115

The so-called 'ego'.  Language and the prejudices upon which language is based are a manifold hindrance to us when we want to explain inner processes and drives: because of the fact, for example, that words really exist only for superlative degrees of these processes and drives; and where words are lacking, we are accustomed to abandon exact observation because exact thinking there becomes painful; indeed, in earlier times one involuntarily concluded that where the realm of words ceased the realm of existence ceased also. Anger, hatred, love, pity, desire, knowledge, joy, pain  all are names for extreme states: the milder, middle degrees, not to speak of the lower degrees which are continually in play, elude us, and yet it is they which weave the web of our character and our destiny. These extreme outbursts  and even the most moderate conscious pleasure or displeasure, while eating food or hearing a note, is perhaps, rightly understood, an extreme outburst  very often rend the web apart, and then they constitute violent exceptions, no doubt usually consequent on built-up congestions:  and, as such, how easy it is for them to mislead the observer! No less easy than it is for them to mislead the person in whom they occur. We are none of us that which we appear to be in accordance with the states for which alone we have consciousness and words, and consequently praise and blame; those cruder outbursts of which alone we are aware make us misunderstand ourselves, we draw a conclusion on the basis of data in which the exceptions outweigh the rule, we misread ourselves in this apparently most intelligible of handwriting on the nature of our self. Our opinion of ourself, however, which we have arrived at by this erroneous path, the so-called 'ego', is thenceforth a fellow worker in the construction of our character and our destiny.

Friedrich Nietzsche - Daybreak
Book II - Aphorism # 115

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