extremely rebellious; conflicts with authority figures such as police,

bosses, teachers, the government, etc.; sexual games, addictions or

dysfunction, confusing sex with nurturing; use of psychological games to

avoid real intimacy; self-absorbed; needing to be one-up on others;

vengeful; difficulty with completion, beginning or ending jobs or

relationships; abandons others to avoid separation or completion; confused

sexual identity.

Existential or karmic issues include lack of clarity regarding one’s

purpose in life; fear of intimacy; Narcissism.

Diagnostic questions

1. Do you often project your issues onto other people?

2. Do you feel adrift in your life, unclear about what direction to


3. Do you have physical problems with your pituitary gland, face,

eyes, ears, nose, sinuses, central nervous system, hormonal


4. Are you egotistical, self-absorbed?

5. Do you have difficulty with completion?

Treatment guidelines

Return to the traumas related to integrating one’s parts into a whole and


1. The sense of emptiness

2. The sense of isolation

3. The sense of aimlessness

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


4. Narcissism

Seventh developmental stage – Crown Chakra

The seventh level, that of clear and wise decision-making and self-

transcendence (developmental stage of adulthood), is focused on

generativity vs. stagnation, creating meaning in one’s life through

relationships, contribution to the community, self-actualization, and

spirituality. We must develop spiritually and emotionally in balance to

experience true transformation. If we develop spiritually but not

emotionally, we become psychics blinded by personal projection, or

ministers filled with rage rather than compassion, or meditators who take

refuge in the safety of meditation at the expense of social obligations. If we

develop emotionally but not spiritually, we become therapists who avoid

our clients’ spiritual experience, or become stuck in “meeting our needs”

and isolated from the peace that surpasses all understanding. One must face

the ego issues of lack of self-aware confidence: grandiosity or

unworthiness. If the individual hasn’t successfully completed all the

developmental stages, he/she may become fixated at one of the stages and

not be able to truly become an adult. Thus the individual will remain “an

adult/child,” and his/her lack of self-confidence has by now turned into

grandiosity, ego inflation (resembling the over-zealous self-importance of

the three-year-old) or alternatively into inferiority, unworthiness and ego


The Crown chakra is located at the top of the head and is light years

beyond the lower chakras. It is associated with the final developmental

stages: adulthood and maturity, with a base need for self-actualization.

When ego, fear, and doubt rise to the ultimate expression of selfhood, it is

grandiosity or it is unworthiness. When each of the chakras contributes its

pure and uncontaminated energy upward through the next to the ultimate

expression of selfhood, it is gracious acceptance of God’s grace. It is

surrender of the ego. This chakra is truly the gateway from ordinary human

experience to the higher transpersonal realms of consciousness.

Problems and substitute behaviors include all dysfunctional or self-

limiting behaviors, which are substitutes for the missing meaning,

satisfaction, and sense of fulfillment in life.

Existential or karmic issues include spiritual struggles; God/authority


Diagnostic questions

1. Do you often feel judgmental of and better than other people?

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2000, Vol. 3, No. 2


2. Do you feel unworthy at your very core?

Treatment guidelines

Return to the traumas related to meaning in life and correct:

1. Alienation

2. “Loss of soul”

Psychosocial developmental stage 8: Death Preparation

Ultimately, we must all face death. Those who have lived fully,

fulfilling their dreams and accepting themselves in totality have achieved

wisdom, ego integrity, and self-actualization. They are prepared to meet

death with dignity and readiness. Those who have lived afraid to dream,

afraid to excel, afraid to accept themselves in totality, live in fear of death.

In the words of Erik Erikson, “it seems possible to further paraphrase the

relation of adult integrity and infantile trust by saying that healthy children

will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough not to fear death”

(1950, p. 269).

This stage of growth involves working through grief and reaching

completion. Grief has to do with loss. Loss has to do with change. Some

common losses relate to drugs, relationships, lifestyle, job, spouse,

child(ren) leaving home, self-respect, trust, memory (blackouts), health,

promotion, financial well-being, freedom, values, childhood, ideals,


Problems and substitute behaviors include self-destructive tendencies;

deep sorrow and “pain of loss”; preoccupation with and idealization of

what is past; guilt and self-reproach; feelings of “unrealness”; lack of

energy and fatigue.

Existential or karmic issues include death anxiety; death urge or

preoccupation; resistance to change, fear of the unknown, denial of death.

Diagnostic questions

1. Do you feel satisfied with life, or are you longing for something

that seems to be missing?

2. Do you often experience “lucid waking” moments?

Treatment guidelines

Return to the traumas related to death and correct:

1. Death anxiety or fear

2. Death urge or preoccupation

3. Sense of separation from God

Zimberoff and Hartman: Ego Strengthening and Ego Surrender


Therapeutic developmental re-experience is very powerful when

working with repressed emotions and trauma. The repetition compulsions

resulting from developmental fixations are the passive ego choices of

reactivity. Creating a strong, active ego capable of non-reactivity requires

that uncompleted tasks be completed and unresolved conflicts healed

through a corrective process in the same state in which they were

originally unresolved and stored (Rossi, 1986; Janov, 1996). Trance is the

means to return to each developmental stage for healing of any unresolved

issues and completion of developmental tasks, strengthening the ego for its

ultimate surrender.

The fully developed individual, beyond repression, is fully aware of,

and unintimidated by, every aspect of his/her personality. All the various

ego states coordinate consciously and harmoniously, with no intrapsychic

conflict, performing all functions of the ego without self-consciousness or

concern for others’ approval. This individual is always in an active

(autonomous) mode, while accepting the compassion of passive behavioral

choices with others. He is responsive, not reactive. She is clear of purpose

in every interaction. Clear and healthy ego boundaries arise easily and

spontaneously in every situation. When the ego has developed fully, it

surrenders gracefully to its role of serving the whole Self: “Not my will but

thine be done.”


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