Ego, superego, and ballroom

This is a strange first post to inaugurate a blog, but I expect this will be a strange blog (as it’s my blog), so perhaps it’s fitting.

I read TV Tropes quite a bit because I like breaking things down into components to see how subsystems interact (which is pretty common for science/engineering types).  Recently, I was reading up on group dynamics, and began wondering whether some of these applied in real life.  I mean, these tropes are used in narratives because it makes things less boring, but narrativium doesn’t exactly hold sway in Roundworld (though George Lakoff does say humans think in the terms of metaphors, so maybe stories do have power).  Anyway, one case resembles something out of Freud.  To quote:

Power Trio – A show that thematically centers on the tension between two opposing ideas will manifest that tension through three central characters: one character representing each opposing idea, and a character who must integrate and reconcile the opposition. A common form has characters representing the Freudian Ego, Superego, and Id:

“The id contains primitive desires (hunger, rage and sex), the super-ego contains internalized norms, morality and taboos, and the ego mediates between the two and may include or give rise to the sense of self and the well being of humans.”

The example TV Tropes uses is Kirk (ego), Spock (superego), and McCoy (id).  Not that McCoy symbolizes lust; he serves as a emotional, humanistic foil to Spock’s rationality.  Nor is Spock lacking in compassion; it’s just that it’s one consideration in the wider picture.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  Kirk serves as a mediator between these two poles.

And the thought struck me that this analogy applies to UCBD: most people coming into the team serve as the id, viewing ballroom as just a fun activity, not really concerned about the future of the team or too enthused about the not-that-fun tasks that are required to keep the team running.  Meanwhile, You-Know-Who serves as the superego, coldly calculating what’s needed for the long-term survival of the team, even if some people are left in the dust, because it serves the greater good.  In between are officers and teachers, trying to get two to meet in the middle.  Trying.

In Star Trek, Kirk is the leader, and maintains balance (or, rather, finding a third option).  However, it’s not impossible for one of the two opposing viewpoints to be in control, and herein lies the root of UCBD’s dysfunction.  For one extreme to hold the reins but not make things unbalanced, it has to be open to compromise.  Which, in our case, he often is not.  This imbalance is why our gut instinct says something is rotten in the state of ballroom.

TV Tropes has this advice:

  • The Spock: Often is not a sympathetic character because he is too ruthlessly calculating.  Builds sympathy by sacrificing himself (i.e. play up time spent on other’s behalf); being open to alternatives, especially those advocated by others on the team; and being unflappably reliable.
  • The Kirk: Must find balance between the two extremes and get both sides accept the decision.
  • The McCoy: Okay, no advice here.
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2 thoughts on “Ego, superego, and ballroom

  1. It is never a good sign when the sugerego is unnamed, offstage, and even unknown by many. Makes one think of the god in the old testament, or some political regimes.

  2. it leaves a question: is the superego here, really that as defined by Freud, or is it another more powerful Super – Ego acting as a superego?

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