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[Opinion] Psychotherapy

Posted February. 27, 2008 08:16,   


French philosopher Henri Bergson divided a person’s ego into two types: superficial ego and fundamental ego. The former refers to an ego that appears in response to his or her desire or to the perspective of a stranger. When evaluating someone’s personality, character and nature, we usually make a judgment based on notable features of superficial ego. On the other hand, fundamental ego is something real that undergoes continuous change without others noticing.

As a Korean saying goes, men and melons are hard to know. This implies the concept of fundamental ego. In short, fundamental ego doesn’t mean an ego that appears in response to external conditions, like a customized product. Rather, it is an ego coming from the bottom of the person. Though superficial ego is very simple, fundamental ego comprising a variety of desires and diverse senses is really complicated. That’s why we cannot thoroughly judge a person solely based on his or her words and behavior.

The Supreme Court has found a farmer who staged a violent demonstration guilty, but has ordered him to receive psychotherapy. The decision apparently reflects the court’s belief that the two egos of a person should be dealt with separately. Wrong behavior can be punished with legal action but the farmer could make the same mistake again unless his fundamental ego is efficiently handled. The court ruled that he hit riot police with sticks and steel pipes and pulled down a wall of a provincial office to express his opposition to the free trade agreement with the United States. The ruling said, “He has difficulty controlling his own mind while failing to calm his temper, giving in to the impulse of the moment.”

People used to express harsh words while pretending to raise their voice to protect the underprivileged and humanism. The truth is, however, that they frequently harbor a deep-rooted hatred of other people. When a person sees his or her own hatred get out of control and harms the freedom and rights of others, that person needs psychotherapy. The problem is that it’s tough for the person to diagnose him or herself as a patient. As a proverb says, the same world is hell and heaven to different minds. A person with hatred or abhorrence is set to consume more energy than usual. Doctors warn that those filled with hatred damage their own psychological health since they consume healthy energy that should be channeled toward daily living.

Editorial Writer Huh Mun-myeong angelhuh@donga.com