Let Go of My Ego: Overcoming The Greatest Lie We Tell Ourselves
As promised, I stated I would occasionally do a review here and there. Recently, I watched the film, Revolver, by Guy Ritchie. Apart from being completely attracted to Jason Statham, who stars in the film, I love almost everything Guy Ritchie has ever directed, so I was surprised that I had not heard of it when my co-worker recommended it to me. He brought it in last week for me to borrow, and as soon as I watched it the first time, I knew it was a life altering film that I would have to watch again. Those interested in psychology, crime capers, and cons would enjoy this movie (and hopefully, this review). Please be advised, this review contains a plot synopsis. That may spoil the film for you, but it’s about so much more than the plot, that it’s worth watching even knowing what happens.
The film centers on Jake Green who has recently been released from a seven-year sentence of solitary confinement. In this time, he was between the cells of a master chess player (Avi/Andre Benjamin) and a master con man (Zack/Vincent Pastore), and he learns about a formula to the greatest con ever. This formula is based on the following rules and principles:
The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would ever look. –Julius Caesar 75 B.C.
The only way to get smarter, is to play a smarter opponent. – Fundamentals of Chess 1883
First rule of business, protect your investment. -Etiquette of the Banker, 1775
There is no avoiding war, it can only be postponed to the advantage of your enemy. ‑Machiavelli 1502
The only real enemy to have ever existed is an eternal one.- The Road to Suicide, pg 1, line 1
Your friends are close, but your enemy is closer. –The Road to Suicide, pg 1, line 2
The two masters convince Jake that they will all escape together, and the two masters do escape, but it is without Jake. Jake is released two years later to find that the two masters have taken him for everything he was worth. He spends the following two years applying the formula and winning big. This is when he decides to get revenge on the person responsible for his seven year sentence (Dorothy Macha/Ray Liotta).
In his attempt for revenge, he runs into Avi and Zack, whom, to Jake’s knowledge, he had never before met. They offer him protection from Mr. D, who has become a vicious casino boss in the last seven years. In exchange for this protection, Avi and Zack tell Jake, that he will give them every last cent of his wealth, and he will do whatever they ask him to do. He finds out that these two men are the worst of the worst in the loan sharking business. His money is what is loaned and what he is responsible for collecting.
All the while, Avi and Zack are exacting Jake’s revenge on Mr. D by undercutting him and stealing his assets. When the time comes for Jake to confront Mr. D, he has a life altering epiphany. Avi tells Jake to “give him what he wants.” We find out that what Mr. D wants more than anything is for people to fear him. In this confrontation, Jake tells Mr. D that he is sorry to have cheated him, and that he is a man to be respected and feared. Well, this confession has the opposite effect on Mr. D. He is scared to death by Jake’s ramblings, likely due to the fact that Jake is holding a gun over him while he sleeps in his bed.
As Jake is going back down in the elevator, he gets stuck on the ominous floor between twelve and fourteen. In this time, Jake confronts his fear of small spaces (no doubt aided by the seven year stint in solitary), thus the epiphanic moment. All of this boils down to the fact that Avi and Zack were the two masters, which Jake discovers around the same time.
Well that’s the basic plot of the film. The underlying principles are why you should own this film and watch it regularly. Ultimately, Avi and Zack are trying to coach Jake into letting go of his enemies and his fears. They teach him the greatest lesson anyone could ever learn. This lesson is rooted in Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche, the id, ego, and super-ego. According to Freud, the id is the unconscious nature controlling the basic drives of hunger, sex, and pretty much any kind of pleasure. This is why it acts according to the “pleasure principle.”
Therefore, the id is who we are at birth before socialization shapes us. For the most part, we eat, sleep, and relieve ourselves and fulfill the most basic drives within all of us. As socialization takes place, the Ego develops. The ego seeks to fulfill all the needs of the Id while maintaining social mores that will ultimately result in a long-term fulfillment of the pleasure principle. The Ego is where we have conscious awareness, though not all of the motivations of the ego need to be conscious. The Ego is the common sense that rationalizes the behavior of whatever it is that we have to do to fulfill the desires of the Id.
Then we have the Super-ego. The Super-ego is the perfectionist that resides in all of us. It is kind of like the Jiminy Cricket who sits on our shoulder rationalizing the right thing to do in such a way that it makes us feel like we came up with it on our own. The Super-ego is what makes you feel guilty for doing all the things the Id wants you to do. So the reason you feel guilty when you masturbate, for a crude example, is because your Super-ego is telling your Id that it is wrong to want those feelings. The Ego would tell you that a socially appropriate way to fulfill those desires on a long-term basis is within the confines of marriage, thus propelling us to seek such a relationship.
Now, according to this film, any enemy we would set up against ourselves is only a projection of the Ego’s fears. Our greatest enemy is so close to us that it is, in fact, within us. Our greatest opponent is the one we construct for ourselves. The greatest con is that the Ego convinces us that It is us. When we can let go of our Ego, then we let go of all those fears of failure, fears of enemies that we now realize are anything/anyone that threatens the Ego. This movie has motivated me to try and let go of my Ego and overcome this lie.
I hope you watch it, trying to see these larger principles. I hope you try to let go of your Ego, too. I think it might be the most liberating experience ever, if it is possible, understanding that to even doubt the possibility just might be one of the Ego’s defense mechanisms to insure its existence.